Healing From Trauma: Emotional Detox Strategies
Healing From Trauma: The concept of toxicity is well known in the functional medicine world. Still, toxicity is generally attributed to chemical toxins like heavy metals, mold, or the kind of toxins found in conventional beauty products. Today we explore an equally potent type of toxicity: the kind rooted in emotions. Dr. Eva Detko shares her story and wisdom as it relates to autoimmunity and provides tangible ways to start addressing these unseen but very real, emotional toxins.
Healing From Trauma: Toxicity 101
Toxicity is the quality of being toxic or poisonous. The toxicity of any substance (physical or emotional) depends on the dosage. Although humans have become rather good at avoiding single lethal doses of a toxin (hence the warning labels on products like bleach), we have not yet mastered the impact of chronic low levels of toxin exposure.
Underlying low levels of chronic toxicity in our modern times start to build up and compound on one another. Although our bodies are resilient and do have self-detoxifying mechanisms, the rate at which we fill our cup is too rapid for our bodies to catch up. The build-up continues until our cup overflows, at which point the body succumbs to ‘inexplicable’ symptoms (by modern medical conventional paradigm), with diseases like autoimmunity or cancer.
Toxicity comes under the form of three types of stress: chemical, physical, and emotional. Chemical stressors being the toxins we expose our bodies to (internally and externally on the skin and lungs, as well as environmental toxins). Physical stress is anything the body experiences physically, from sedentary lifestyles to over-training, as well as quality of sleep. Since we touch on the biochemical and physical aspects of stress often, today, we’re going to delve into the emotional issues of toxicity.
Healing From Trauma: Emotional Toxicity
Emotional toxicity or emotional trauma is no different than trapped chemical toxins; the body doesn’t know the difference.
Like chemical toxins, the body can (and should) experience negative emotions. The problem that leads to emotional toxicity is the underlying low levels of chronic negative emotions that begin to build up over time. It’s dosage-dependent.
Feelings like sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, and frustration, are normal and healthy when they are reactions to painful, isolated events. We experience emotions as a way of grieving pain and then can move past them with a fundamental understanding that the pain is impermanent, and that better things lie ahead.
Emotional trauma does not have to be rooted in one significant conventional type of abuse. For some, it is rooted in what we would more conventionally label ‘trauma’ (like death, and sexual or physical abuse). Still, the emotional trauma can also come from a wide range of other traumatic events. For some people, it could be navigating a learning disability or mild bullying growing up; for others, it could even be witnessing something traumatic happen to another person. Some people are especially empathetic and can easily take on other people’s traumas as their own.
People often experience chronic low levels of underlying stress without any awareness. One of the coping mechanisms for these low levels of stress is desensitization, meaning that what may have once felt like sadness, now feels like a base-level emotion. We commonly habituate ourselves to these negative emotions and consider them as part of our regular character, our identity.
One of the most common traumas Dr. Eva witnesses in her practice is developmental trauma, experienced by a lack of bonding growing up. Children are prone to developing developmental trauma during the most vulnerable years of their life, from birth up to age four. During those formative years, if there isn’t enough human contact (connection like kisses, cuddles, and attention), it can plant the seeds for deep-rooted identity trauma.
Healing From Trauma: Identity Trauma vs. Behavioral Trauma
Some trauma impacts behaviors, but developmental trauma is more profound and influences a person’s sense of identity. This type of trauma leads to the kind of “this is just who I am” mentality when it comes to negative emotions like anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, or depression.
Behavior-based traumas are more straightforward to deal with because there is an awareness by the individual that the behavior itself isn’t serving them. For example, a spider phobia is a behaviorally rooted emotional trauma that can be observed by the individual. When the emotional trauma is identity-based (like the kind triggered by developmental trauma), it is much harder to address because it becomes embedded in a person’s sense of self.
Identity-based trauma manifests itself as a general discomfort with oneself, which permeates every aspect of one’s life in a negative way. Without that end of comfort in one’s skin, there’s no foundation for long term sustained happiness, joy, or fulfillment of any kind. Without self-worth, any achievement or success is paired with feelings of unworthiness or critical self-judgment. We accomplish something and immediately think, “I could have done better” or “I don’t deserve this.” By healing identity-based traumas, we allow the body to experience life from a place of gratitude and self-acceptance, which improves not only the mind but also the body.
Chronic Illness and Identity Based Trauma
When it comes to chronic illness (like autoimmunity or even cancers), we are looking at the type of trauma that targets a person’s identity. More often than not, Dr. Eva’s clinical experience shows that these illnesses have their roots in developmental trauma: that the children’s emotional needs were not met in these formative years of life.
Healing From Trauma: Top Emotional Detox Strategies
Detox, in general, is often explored under very superficial approaches. Whether it be detox from chemicals or emotions, there is a wide range of strategies pushed that do not address the deep underlying roots of the toxins. Thankfully, Dr. Eva has done the deep dive into emotional detox, to uproot the types of strategies that work.
Detoxing from emotional toxicity requires two parts: identifying the problem, and then releasing it. Let’s start by exploring some of the ways to determine emotional toxicity.
Identify Emotional Toxicity
Having constant poor self-worth, poor self-esteem, or poor self-image is a clear response to emotional toxicity. If you’re continually feeling that “I’m not good enough” and talk yourself down, emotional toxicity is likely the root cause. A good exercise for this is taking a look in the mirror: what type of reaction do you give yourself? If you tear yourself up anytime, you glance in the mirror, time to do some emotional toxicity release work.
Not Feeling Deserving
If everyone else around you is continuously more worthy than you are, you’re likely dealing with emotional toxicity. Sensations of undeserving that are constant are rooted in negative self-talk and can lead to a harrowing and underwhelming life. This negative response to life is not normal and can be healed with emotional toxicity work.
