Fight, Flight, Freeze: My Story of Processing Trauma

As I sat with a client at the local public library, deeply concentrating on what was being said, I felt a hand plant on my shoulder. Without a conscious thought about what was happening, I froze. I could not breathe or move as thoughts of panic flooded my mind. My heart began to beat wildly as I felt the surge of cortisol flood my veins. In my mind I imagine this scene followed by me, the bad-ass super-strong fighter, grabbing the person’s hand, standing up, and flipping them onto their back with a flick of my wrist (as they do in all the amazing Kung Fu movies). Yet, here I am, catatonic. Helpless. Fearful.

8 seconds later (yes, only 8 seconds has gone by, my mind moving faster than the speed of light) I hear a familiar soft voice utter, “Hey Caitlin”. Another client of mine interrupts my irrational reaction, enabling me to break out of this fixed, frightened mindstate. “How are you?” she continues.

With as calm of voice as I am able, and a half cocked smile, I reply, “Oh, hi. You scared me.”

Oh the joys of unprocessed trauma.

This is one of many instances when unprocessed traumatic events momentarily take over my nervous system and cause me to become reactive. My on-going mindfulness practice creates pause in these moments, which allows me to act in socially appropriate manners (i.e. not decking a person in the face at the public library), but it does not address and dissolve the root of the problem. For this reason I sought out help in the form of counseling, coaching, meditation and yoga to process the events which lead to this immediate and unnecessary reaction of flight, fight, freeze.

Below are helpful practices, resources, and information I have found on this journey to process traumatic events and situations. Somewhat clinical and cold upon introduction, the process is rich, insightful, and well worth the 5 minutes of scientific explanation. 

When an event or experience takes place, the brain encodes the information and sends in through the nervous system. The nervous system processes the information and decides if the experience should be disposed of or stored. This occurs several times throughout the day and takes place during differing states: level, equanimous states, meaning they are neither overly pleasant nor unpleasant, or during distress. The latter of the two creates a trauma response. Trauma, which is held in the tissues of the body, is defined as an event or situation which occurs and is not processed normally.

During the trauma response the brain and body are flooded with cortisol, activating  fight, flight, freeze. If this occurs, the events are not processed and recorded as usual, creating gaps in memory. If this happens often the amygdala, a gland regulating chemical distribution in the brain, gets sensitive and reactive to this small signals of danger, fear, or elation, releasing abundant amounts of chemicals when it’s not necessarily needed.  

It should be noted that the amygdala cannot tell the difference between physical and emotional distress and when the amygdala is activated, physical symptoms present themselves. This allows one to conclude that to release this trauma one must process it physically, using the body.

To address both the cognitive and physical aspects of trauma, one might find Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy), which supports deactivating the changed thoughts which lead to chemical releases in the brain, along with mindful physical practices, helpful. Mindful physical practices reconnect the present focused mind to the body support the processing of the event. These practices might include yoga, tai chi, qigong, walking, swimming, or any other movement which is done mindfully (meaning paying attention to the movements, on purpose, non-judgmentally and with kindness).

If one is able to watch their thoughts and combat them by coming back to the present moment, checking their truth, rationality, and importance, combined with reconnecting to mind and body, watching the body sensations while processing the trauma, a person can help their mind and body understand it’s not in danger, and therefore can processes the event. Mindfulness practices support this process by means of practicing present minded focus while not in a trauma response, making the present focused awareness more accessible in heightened states. To begin this process, identify the location in the body where the trauma is held, create a visual representation, identify thoughts connected to the sensations, and process with the help of a professional. Below are steps aligned with this process.

Steps to Visualize and Process Trauma

  1. Outline your body using drawing paper, a journal, or large piece of butcher paper.
  2. Get colored pencils, markers, paints, oils, or a No. 2 pencil.
  3. Listen to the the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Body Scan Meditation (optional, but very helpful)
  4. Draw what you feel in your body.
  5. Write any thoughts connected to the sensations and their location.
  6. Process with a professional.


The map outlining trauma held in my body, overlaid with the 7 chakras, represented by the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and yellow.

Remember, the process of identifying and processing trauma in the body is ongoing. Utilizing a professional counselor, mentor, yoga teacher, and/or coach is helpful when moving through this process. After processing a certain trauma, do the activity again to reassess progress, supporting the ongoing nature of healing mind and body.

For questions please feel free to email me personally at or leave a comment below.


What I’m Reading Now; A Bookshelf Confessional of Addiction Recovery, Spirituality, and Erotica

Reading and writing has always played an important role in my life. Growing up my parents read to me each night before bed. My sister, before being able to read words, would create stories based off illustrations, eventually teaching me to do the same. And even before learning the alphabet I began creating stories with my drawings, publishing the first of my works, a story based on a frog named Henry, at age five (in Mrs. Anderson’s kindergarten class we were all published authors).

