Three phrases that no caring person should say to someone who has experienced trauma

healing trauma - the shaman medicine womanLooking back over my life and the lives of hundreds of clients who I have had the honour to help, I am staggered by how little is known about trauma. Most of what I now consider to be life-transforming knowledge just wasn’t taught to us while we were at school. Life is full of events that leave an imprint of trauma in our central nervous systems. But how many of us have ever been given a practical, how to do it in real life, guide to finding the root cause of trauma and releasing it? No surprise then, that sometimes the words we offer people who are in pain and / or traumatised, can cause unnecessary suffering.

My reason for sharing the wisdom inherent in the Crystal Deity image of the Shaman Medicine Woman is to spare you from being a source of additional pain. Even if you never say the three phrases I am about to share with you, you might have, at some stage, been frustrated and at a loss to know how to cope with someone’s apparent inability to move on in life. It is as if, in our ignorance about trauma, our culture has agreed that after a certain length of time, people ‘should have recovered” from a traumatic experience. But, as I will be describing below, the conditions required for us to release trauma cannot be created using words or the rational mind. Resolving trauma requires the other hemisphere of the brain – the part that connects to our heart.

Firstly I will share the three phrases (and / or mindsets) I believe demonstrate our culture’s basic lack of understanding trauma. And then I will use the image of the Shaman Medicine Woman Crystal Deity to show why these comments and mindsets are at best misguided, and at worst are condemnations that reinforce and amplify someone’s pain.

The three phrases are:

“Pull yourself together”
“You should be over that by now”
“That’s in the past. You need to learn to move on.”

And breathe! So what do we need to say or do instead? Here’s some information that might help.

The Shaman Medicine Woman: a tried and tested, compassionate way of dealing with trauma

Where did the image come from and what does it help us understand?

I photographed this Crystal Deity image as it appeared to me in one of a very special family of crystals I had been drawn to work with during 2014 and 2015. So in some ways it is utterly contemporary. But this image of a black-cloaked medicine woman in a landscape of burnt out iron and fire image, also has roots that go way back in time.

To explain why I find this image so remarkable, and so useful in healing, I need to share several associations the picture holds for me. The first is the idea of a universe that is less fortunate than ours. And the second idea is the shamanic model of soul retrieval.

In a universe less fortunate than ours, the rate of expansion of the gas cloud billowing out from the origin event of an exploding nebula is very rapid indeed. It is so fast that the forces of interaction between particles of matter that are necessary to create and sustain life, cannot develop fully. The largest element that can be created in such a universe is iron. Hence the shards of iron and the fiery furnaces in this landscape. These are the raw materials of a world where everything happened so fast that it literally blew itself up.

In this kind of world, all creative possibilities and growth are frozen. And the reason I am so familiar with this kind of environment, is because I visit it frequently in healing sessions. The picture is a perfect representation of the emotional wasteland I find parts of my clients’ energy trapped in. I call these isolated parts “energy orphans”. They are created when people have been through experiences that were too much for them to bear. In response to the situation, and in an attempt to survive, a proportion of the cells in their body shut down into survival mode – and stayed there ever since.

The idea of being able to find lost parts of people’s energy and restoring them to the individual concerned is ancient and is found in many indigenous cultures that rely on shamanic healers. But far from being an anthropological artefact, I find the shamanic model of soul retrieval to be utterly contemporary and extremely useful. I think of it as the very first system created for healing trauma. Because once the place where someone is holding trauma and despair, has been found, the trapped energy and emotion of the original event that caused the trauma can be transformed. And then, and only then, can their energy orphans be retrieved.

In a modern context, soul retrieval means thawing out a part of someone’s energy that is locked down and inaccessible, and making it available to them again. With our modern understanding we now know that extreme trauma leaves a large proportion of someone’s cells trapped in the fight and flight response. This is like having part of us frozen in time and constantly on guard trying to protect us from the next disaster that might be about to happen. It is exhausting on many levels, but these cells cannot return to their normal growth activities until the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland that governs our adrenal response is reset.

And this is the part that makes phrases like “pull yourself together” so inappropriate. It takes a lot of understanding and considerable holding in an environment of total safety to enable someone to bring their trauma to the light and transform the energetic information that has been holding that part of them frozen in time. Asking, or demanding that someone “get over” something, or telling them that something is in the past” is, telling their body’s intelligence a lie. Because, as far as their central nervous system is concerned, the parts of them that you are demanding they “pull together” are trapped. They are frozen in time, until they receive the very specific signal they need in order to stand down.

Both the act of locating the trapped energy, and the nature of the experience that is required to press the reset button on our adrenaline system are very precise. The energetic experience required to unlock and release trauma is one in which someone’s adrenal system receives a message of total safety. And, to be effective, the message of safety needs to be received through the body’s physical senses – so appealing to someone who is trapped in grief or fear because of something that happened in their past with rational analysis and advice is never going to work.

Every client I have ever seen has already tried everything rational they can think of to make themselves well. They already feel like they have failed, and the three phrases that I have listed above, and many more like it, only make people who are already in trauma and pain, and trying to heal, feel worse. In my experience, if my clients knew how to locate the trapped energy and the cellular memories in their body where their pain was stored, they would. And if they knew how to surround and connect the energy that holds the memory of their trauma with the high-vibrating energy of pure source so that it could be re-programmed thus allowing the cells in their body that have been held in perpetual fight or flight response to be released – they would!!

The energy required to heal trauma is a flow of deep, loving acknowledgement. Rather than pulling themselves together, the trauma sufferer needs to be allowed, for a surprisingly short time to fall apart. They need to be allowed to release their pain in the company of someone whose total presence, and lack of fear in the face of pain, makes them feel totally safe. And it only takes a very short while of being held in that way for each layer of trauma to be released. Once we have healed our own wounds, we are all inherently capable of healing each other in this way. The secret is in relaxing our rational minds and remembering how to open our hearts to a flow of energy that is still connected to love and grace. May we all be granted the healing and grace we required so that we can respond to trauma and pain with kinder words and a more open heart.

Learn more by watching my Shaman Medicine Woman video
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3 Comments

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  1. HI Estelle
    .
    Thank you for being the person who can allow others to show their pain. I know I really needed that in order to release my traumas.
    Just read this article and it reminded me of our successful healing session. It’s about a year on from that session and looking back I can see I have Mede so much progress
    much appreciated!
    Love and light xxx

  2. The number of times I’ve been told to learn to move on or that it’s not a big deal or it happened for a reason ~ ugh, I’ve removed the people that say those things from my life because I just don’t need their negative energy.

    1. Estelle Gillingham

      Hi Loretta, thanks for commenting – I hear you! Why do people talk in a totally closed, rational minded way to a physiological state in the body that needs an experience of safety delivered through the physical senses to allow it to recover it’s natural state of well-being? I guess the answer is that they just don’t understand trauma. Lovely to hear from you and I love the sound of stitchthenightaway.com 🙂 Very best wishes, Estelle

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