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The Creative Transformation of Trauma


What is Trauma?

Trauma occurs when we are overwhelmed by threatening forces which we are unable to successfully respond to, manage or avoid. Trauma reactions may happen in a variety of circumstances. In some of these, such as automobile accidents, injuries, serious illness, or abuse, it is easy to see how the experience corresponds to an actual survival threat. However relational trauma, such as difficult family upbringings and dynamics, the death of a loved one, or relationship breakups, can also tap into a sense of survival threat in our nervous systems relating back to our dependency on others in early childhood, and to the essential human need for connectedness.

What are the Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma?

The effects may range from mild to debilitating, with a full spectrum of possible symptoms and severity in-between. It is important to realize that trauma can affect a person on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual or existential.

Physical responses to traumatic overwhelm may include aches and pains, tension or constriction in the body, hyper-arousal, sleep disturbances, dissociation (losing awareness of the body or an area of the body), tremors, environmental sensitivities, and autoimmune difficulties. Emotional responses may include anxiety, emotional instability, irritability, difficulty in relationships, loss of confidence, hypersensitivity or hyper-vigilance, anger, fear of new experiences, numbness, apathy, or a sense of emptiness. Cognitively, we may have a hard time making sense of what happened to us. There may be memory loss, difficulty concentrating, planning, or making decisions, or difficulty communicating. Existentially, we may feel unable to sort out the meaning of the traumatic event or circumstance. We may lose our sense of connection to others or to the divine, or become detached from our lives and the world.

Unresolved trauma is a stress which eventually takes its toll on the body's physical systems, particularly the immune system. If not addressed, symptoms may worsen.

Transforming Trauma

Whether the effects of trauma are merely a recurring annoyance, or severe enough to seriously disrupt one's life, integration, healing and resiliency are accessed when the trauma is addressed in a holistic process that works with:

  • the bodily sensations associated with traumatic stress and regenerative healing;
  • the belief systems and the meaning around the trauma;
  • history and memories;
  • the emotional energy associated with experiences.

Darrell's approach to somatic trauma therapy addresses all of these in a process which taps into the client's own creativity, facilitating an inborn transformation of trauma guided by the body's inherent wisdom.

The Body, Imagination, and Meaning

As the sensations of the body are invited to dialogue with thoughts and feelings, symbolic images and meanings are generated through the imagination. The trauma survivor arrives at a new or altered interpretation of what the experience signifies. These new meanings are powerfully transformative, leading from the constriction of the trauma experience to a sense of opening, wholeness, unburdening and optimism.

What is a Session Like?

The format depends on the individual client and their evolving story, needs and preferences. The body may be accessed through dialogue eliciting cognitions and awareness, or the mind may be accessed through attention to the body. When appropriate, movement and touch may contribute to the process. Although the work is very individualized, it is always holistic, and there is always an in-the-moment awareness of where the creative movement within the client is leading. Darrell welcomes questions regarding a possible approach to your particular needs and goals.

What Kind of Results Might be Expected?

Although the transformative process manifests differently for each individual, clients often gain:

  • More confidence in themselves, their ability to be in the world, and to be in relationship;
  • Increased insight, awareness and understanding of their history and experiences;
  • An existential or spiritual apprehension of meaning that makes sense of the trauma experience, allowing it to become integrated into their life's history;
  • A sense of unburdening;
  • A sense of forward movement in life, as though an obstacle has been removed;
  • A better experience of their body; feeling more at ease, present, and able to enjoy "being here;"
  • A sense of wholeness;
  • Greater mental clarity; less mental strain;
  • A more optimistic outlook;
  • Greater energy (perhaps related to a decrease in physical tension or holding);
  • A sense of compassion for oneself and others;
  • Alleviation of some or all of the trauma-related symptoms.

What is Darrell's Background?

Darrell is a licensed professional counselor with extensive training, credentials, and experience (over 26 years) in the healing and movement arts. He has taught in both Rolfing and Somatic Experiencing training programs. For more information about Darrell, and to view his credentials, visit the About Darrell page of this website. For more about Darrell's emphasis on creativity, visit the Creative Change page of this website.


Certified Advanced Rolfer Darrell Sanchez' Rolfing structural integration practice is located in Boulder and Denver, Colorado.
Boulder is a world center for Rolfing S.I. and the home of the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration ®.