Some basic, but very effective techniques to do oneself at home to anchor and calm the nervous system through body positioning.
With trauma, PTSD or anxiety, people can suffer extreme states of terror, hyperarousal, immobility, nervousness, internal chaos, mental chaos and overwhelm that they simply cannot figure out how to escape. These exercises provide a release.
A passivity or disconnections comes with having no access to self. Being stuck in states of immobility (deer in headlights) dissociation (mind is in another time/place) and hyperarousal (uncontrollable terror) are all versions. As the self and will has been totally obfuscated and lost, passivity would be expected. These exercises help gently bring one out of this extreme passivity.
The goal of these exercises is to calm the nervous system, bring the self back into the body, develop more body awareness, and to train one’s own nervous system to remember what normal is like. They help the body to regain the sense of having boundaries. They also help one to develop self-regulation, improving skills and confidence to positively influence the physiological and emotional states we find ourselves in.
Trauma and stress can leave us feeling scattered, broken, shattered, blown apart, chaotic, fractured, or split. Our thoughts and nervousness may become overwhelming, out of control, all over the place. The exercises helps us feel the outer limits of our body and therefore feel ‘contained’. The body is the container of our sensations and all of our feelings; it’s all in the body. They helps create an internal state of calm because to know where we end, to know experientially (inside our body) that we are located in a specific location in space, brings a sense of calm and relief. Being scattered and not knowing where we begin and end is unsettling, even if it is unconscious.
By bringing about a ‘settling’ feeling, reduces overwhelm. By enhancing the feeling of the body as container reduces overwhelm in emotions and sensations.
Beginning this exercise, most of the time the first shift happens as a spontaneous deep breath followed by a breath change to a deeper, slower rhythm and a relaxation of muscles. In time with practice of the exercise, the shift is more subtle and gradual as if entering the space of the body in a deeper way.
It still sometimes takes a very long time to feel a shift. Perhaps the current level of chaos in the nervous system at the time will influence this. If the chaos is very high, it will take longer.
What is happening?
The human nervous system responds to touch. Hands-on healing has been used by humanity since ancient times. Stimulating and soothing the body’s natural electrical currents with hold positions. The exercises encourage focus on the body, this change of attention and awareness is therapeutic. The practice encourages a self gentleness relationship towards the self – characterised by being gentle, caring, kind and nurturing. The self-holding exercises help with the body container strengthening and building activity which helps one begin to experience a sense of self.
Trauma, stress and anxiety can erase the sense of having a self and where that self might be in space and time. Doing either of the exercises and giving the exercise a chance to sink in, in other words opening the body to allow the body to receive the exercise, can improve the feeling of self. This might occur first by having a feeling of having a location in space, being solid and being in one location. There may be a sinking into the internal awareness that ‘I have edges’ which in turn helps bring an awareness that ‘I am here’ (location in the world) and ‘I am me’(ego-identity). This helps with restoring one’s identity as a normal human being rather than being shattered and nothing.
Then one might experience a feeling pride in self, a feeling of fierceness, a desire to defend self. This is the sense of self-defense and self-esteem coming online. Once self is found, it is easier to feel the desire to protect and defend it, and to feel proud of it. If one has no access to self, concepts such as self-esteem and self-defense can be confusing. They may make sense intellectually but not experientially. It’s not that one does not care about these concepts, one may care a lot about them; it’s just that they make no sense without an embodied experience of self.
One may begin to gain a sense of having emotional boundaries, the sense of what is OK and what is not OK to experience emotionally and in relationships. This boundary awareness could have been completely lost or misplaced as a result of the traumatic experiences.
Accessing self would also allow access to the inner knowing of what one wants; a personal will, the ‘decider’ or action-taker. The ideas of personal truth and personal will probably are difficult for someone who has no access to self to really truly ‘get.’ Once that connection to self is re-established, feelings will begin to arise from self – the feeling of dislike for something, or of liking something. These feelings develop complexity, maturity and expression and eventually become ‘my truth” about a situation. Access to the will also may come back online and one can act on their truth which eventually turns into the development of authenticity.
A passivity or disconnections comes with having no access to self. Being stuck in states of immobility (deer in headlights) dissociation (mind is in another time/place) and hyperaraousal (uncontrollable terror) are all versions. As the self and will has been totally obfuscated and lost, passivity would be expected. These exercises help gently bring one out of this extreme passivity.
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