Confession: I'm a somatics pro and lately I've been feeling off center and disconnected from my body.
The past week brought with it a swirl of events both personal and transpersonal that really hit me hard. I have been sitting with concurrent feelings of rage, empathy, exhaustion, powerfulness and powerlessness, among many others. It’s a challenging moment to be a human. All that’s happening has an impact.
That impact often takes the form of taking us out of connection with our own selves and the precious, wise, potent resource that resides within us. When the events of our lives overwhelm and even traumatize us, we lose touch with our own centers where that resource lives, and we need help to find our way back.
My actual job is to help people connect more deeply to themselves and inhabit their bodies more fully. I’ve dedicated myself to guiding others back to their center, particularly so they can claim the power of Eros for themselves and live a more vibrant, ecstatic life. So I must admit to some embarrassment around feeling so "not in my body" myself, natural as of a response though that may be. And what to do with my embarrassment? Share it, of course, and let my vulnerability be a teacher for others, not just me.
About that natural response. . .
When traumatic situations arise, we have amazing defense mechanisms built in to help us get through them. Our sympathetic nervous system takes charge and that's when fight, flight, freeze or float (dissociate) occurs so that we can engage in a way that doesn’t completely overwhelm us. This is an entirely unconscious process when we’re young and it helps us stay connected to the loving care, protection and affection we need to survive, no matter how tenuous the circumstances of our early lives may be.
Yet as we grow, we gain more resources and we have more choices. We can bring a degree of consciousness to how we respond when triggered. It’s possible to learn how to engage our parasympathetic nervous system and invite it to take the lead in our response, introducing a more regulated, relaxed and receptive response that allows us to find a sense of calm center even amidst a swirling storm. We can amass a set of tools, tricks and tips that we can reach for when we need them.
Here’s a start to your toolkit, drawing from my own personal and professional experiences:
· Learn how to breathe. No, really! Just because you’re breathing doesn’t mean you’re breathing well. The vast majority of us don’t actually know how to breathe. We get by on short, shallow inhales and exhales that barely begin to tap our lungs’ capacity and we miss out on the tremendous potential our breath has to regulate our nervous systems and provide a pathway to greater ease and intimacy in our lives.
· Just be held. We’re largely touch-starved as a culture, which is a travesty given that our animal bodies thrive on physical affection. Explore options for bringing non-sexual, consensual touch into your life. Find a snuggle buddy, cuddle professional or cuddle party and create opportunities to hold and be held. It can be marvelous to share in giving and receiving at once, but also extremely powerful to have clearly designated roles and be the sole receiver some of the time.
· Identify your allies. Create your own personal support system. Who are the people in your life that you can look to for support? Friends and family are a great starting point, yet it’s important to be realistic about what they are available for and where their skill level lies. Therapists, bodyworkers, somatic coaches like me, we’re here to help! Take us up on it. Seeing a trained professional when your body, heart and mind can use some rebalancing makes good sense. Just do it!
· Make space for play. Creative expression, authentic movement, wildness and whimsy are not just for kids. No matter our age, it’s essential to have outlets for our energy to move and express itself freely and to allow ourselves to find joy and wonder in our lives. When we don’t, things get blocked up and stagnant within us, making trauma all the more likely to linger in our systems. Find out about conscious dance offerings in your community, roll around on the floor with a toddler in your life, finger paint or anything else that you can think of which sparks delight in you.
May these suggestions serve you well and may you find your way to the abundant resource within you.