It's a cool, late night in the summer of 1994. The streets threaten a restlessness that has never been felt before, as we slice through the night air on high alert.
My mother and I sit side by side in her dishonourable green Skoda, as we attempt to manoeuvre around the coarse emotions projected into awkward conversations. Something about Blur’s new song Parklife or how funny we found the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.
In an attempt to lighten the mood, we continue this communication, all the while holding back the pervading thoughts that scream: where is he and is he still alive?
My brother had run away from home again. He was 13 at the time. I was 15.
Although older, I was still a child in all rights, but in this moment I felt more woman than you could possibly imagine.
I was more protector and nurturer than any 15-year-old should ever have to be and this experience created a trauma response in my body. Th reason being that it secured the belief in my mind that I could not protect my family from pain and that was too impossible to bare.
This experience led me to store a paradigm of helpless in my root chakra which would perpetuate this same cycle throughout my life in other experiences.
It wasn’t until the root of helplessness was brought to the surface, the experience was seen,
that I was finally able to release this pattern and stop attracting these cycles into my life.
When we have been through difficult childhood events we can store the trauma in our body.
In my experience, the story of repetitive, unprocessed trauma, was one of the causes of my chronic health condition.
When repetitive trauma occurs, that cannot be felt because it is too painful to look at, it is often not processed, healed, or transmuted and can lead to all kinds of unhealthy behaviours and conditions.
The key to healing this trauma is through inner child work.
What is inner child work?
Typically, inner child work is initiated by going back to key moments from our childhood that caused the immense suffering and acknowledge them. Each experience is then felt, accepted, loved and transformed to release the trapped energy from our body.
When we work from a spiritual, holistic, and psychological perceptive the work is processed in layers and may take time as there are often many experiences to unravel.
These layers involve creating a safe environment to process the event, asking for support from external influences and then doing the work.
To look at this work on another level, we might also identify how trauma has had an impact on our autonomic nervous system and how it continues to impact our everyday lives.
Research on polyvagal theory helps us understand how chronic pain conditions can manifest in our energy system because of this stored trauma.
In brief it goes something like this…
Trauma is not processed
Thoughts, beliefs and habits create energy forms around the experience
These become trapped in our body
They subconsciously play out in cycles without us realising it
They send danger signals to the body
The nervous system reacts in fight or flight mode
Our nervous system is unable to regulate its signals around the body
All autonomic nervous system malfunctions, leading to chronic health conditions.
The work that inspired me to come to these conclusions was initiated by Dr Stephen Porges the founder of poly vagal theory. If you are looking for more details on Polyvagal theory I would start here.
As a result of my own personal experience with trauma, I have seen, measured and monitored the stress response on my body and its impact on my chronic health condition. Now, I manage my condition well through a range of holistic tools and practices but one that has been most prevalent in healing and transforming the nervous system is Polyvagal theory and vagus nerve exercises.
The good news is that studies on Polyvagal theory have shown that this danger response can be reversed with simple vagus nerve stimulation exercises.
This technique uses vagus nerve stimulation through body stretches, deep diaphragmatic breathing and eye movements to produce a counter effect.
Stephen Porgies calls this technique co-regulation and functions in a similar way to how we wanted to be treated in the moment of trauma by creating feelings of wellness and safety.
There are so many different types of vagus nerve exercises but here’s my favourite one.
Vagus Stimulation Sequence:
1. Keeping spine erect and head facing forward and immobile, look up to the right moving the eyes only. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Repeat on the other side.
3. Use right hand to gently bring head over to the right, causing a stretch down the left sterno-mastoid muscle. Look up to the left corner moving eyes only. Hold for 30 - 60 seconds.
4. Repeat on the other side.
5. This time, place the left hand on the right side of the ribs and gently pull ribs over to the left. Use the right hand to gently pull the head over to the right as before and look up to the left corner. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
6. Repeat on the other side.
Although life doesn’t suddenly become perfect after doing inner child work, you will notice a change in your responses to others, a greater ability to control your emotional responses to triggers and a greater inner peace and self-love in your environment.
If that isn’t a big enough motivator then find other rewards to inspire yourself into action.