Why do I feel so unsafe when nothing much is happening?
How are we suppose to feel safe in a world full of danger and impermanence? Why is it that some people can breeze through life with confidence and calm, while others are consumed by thoughts of danger and betrayal? Believe it or not, our health, and the quality of our lives, are affected by the degree to which we feel safe. In this article we will explore what is important about feeling safe and how we create that in our lives.
Lets start with our nervous system which is designed to react to danger in order to survive, to connect and form intimate bonds, and to shut down the heat when it all gets too much. Some of the answers to creating our sense of safety lie here. Three main parts of our nervous system work together to help us deal with and make sense of the world around us. When we are in danger and threatened all three parts of our nervous system will come into play.
I don’t know where that came from! Dealing with psychological splits
A number of clients express how they often experience themselves acting in ways that don't feel real or emotions that take over. They describe how they become ‘a crazy person’, angry and destructive, clinging and needy or insecure, when they don’t feel this way most of the time in their lives. They can’t understand how they could behave in these ways and feel terribly ashamed of themselves and the problems it causes in their relationships. They have come to see these reactions as ‘not them’ and the ‘normal’ calmer in control self as who they really are. They may come into therapy looking for a way of getting rid of this part of them, that somehow there may be tools that they can learn to control themselves. The split between these two parts of a person and how that develops in our family of origin, is the focus of this article.
Trauma is held in our nervous system and bound together in symptoms.
Focusing on sensations/movement/energy/feelings in the body begins to tease apart that bound up energy. Sensations lead us to the wisdom of the body and to releasing the trauma. The story of the body allows us to access the ways in which the trauma is held in the nervous system.
The verbal/cognitive story has less impact on the body but can be an indirect way into the trauma. We do less analyzing and more experiencing. We work with what is happening in the present moment
Focusing on body sensations and awareness has to be done in a manageable and tolerable way. Experiencing sensation needs to be accompanied with the support of the relationship with the therapist, and building resources and regulation of the nervous system.
Letting go of trauma
I want to share an experience recently of some personal work I was doing that completed and let go of an early trauma. I want to share how powerful working from a mind-body approach can be. I have always been fairly inflexible especially around my hip area. As years have gone by my thigh muscles have become chronically tight. I would stretch them out and it was like an elastic band, they would stretch and then snap back in. This has caused me a lot of pain and discomfort for many years. I had the opportunity to do some work with someone who works from a somatic based psychotherapy approach to working with trauma. It was on a training I am doing in working this way. The legs and arms are important for our survival. Legs carry us and move us away from danger, and these movements are part of our ’survival instincts’. If we are not able to leave then that instinct becomes thwarted and tension will develop. This is one way that trauma will be held in the body.
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