Disclaimer, this article is not referring brand new realization of childhood trauma. I am assuming that the reader has done counseling on there issues. Working with presence is one of many tools that can be used to to walk around the land mines and head down the path of healing. If you are having severe issues please consult your therapist or medical doctor.
Presence has several definitions. In dictionary.com it says presence is “the state of fact of being present, as with others in in a place”. Currently, I am present at my mother’s as I write this blog. People can be present at work or at a store. We can be present with a person, or a group.
Many folks, who have experienced trauma, get caught up in every place other than the now moment. We hear something that triggers a thought or experience and off we go in some past event. We can be in a conversation and we want the “right” answer. Rather than listening to what the person has to say, after a few words we start thinking about what we are going to say. So much is missed, past over or lost with this way of living.
Presence is about becoming fully aware of the current moment. For some folks this isn’t a big deal. When you have had a lot of trauma in your life, presence can be nearly impossible. Trauma sets a person up to be in defense at the drop of a hat. You can be just fine, then a word, tone of voice, a sound, body language, or smell can set one into a defensive pattern. At that point communication stops.
I have suffered a great deal of trauma and as a result, I can be drawn into, what I think is, the safety of my defenses. What can that look like? Good question. Here we need to look at body, emotions, mind and spirit.
As a child growing up in an alcoholic home, I chose to learned to be invisible to cope. If I became invisible, it would not be “my turn” that night. So I learned not to breathe (clench my teeth), I was silent (will not share my ideas/thoughts) and became small. I learned to disappear. I have carried these defenses and more in my adult life.
Being able to “disappear” has allowed me to slip through many situations unseen and unheard. Frankly, these defense patterns, that helped me survive as a child, don’t work so well in relationships or business and personal success as an adult. For me, when I get triggered, I can shut down in a nano second. My body becomes very tense, I clench my jaw and make a fist. My breath becomes very shallow. My thoughts are wild, thinking in the past or future, looking for a feel good rush. My heart beats fast, I don’t think well and I react in defense. In these moments I am not free. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want more from life and I want to give more. It goes without saying if you have suffered childhood trauma, pursue therapy. As we walk through the rest of our lives we must open to the post trauma work to personal freedom.
There are many options in healing the post trauma patterns. Some of the options are: presence, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Professional EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) , and others.
One area to help in post trauma work is developing a practice of “presence” or mindfulness.
Presence, or mindfulness is about being fully “here” in the now moment in every situation including good, bad, stressful or joyful. How do you do that? Another good question.
First you start with short meditation practices. Here you learn deep breathing, quieting the mind and body and being here now during meditation. Next you move this practice into daily life even though you haven’t perfected it in meditation time. Start with easy.
A simple practice is bringing your awareness into this moment. I think about my seat in the chair, my fingers on the keyboard and the sound of my mother’s TV in the background. I can take a deep breath and note how different my body feels. I can be aware of feelings that are flowing or stopped within me. This process brings you into the now moment. Only then can you be “present”. If I am in a conversation and “present”, I can really listen to the person. Being able to take what they are saying and formulate non-judgmental questions to help them deepen their process. If I am lost in thoughts, I can gently bring myself back to the presence with my breath, feel my feet. As I do this my vision clears. The fog lifts. This is a worthy ongoing effort.
Here are some Practice of Presence resources so that you can learn for yourself: