Does the Pain of Deep Trauma Ever Go Away?

Author’s Note: This is a very personal article and before you get to it I want to share a few thoughts and disclaimers.

First, this is based on my experience at a workshop this past weekend so it’s still fresh and a bit raw and probably not my best writing.

Second, if you have never experienced emotional release work, please don’t let my experience scare you away. Not everyone has such intense experiences – although many do – and the potential benefits are huge!

Third, while the work I did this weekend addresses the deep emotional wounds I carry, neither this article nor the work itself is meant to encourage what Caroline Myss calls “Woundology.” I believe the vast majority of us carry wounds from early childhood traumas. Woundology is a victim-based place where you seek – usually not consciously – to hold onto your wounds and to blame the circumstances of your life on past traumas and the people involved in them. Emotional release work, on the other hand, addresses those wounds in a positive manner that acknowledges their presence, seeks to diminish the “charge” they hold and minimize the influence they have on your thoughts and actions.

So with that in mind, here is the article.

This weekend I participated in a very powerful workshop called Naka Ima. My first Naka Ima experience was ten years ago and after that one I wasn’t in a big rush to do it again! But a few weeks ago when a good friend mentioned that there was another one coming up and that she would be participating, my inner guidance system started going off and it was clear that I was supposed to be there.

With my birthday journey to the Grand Canyon beginning tomorrow, my time felt a bit compressed but I could sense that a big shift was possible at Naka Ima. Just as I sense that there is something waiting for me at the bottom of the canyon, some letting go or opening up or insight or … I don’t know. But whatever happens down there, the Naka Ima work has been great preparation for the trip.

Letting Go!

Naka Ima is about letting go of core attachments and the work can be quite intense. On both Friday and Saturday, in the “Triad” work, I had deeply cathartic emotional/somatic releases.

Now before I share my experience I must admit that I have been avoiding any kind of emotional release work for quite a while. I’ve done a LOT of it over the past 10-years and I’ve been feeling frustrated that, even after doing so much deep – and I mean DEEP – personal work there always seems to be more. I was questioning whether emotional release – ritual or breathwork or this Naka Ima work – was the answer.

How many times do I need to go into that abyss of grief and anger, despair and rage before I reach the bottom? Does the pain ever end? And if it doesn’t what is the point of re-experiencing that trauma?

Those were some of the questions I had going into the weekend and I voiced my doubts to Deborah Riverbend – the facilitator. She assured me that in all the years she has been practicing and teaching this work that she has NEVER seen a case of “never ending grief!” According to Deborah, the pain does end. You do reach the bottom of that abyss.

That was extremely wonderful to hear and I’ll keep you posted as I continue to explore this work about whether or not I’m the one exception! 😉

We all have wounds

Most of us carry wounds. Some are extremely deep, some not so much. There may or may not have been a specific traumatic event or incident. But whether you were abandoned, betrayed or abused, neglected, rejected or smothered you most likely have some inner wound that influences your thoughts, feelings and actions.

Like me, I’m sure you’re pleased to know that there is an end to the impact that wound has on your life. You CAN release the charge and start living free from the unconscious impulses of that wounded place within you.

On the first day of the workshop I dove right in and worked with the grief I carry from my adoption once again. My story, that my mother “didn’t want me,” that I was abandoned and betrayed, unwanted and unloved, has deeply influenced the way I create my life. The story seems to weave its way into just about every aspect of my life even after more than 15-years of intensive personal work. So on Friday afternoon, when we moved into our “triads” I was feeling very ready to drop in and let go.

By now, I’m quite skilled at going into emotional release. I can tap into the vein of grief very quickly, perhaps because it is still so close to the surface. So moving into the grief was not a problem. But I was encouraged by one of my triad partners to “find my edge.” She wondered what would allow me to discover a new, deeper place of release and healing.

Are you willing to be seen in your woundedness?

I quickly found the edge: Was I willing to be seen, really seen, in my grief?

Closing my eyes, curling up in a ball and letting the pain come out is pretty easy for me. There is a sense of comfort in that space, a familiarity that feels welcoming.

Staying connected to my partners, looking into their eyes as I was deep in the pain and anguish of the adoption experience was terrifying. To see and feel their love for me as I was expressing my woundedness was almost unbearable. I felt an overwhelming urge to close my eyes, to curl up into that protective ball and run from their love.

But I stayed there with them. I allowed their eyes to anchor me to the present even as the cellular memories in my body were fully immersed in and releasing the pre-verbal trauma from my adoption.

newborn-babyAt some point the process moved into a spontaneous “rebirthing” experience. As my body began experiencing and expressing the trauma of my birth it became difficult to know where the emotional pain ended and the physical pain began.

At times it seemed like I was experiencing the birth from my mother’s perspective. The involuntary movements of my body and the ripples of pain moving through my belly seemed to reflect a mother’s experience during labor and birth.

It actually makes sense that I would have “encoded” my mother’s experience in my cellular memory. After all, in that moment, we were still connected, still “one” being. Our experiences were merged and so, too, perhaps did our cellular memories become merged. So releasing her pain from my body was a welcomed blessing.

Welcome to a world of love

As the intensity of the experience began to decrease an image flashed into my mind of the “welcome” I received into this world. In that image I saw myself looking into the eyes of my mother for the few minutes she held me before I was taken from her arms. As I looked, I saw and felt her fear and pain, anger and anguish.

There was love there also: hidden, dampened, muted and merged into the other emotions. And as that image flashed into my mind I knew that it was time to experience being born into a world of love. I wanted to “come out” to welcoming, loving eyes and arms.

So I asked for that experience, I asked to be rebirthed into a world surrounded by love and acceptance rather than fear and anguish. And my partners made it so. They bundled me up in blankets and laid on top of me, creating pressure as if I was still compressed inside the birth canal. Slowly I pushed my way out and into the light and into their welcoming arms and eyes and hearts.

Because my body was so “in the experience” of the birth, that reenactment, even though it was not very “realistic,” had a major impact on my psyche. I obviously cannot change the actual events of my birth, but I can reprogram my memories of that moment.

You can re-create your memories

In essence I was “tricking” my mind into re-membering my birth experience. Brain researchers have discovered that memories are extremely elastic. Contrary to what researchers believed until quite recently, memories are not fixed. They are fluid and mutable: The very act of remembering something actually recreates the memory.

So why not take advantage of that mutability and consciously recreate the memories from a traumatic event? If I can insert an experience of being welcomed with love and joy into my birth memories, maybe I can shift the way those memories influence my present day thoughts and actions.

It’s certainly worth a shot!

One thing I do know is that after this weekend I feel much lighter, more open and receptive to the love and blessings in my life. I can still feel the remnants of the grief swirling around inside of me and my body feels like I took it out for an Iron Man Triathalon (well maybe only a Tin Man)! But my psyche feels so much more present, awake and engaged in this moment.

I’m looking forward to deepening that presence while I’m down in the “womb” of the Earth – the Grand Canyon later this week. And I’m looking forward to celebrating my Re-Birth-Day while connected to her nurturing, loving energy.

So does the pain ever go away? Does the grief ever end?

Deborah Riverbend believes it does. I’m hopeful and open to trusting her. And I’m very willing to experiment with my life. I’ve made a commitment to follow this rabbit hole down, down, down and see just how deep it goes. I’ve made a commitment to participate in as many Naka Ima triads and other emotional release processes as I possibly can over the next few weeks and months to see if I can find the bottom of this hole.

I’ll let you know!

Leave a comment below and let me know your experience with Emotional Release: Have you found the bottom? Have you discovered a place where your trauma no longer holds an emotion charge?

I won’t be able to join the conversation until I return from the Grand Canyon next week. But I look forward to hearing your thoughts when I get back!

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    9 Responses to “Does the Pain of Deep Trauma Ever Go Away?”

    1. Laura on September 15th, 2010 2:01 pm

      Hi Edward,
      Just wanted to thank you for always sharing from your heart with us. There are so many people who need to be encouraged that “never ending grief” doesn’t exist, and that life can and does continue after our traumatic/difficult events. Thank you for continuing to share light and love!

