In today’s episode of the Dear Gabby podcast I’m sharing something hardly anyone knows. I want to be up front with you: This is a story about unprocessed trauma. But it’s ultimately a story of hope.
In the 11th hour, when the manuscript was in its fourth iteration, I cut a story out of my book Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace.
After I’d struck through the text, one of my team members pleaded with me, “Please don’t take this story out!”
But my publishers, my husband and I agreed that the story wasn’t right for the book at that time. Still, it’s a very important story, and I knew I’d share it someday.
what happens to unprocessed trauma?
listen to this episode to learn:
- What EMDR is and why it’s the most powerful therapy for reprocessing trauma
- Why our body and our emotions freeze when we’re in a state of fear (and why that can be a good thing)
- What happens to our body when we’re holding on to impermissible feelings such as shame and rage
- An exercise you can use RIGHT NOW to release stagnant energy that’s keeping you frozen in fear
- How to use your body as a tool to learn more about your unprocessed trauma
We all need to give ourselves permission to turn inward, honor our physical sensations and give our body a break!
We all need to free what’s frozen.
the felt sense exercise
In this episode of Dear Gabby, I guide you through the Felt Sense Exercise that I also shared in Happy Days. This practice will help you become more present with your physical sensations, and begin to release unprocessed trauma.
By feeling into your sensations, you’ll start to shift frozen, stagnant energy.gabby
As you do this exercise, try to focus on your physical sensations, rather than on your thoughts.
Before you begin, make sure you have a journal and a pen nearby—you may want to write about this experience when you come out of the meditative practice.
For now, let go, relax and follow my guidance by pressing play on today’s Dear Gabby.
Having a greater connection to the felt sense will help you tap into the feelings that might be hiding behind your physical pain. It will also let you bear gentle witness to how unprocessed trauma may be affecting you.
the missing story from happy days
I also wanted to share the missing story from Happy Days with you here. If you’re reading this blog, you’re one of the first people to ever read this story.
The following passage was originally included in chapter 8. In the same chapter, I described an experience I’d had when my husband challenged me to a race.
He’d set off running, but I’d stayed frozen on the spot. It was as if my legs had turned to lead. As it turned out, this was due to unprocessed trauma that my body was holding onto. This is what happened next …
freeing what’s frozen
The next day I told my therapist about the experience. Instead of analyzing the story, she suggested that we target the feeling of immobility with some EMDR. I envisioned myself standing on the driveway, unable to run up the hill. Then I allowed myself to connect to the emotions underneath the feeling of being stuck. I was scared. Feeling into that fear made me instantly go numb. Once again, I froze. Instead of trying to figure out why I was frozen, my therapist just asked me to get into a relaxing position with the EMDR buzzers in either hand. So I lay back on the sofa.
My therapist told me to feel the sense of immobilization. As the buzzers sounded left and right, I allowed myself to feel that sensation in my body. Then, just like before, my legs felt like lead. I became frozen from the waist down, focusing on the lack of sensation as the buzzers continued. Left and right. Left and right. After a few minutes of focusing on numbness, a vision flashed before my eyes.
“I’m in the closet,” I yelled. The closet was where the childhood abuse took place.
“Take your time. Go slowly,” my therapist said.
My face cringed with anticipation of the impermissible feelings that were creeping around the corner into my consciousness. As I allowed myself to honor those feelings, I felt my right leg start to slowly kick out as if I were pushing someone off me. The kicking got faster and faster. Eventually, it became violent as though a powerful energy was moving through my leg. Then my left leg started kicking too.
“It feels like I’m kicking someone off of me so that I can break free,” I said to my therapist. Then I started to visualize fighting a perpetrator off me so that I could escape and get out of the closet. Once I visualized myself escaping, my legs began to move as though I was running. Lying on my back, I watched my legs running in the air. Faster and faster. I closed my eyes and let my body move on its own. I let go and trusted that my body was completing something.
With my eyes closed, I could envision myself running out of the closet, then out of my bedroom, down the stairs, and out the front door of my childhood home. In my mind, I ran down the front lawn and across the street. After running past the neighbor’s house and around the corner, I finally slowed down as I approached the duck pond. Standing at the duck pond, I felt a fleeting moment of relief. I was out of the closet but was unsure of what to do next. Then tears rolled down my face as I said out loud, “I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere safe to go.”
This experience unearthed a memory of being unable to complete the physical movement that my body naturally wanted to do at the time, namely kick the perpetrator off me and run the hell out of there. Instead, I had been held down, therefore preventing the process of emotional and physical completion in the face of danger and sending me into a frozen state. Freezing was my brain’s way of protecting me from experiencing the terrifying enormity of the event and my inability to fight or flee.
The freeze occurs when our brain secretes chemicals that numb any physical and psychological pain from a traumatic event. My inability to complete my body’s natural response could only lead to dissociation or psychosis, which could have threatened my sanity. So the biological response of freezing helped me survive. The EMDR opened up my brain to witness this unresolved, dissociated memory. From there, my body was able to complete what it needed to do: run.
my hope for you
I hope this story, and this episode of Dear Gabby, inspire you to bring more awareness to your body and begin to release unprocessed trauma. Great shifts can take place when we slow down enough to notice our energetic, emotional and sensory landscape.
Press play, and prepare to free what’s been frozen in you.
get more gabby
- The story I share on today’s Episode of the Dear Gabby podcast is from my latest book Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace. If you’ve read the book, you can revisit Chapter 8 to revisit the lesson about freeing what’s been frozen in your body and mind. And if you haven’t read Happy Days yet, consider this a sign! This is your openhearted invite to take the journey toward inner peace with me. I’ll guide you every step of the way, and open you up to body-based therapies and more.
- If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR therapy, check out my Big Talk with my EMDR therapist, Tammy Valicenti. Tammy has a beautiful ability to demystify this life-changing technique, and she shares instructions for finding an EMDR practitioner near you.
- You can find a link to the binaural-beats playlist that I reference in this episode here.
- If you feel you need additional support, please consult this list of safety, recovery and mental health resources. I’m proud of you for your commitment to self-care.
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This podcast is intended to educate, inspire, and support you on your personal journey towards inner peace. I am not a psychologist or a medical doctor and do not offer any professional health or medical advice. If you are suffering from any psychological or medical conditions, please seek help from a qualified health professional.