Trauma and body memory or flashbacks

In the past we used to believe that we had to remember and talk about all the details of a trauma in order to heal it. But trauma affects part of the brain that is connected to speech (Broca’s area), so sometimes people who have been traumatised have only fragments of memory or may have no memory at all but may have body memory/sensory flashbacks – also known as re-experiencing symptoms.

Reexperiencing phenomena or flashbacks can show up in many different ways, for example feeling anxious or uneasy at a certain time of day,  feeling nauseous in certain situations or with certain people, feeling body sensations that happened in the past, feeling sudden unexplained pains in the body, having choking sensations, suddenly going blank or feel like going to sleep.

We can’t heal these symptoms just by talking as they are stored in pre-verbal or non-verbal memory systems. However we don’t need to be scared of these symptoms or overpowered by them! In fact being scared of these symptoms often makes them worse. Approaching them in a calm problem-solving way is better.

The exciting news is that by working with body memory symptoms, we can heal trauma, even without being able to remember all the details. To do this work you will need to find someone who is trained in Sensorimotor psychotherapy or Somatic Experiencing therapy. Sometimes it is possible to do this work via Art therapy or via Trauma Sensitive Yoga practices. Again, it is important that you check the qualifications and experience of whichever therapist you work with, and ensure they are a good fit to your needs.

The main message today is that trauma can be healed using many different modalities that include the body in the work. This information follows the latest evidence-based Guidelines of the Blue Knot Foundation updated recently.