How to Start Healing After Personal Trauma

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The experience of trauma takes a hold on us in different ways. Sometimes it occurs immediately, like when we lose a loved one. At other times, it occurs more slowly, as when our hearts are broken over and over again. In each instance, it disrupts our sense of internal continuity—our sense of self.

The fearful fragmented self: When your core sense of self feels fragmented, it fears further annihilation. As a result, it metaphorically contracts like a snail, withdrawing its head from any pertinent threat. It feels no need to be in the uncertainty and ambiguity of relationships.

For this self to emerge again, it must first feel more coherent. Then, slowly, it will begin to express itself more fully in this life.

The questions about fragmentation: How do we work with the feeling of fragmentation? Is there a way in which we can begin the coherence process? And how might we change our lives to feel more whole and ready to emerge again?

A solution to fragmentation of self: In my new book, Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind, I describe some brain-based and counterintuitive ways to help the self feel more complete and whole again.

Where is the brain’s core self circuit? There are two parts of yourself: the conscious self and the unconscious self. One major component of the unconscious self circuit in the brain is the unfocus network (also called the default mode network or DMN) Although this is not all the self is, the brain’s unfocus circuit will help you feel more whole.

How do you turn the self circuit on? Contrary to popular belief, isolated focus will not activate the self circuit. Rather, it is unfocus—breaking away from the routines and humdrum of your day—that will turn on the self circuit.

What should you do when you break away? You will feel more complete when you unite your past, present, and future selves in the brain. To achieve this, practice the following:

The Past—Activate intangible and hard to define memories: When you activate mental time travel to the past, you will be able to shuttle memory fragments to the present. To do this, mind-wandering is helpful.

In the mind-wandering state, your brain becomes a memory-hunter, looking for and metaphorically unearthing memories under every rock, and in every nook and cranny of the brain.

So plan a mental expedition off your focus leash for 15 minutes today. Walk in the woods. Wander safely.

Movement is actually closely connected to thinking. As you walk, the cues in your environment will likely stimulate thoughts about yourself because your mind is open to them, and not focused on the rest of your day.

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