Trauma Resilience: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Violence with the Holistic Healing Arts

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Trauma Resilience: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Violence with the Holistic Healing Arts

Trauma Resilience: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Violence with the Holistic Healing Arts

The Breathe Network offered this workshop “Trauma Resilience: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Violence with the Holistic Healing Arts” hosted by yogaview in Chicago in the Spring of 2013. The event included an interactive discussion of the layered impacts of sexual violence on the body, mind and spirit and a moderated panel with healing arts practitioners about using a variety of modalities to treat sexual trauma. After providing an introduction to the topic of sexual violence – covering definitions, impacts and changes on a survivor’s life and my own personal experience of the benefits of utilizing the holistic healing arts to support my ongoing recovery, I moderated the panel discussion with 5 of our Breathe healing arts practitioners whose modalities included acupuncture, chiropractic, EMDR, psychotherapy, art therapy and yoga. The event provided a uniquely powerful opportunity to share – alongside healers, survivors, advocates and survivors’ supporters, and with them explore the questions of how we heal, when we heal and what methods and modalities can bring about our return to ourselves. We navigated through the pain and symptoms that live in the shadow of trauma, and we arrived at the timeless, limitless space of ongoing integration  that begins to emerge when healing arts practitioners can reflect back the light that shines beneath and beyond the darkness of survivor’s experience of trauma.

My intention, as one of the speakers in this gathering, was to highlight the inextricable link of my identity as a survivor to the holistic healing arts. I described aspects of my healing path and the moments and ways in which the holistic healing arts were central to my re-integration after trauma. For me, the essential components of this reflection included the nature of how trauma creates an out-of-body experience which then requires for many people (myself included) a body-based or body-inclusive intervention in order to return within and feel connected to one’s whole self again, how the support of healing arts practitioners liberated me from an arbitrary (and impossible) timeline for healing and allowed me to develop a deep sense of curiosity, patience and trust in my symptoms and responses – transforming them into integral insights that my journey continues to provide, and finally, perhaps most importantly, was for me to recognize and verbalize that while initially, my experience of trauma created an explosion of existential questioning that lasted for nearly a decade, the process of investigating my resilience lead to an existential invitation to uncover how I might serve others with the insights of my experience – which may simply mean wanting to listen and to hold a safe and steady space for someone who wants to talk, scream, or weep about their immeasurable loss – and give them all the time they need.

With 5 different healing arts practitioners, we were able to have a dynamic discussion about their approaches to transforming trauma. The language they used to describe their healing techniques were unique to their modality, yet, importantly a common thread or parallel aim was woven effortlessly throughout their discussion: healing is innate within all of us. We discussed a range of symptoms that they might treat including physical changes/responses (appetite imbalances, chronic pain, hormonal irregularity) mental or emotional disruptions (depression, anxiety, nightmares) energetic imbalances (lethargy, immune system depletion) as well as the importance of making space for survivors to fully attend to the wounds, as well as the resilience, of their Spirits. They shared their insights from working with survivors about recommendations for how healing arts practitioners can modify the delivery of their modality in order to enhance trauma-sensitivity and safety for survivors, and importantly, suggested techniques to ground a survivor who might be triggered within the treatment setting.

We united around the notion that there is no quantifiable measure for how we embody our grieving and how we embark (again and again) on our healing. For some survivors, we learn to peel back layers of heavy residue via a physically engaging yoga practice, for others healing may come in the form of a smooth and precise spinal adjustment that recharges our nervous system. Some of us may benefit from quietly receiving an acupuncture treatment that nourishes our spirits and aligns the flow of the vital energy of our bodies, or we may release the fullness of both our pain and our power in a spontaneous and significant piece of art we create. We are as unique and vast as grains of sand along the beach, and so too is the way we heal.

The healing arts provide an essential map to discover our own rhythm inside – through the movement of energy, the ability to communicate, release and integrate beyond language, and the opportunity to turn within to witness the wisdom of our own internal resources. The circulation of our breath, the pulsing of our heart, the changing way we relate to yesterday and tomorrow, guide us home to the power we can find in the here and now. Addressing trauma holistically provides survivors an expansive, inclusive and ongoing space to allow unspoken wounds to begin healing and ultimately, supports the organic integration of trauma and the body, mind and spirit. Healing begins like a seed in the heart that blooms and opens into the mind, the bones and the breath – the markers of the infinite time inside. These constant cycles persist despite our pain, orienting us towards a new relationship with time in which we discover that gravity inclines our systems to align.

 

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Learn more about bringing this workshop “Trauma Resilience: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Violence with the Holistic Healing Arts” to your community by contacting us at info@thebreathenetwork.org

 

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