Although reading is of great value to me, I haven’t always taken the time to sit down and actually do it. Actionless aspiration became the norm in my teens and twenties, placing more importance on drinking, camping, running, school, work, yoga, gardening, skiing, writing – really anything other than reading. Thankfully, with the gift of introspection, this hope of becoming the type of person who relaxes with a book on a Saturday afternoon has become a reality. This change comes at a time I am fully embracing who I am, giving up the need to constantly “do”, and relaxing in the present moment.

The catalyst for this change was a desire, which became a goal, and was achieved with each flip of a page. The book which started my success: The Giver by Lois Lowry which I started in the fourth grade and finished 20 years later. This thought provoking story of breaking conformity at all cost, the ambition to search relentlessly for answers, and to find freedom in the pursuit of life spoke to my naturally-rebellious-self (for more on the topic of rebellion contact my mother). Since creating that goal nearly one year ago I have gone on to finish several books including Unhooked; How to Quit Anything by Susan Shapiro and Dr. Frederick Woolverton, The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, Recovery; Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand, The Energy of Prayer: How to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice by Thich Nhat Hahn and My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean by Amy Dresner. This demonstrates just how powerful it can be to set an intention, create attainable goals and taking action (for more on how ‘Baby Steps’ function in a clinical setting see What About Bob? starting Bill Murray).

What I have found over the year of dedicated page turning is reading is an art form. There are guidelines and etiquette involved. One which we should all adhere to is not ripping out pages, especially at the end of a thrilling scene. If you need to roll a joint or spit your gum out, remember that you’re an adult and to find a some rolling papers or a tissue. Also, don’t be messy with your foods while reading! I can see the curry splattered on the pages of Lord of the Rings now. Do as the Zen Buddhist say, one thing at a time. My last rule happens to be on the list because of those naughty Germans in the 1930’s; Don’t burn books! The lessons learned and the imaginings of the past are all available to us to learn from and are contained on the pages. Take care of them.

Although I do like some rules there are others which I recoil against. Some include reading a book all the way through to the end, independent of whether is sucks or not, reading one book at a time, not marking pages (aka annotating), and the encouragement of swapping, trading, and borrowing.

We learn these rules from teachers, parents, and librarians in our formative years, but I wholeheartedly disagree. I read books like others watch television shows; the chosen subject dependent on mood and energy, one chapter or episode at a time, and moving to the next when desired. If I don’t enjoy reading a book, I simply don’t read it anymore. Continuing to read a book which you don’t enjoy would be like watching the first episode of Westworld, hating it, and continuing to watch the subsequent nine. Hours of your precious time lost. I once read 856 of 936 pages of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, stopping because I was no longer interested in the events or characters. No shame.

And one book at a time? Heck no! Currently I am in the middle of seven different books on varying topics; Each with its own purpose and energy. This means no matter my mood, I always have something from which to choose.

And why swap, trade, or borrow books? Sure, if you don’t have the money to buy a book, find it at the library or ask a friend for their copy, but if you can (and I’m sure you can!) buy it. Buy the paper or hardback preferably. Hold it in your hands. Ear tag pages, write questions or comments freely in the margins, carry it with you wherever you go. A book is like a boyfriend, you get to know it slowly, and if it’s good, you don’t loan it out to others.

Although I don’t suggest sharing the physical copy of a book, sharing the content can be a wonderful way to connect more deeply with a story, improving comprehension and understanding. I suggest reading aloud with your significant other, sharing a book with a friend, or joining a bookclub in your area. Doing this will allow you to discuss the deeper meaning of the book and how it relates to you, the other person, or society as a whole. It also opens one to meaningful discussions which would not otherwise have been had. What a great way to spend an evening, a road trip, or a morning at the coffee shop; discussing the ideas, cultures, and imaginings of others, past and present.

Basically, whatever you enjoy reading, read it. Nothing is better than a good book. Below is the list of books I’m currently reading, along with what I enjoy about them, and a link for you to find out more information. If you’d like to share what you are reading with me, leave a comment below, email me, or go to my contact page to leave me a message.

Happy Reading!

Lighting Up by Susan Shapiro

This book is a riot! I literally laugh out loud as I’m reading. Susan Shapiro hides nothing as she takes the reader through a rough year of giving up cigarettes, alcohol, gum, and pot. Themes include therapy, sex, addiction, family dynamics, and relationships. I HIGHLY recommend this book!

