We are a culture that wants to avoid feeling our varying states of being especially those that we label “bad” or uncomfortable. Yet, it is in the resisting of what rises up that we have only unhealthy options at that point – either freeze against it or disassociate from it, numbing out. When we have intolerance for, or a disdain of, our symptoms like anxiety or depression, we build an adversarial relationship with the Self. Becoming our own attacker keeps us in the threat/protection response, never able to escape.
Somatic Experiencing is a type of therapy that helps clients learn how to track activation or discomfort in the body. With compassion and curiosity one can stay with their experience so it can move through naturally on its own once lovingly tended to. I use moments like these in a session to say, “Let’s just pause for a moment and be with what you are noticing right now. Can you support the physical sensations with the breath, light pressure with your hand or a weighted blanket?” “Let’s just try to be with what is and let go of what you think it should be.”
Neurology teaches us that the cycle of activation/rest lies in the autonomic nervous system. I help clients build curiosity and resilience for the sympathetic response. This feels like an “oh boy, I feel scared or angry.” It is our natural preparatory response for what’s happening and how do I protect myself! If we cannot tolerate the activation of anxiety we cannot stay with delight either. They both can feel like the same type of arousal. Once we allow the truest experience in the body, it will regulate and move through on its own into the parasympathetic response of rest.
Depression can feel like an overuse of the parasympathetic response, feeling like a shutting down. Depression can result from being stuck in a heightened state for much too long and the body plummets, conserving energy to keep you alive.
Our current suffering from the past is more influenced by the sensory implicit arising than the cognitive memory. A client recently described her experience of learning how to track her own nervous system. She said, “It feel like now my body regulates my emotions even before I consciously can. I notice my physical trigger and it messages me to follow the sensations and take care of myself immediately. Its not cognitive.” She added, “If I went to typical talk therapy, I don’t think I would get to where I am.” This client no longer rejects her experiences. Instead she stays with it, tracks it, and allows the body to give her important information about her personal wellbeing. We feel safer on the earth when deeply connected to the body, our natural home, embracing our natural way of being.