    2. Lori on September 15th, 2010 1:34 pm

      I do emotional release work here in San Diego. I can totally relate to everything you said and I LOVE that you shared it. I have not heard of the technique that you mentioned but will be looking into it. Its always helpful to have another tool in the box.
      I appreciate you and all the work your doing for yourself as well as others.
      Lori Barnett, HHP

    3. Edward Mills on September 15th, 2010 1:43 pm

      Hi Lori
      You can find out more about Naka Ima here:

    4. deborah on September 15th, 2010 3:02 pm

      Dear Edward,

      You are a brave soul to do this, and to let go of the painful past. Abandonment is a serious issue–I still have my birth mother, but my father was killed 7 months after my birth and my mother descended into her “dark abyss” of emotional pain, so I think I was deeply affected by this since I have fear and anxiety that I carry around for my entire life. But–it’s better now with so many great spiritual teachers out there and all the enlightening information at our fingertips. It helps. Bless you and the work you are doing.
      Be good to yourself,

    5. Nick Grimshawe on September 15th, 2010 8:58 pm

      Hi Edward,

      First let me thank you for sharing such a deeply personal story with us. That takes a lot of courage and trust. I have not done any of the emotional release processes that you talk about, but my own deep personal experience would be to agree that there is a place of release.

      This brings me to share a little bit of my own story. I never knew my biological father. I have a vague memory of him coming to the hospital when I was very young and very ill, but there was never any other connection.

      I’ve generally been philosophical about the whole thing. At times in my life especially growing up, as I came to discover the truth, I felt pain and anguish but I always had other more pressing emotions to deal with that it just didn’t seem important enough to really worry about…until about two months ago.

      I have been doing a lot of meditation, and that has slowly been digging down through the layers. I’ve made discoveries about myself that have shocked me. But nothing shocked me more than two months ago, driving home, enjoying the drive when, I suddenly thought of the man who never cared enough to even send me a letter, or say just once…”I love you.” I have most of my life been waiting for that to happen but it never has…and in that moment the grief and pain, all of that came through into my tidy, happy world. I realized with the passing of my mother that any chance of that happening had long since disappeared…that I would never get that moment.

      Just opening up to the experience has helped me face the under lying resentment….and all the other scars left by not feeling I was worthy off …not even one word.

      I am still not through that emotional trauma but I do feel some release from it…know that it was part of the experience I was meant to have in this life…and that because of it I am changed, in the end for the better.

      Perhaps I need to do some similar work to release more of that emotion…yet I do understand, Edward, from the bottom of my heart, that to continue to do your “work” on self… will bring you to the light of emotional release.

      I know because I have experienced that release on another subject altogether and the moment when you understand why you manifested that experience is the moment when grief turns to bliss.

      Happy seeking


    6. Eneth on September 15th, 2010 11:52 pm

      Hi Edward

      Thanks for sharing your story with us. Like Nick said, it takes courage, but I know it will help a lot of people who have similar problems but are still too afraid of doing something about it.


    7. Katherine T Owen on September 16th, 2010 12:56 am

      How well I know that feeling? – Here it is again. I thought I had dealt with it.

      Is it possible to heal fully? Yes, I believe it is. I have had it happen. And yet for each shadow that appears or reappears, I still need to exercise faith that it can happen again!

      Thank you, Edward, for raising the question and sharing. I see the value in what you are doing and it helps me value my own journey.

      You Feel a Failure

      You feel a failure:
      You thought this problem had gone,
      now everything seems wrong again.

      But practising and repetition are
      part of learning.
      The break was no mistake and
      neither is the problem’s return.
      You are in the classroom and
      ready to learn.

      I am proud of you.
      Well done.

      © Katherine T Owen

      “He heals the broken-hearted
      and binds up their wounds.”
      (Psalm 147:3, the Bible)

    8. info hunian on September 22nd, 2012 4:27 pm

      Thank you for reminding me to have fun

    9. Me on April 19th, 2013 3:29 pm

      You said there was no such thing as never-ending grief. What if you have a mental illness residual from trauma? It plagues you your entire life. How does this pain go away? What do I do to make this stop? How do I function again? Why does my anxiety make it impossible to go to school and graduate? Why do these things hurt me in such a way that I can’t let it go?

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