Heal Childhood Trauma With Creativity

When our bodies are balanced and we feel safe and happy, we are in a state of “regulation”.  In this place, we are not too stressed, nor are we too excited or exhausted. We are calm. We are clear. We have focus. We are creative. We are able to communicate rationally and clearly and openly.

BUT, when we experience trauma this sense of safety and balance is completely ripped away from us. It’s almost as though our soul is taken from us and what is left is only a shell.

This trauma is deeper when you’ve lived your whole life being abused and neglected by your primary caregivers. You may feel completely devoid of a sense of self – your brain has developed under chronic stress which causes your body to look out only for your survival.

Our bodies have two distinct reactions to traumatic experiences.   We can be be maxed out – unglued emotionally and physically – this looks like panic, toxic stress, anxiety and physical symptoms.  Rage, uncontrollable fighting and emotional reactivity – because we’re completely overwhelmed, we become unable to deal with even minimal stressors.  This is the “hyperarousal” state.

We can also react be being in a “hypoarousal” state. In this place, we are still charged up with traumatic energy, but instead of acting out, we become dissociated from ourselves, numb and depressed. On the surface we appear to be shut down, but under the surface our system is experiencing chronic levels of toxic stress.

In both the hypoarousal and hyperarousal states, we are in survival mode. This means our biological system has adapted to constant threats by determining that everything is threatening. Our organism decided without conscious thought to preserve itself. It is literally concerned only with surviving  the present moment.

This is what trauma does to the body. It pools all biological, psychological, and emotional resources into surviving.

This was essential in our abusive homes as children. but in adulthood it becomes maladaptive because there’s no joy in survival – the organism simply is looking to preserve itself for another day. And if you’ve experienced any trauma at all, but particularly childhood trauma, this is probably where you live. In this place of darkness and minimalism and contraction. You feel closed off from yourself and the world and you may alternate between major panic and being completely shut down all together.

That’s a lot huh? Let’s take a breather, and imagine how hard it must have been for us as children. If we struggle in adulthood with symptoms that overwhelm us, what must it have been like to be 2 years old and feel all of that? What must it have been like to wander through life without any support for dealing with this massively toxic stress as adolescents.  Our parents should have guided and supported us, but in our case, they were the source of our abandonment, abuse, pain and suffering.

Have compassion for yourself. It’s not your fault.  You are now here to heal.

This is what trauma to the body. This is what a toxic family environment does to us. It pools all resources into surviving.

What does life look like in this place?  We are stuck in our heads, we struggle to move to think clearly, to flow with life.  We live very small isolated lives, we overreact and then we shut down. And we see things in black and white and there’s no grey. And we feel empty and lost.

So, the foundational piece of trauma healing, is bringing our systems back into balance. Bringing our souls back to us. Restoring a sense of safety so that we can launch from there into healing.

And, THIS is where the creativity comes in.

Before I get into using creativity as a healer, I want to discuss what happens when we are carrying trauma around thecreative process itself.

This is very common with adults who grew up in families with addiction and narcissistic, criticizing mothers. Your gift may have been hijacked by your sick parent. Maybe they saw you had a talent and they pushed you as a child into a position of living out their lost hopes and dreams. Maybe you had the  stereotypical pageant mom or football dad who pushes their child to the limit, forces the child to practice at the expense of the child’s emotional sanity and well- being.

Parents may also shame the child for their artistic gift. This is a huge part of my story. My mom was very narcissistic and filled with rage.  I love to perform music and poetry. After a really strong performance, I can remember my mom coming in to my bedroom and waking me up in the middle of the night to rage. She would be pacing the house yelling: “I know the real you and you can’t perform your way out of life. You’re lazy, you’re selfish.” This was a way of clawing at something that was extremely precious to me with the intention of sabotaging my gift.

This kind of abuse on children can be extremely damaging to the creative gifts of a child.  The reason this happens, is that toxic parents and parents who struggle with addiction lack a sense of self. They operate out of a false sense of self.

So, when the purity and innocence, and pure life energy, or self energy is flowing through the child of a parent like this, its coming from the deep self of the child. This is the authentic essence of the child’s self.  This essence remains intact.  It is not yet soiled by the parent’s rage or control or abuse or neglect. On a very deep level this self-expression of the child triggers the parent to lash out at no fault of the child. The child’s true self expressed reminds the parent that they have a fractured self.

So, when we have been wounded in the place of our creative process, it creates layers upon layers of pain and trauma. Because you feel robbed of an infinite internal resource.

So how do we heal this?

We come to a place of recognizing that the creative process is not the source of painThe creative process is a source of healing. If someone is damaged and wounded in the place of the creative self, what we need to is show that creative part that we are now safe.

So you may stare at the blank canvas, or the blank page, (or the field – if you’re an athlete) and you may say to yourself: “There’s nothing there.”

If you feel like the well is dry and empty, it’s not. There is tons of creative material there, but it is blocked by trauma. The way to get back into a creative place in order heal yourself and come to a transcend the pain, is through acceptance without judgement.

You may need to say to yourself:

  • I’m here to create. I’m not here to make something perfect.

  • I’m here to express my true self. I am open to my true self.

  • I am available to my true self and to my creative wisdom.

Maybe, for you you just need to scream.  Maybe you need to jump up and down to some meditative music. Maybe it looks like talking to yourself. Whatever it is that brings you from focusing on the perfection of material into focusing on the process.  The creative process itself is where the healing happens.  No judgement, no editing yourself here. We are just getting into flow.  If you’re an athlete maybe its going to the gym and just doing what feels really good without a plan.

We want to just get the energy moving. Once this energy flows it’s going to reveal the self to you again. And it’s going to get you expressing your emotions while creating a safe container for the experience.

When we are in a creative space, we are allowing energy to move through us, we are opening our system instead of contracting it. We are providing ourselves with a container of safety,  a vessel to pour out our experiences.

Some benefits of creative work for trauma

  • Moving out of the head and into the body
  • Discharging Traumatic Energy
  • Creativity as a safe container for difficult feelings
  • Because it’s an internal resource it is always available to you as an outlet.
  • Creating a flow to help us move through life with flexibility joy and fun
    instead of with control, rigidity, perfectionism and fear.

What is your experience with the creative process? How do you create? Do you find creating helps you process traumatic experience? Leave a comment below and let me know!


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