Life is hard!

Life is meant to come with bad days and rough people.

Life is also meant to come with opportunities to connect with the right people and work out how those bad days and rough people make you feel.

Anything more than rough is always wrong.

Modern life is faster, more impatient, and overstimulating than at any time in history. As obvious as that is, it is meant to bring up the context of adaptability.

Every living being is limited by its ability to adapt to its environment.

All animals, humans included, are born with a nervous system full of physical and social instincts. All animals grow up with parents to show them the finer details of behaviour. Specifically, physical behaviours like how to fight, flee, and freeze, as well as social instinctual behaviours like how to tend, befriend and cower.

As we grow into adulthood, we become the one who has to choose how rough we need to be, how to deal with assholes, and how to reorient ourselves after a stressful or traumatic experience. This part of life takes practice.

How do you calm down and regain your autonomy and confidence?

If you have ever been through a physically overwhelming experience like a rock-climbing accident or survived a war zone, or if you have lived through ritualized physical and/or sexual violence, then that part of your nervous system is probably still in trauma.

That does not mean you are broken.

It means it is now time to find opportunities to connect with the right people, relearn how to release those embodied memories and work out the ways those days and people are still inhabiting your nervous system.

Daily practice is the most beneficial approach.

If you grew up in an environment that was physically or emotionally dangerous, unavailable, or manipulative, your instinctual Polyvagal Social Nervous System experiences trauma – which makes trusting others or yourself more challenging.

That does not mean you are broken.

It means it is time to create opportunities to connect with the right people and relearn how to read body language and open again to how it feels to belong.

Learning and practicing a new physical skill, especially one that includes mindfulness and breathwork can help revitalize your nervous system.

There are many potential environments that can push people beyond their adaptability. The trauma that needs to be attended to afterward has four potential deep and life-changing wounds.

If you are new to embodied awareness practices like Qi Gong, they provide a safe and curious container to reintegrate how your body experiences the world.

Qi Gong is uniquely supportive in the gradual journey of healing the Four Wounds of Trauma.

The Four Wounds of Trauma

The First Wound is Hypervigilance.

This is an instinctual focus on any and all danger.

When you experience something traumatic, like a car accident, the way your instinctual nervous system remembers the experience can change your world.

The world now has that kind of danger in it – always.

If you have a chance to release your nervous system trauma, you will still be hypervigilant in those environments, like driving a car, but it should not impact the rest of your life.

If you cannot find the support to release the profound instinctual aversion to certain environments or people, your nervous system will hold onto your spine and limbs with invisible white-knuckled fists. This inner tension will gradually drive your stress hormones and immune system out of balance.

Unresolved trauma is a factor in many, if not all chronic illnesses and is undoubtedly the underlying cause of most addiction.

Qi Gong – Lesson One

One of the first things you will learn in Qi Gong is to stand still and feel rooted.

Try this…

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and settle into an erect but relaxed posture.

Inhale and reach upwards slightly with the top of your head, exhale reaching downward with your tailbone.

Feel into your sense of readiness. Feel the spring in your knees.

Do you feel ready to play a sport or start dancing?

That is being rooted and ready – the opposite of feeling anxious and hypervigilant.

Breath deeply and slowly.

Feel into your belly and diaphragm.

Fill your belly and chest – front and back – side to side – up and down.

Feel expansive and courageous as you inhale, feel rooted and ready as you exhale.

The Second Wound is Comfort Seeking.

This need to control stress, symptoms, pain and inner turmoil can become a full-time job. 

When an animal survives a life-or-death encounter, they shake, pant, yawn, and then take a nap. Comfort Seeking is an instinct.

We all need to shake off a bad day or in some cases a car accident or a divorce. I mean shake it off literally.

All animals have to release trauma through nervous system expression. 

Your nervous system has evolved to store intense survival experiences for later and then release the nervous system distress from the First Wound. When you are safe and have the support you need, you will naturally release the embodied memory of the trauma through some form of self-expression.

Laughing, Crying, Dancing, Shaking, Venting, Hugging, and Making Love has helped for countless millennia. 

Often, when I am giving someone an Acupuncture treatment, they begin to shake and then have a huge emotional release. Often, they have no memory of why their body needed to do that and sometimes I have the honour of witnessing a person coming to terms with deeply buried Somato-Emotional memories of trauma.

It is almost always the next day when many of their symptoms begin to improve.

Life is beautiful that way.

Coming to terms with trauma requires a consistent way to feel and move through intensely emotional and painful experiences. It also requires the ability to shift your state and drop into complete relaxation or generate a sense of solace and/or mild euphoria.

If you cannot find a way to release the ‘energy’ from the trauma, your present sense of danger will be more intense. Over time, your sense of instinctual adaptability will diminish. At a certain point, most people do what they can to control their symptoms.