El plan infinito por Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende es mi autora favorita. Cada carácter que ella se crea yo puedo ver perfectamente en la imaginaria mia. Los caracteres se seguimos durante sus vidas y se conocemos los pensamientos, aspiraciones, y duermos. Esta historia no es diferente. Se sigue la familia Reeves en su viaje a California durante la segunda guerra mundial. Después que el papa de la familia se enfermó, la familia establecieron en un barrio hispano en Los Ángeles. Ellos encontraron amigos nuevos y encontraron una pasión para justicia social.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

I picked this book up amidst moving from Idaho to Arizona a week before Christmas with no home, job, or gym. In this teaching story Siddhartha, the main character, leaves the comfort of his home, giving up all things familiar, and goes on a spiritual journey to find himself (sound familiar?). During his journey he renounces everything material, meets the Buddha, learns of love and sensual pleasure, and finds his own true path, independent of others. Each time I pick this book up I see clearly where I am in my own journey and the possibilities of where I could go.

Love and Its Meaning in the World by Rudolf Steiner

After reading one paragraph of Rudolf Steiner I’m left to ponder for days about its meaning. This book on Love is no different. This isn’t a superficial book on the strategies of relationships. Rather it’s a book on our souls evolution and loves role throughout the journey. This one takes some serious mental juice. Only serious seekers should attempt.

Little Birds Erotica by Anais Nin

Thirteen short stories written by the diarist and essayist Anais Nin. What I love most about Anais is her courage to write about herself, the scandalous topic of sex, and fictional characters who practice introspection. Although this book was published after her death, the majority of the stories were written in the 1940s when she was part of a group who wrote pornography for a dollar a day. Isn’t she great?!

What are you reading???

Leave me a comment below!

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Ready to stop using alcohol, cigarettes, food, heroine, running as a way to distract, numb, or avoid life?? Work with me!

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Thank You & New eBook Available! Getting to Know Yourself Sexually

My eBook is Published!

Read Getting to Know Yourself Sexually: A Down and Dirty Guide 

Buy it on Amazon by clicking here
or @

Over the last several months I have been working diligently on the project, Getting to Know Yourself Sexually; A Down and Dirty Guide. I hope you will join me on this journey of getting to know yourself, in all the varying aspects.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction:

Why is knowing yourself sexually important to you? Are you craving connection? Pleasure? A shared experience? Whatever your reason, you’ll find this book supporting you in getting to know yourself and help to expand your current thinking about what sex is and the role it plays in your life.

This topic is important to me because of my firm belief in getting to you know all areas and aspects of yourself; thoughts, feelings, emotions, motivations, desires, and sensations. Doing this sexually adds another layer of richness to life with ourselves and our intimate partner(s). To do this we must experience and reflect on life utilizing our intimate and sexual relationships as a tool. In doing this we become more comfortable with ourselves, which we bring to our intimate relationships and the world.

There is a process for getting to know yourself sexually, which I myself have gone through. Firstly, I began in isolation as to better identify wants, desires, and motivations (Steps #1 and #2). Then, I shared my ideas, wants, and desires with a community of like minded individuals (explained further in Steps #3 and #4). And after  developing comfort and understanding of myself, was able to share with an intimate, committed partner.

For purchase on Amazon: Click Here
Or on my website @
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Thank You Wood River Valley!

A sincere thank you to all of you who have taught me, taken me in, and supported me over the last 12 years. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your time, efforts, and our conversations. Thank you!

Idaho has been a greatly healing place. It has allowed me to connect with my passion of helping others in their recovery. Because of this I am relocating to Flagstaff, Arizona (just arrived last night!) pursuing a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Northern Arizona University.

If you are ever in the area, please call me at 208-309-1948 (or call me anyways!!) or email me at

…with love and gratitude…
Caitlin Hegwood

Struggling with the disease of addiction? Work with me, a Certified Recovery Coach

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Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoying This Life: Article and Meditation

“…Human life is extremely short and precious. That is true for all of us regardless of our age. Time is always running out. Time escapes us and therefore life should be held sacred and precious. Knowing this, we sometimes get carried away by our desire to do something meaningful with our life. In the end, it’s often best to forget our grandiose ideas. It has been said that to practice true spirituality is to forget oneself. Once we know how to truly forget ourselves, what’s left is an extraordinary peace. That peace is all pervading, always present. In the ultimate sense, there is nothing to be done except to learn how to enjoy life.”

An excerpt from chapter five of The Magic of Awareness by Anam Thubten.

This chapter came to me the morning before I quit my job. I had been working 60-70 hour weeks for far too long, with a full-time corporate job as well as running my business. Hustling, as it were, to build a life worth living.

