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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Barsky

This Is How Your Body Remembers Trauma

Your mind is an amazing thing. It stores all of your thoughts, feelings, and memories. Everything we do, our brain carefully categorizes and files away for later use. However, after times of intense trauma, our minds may choose to forget certain things.

Despite gaps in memory of traumatic events, your body will still remember. It will store the unprocessed trauma in your body. But how?

How your body remembers

It is an interesting concept to think about: how does my body remember something that my mind does not? What are our memories if not past recollections we have? In order to better understand this, think of riding a bike.

Even if you have not ridden a bike in many years, you will still remember how to pedal, how to steer, and how to brake. Muscle memory is very powerful. Your body remembers the mechanics of riding a bike. Unfortunately, your body also remembers how to react to trauma.

For example, if you survived a public shooting or are a war veteran, the sound of fireworks or a car backfiring may trigger your body to react as if you were being shot at. You may be transported back to the scene of the crime or the battlefield. Similarly, if you were abused by an individual as a child, the smell of the soap they used may transport you back to being a child once more.

Where trauma is stored

Your mind "shuts off" when you are too overwhelmed as a protective mechanism. However, these unresolved issues will transfer to your muscle tissue. The energy of the trauma is stored in muscle tissue until it can be released. Again, this makes trauma a literal muscle memory for you.

There are various ways to tap into this and release the trauma from your body. This happens through attention to your body, such as meditation, acupuncture, or specialized massages. Trauma therapy that focuses on the sensations in your body as opposed to focusing on your thoughts helps to work through the trauma.

Anniversary reactions

There are additional ways that your body may remember your trauma. If you lived through a singular traumatic event or one time of year was worse than others, then take note of how you feel around the anniversary of that event. You will likely find that you have increased levels of anxiety or depression. This is referred to as an anniversary reaction.

Even if you cannot pinpoint exactly what you were doing a year ago, on a cellular level, your body does. This may trigger reactions in your body, such as insomnia, agitation, and other painful memories.

The good news is that you can prepare for anniversary reactions. Let your loved ones know that you may need some extra attention in the upcoming days or even weeks due to the traumatic anniversary. Prepare early so that you are not caught off guard by your body’s reaction.

Remember, you are not alone

Living with unprocessed trauma is hard. Even though the idea of asking for help may be scary, it is so important to remember that you are not alone. Reach out to your support system, like friends or family, or an actual support group, when you need some extra love. This is an especially good idea around anniversary events.

Of course, there are several forms of therapy that are designed to help process trauma and mitigate the body’s response. It is incredibly important to find a counselor you can trust to help guide you through this process, and I am happy to be this person. To begin working through your trauma, reach out to me today.

For more information on trauma therapy, check out the link.


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