The Benefits of Somatic Journaling after Medical Trauma

Medical trauma is defined as any experience related to medical care that activated a threat response that has yet to be completed. No one medical experience is universally traumatic, but many different kinds can be encoded as traumatic by each individual. We call these experiences, shock trauma, and science tells us that because of the visceral experience of a shock trauma, somatic approaches are far more effective than thought-based approaches for recovery.

What is a shock trauma?

A shock is any experience that was too much, too soon, or too fast for your body. It shocks the body systems. It may have left you feeling overwhelmed, out of control, frightened, or helpless. That is when the threat cycle was activated. 

It becomes a shock trauma because the threat cycle was never completed. Through no fault of your own, there are a multitude of reasons why threat cycles aren’t completed including anesthesia, mobility limitations, medications, not knowing how, lack of community or peer support, back to back shock traumas, etc. When threat cycles remain incomplete, we start to experience the symptoms we identify as trauma such as regularly feeling overwhelmed, helpless, chronic pain, exacerbation of chronic illness, etc. (Take our quiz to learn more about the threat state you’re stuck in and how it may be showing up in your body.)

How does somatic journaling help?

Because shock traumas happen to the body, bottom-up approaches to trauma recovery have been shown to be far more effective than thought-based or behavior based approaches. Somatic journaling is one of those approaches that can gently but powerfully help you become familiar with somatic approaches to recovery. 

Somatic journaling focuses primarily on physical sensations as opposed to your thoughts or your behaviors. Consider these examples to highlight the difference in approaches to journaling:

Thought-based journal prompt examples

  • What thoughts cloud your mind when you feel anxious?
  • What do you need to let go of that you’re holding on to?
  • What are 3 things I’m grateful for today?
  • What beliefs are holding me back?

Somatic journal prompt examples

  • What body sensations do you feel when you feel anxious?
  • What posture have you been holding your body in since your medical trauma?
  • What sensation in my body clues me in that I’m feeling true gratitude?
  • When I feel stuck or unable to move forward, what sensations do I feel more of and what sensations do I feel less of in my body?

You may read this and think the somatic journal prompts are harder to answer, and you aren’t wrong. Shock traumas are meant to disconnect us from our bodies in order to survive the shock. Your job, like with fitness training or physical therapy, is to retrain your body to feel again. That retraining happens at the body-based level, and not through our thoughts or behaviors because our thoughts and behaviors are the result of the physiological state we are in. Thoughts and behaviors are far slower to form than shifting into a threat state.

Somatic journaling is a very gentle introduction to reconnecting with your body sensations without going too deep or too fast. Becoming familiar with the physical sensations that have changed since your shock trauma in a physiologically appropriate way is the first step toward recovery.

A journal just for you

Based on the science of shock trauma, sensory and sensorimotor approaches to recovering from a shock trauma, the Body Language Journal is created specifically for you after birth trauma, a high-risk pregnancy, or loss. 

Get your copy by clicking the button below and begin your journey back home to your body. If you’re a provider, practitioner, clinic, or organization and would like to carry the Body Language Journal for your clients, patients, or employees, please email us directly to place a wholesale order.

Scroll to Top