Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why Do We Re-enact Traumas?

Client painting in the Art Therapy Studio.

In my 30s I decided that I was never going to be in a relationship with a female friend again where I felt I was taken advantage of. I was tired of being the giver and not the receiver in relationship. I wanted to be in relationships where the flow of energy, respect and care was equality shared. So, in the process of trying to heal this, I worked hard to understand and identify why I attracted women to me that ended up taking advantage of my generosity and kindness. Then, as I entered what I thought was a new healthy relationship with an exciting fellow artist, I slowly realized that I was in one of the least healthiest relationships of my life. I couldn’t understand why I kept drawing the same type of woman into my life. I thought I had healed this and now I could move on. But, what I didn’t know was that my body was doing exactly what I wanted, clearing the pattern so I could move on. It was showing what needed to be healed.

Pierre Janet was the first psychiatrist to identify the need and compulsion to repeat traumas. The human brain is hard wired to master overwhelming experiences and we are consciously or unconsciously compelled to re-enact traumatic experiences. In this brilliant way, the body seeks the healing it requires. However, if we do not enter the event consciously aware and awake, it is difficult to do the enactment differently thus changing the ending from being traumatic to healing. The changes we are seeking usually take a creative and strong action from us to reverse things. The wonderful thing about this is witnessing our body’s drive to move forward in a healthy healing way. The awful thing about this is if we haven’t worked on the trauma, and if we aren’t aware and awake about what we are doing and why we are doing it, we will repeat the trauma causing more pain and suffering. When we find ourselves in the same situation that we felt we had conquered years ago or when we find ourselves repeating the same mistakes, instead of getting frustrated we should celebrate the wisdom of our bodies to know that we need to repeat this event in order to clear it from our lives. We need to trust that things show up because our neuro-somatic programing is trying to free or clear us of being stuck by a trauma in ways that we aren’t aware of. Changing consciousness is a complex process that may take several tries.

This year, 2013, I want change, but I also want to welcome my re-enactment as gifts from my body in order to clear the way for real change to happen. I hope I feel the same when I find myself in a frustrating re-enactment of a situation.


Olivia said...

I had no idea that we repeated things in order to heal ourselves. That sheds a different light on things altogether and it's somehow much more positive this way. But I guess the hardest part is finding a path to change a negative habit/experience into something positive and healing. Sometimes it's just hard to find the strength and confidence to do so.
On another note, happy new year to you! I hope 2013 brings you much happiness and creativity :-)

Karen Wallace said...

Happy new year to you Olivia. When we trust that our body is trying to lead us to healing (not harm), then we can be confident to do things differently. Hugs Karen

nacherluver said...

You say "The changes we are seeking usually take a creative and strong action from us to reverse things."

Do you have suggestions as to what these actions look like? How to go about change?

What a great and powerful post. Looking at it in a positive light sure seems like it is opening a door to healing.

Karen Wallace said...

This would look different for everyone. Using my example the first step for me was to wake up and bring full awareness to what I was doing and to fully accept why I was doing it. I felt I had to care-take my friends due to my relationship to my mother and my fears about not being worthy of having female friends. So first was working out my childhood schema's and developmental issues, next was to notice when I slipped into behaviors that allowed the pattern to be re-enacted and thirdly was to have a strong intention and clarity about what I really wanted in a friendship and believe that I desired it. The creative and strong action was to image life differently and go after creating the friendships I wanted with people that I would never had had the courage to talk to before. I held on to a strong believe that I desired wonderful friends, even when they did not readily appear. Whether we are working with a soft or hard trauma, bringing conscious awareness to what we are doing and why we are doing it is a strong first step. Healing the original trauma by talking to a therapist or doing art and journaling helps us let the old pattern go. Then we need strong action to lovingly support the new action or behavior that we are seeking. Hope this explains the change process.

Kathie Wallace said...

As I understand it, trauma trances us to stay frozen in its experience. Our pleasure and pain centers are reversed and we are very, very comfortable in the familiar place of the trauma. Awakening to that and then consciously clearing it frees us. (Just my ideas)
Hello Karen :-)

Anonymous said...

I can hardly believe that I JUST opened this post up. Sent a month ago, I never noticed it until today... and no surprise, as I just left a focusing session talking about this exact same issue and reenactment. No coincidences are there. Thanks Karen.


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