How to heal trauma in the body 

By Sarah Cannata

We all have experiences in life that challenge us. Some of these experiences leave us with short and long-term scars. I believe in this definition of trauma:

“[Trauma is] Not what happens to you; it is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you.” – Dr Gabor Maté

I appreciate this definition because it speaks to our uniqueness. Two people can have the same exact experience. One will feel traumatised afterwards, and the other person may never give the experience a second thought.

Before I continue…

I am not a doctor, therapist or any other health care provider. I am someone with lived experience (no need to go into the specifics here – I share more in my course) who has used writing to navigate my way out of several sticky situations in life. I’m also an avid learner and have engaged in extensive healing, study, exploration and personal development work. As a certified Embodied Processing Practitioner, I’ve learned what trauma is and the different types of trauma. Embodied processing is a body-based approach to working with trauma. I’ve woven embodied processing practices into my writing work and have extensively used the tools and techniques on myself.

If you are someone who is struggling with trauma at the moment, you don’t have to walk this path alone. I encourage you to reach out to a therapist or other qualified professional who can support you. Regardless of whether you are working with a professional or not, this work is a life-long journey, and I’ve seen first-hand how writing can support a diverse range of people.

5 ways writing can complement your healing journey

Writing provides a safe space for us to express openly

I have shredded a lot of writing over the years. Writing provides a refuge, a safe space where we can organise and articulate our thoughts without fear of judgement. Trauma can be incredibly intense and wind up taking over our lives. For me, writing is the equivalent of releasing the valve on a pressure cooker.

Writing helps us to make sense of past experiences

Traumatic experiences can shake us at our core. What felt safe may no longer feel safe anymore. Our identity can take a hit, and we may start questioning everything we thought we knew. By writing about past experiences, we can connect the dots and gently explore certain aspects more deeply. What made no sense before may naturally evolve into a narrative we can pick apart and explore at our own pace.

Writing helps us to identify patterns and triggers

Humans are often creatures of habit. When looking back at my writing, I’ve often identified patterns that influence my decision-making and behaviour. I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t want to see these patterns, but we’re operating on auto-pilot without awareness. Once you’ve identified patterns, you can explore any connected emotions and feelings and even gain clarity on how they may stem from the past.

Writing helps us to acknowledge progress

Healing is not a linear process. I’ve experienced many instances where I’ve made real progress, and then something will happen that triggers me. I feel like I am back at square one, but I’m not. I have found writing incredibly helpful in documenting my progress and disallowing setbacks to become soul-defining and soul-destroying. Without such reflection, it’s too easy to feel like we’re always going backwards or around in circles. 

Writing shows us how resilient we are

I’ve interacted with so many of you who will read this article. Each of you inspires me in a unique way. Some of you don’t realise the incredible triumphs, breakthroughs and moments of strength you’ve exhibited. When you document your life, feelings and emotions daily and look back at your body of writing in the future, you’ll see just how resilient and courageous you’ve been all along.

Looking for journal prompts to help you heal trauma in the body?

Recently, I asked my community how you define trauma. You said things like:

A personal state of being I perceive as unhelpful, resulting from a past negative experience.

Something that disempowers me and brings me unstuck through my thoughts, emotions and actions.

Trauma is like smoke. You can see it and feel it, but the real damage happens from the inside out.

As trauma is stored in the body, it must also be processed in the body. I’ve created a workbook with prompts for people who have experienced distressing or painful events.

This workbook includes:

  • 30+ pages
  • Journal prompts
  • A definition of trauma and the six different types of trauma
  • How to use writing as a healing tool to help process trauma
  • 3 guided meditations

Success message!
Warning message!
Error message!