The Benefits of Getting in Touch with Your Body
We are exploring the benefits and the “how-to’s” of getting more in touch with our bodies and sensations. Previous installments available here.
If you have experienced lasting trauma, or PTSD, then you are almost undoubtedly somewhat, or a lot out of touch with your body.
What does that even mean? Obviously you’re still walking around, eating, drinking, doing most of the basic functions of being a human. And you’re still reading this.
But at some point in your past, there was something too painful to be felt, too overwhelming to handle at the time. When that happens to a person, if they don’t get real help and solid support soon after, the nervous system partly shuts down. It’s kind of like if you tried to run 220 volts through household wiring, except that it’s not a complete “fuse-blowing”, but more a diminishment of your full aliveness, because full aliveness was too painful.
It’s actually brilliant of our nervous systems to know how to do this, because it saves us from more dire consequences, such as death from suicide, insanity, or other rash behavior. But, as the experience of pain is “turned down” in volume to make it more tolerable, much of the rest of our aliveness gets diminished also.
Perhaps you know when that was for you. Many have reported looking at their childhood pictures and noticing a particular year after which they no longer sported smiles and grins. That’s the time I’m talking about.
A woman who experienced a very abusive childhood earnestly asked me, “Why would I want to get back in touch with my body? That’s where the pain is.” True enough. That pain was why you shut down in the first place. However, if you have managed to work your life into a more sane, functional state today, if you’ve done some healing work and trust at least one human being, as long as you are not currently suffering much or any abuse, then the shutting down of your physical experience is no longer serving you. It might seem scary and vulnerable to consider open up again. And you probably don’t even know how. But I guarantee there are ways to do this which are deeply satisfying and won’t make you feel too vulnerable.
And there are huge benefits to getting more fully back in touch with your body.
The Physical Benefits
The first area of benefit is strictly physical. Trauma stuck in the body means two things, tension and inflammation in a particular or several areas. Immediately after a traumatic injury, these serve to reduce blood loss and to immobilize a wound. Or in a threatening situation, these responses facilitate the fight-flight survival response. But years later, those benefits are long past and the negative impacts remain. It has been estimated that at least 80% of illness is caused by stress. If the trauma can be cleared from the body, such as through the Somatic Experiencing work I offer, then you can experience increased blood flow in the area, increased flexibility, increased sensation, and reduced inflammation. Imagine the personal and social benefits possible if much of the past trauma residing in your body as tension or inflammation could be cleared.
Quicker recovery from injury or trauma
A few years ago after I had already learned a lot about this somatic healing approach, I took a bad fall. Due to my experience, I chose to lay quietly on the sidewalk for nearly 10 minutes without trying to rapidly get up and pretending I was fine. I wasn’t fine, it hurt a great deal and I let myself feel that. As a result, I had no emotional residue from this accident at all and I am convinced that the physical healing also came quicker than it would have otherwise.
Conscious reduction of pain
Consciously choosing to stay very present to our moment-by-moment experience can substantially reduce the level of pain. In this previous blog post I tell how I made a headache go away.
Next week, we will continue the discussion by exploring the emotional benefits of getting back in touch with your body!
Do you have private questions about the body-mind connection or about recovering from trauma, loss, or abuse? Click here to leave me a private message.