Teetering between enough and too much has always been a difficult balance for me. Driven, intelligent, and energetic with a dash of impatience means I get shit done and with decent quality. But this much work? And doing it for someone other than myself? Nope! Not anymore.

As I woke up on that not-so-distant Monday morning, I felt mentally exhausted, unengaged with my corporate job, and lack-luster about the prospect of continuing life without the time I craved to spend in nature, with friends or family, or (God forbid!) relaxing with my guitar or a book in hand. I knew what I needed, time. Time to reset and recenter by getting in touch with what is most important in life. The only person responsible for this necessary recentering: Me. No one was going to offer me this on a platinum platter. I was finally ready to take charge of myself and make a change.

Because of the work I do with clients and in the community, I am continually lending out books on the subject of mindfulness, spirituality, and healing. The Magic of Awareness by Anam Thubten was suggested to me from my first meditation teacher in 2012. At that time I had no knowledge of meditation, mindfulness, how to create space between thoughts, emotions, judgments or how to move from reaction to deliberate action. This book was foundational.

The universe working in my favor, the book had just been returned. It lay in my work bag, which, when you are working 70 hours a week, sits pretty close to the bed. I grabbed it out, flipping to a page I had read several years ago but had forgotten. I read aloud the above written excerpt and WOW! It hit me. Enjoying life? When is the last time I did that? I mean really enjoyed life? Enjoyed people? Enjoyed nature or reading or music? How long had it been since I relaxed? I didn’t know.

Since making this decision my entire demeanor has changed. I have been more relaxed, present, able to meet whatever arises (joys or suffering) with equanimity and compassion. I have been a better person to myself, my family, my partner, my friends, and my clients.

Who knew enjoying life could be this good?

Join me for a 3 hour Mindfulness and Yoga Workshop

December 8th at Pure Body Bliss register @

Mindful Me!

Come Meditate and Celebrate!

My final Movement and Meditation class December 10th at The Flourish Foundation from 6-7 PM followed by a going-away (see more about this below) potluck from 7-8 PM.

Movement and Meditation@ Flourishdec102018Followed by a going away potluck

Keep your Peepers Peeled for my upcoming eBook entitled Getting to Know Yourself Sexually; Explore, Discuss, Experiment and Cody Lee and I’s Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships Workshop: 4 online workshops, each week a different theme. Join live to ask questions and be part of a community seeking to develop peak relationships in all facets of life. You can purchase the entire workshop, four 1.5 hour long classes for $75, or pick and choose by theme, $25 per session. If you can’t make it to the live event, the recording will be sent to your inbox. Register at

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Find out more about Overcoming Addiction by working with me, a Certified Recovery Coach @

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Thank you + Fall Class and Workshop Schedule … Be Well with Me!

Thank you!!

I want to give a HUGE thank you to everyone who came to the workshop Saturday at Pure Body Bliss is Hailey! It was a truly wonderful morning filled with intention setting, mindfulness tools, yoga, and relaxing the mind and body through meditation.

I also want to thank all of you who were unable to be present in a physical sense but support me (family, friends, the Wood River Valley and beyond) on this path toward conscious living, radical acceptance, and love. I continue to feel amazed by each individual I meet along this path. I learn so much from each one of you! I am forever grateful.

Some Exciting Opportunities Coming Your Way!

September – I am super jazzed to be bringing the Movement and Mindfulness Donation Based Class taught in Hailey Monday nights to Ketchum on Wednesday nights beginning September 5th. The space is located near Lizzy’s Coffee on N. Main St. in Ketchum in Unit 991-13 (more information below).

October – 4 Week Relationship Workshop October 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th from 5:30-7:00 PM. with Cody Lee and Me! Cody Lee is the co-creator of ManQuest and founder of the ManNav process Helping Men Create A Life Worth Living (TEDX Talk below). Together we will discuss communication, provide tools and skills for developing and maintaining healthy relationships, and a process on how to co-create life. This workshop is geared toward supporting you in every relationship; intimate relationships, family, co-workers, and friends. Find out more by scrolling down or clicking here.


September and October Schedule 2018




5:30-7:00 PM IN KETCHUM

This workshop teaches skills to create healthy relationships in every context of life, whether seeking support and information to develop your relationship with your partner, family members or co-workers. There is something for everyone! We will focus on communication as a foundation for everything, mindful listening/ speaking skills, sexual communication, addressing charged issues, and developing a plan to co-create life.

For more information or questions, email Caitlin at or call her at 208-30-1948. Reach out to Cody by emailing

Creating and Sustaining Healthy Relationships Workshop 2018


The beautiful photo of the Boulder Mountains belongs to Mr. Steve Dondero.