Chronic Guilt and Shame
There is such a thing as healthy shame and guilt. Feeling shame or guilt serves a purpose to help us align with our best self. As humans, when we do something wrong (unkind, harmful to others), guilt helps us realize that there was a better possible outcome. Guilt and shame aren’t, however, a sensation that we should feel all the time. If bouts of success or other positive occurrences in your life bring about guilt or shame, consider exploring their roots in emotional toxicity.
Feeling Constantly Anxious, Worried, or Fearful
Anxiety is a symptom of these types of trauma. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is an entirely new term that did not use to exist. This is highly emotionally toxic, stressing your nervous system always by being stuck in fight or flight. It could be fear of failure, fear of losing control, fear of rejection, fear of illness, fear of death, fear of the unknown.
Usually, overthinking is a protective mechanism from a trauma. By over-analyzing every situation, it helps them feel safer, in hopes of controlling unforeseeable or adverse outcomes. A sign of this is people who have a ‘monkey mind’ and cannot meditate. This happens particularly when this monkey mind if negative. This mindset can be rooted in dwelling in the past or worrying about the future.
Healing From Trauma of Being in Toxic Relationships
When you other people take advantage of you and mistreat you, there exists an underlying trauma and unworthiness. It can be hard to see this while you’re in it. However, if you find yourself perpetually being taken advantage of in your relationships: consider exploring and releasing emotional toxicity.
For a more in-depth exploration into the identification of emotional toxicity, check out the free emotional toxicity questionnaire on Dr. Eva’s website.
Healing From Trauma: Emotional Toxicity Solutions
Self-awareness is the first step to healing from trauma— this requires acknowledging that there is a pattern in your life that isn’t serving your highest good. If you have a chronic toxic pattern in your life surrounding topics like health, worth, money, or relationships, it is a significant sign that emotional toxicity is influencing your life patterns.
The first step to healing is simply this awareness and a willingness to heal. If you’re reading this, likely, you have already taken the first step to improve.
Havening Techniques ®
The Havening Technique a psycho-sensing modality, which stimulates the receptors on the skin. This tecnique works on the amygdala through the nervous system. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions. This incredible method can be used for severe trauma as well as a management tool in your day to day life.
A management tool is a process that can help you during triggering situations. So if your trauma brings up anxiety during public speaking, for example, you can use it just before a presentation to manage the symptoms of anxiety.
Havening enables the body to create a new calmer response to traumatic memory. By going over a memory that produces a stress response and introducing the havening technique to calm the nervous system, the body can retain the memory without having the associated traumatic pattern (cortisol release, etc.).
Havening works by stroking the face, arms, and hands, mindfully, during an emotional trigger. To see a visual of how to perform havening on yourself, check out the CHTV episode with Dr. Eva Detko on Dr.Pompa.com.
Havening is a self-help tool that anyone can use. Similar to the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping), the havening method is straightforward but extremely powerful. It can even be learned and used by children.
Havening can be combined with other calming modalities either humming, counting, and spatial awareness. Imagine walking on the beach or forest, and eye movement (EMDR).
Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT) ®
Psychotherapy technique. No sensory stimulation, a set protocol of steps to interrupt the harmful instinctive subconscious patterns. This technique works by injecting a different reaction between the first memory and the preferred response. This technique does require work with a practitioner to help you rewire the response mechanisms to the original emotionally traumatic memories.
The exciting thing with BWRT is that your mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and fiction. This inability to distinguish is evident when we experience PTSD, as the body merely replaying a traumatic event creates a very real hormonal stress response.
By working with a BWRT practitioner, you can re-write the traumatic story. You can create one of self-empowerment and understanding. Then the previously held pain response can now be met with calm.
Inner Child Work
Although the previous two techniques may require some guidance, inner child work is one powerful tool that absolutely everyone can incorporate into their life to help mitigate and heal from emotional toxicity.
Inner child work is essentially the act of finding a painful memory that happened at some point in your life, and re-imagining it with your current self as the protector of this child. By re-writing the mind with your existing knowledge and awareness, you can begin to heal the trauma retroactively.
This rewiring can be done loosely merely by going back and thinking of painful experiences. Or you can explore the direct manifestation of adult behaviors and their associated developmental roadblocks in John Bradshaw’s book ‘Homecoming.’ This book is a great resource to delve deeper into inner child work.
Although this work can be done on yourself, it can bring out some complex and painful emotions. If you have very conscious, highly traumatic wounds from childhood, you would potentially be better suited to get a practitioner to guide you through this process via two or three sessions.
Soothe Your Emotions with Essential Oils
One of the best ways to soothe your emotions is with essential oils (most essential oils are not pure and strong enough). But the right ones can:
- Boost alpha brain waves (this is the Zen brain state that gives you peace)
- Assist with deep sleep (and help take you out of “fight or flight”)
- Help regulate endocrine function and hormonal signals (so you “feel good”)
Powerful essential oils trigger the pineal gland to naturally release melatonin, which forces the stress hormone cortisol down and serves as a back door to balancing the stress response and endocrine health. Which lowers stress and anxiety and helps emotional healing. It’s why we recommend the “Circadian Rhythm” blend—it’s an essential oil formula designed to help you optimize Pineal Gland function during sleep—and the release of healthy hormones.
Bradshaw, John. Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child. Piatkus, 1990.
Dr. Eva. https://www.dr-eva.com/.
“Havening Technique s- Better Living Through Neuroscience.” Havening Techniques Official Website, https://havening.org/.
Institute, The Terence Watts BWRT. “All BWRT Training Is Accredited by:” The Terence Watts BWRT Institute | Welcome to BWRT, https://www.bwrt.org/.