Thus far in this series, I have communicated what trauma is (Part 1), how trauma affects our mind (Part 2), and how trauma inhibits leaders’ abilities to be emotionally intelligent (Part 3) and agile (Part 4).
Knowing all of this, if we want to elevate our ability to be effective leaders, we need to heal our minds.
Part 5 was a high-level overview on how we can do this, identifying two general approaches: top-down and bottom-up approaches. Part 6 was on a top-down approach that I use with the leaders I work with.
In this article, we’ll discuss the bottom-up approach.
Bottom-Up Approach to Trauma Healing
Part 5 indicated that since trauma causes disassociation (a breaking of the mind-body connection) and disintegration (neural wiring disruption in the mind), any approach toward healing requires a focus on re-association and integration.
In bottom-up approaches, the idea is to start in our body, (1) move up into the non-conscious processes of our mammalian and reptilian brains, and even further, into (2) the top part of our head, our human brain, where cognition occurs. As we go through this process of connecting with our body and its feelings and become more conscious of this connection, we help the body and mind reconnect (re-association), and we start to create better integration of the wiring in our mind.
The reality is that people who have been through trauma have a diminished ability to connect with their body. It is not uncommon for trauma survivors to have difficulty identifying items they are holding, sensing when they are hungry, recognizing that they need to go to the restroom, or sensing the beating of their heart. There are some interesting examples of this in the book, The Body Keeps the Score.
Various Bottom-Up Approaches
My personal experiences and my experiences working with leaders have taught me that bottom-up processes are best done with the guidance of a trained therapist. I say this because some of the approaches that I identify are things that people commonly do, but they may not get the healing benefit out of them because they aren’t as intentional about their healing as they could be.
Body Scan Meditations
Body scan meditations are guided meditations that help you connect with your body and the sensations within it. I use the app “Insight Timer.” In this app, I can find hundreds of such meditations.
Body Connection Activities
It is not uncommon for therapists to recommend body connection activities like yoga, pilates, kickboxing, massages, and horse riding. All of these activities, if done intentionally, can improve our mind-body connection.
There are several different therapy modalities that involve this bottom-up approach. I have experienced two of these modalities, and I have personally found them incredibly helpful and self-awakening. They have also been found to be among the most effective treatments of trauma. They are:
- Internal Family Parts therapy (https://youtu.be/GdzH2YRmv6Y), and
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR; https://youtu.be/iSHuFHFrUis)
I have included videos if you want to learn more about these.
As we engage in bottom-up processing, we are counteracting the effects that trauma has had on our body and reestablishing a healthy relationship with our own bodies.