Do you trust your gut?
Intuition is another name for the feeling we describe as a slight stomach ache or a swirl of energy in a belly. It can also feel like soft prickles or velvety butterflies under your solar plexus.
What is your gut feeling like?
You listened to it that night when a nasty-looking guy approached you at a dark parking place, and you hurried away.
But you ignored its nagging murmur that late night when you should have stayed with your parents, but instead, tired and sleepy, you drove home, missed the turn, and knocked a neighbor’s fence over. What did you promise yourself in the police cell waiting to be released?
Most of us have a choice–to listen to our intuition, to evaluate it with the help of cognition, or to ignore.
But what if you don’t know if it’s even there?
A Double-Sided Highway
That’s what happens to people with a history of trauma–they can’t feel the hints of intuition. They don’t know what their bodies tell them or want.
Neuroscientists discovered a double-sided connection between the brain and big organs like heart, lungs, and guts–through the vagus nerve.
One study showed that cutting off the fibers that go from the gut to the brain in mice makes them less fearful. So they run out in the open, exposing themselves to potential danger.
But without a gut feeling, they also struggle more to adapt to a sudden change in their environment. Much longer than “normal” mice, they keep behaving as if they still were in danger.
So not only the brain, as we used to think, but the gut, too, has something to do with the way we behave!
This new knowledge is already used to treat epilepsy and some types of depression through stimulation of the vagus.
Can it help to treat trauma?
Many believe it can.
Brain in Action
Your brain’s primary function is to ensure your survival. Therefore it constantly monitors your internal and external environment. When it detects signs of potential danger or pleasure, it sends you subtle signals to make you pay attention.
But how can brains predict?
Myriad bits of information and images are already stored in your brain.
Some memories you gained through conscious learning or engagement, and some you don’t even know you have. They can be unspoken memories of something that happened long ago and are activated by a scent, sound, or touch.
So your brain doesn’t only collect the information but constantly compares new bites with the stored ones. And by doing so, it can predict what might happen next.
“Our gut is feelings signal what is safe, life-sustaining, or threatening, even if we cannot quite explain why we feel a particular way. Our sensors constantly send us subtle messages about the needs of our organism. Gut feelings also help us to evaluate what is going on around us.”
–Bessel van der Kolk, MD ”The Body Keeps The Score.”
Brain on Trauma
Being comfortable with your body sensations, trusting them to be accurate with the information they supply, allows you to feel in charge of your body, feelings, and yourself, according to van der Kolk.
But he also points out that trauma makes you feel unsafe inside your own body–the pain of the past causes you discomfort in the internal world. Because the signals of danger are constantly bombarding you, throwing you out of emotional equilibrium, you learn to ignore them in order to have some peace and sense of control.
Is ignoring internal sensations a good coping strategy?
Not at all.
Ignoring bodily sensations, just like ignoring your feelings, doesn’t make them go away.
The more we ignore them, the more persistent they will be.
They find other ways to manifest themselves. Somatic symptoms like headaches, low back pain, asthma, digestion problems, and many more may represent themselves to get your attention to the core problem–a weak/absent mind-body connection.
Want to Retrain Your Brain?
A traumatized mind forgets how to listen to and understand physical sensations coming from your body.
But it can learn again, and you will be the teacher.
Here is what you can do.
Let’s start safe by discovering and naming simple sensations associated with a pleasant memory.
Find a quiet place where nobody can disturb you.
When ready, turn on the video below and let me guide you through the exercise.
Here is a list of words to inspire you. Check it out.
Knowing your bodily sensations is necessary for the healing.
It takes time so BE PATIENT with yourself.
And hey, flip a coin to make your gut feeling louder. Check out this article and have fun!
A Note of Caution:
You are performing this exercise out of your free will and you are fully responsible for the outcome. If you have any question, please, write to Irina@lovegrowbehappy.com, and I will provide you with more information.
Starting with positive sensations is important to avoid possible flashbacks/re-traumatization. In case of any doubt, please, consult your therapist or GP.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, or send me an email, or a message. Visit my Facebook page. And if you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends. Thank you!
Images by Pixabay