Healing Trauma via Buddhism – Part 2

Continuing on from my post here, writing further about what I learned at the workshop “Trauma, Neuroscience and the Evolving Therapy of Traumatised Children and Adults” by Dr Bessel van der Kolk earlier this week and referring to his book The Body Keeps the Score.

The most important job of the brain is to ensure our survival, even under the most miserable conditions.

– The Body Keeps the Score pg 55

Amygdala is the smoke detector in the brain that detects danger. In a traumatised person’s brain, the amygdala becomes hypersensitive, very involved. It goes off all the time. This also translates into low serotonin production. Boosting serotonin can help quieten the smoke detector too.

Using the Buddhist practice in the present moment, I can rely on my prayer for survival. This action focused on bringing out my greatest potential enables me to bypass the in-built brain circuits that were formed in the past. I am gently nudging myself to not fall back to old ways, but let in new possibilities. SGI activities, visiting members, connecting to others, going to meetings gives me a sense of belonging that helps to boost my serotonin levels to calm the smoke detector.

When I sought guidance from the general director earlier this year, I was told that “Until the time, I am stuck in the mode of why is my life this way, why is this happening to me, I am still looking for the Gohonzon outside of myself. Instead when I chant to embrace my situation and I determine to engage with others, no matter what, I will find creative ways to solve my current situation”.

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Connection Disability

I’ve often said that the thing I want most in my life is more hugs. And yet this point is stuck in a deeper paradox.

Even though human touch and affection is one of the key things I want in my life, staying attuned to it is a big challenge. As a defence mechanism, I learnt to disconnect from feeling in my body so I won’t feel anything. This existed along side a phobia of touch. I would avoid hugging close friends, let alone casual acquaintances as is often the case in the Western culture. My best friend Ash who now lives in Europe, I first hugged him after five years of being friends with him. He hadn’t even realised it. He didn’t initiate a hug with a woman, he merely responded if the woman initiated.

Similarly one of my work colleagues that I became friends with five years ago complained then about this awkwardness when saying bye to me because he couldn’t hugged me. Then, I was trapped in my phobia, especially if hugging men.

Over the years, I have worked through it and now I don’t think much of it. I’ve even hugged strangers and people I have just met e.g. last year when I made a renewed determination of having more hugs in my life, I even hugged the old man who came to dry clean my couch. He was pleasantly surprised.

Still I have a part of me that’s stuck in fear and closes up if I’m extremely present and vigilant. This part of me kicks in when I’ve decided to hug someone. It just goes snap and cuts off all feeling. It turns into a thing my body is doing but my feeling brain has checked out. If I’m tired or rushed, I tend to cut off in a hug. If it’s too anticipated then I anticipate it and cut off before I have a chance to bring myself to the present moment.

This tendency keeps me stuck in the feeling of isolation. Either I have zero hugs or I feel zero hugs.

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