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  • Writer's pictureKesley Cage

Butterfly Hugs - Transforming the Effects of Trauma

When trauma happens, its effects on the mind may distort reality by creating perceptions based in subconscious negative beliefs. Long afterwards, there may be a sense of expectation that the terrible thing may happen again, that we somehow deserved what happened to us, that we are unsafe, or that it was all our fault. These negative beliefs are often responsible for unnecessary suffering.

It's important to identify such limiting beliefs, and how we feel about what happened so we can restructure our thinking and move towards feeling how we'd like to feel. For example, a desired positive belief may be that "what happened is highly unlikely to ever happen again, I am safe now, it may never happen again, I can move on with my life, I am free of the past. I feel so good now because I know it wasn't my fault what happened, and I can protect myself in future with what I've learnt."

To desensitise the traumatic memories, it's possible to use bilateral stimulation by crossing your arms over your heart and tapping the upper part of each arm with the opposite hand. This is also known as a butterfly hug. Doing this for a while allows for emotions to process and insights to arise. Next, we enhance the validity of the positive beliefs we'd like to move towards, by using positive affirmations to install them into the mind-body network e.g. "I can handle these emotions. I deeply and completely accept myself. Letting go is easy for me. I am safe."

Using these affirmations, we are re-framing and re-processing the traumatic memories, all whilst using the bi-lateral stimulation to create an altered state of consciousness, similar to REM sleep. This may allow the brain to transfer the traumatic memories from the short-term memory to the long-term memory where it can be filed away safely with it's new, positively re-programmed beliefs.

After practising this for a while, it's good to let the mind and body rest in deep relaxation. During active relaxation we can let go of any residues of the process such as jitters, by simply noticing any sensations, with kind, open awareness, and letting go. When completing this process, it's helpful to imagine an inner safe place such as being on a beautiful island or an image of some flowers, a baby animal, or a mountain that you enjoy.

Checking in with how your body is feeling in daily life, with kind, open awareness, can help you to continue relaxing tensions and taking care of your healing process. You can repeat bilateral stimulation and affirmations any time, and imagine your safe place/image, whenever you need to. It's recommended to develop a daily meditation practice so that you can be aware of any triggers, and take care of them as suggested here. It's also perfectly ok to ask for help if you need it. Suffering is a part of life, and you are not alone.

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