The second wound, the need to control stress and pain, can consume some people’s lives with addiction.

Qi Gong – Lesson Two

Shape Shifting and State Shifting is Your Birthright.

Try this…

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Turning your whole body, swinging your arms left and right.

Breath deeply and a bit forcefully.

The earliest forms of healing were Shamanic. They included practices that changed how people felt inside their bodies and loosened the constraints of Reality.

Moving freely, focusing your awareness and filling your blood with oxygen can have as much benefit as a massage and probably provide more real relief than taking a pain killer.

Feel into your belly and diaphragm.

One of the hardest burdens to carry from trauma is predicting a future of negative outcomes while looking for any short term relief.

Allow your body to move like an animal – any animal.

Turn your body left and right. As a snake, a horse, a bear, a dragon, a praying mantis, or any other creature that comes to mind. Breathing deeply and forcefully.

Be playful and present.

Breath deeply until you feel your grip on life loosening – just enough to be playful and present.

The Third Wound of trauma is Social Disorientation.

This is an inability to feel connection and trust.

A part of your Fight, Flight, and Freeze nervous system works through your Polyvagal System. This VERY ancient part of your nervous system also exhibits a Tend, Befriend, and Cower response.

The Fight, Flight, Freeze responses are instinctual and are at the core of the first Two Wounds, Hypervigelense and Comfort Seeking.

The other adaptive responses (Tend, Befriend, or Cower) are a visceral, social survival strategy to belong or at least ‘fit in’ to your tribe or group in some way. Or, in any way that keeps you from being left behind or banished. being banished usually meant you were going to die.

Fitting in is not an instinct, it is a strategy.

Belonging is an instinct.

Your Polyvagal System is always subconsciously listening to other people’s tone of voice, evaluating their facial expressions and your overall sense of personal connection and bonding.

If you have been traumatized by a person who was meant to keep you safe, you will naturally and instinctually become very careful about who you can trust and how you negotiate getting along with those around you.

The Third Wound is really two wounds.

A loss of trust in others and a loss of social connection.

For many people who were abused as children, social connection is the opposite of easy.

In fact, it can get downright awkward and lead to lying, being promiscuous and other manipulative behaviours – or, it can leave you feeling the most comfortable alone, or completely left out, left behind and alone.

When banishing yourself is safer than seeking connection, you are in ‘enemy territory’ – always.

This social disorientation keeps proving that your instincts are right. People are dangerous and untrustworthy, and you have to stay in control of how you fit (or don’t fit) into the world or you will probably experience even more trauma.

I have seen many patients with chronic illness or chronic pain, as well as people recovering from addiction, go through similar social disorientation. Your Polyvagal System is not just about survival. It has another role in being the gatekeeper of releasing tension through connection, especially physical touch, hugging, play, and making love.

This need is one of the reasons Yoga and Qi Gong are practiced around the world.

Reconnecting with your embodied experience, shaking off the tension, releasing somatic trauma, breathing with awareness and intention, are all pathways home to your birthright of physical and social ease.

The Third Wound of trauma can take years to heal. Being vulnerable enough to risk losing control in front of others is also a powerful ally.

Healing circles have been around since language for a reason.

Qi Gong – Lesson Three

Breathwork and Being Conscious with Your Instincts.

Try this…

Breath deeply and slowly.

Sitting comfortably, feel into your belly and diaphragm.

Fill your belly and chest – front and back – side to side – up and down.

Count to 5 or 6 as you inhale, pause for a moment of appreciation and exhale for 5 or 6 heartbeats.

Pause for a moment of appreciation.

If you are comfotable with the first two Qi Gong lessons, the next step is to listen to the sensations, emotions, constrictions, nervous tension, and even some proverbial ‘butterflies’ in your body.

Keep Breathing

Stretch out your Diaphragm. 

(Look into your Polyvagal System and Solar Plexus – Video Coming Soon)

This is about trust and boundaries. 

Qi Gong for the Third Wound of Trauma is to Sit and Breath.

If you are feeling a lot and/or are ready to go deeper into discomfort and disorientation, then start rocking back and forth slowly.

Exhale as you lean back, inhale as you lean forward.
Trigger Warning: This is meant to induce an emotional release!

The Fourth Wound is Existential Pain.

Losing your social connection is heartbreaking. Losing self-trust is soul-crushing.

This wound is the most destructive and crippling in the long term.

In the worst moments of your life, who let you down the most?

If you were mistreated by the people who you instinctually believed were there to help you learn, feel safe, and grow, what does that imply about you?

It says a lot more about them, but as children, we need to fit in to survive. 

If the people guiding you through your journey of dependence to autonomy could not be trusted, if they could not teach you to trust yourself, how can you truly trust yourself?

What reason explains why these things happened and why you could not do anything about it?

