Resourcing Shifts the Balance to Healing
Attention to positive imagery and sensations can quickly change anxiety and fear to safety and pleasure.
Five year old Anya comes running and sobbing in from the backyard. Her Mother holds her. For a while she is inconsolable and beyond words. Then, between cycles of crying, she tells how her friend Annie grabbed her favorite doll. When Anya tried to get it back, Annie pushed her down hard. Telling the story brings back the strong feelings again. Her body shakes uninhibitedly and her legs kick in anger. She sobs deeply again for a few breaths, then cuddles into her Mother’s lap. After each wave of intense feeling, she is calmer. Her Mother listens, comforts, and holds Anya. A short time later, Anya loses interest in the incident and is happy to say “yes” when her Mom asks if she’d like to help fix dinner.
Anya’s Mother “resourced” her by creating safety, that is, by soothing Anya and helping her to feel safe and accepted. Anya felt her Mother’s warmth against her own body and the pleasure of her Mother’s calming voice. This allowed Anya’s innate healing response to move through her body. A discharge of powerful feeling was completed. Her anger, sense of betrayal, and fear were discharged with shaking, kicking, and tears. Because of that, this is not likely to be an incident which Anya carries as a scar into a troubled adulthood.
As an adult, you may not be held like Anya or sob so deeply, but that is not necessary for healing your past trauma, abuse, or losses. You can learn effective ways to feel powerful, confident, safe, calm, resourced and, yes, even happy! Learning these ways to feel good is an important part of what happens in a Somatic Experiencing session. I can quickly help you find memories and inner resources which will help lower your anxiety and give you hope.
Sensations: The Language of the Healing Response
Staying present to sensations comes naturally to animals. Without a “higher brain” devoted to thinking, language, and cultural learning, animals live in a world of sensations which warn them of danger and, once danger is past, lead them automatically to discharge survival energy. Our higher, logical, thinking brains are valuable and powerful, but if we want to release the stuck arousal energy of trauma, we need to come back into our bodies and our sensations.
The next part (indented) will give you an actual experience of feeling resourced, but only if you slow down and let yourself have the experience. Reading through it at normal speed won’t touch the parts of the brain which allow you to feel resourced. So slow down now to experience it.
Take a moment to think of something in your life that you enjoy, are successful at, and that makes you feel empowered. Either current or past is fine. I’ll refer to that as your “resource”. You probably have many, but all you need for now is just one to focus on. Really sloooow way down as you do this because this kind of experiencing moves on a different time scale from our quick-thinking minds. Pause between reading each sentence. Take time to notice the sensations in your body as you think of your resource. Notice how it feels at the level of sensation in your body. See if any physical areas feel energized, pleasant, warm, or open.
Take all the time you need to be mildly curious about what you can notice of the flow of sensation in your body, as if you were watching quietly, waiting for a rabbit to emerge from a hole. As you “watch” your sensations, see if you can notice what emerges next. Then continue to be curious to notice what happens after that. The language of sensations is the language of the lower brain. This is the part of our being from which our deep instincts for survival arise, and the part which knows how to heal ourselves.
For PTSD survivors, returning to full body awareness may take time and assistance
If you have experienced unresolved trauma, this exercise may have been difficult. You might have had difficulty focusing on pleasant memories and their associated sensations. You might have been drawn instead to distracting thoughts, impatience, uncomfortable memories, or to areas of the body which felt constricted or painful.
Be assured that this is normal. It is normal because the majority of people in our culture have suffered trauma which has left its mark on their nervous systems. At some very stressful time in the past, your physical body tuned out sensations and feelings because those sensations and feelings were overwhelming, unpleasant, or scary. As you attempt to re-connect with your resource and your innate healing response, you may initially re-experience those distressing feelings and think it isn’t working for you. It can sometimes be very difficult to find purely positive sensations and feelings. The key in the beginning is to start with the focus on genuinely resourcing experiences, e.g. those experiences which you enjoy, are successful at, and which make you feel empowered. Then pay attention to what happens in your sensations.
Learning to stay present to sensations is one of the keys to healing. Keeping your attention there will likely lead to movement of energy and a diminishing of physical or emotional pain within minutes. But, though the principles are simple, they are not always easy to practice and can be challenging to do alone. For many, their worst traumas involved feeling very alone or abandoned. For them, choosing to become more aware of sensations and feelings while being alone can bring up difficult emotions. If this feels true for you, consider contacting us for assistance. A major part of what we do in Somatic Experiencing sessions is to find individual ways, unique to you, which help you feel resourced and safe.
By taking this learning to heart and practicing it regularly, you will gradually transform your life experience in remarkably positive and lasting ways.
Releasing The Past — PTSD, Trauma, & Loss Therapy
Somatic Experiencing Sessions With Paul Chubbuck
970-493-2958 — 1010 Morgan Street — Fort Collins, Colorado 80524