Like many other domestic abuse survivors, I suffer from C-PTSD. This can manifest itself in frightening ways, like being swept away in a moment of terror when faced with triggers. I am doing everything I can in recovery to find out more about how to heal so that C-PTSD does not control my life.
Part of what I do to help myself is to find and read great books to gain more understanding. "Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma" by Peter A. Levine is a really great read and is helping me to understand the complexities of why and how C-PTSD occurs. According to Levine, it is all about energy. He believes that traumatic symptoms are not caused by the event itself, but come from the frozen residue of energy that has not been discharged during the natural freeze response during a traumatic event or events. When we can not complete the process of moving in through and out of the freezing state, this energy can remain trapped and recorded in the nervous system, which leads to PTSD symptoms. Makes sense to me. The residual energy doesn't just go away. It stays recorded in the body, and no matter how much you talk about or work through your experience you may stay 'stuck in the traumatic maze'.
Thankfully though, there are ways to use the energy for self-healing.
Levine states "The same immense energies that create the symptoms of trauma, when properly engaged and mobilized, can transform the trauma and propel us into new heights of healing, mastery, and even wisdom."
I believe that is where Art Therapy comes in. For me, painting helps to complete that process of moving through and out of my traumatic experiences so that the residual energy can be poured onto the canvas rather than stay trapped in my nervous system. I think that is why images and form seem to appear in my work as it dries.
My painting titled "The Devil's Waltz" went through many stages of manifestation and represents layer upon layer of expelled energy. A truly healing experience.
I firmly believe that with strength, persistence and understanding, resolved trauma can be a wonderful gift, and can lead to soul healing opportunities at the highest level!