The Fourth Wound is a belief.

The life-altering and self-limiting belief that there is something fundamentally missing or wrong with you.

This loss of innate self-trust, adaptability, and the belief that you are less, or damaged, or unworthy is how abuse works.

This wound creates a disconnection from the wisdom, love, and aliveness of your authentic self – and, perhaps your Soul.

If you feel that the Fourth Wound has stolen your life – that is exactly how it feels.

It is like being in a low-grade state of shock. ALL THE TIME!

The existential pain of being alone, wounded, and disconnected from your authentic self-trust drives most people into lives of reactivity, control, anxiety, and all too often, addiction.

If you have experienced all four of these wounds in your life, there is hope.

In my experience, as a clinician and as a patient, the Somatic forms of counselling combined with embodied practices like Qi Gong, Yoga, and Breathwork are the most effective and beneficial.

Most spiritual practices are centred around regaining your Autonomy, Adaptability, Coherence, and sense of Belonging.

These ancient traditions and skills from around the world seem to agree that the point of life is to be your authentic self. They seem to believe that the default setting for sane and healthy humans is respect and reciprocity, kindness and generosity.

I have come to the humbling understanding that these traditions came into being because people have sought solace from the effects of the Four Wounds of Trauma for thousands and thousands of years.

If you ignore this part of your life, especially when your body is sending you all kinds of emergency messages, unresolved trauma will become the most destructive and relentless force behind the progress of your illness or addiction.

We all need environments and social opportunities that are safe and meaningful.

We all need practices and support to literally, or figuratively, shake off the wounds of the past.

We all need social environments that are predictable and collaborative enough to bond with and find belonging.

We all need to trust ourselves, or our lives become a comedy of errors or a tragedy of lies.

Each of the Four Wounds of trauma is experienced as unconscious pain and as personal suffering. Yes, there is a difference. I believe the Buddha once implied something close to this quote.

“If you can bring compassion to your suffering you will meet your pain. If you bring compassion to your pain, you will be free from suffering.”

Qi Gong – Lesson Four

Sometimes stillness is only found in the eye of a hurricane.

Try this…

Lie on your back with some support for your neck and knees. 

Get comfortable with the first three lessons.

Can you feel ready when your body wants to run?

Can you reinhabit your body instead of finding ways to numb out?

Can you sit and feel into the dark places and let your tears flow?

Inhale.

Breathe deeply into your belly, then fill your chest.

Exhale.

Empty your chest then empty your belly. 

Feel into your belly and diaphragm.

Fill your belly and chest – front and back – side to side – up and down.

Breathe as if you are preparing to hold your breath for as long as possible. 

Continue for about 5 minutes.

As you begin to feel ‘floaty’, exhale slowly while sinking with gravity. Sigh or moan or yell if you need to.

Hold your breath by releasing all tension and intention from your diaphragm.

This is about finding your true self within a hurricane of ancient existential pain.

Breathe in slowly. Find the eye of your hurricane.

Accept your self. Accept the truth of your life.

Accept that you are carrying a burden that needs to be put down. accept the existential pain, the loss of trust, the comfort-seeking and hy[pervigelance.

Accept that you have been made to feel less than who you really are.

If you can accept it – the pain loses control over your life, behaviour and choices.

Thank you for reading this. 

This journey through trauma and recovery is more about the direction than the destination. Each of the Four Wounds of Trauma is about trying to control pain and harm. Addiction is always about avoiding and controlling pain. Trying to control the outcome of this journey is a distraction from the inner work, presence and compassion that it actually takes to walk this long road.

I developed this process because I have walked this journey. The doorway to freedom is feeling the hurricane of instinctual, visceral, and existential confusion and pain. If this article has touched you, you are feeling it anyway.

When you are ready, try this!

Every day for 28 days, set aside 25 minutes.

Stand still for 5 minutes. Become readiness.

Turn left and right for 5 minutes. Breathe, shake and move like an animal.

Sit, rock, breathe, and grieve for 5 minutes.

Lay down and enter the eye of your hurricane. Breathe fast for 5 minutes, hold for a minute and the breathe slowly for 5 minutes.

Find out which helps more, morning or evening?

If this practice helps you, find a local Qi Gong class.

Learn Qi Gong Online

Level One

Foundations of Movement, Posture and Breath
Anytime – $347

Watch the video below to see what we will learn and practice together in Level One.

I have included a wide range of Qi Gong skills and practices in Level One to ensure you have experience in as many aspects of Qi Gong as possible.

Learn More Here

Level Two

Traditional Qi Gong Forms and Applied Principles
Spring 2020 – $397

Level Two focuses on exploring your deep internal tissue connections while refining your structure, posture and coordination.

Level Two focuses on traditional Qi Gong forms and more advanced Qi Gong principles.

Learn More Here