When I’m working with a client, I often ask what their gut is telling them or what their heart is saying or how they feel in their body about a particular issue. At the beginning of our work together, some clients say they have no idea what they feel. Some don’t feel much at all. Others want to feel happy or excited, but instead, they feel anxious. Many jump straight away to “I don’t know,” thinking they should have immediate answers rather than taking the time to search inside for what feels right.

If you can relate, you might need to heal old emotional wounds before you’re able to feel enthusiasm or joy in any job.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. You may have also lost touch with your body after experiencing trauma such as a violent attack, a sudden accident, or a profoundly distressing loss. Trauma can also develop as the result of long-standing systemic forces such as poverty, racism or any other type of structural discrimination. When something is profoundly shocking or painful, it’s normal to abandon the felt sense of the body and flee to the left cortex of the brain. This might have been your best strategy for protecting yourself from pain and attempting to take some control of the situation.

The problem is, when you disconnect from your body, it makes it harder to take risks, experience joy, or interpret your inner guidance.

Trauma makes it hard to take risks.

There’s a lot of talk in self-help circles like: “Just think positive thoughts!” “Just take that huge risk!” “Just put yourself out there!” To folks coping with trauma, it can sound Pollyannaish.

If you’re caught in a trauma response, any small risk can cause security alarms to go off and create a sense of panic and overwhelm. Rather than feeling or trusting your heart, unresolved trauma can cause you to anticipate rejection, deprivation, and disaster. As Bessel van der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score, “This lack of experimentation traps people in a matrix of fear, isolation, and scarcity where it is impossible to welcome the very experiences that might change their basic worldview.” To be able to tell what risks are smart to take and put yourself out there, you need to heal your relationship with your body.

When you numb the pain, you also numb joy.

The same receptors in the body that feel pleasure also feel pain. Because of this, if you close yourself off (consciously or unconsciously) to pain, you also close yourself to joy. Likewise, when we engage in habitually numbing activities like staying busy, working, caretaking, planning, social media, alcohol, drugs, food, relationships, or similar activities, we don’t just numb our challenging emotions, we also make it harder to feel joy.

If you’ve shut down as a result of trauma, it may hard for you to experience joy at work until you heal. That said, healing is possible. Your nervous system is not damaged, it’s just frozen in time and needs to be reawakened.

It is essential to seek skillful, professional support.

Like a numb limb awakening with pins and needles, as you reconnect with the sensations of your body, you may feel some of the pain that caused you to close down in the first place. It is important to have an experienced guide to support you in this process.

If you have a hard time practicing the steps that I shared above on your own or believe that you might be living with the residual effects of trauma, I urge you to find a therapist who can help you heal your emotional wounds. It is important to find a therapist who is skilled in a body-based and trauma-informed methodology such as Focusing, Somatic Experiencing, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). You can find talented therapists near you by using the search tool on Psychology Today. Interview a couple of people to get a sense of how you resonate with them and their experience, training, and client outcomes. And, if the idea of therapy doesn’t sit well with you, you can engage in another practice that can help heal trauma, such as yoga, bodywork, dancing, drumming, or communing with nature.

Finding work you love is all about taking action, including steps to prioritize your healing. So, right now, I invite you to write down one step you will take this week to start healing your emotional wounds. Then, take this step.

The more you heal your heart, the more space you’ll have to experience the changes you desire. I’m sending you a big hug and so many wishes for healing and joy.

If you have a friend or two who has been feeling stuck for a while or has had a hard time emotionally, would you please send them this article? I’d be very grateful. Thank you!

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