3 strategies for healing the "trauma shakes"
If you've ever endured extreme trauma...
you've probably experienced what the veterans of bitter-life call, "the shakes." They start as hypertension, usually in the shoulders and upper-neck. These tension spurts increase with intensity, forcing spasms down into the entire body. These shakes are a common symptom of extreme anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. They can be cured. In fact, even if you suffer from complex PTSD (multiple repeated traumas), you can be cured.
I was diagnosed with complex-PTSD around the age of 17. I broke out into hives all over my thighs and belly. Weird red dry patches violated the sides of my nose and I rarely slept because my mother's rage-sickness often flared in the dead of night. I couldn't quite function well in social situations without alcohol because "the shakes" arrested my muscles anytime I felt on-the-spot. It was a biting blizzard, except the cold lived in the hearts of man and no one felt warm, and so I shivered. I ran away often. I drank often. I did lots of drugs, actually. Alcohol didn't exactly help me make safe choices and I found myself in many sexually compromising situations which lead to even more anxiety. Safety was not within. Within had always been my last resort, and that resort was burning down.
I escaped scathed. I left the madhouse to build a safe home - a mundane and normal life, rich with pragmatism. I was safe in the skepticism that magic and demons weren't real, but the tension in the back of my neck returned anytime I felt interrogated, interviewed, cornered or threatened. The shakes hibernated within my body for more than 15 years. Cold sleeping gators, waiting for a wretched sunny day. Finally, at 36, the gator shakes re-awoke from their slumber.
Folks with complex PTSD often experience a resurgence of symptoms during major life changes. I'd started practicing magic, calling in the lessons that would force me to heal my deepest wounds and wise up to my soul's true will. Lots of people died. It was the natural order of things. A fury of triweekly anxiety attacks ensued. The gator shakes clenched their jaws and dragged me into the sorrow swamps where their death-rolls broke my will to live.
Sleeplessness, hives, flaky nose, suicidal ideation, the shakes: all the mighty teachers of PTSD marched into the battlefield of my awareness. I had four choices: suffer, numb (medicate), die or heal. I tried to die and miraculously failed, leaving me with the other options: suffer, heal or numb. Numbing was the choice that ultimately compromised my body to the extremes of PTSD resurgence. Numbing was no longer an option. The power path begs for consciousness and ritual, not medications and alcohol. I would suffer and heal. The following strategies saved my life.
1. Remove the temporary bandages. Stop numbing.
Suffering is inevitable as you begin to heal. When you make the conscious choice to heal your wounds for once and for ALL, plan on things getting worse before they get better. All your life, your wounds have festered beneath the rot of your hardened, puss-filled, temporary bandages. If you're lucky, you'll have a choice as to when the time is right. This is an instance when you can be careful what you wish for.
Make sure you are not emotionally isolated. Make sure you have a trusted professional on speed-dial. Make sure you have reliable rituals (don't attempt to start bonfires in the rain!) If all else fails, make sure you trust the process, even if you feel incurable. Afterall, you weren't wounded by an arrow dipped in the blood of a hydra! Your wounds will heal! Conduct a ritual to help you completely and lovingly accept the fact that you're really fucked up and this will become your greatest strength when you learn everything about your wound. It's going to stink with the rot of your broken and rejected soul. You'll probably throw-up in your mouth a little. Trust: one day, you'll be a highly specialized witch doctor. One day, you won't have the shakes.
2. Rewrite your cognitions. Cut out the rot.
The whole reason the neuro system responds to innocuous situations with anxiety is that our neurology is programmed by the cognitions we create when traumas originally occur. These cognitions could range from "all people aren't safe," to "I'm not worthy of love," to "close people attack at night." These cognitions may have been puppeteering your physiological responses for a very long time, long enough to rot away your objectivity and peace of mind. When you peel away the bandage and stop numbing, it's much easier to notice the complex qualities of the wounds you carry. You'll finally be able to keenly observe the detail of what happened and what you decided that meant. It's helpful to do this work with an EMDR professional or a trusted friend who can guide you through the process in a safe, ritualistic space. Trusted supporters may offer the compassion we need in order to truly be with our abandoned selves.
Your compassion for your inner-victim is very important here. Many people disassociate because the symptoms of their trauma have been so debilitating, they resent being the victim. But when you remove the bandage and commit to healing, you allow yourself to really be with the victim more than ever before. It may be helpful to rate your trauma on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most influential over your current state of being.
When you're ready to face the trauma, go deep. Recall the smells. Recall your age. Recall the floor, the ceilings, your body. Regress so deeply you'll recall exactly where within your body you first felt the pain, the tensions, the stuck energy. At that moment, what did you decide about life? What did you decide about people? Articulate your cognition as though your body has been speaking it your entire life. Have your friend write it down or take a pause to journal it. When you're ready, go back into the vivid trauma.
This time, dream up the ideal thing that should've happened. Get creative and vivid. It could be something familiar like your dead granny holding you, or something divine like a legion of angels beaming white light onto the whole planet. Maybe you just needed to speak your truth. Maybe you needed to scream, "Stop!" and witness your command honored. Whatever that thing is, that's your medicine. Imagine that thing happening as vividly as you possibly can. What cognitions do you create when that new ideal thing happens? How do those new cognitions play against your old, wounded cognitions?
Replay the scene, again and again, imprinting your ideal experience and your new cognitions onto the traumatic scene. Witness the real truths behind your experience change. When you feel you've reimagined it vividly enough to remember in your core, return to your current reality. Write down your new cognition. Revaluate your 1-10 trauma rating. Has it decreased in severity? When you feel triggered to shake, you can remember your new cognition. If you feel the shakes coming on, imagine that sweet, ideal thing, imprinting onto your current reality.
It may take several sessions to get your trauma number way down below a five, just like removing rattle-snake venom from a vein. Space your sessions out several days or weeks apart. You will be tired after conducting surgery on your own wounds. Your body will need to recover and sleep.
If you choose to do this alone or with a friend, be sure to consult a professional beforehand to let them know what you're doing. You may need to call them after your session.
3. Your body's medicinal reserves - take your power back
Your body has an electric current running through it at all times. Your heart would not beat without this electricity. That, in and of itself, is miraculous. But even more miraculous is the fact that you can build the electrical charge in your body to regulate your nervous system. The great Lamas of Tibet practice cultivating this inner-fire with a tantric yoga practice called Tummo. Not only will Tummo help generate inner fire and keep you warm, it will enhance your mood and help you generate compassion for whatever state of being you need to feel.
This is compassion cultivation, but more so, adrenal regulation. This practice is not religious. It is very prescriptive and specific, much like all Tantric practices. Even if you follow the teachings of Christ or Mohammad, you can practice Tummo without violating your religious principles or moral standing. You can learn it in less than 15 minutes. If you practice every day, you will notice a significant increase in your general wellbeing. You can reset your sympathetic nervous system and start your day off right every morning. Light a candle to create a sacred space to honor your practice. If you do nothing else, do this.
Even after repeating step two many times, I still struggled with occasional anxiety attacks and shakes. Electric Fire (Tummo) breathwork is the single thing that has saved my life. I practice every day. Because of this breathwork, I can finally meditate for long periods of time. Before learning this breathwork, I was only able to meditate for a few minutes, if at all, because my neurology was so shaken up. I was able to reset my sympathetic nervous system and completely eliminate "the shakes" using this technique. No small feat! If I can do it, you can do it. It's free. Learn it here.
If you've read this article through to this point, you're either embarking on your own power-path or you're integrating your power path. Once we have healed our wounds, we become healers. Being a highly specialized witch-doctor doesn't really mean you have to take on a huge responsibility. The best thing you can do is release into your personal power. You can cultivate the courage to go deep and stand with deep compassion for yourself. This compassion will afford you the wisdom of an enlightened being and great healer. To learn more about the Electric Fire Technique or to be considered for private coaching, reach out! Either way, I'd love to hear about your healing path.
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