Growing through Trauma and other Challenges
Kintsukuroi (“golden mend”) is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery using lacquer resin laced with gold or silver. While obviously a method of repair, it has deeper significance.
The brokenness mended with gold is considered to be more beautiful, more valuable. The seams symbolize an event in the life of the piece, not the cause of its destruction!
We too experience knocks, cracks and sometimes even sudden shocking breaks. And sometimes we experience things that cause us to feel shame: betrayal, abandonment, failure, rejection. We try to hide parts of ourselves, that we aren’t “good enough” as we are. We hidebehind the good china or silver in case we get more chips or tarnish.
We can go through these traumatic and hurtful experiences and come out bitter and stuck in self-protection, regret and showing the world a false self. We can cover up our “flaws” and wounds with defence, distraction and busyness.
Or we can choose to see these experiences as opportunities to process and heal and derive lessons and new growth from them. To walk out into our world as we are, mended golden seams and all.
What is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?
When words are not enough to help a client heal, somatic (body) approach to trauma treatment can be effective. Traditional psychotherapy focuses on the cognitive (thinking) or emotional (feeling) aspects of the individual, but such an approach is limited. Sensorimotor psychotherapy joins cognitive and somatic techniques. This is important in treatment as trauma itself can have an overwhelming effect on the body and can manifest as somatic symptoms.
Sensorimotor psychotherapy is body-based talk therapy. It combines new neuroscience to transform traumatic memories. It works with developmental (early) trauma, such as maternal lack of attunement, as well as childhood violence and other abuse. It is mindful and collaborative.
How do we work with a traumatic memory?
If a client wants to speak about a traumatic incident, the therapist would ask the client to recall the few moments just before the actual incident. The therapist would then help the client get into a mindful state by asking them to notice: If they are upset, what is it in their body that tells them they are upset? Is it a tightening in the stomach? Or a dark feeling in the chest? Then the therapist asks the client to focus on those sensations, and by observing the client’s gestures and postures, find out what movement the client would have liked to have made, but couldn’t. We are meant to complete the movement that was inhibited by a freeze/numb state.
Feeling the power of completion, the client integrates the experience into their nervous system and increases the capacity to feel safe and to self-regulate, to begin to function more coherently, think clearly and feel appropriately. They will be less reactive in daily life, in relationships, regulating inter-actions with partners, family, friends, co-workers, etc. A client will be less overwhelmed, fearful, irritable and angry.