‘You have to be able to feel what you feel and know what you know’.

If you’ve read Bessel van der Kolk’s ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ you’ll be familiar with this phrase. If not, read on…

If you’ve experienced trauma (defined here simply as anything that ‘overwhelms’ your nervous system’s ability to adapt healthily) then it’s likely that some emotions connected with the trauma are either unavailable to you or intermittently, relentlessly disturbing you.

On the one hand the feelings can be too big for the nervous system to process so you shut them down – and become dissociated, depressed or not fully present. On the other hand the feelings can rise to such massive proportions that they stop you functioning normally; relationships, digestion, clarity of thought commonly suffer.

In other words, trauma stops you from being able to feel your own feelings – from being able to handle them. They keep coming up – presenting themselves to be felt, as it were – but they are too much. So they get shut down again and/or mess things up in some other way.

So recovering from trauma means that you are once again able to ‘feel what you feel’.

It’s similar with thoughts; memories, phrases, images associated with the trauma are either repetitive and unwelcome – maybe disturbing your sleep – triggering the emotions described above, or they’ve been lost or become fragmented. Either way, the brain cannot put them to bed so they can be recalled if required as emotive memories. Instead they are absent and deeply buried or they are disturbingly present and fragmented – as if the trauma is still happening.

So recovering from trauma means that you are once again able to ‘know what you know’.

If you can fully feel your feelings and accept and know your thoughts, you’re better…

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