This Pique Post is a story from my life about an incident based trauma that I think really illustrates the far reaching effects it can have in a person’s life, and how these event(s) can be resolved through somatic therapy.
There was a flash of white and I was sliding down the road on all fours. When I replayed the incident, time stood still. I could see the white Nissan Pulsar parked in the curb lane and the driver’s door opening ever so slowly before my handlebar hit it and spit me off into the next lane. Thankfully, there were no cars in the lane, or this would be a very different story.
I can tell you more about the details of the incident and the reaction of the unfortunate woman who doored me, than I can about most events in my life. This frame by frame viewing of this event is a hallmark of incident based trauma, because the trauma is held as if in suspended animation. I picked myself up, there was some yelling, profuse apologizing, a hug, and I finished my ride- seemingly not much the worse for wear.
I noticed in the days and months, stretching into years after being doored, that I was more vigilant when riding- not just the increased vigilance of watching for car doors, but for an odd combination of feeling slightly spacey and being startled by things approaching from my right side.
This is another effect of an incident based trauma. Being doored created a boundary breach in my visual/perceptual field that kept me open to further incidents/breaches coming from that small gap in my awareness.
In the accident my right hand was injured by the edge of the door, not broken or damaged in any visible way once the swelling went down, but it continued to ache and throb long after it had healed. This type of bound up pain/energy is also a frequent response to an incident trauma.
Over time, I intuitively and naturally compensated for these lingering symptoms, and continued to ride my bike, but never with the same comfort that I’d had before the incident.
Years later, in a somatic psychotherapy training program I learned about the somatic and neurobiological effects of trauma, many of which echoed my experience of being doored.
Using a number of different techniques, my boundary ruptures were repaired both visually and sensorialy- breaking up this accident into small pieces that could be slowed down and processed in real time, so as to create a new experience of the event.
Beyond the boundary repair and resulting release of bound up traumatic energy, I had to complete the defensive and offensive responses that were thwarted or left incomplete by the incident- the impulse to run, protect or defend from danger. Completing these natural/protective responses both somatically and relationally reduced the feelings of vigilance and fear that were lingering after the incident.
Staying within the context of my experience, I can say with certainty that processing this traumatic incident resulted in a level of comfort and ease on the bike that I haven’t felt since I was a child- not quite a time machine, but close.