Guest Post by Cynthia Schwartzberg, LCSW
So much information is coming out regarding the brain and the mind. Many cutting edge therapies are beginning to look at the effects of trauma on the brain and how it influences our daily functioning, thinking and memory. When a trauma takes places both physically and/or emotionally it is common to experience a state of fight, flight or freeze.
Often, after the danger has ended or left, our bodies do not register the threat is over and we do not return to our familiar functioning levels. We may stay in a state of fight, flight or freeze and take on a new heightened alert mode of being. We then shift our patterns of behavior physically as well as emotionally and mentally. We lose a sense of safety and feel ungrounded, unconnected and not free to flow in life. The ungrounded state of being can be experienced as a sense of floating, being short tempered, and/or unable to think things out clearly for the best of all parties concerned.
During the trauma we went into a state of fight, flight or freeze and could not “get out” of it. Some of us by nature become more “feisty” or quick to protect and act aggressively. Others of us become scared and “leave”. Maybe we were left at a young age and instead of feeling the pain of abandonment we found a way to exit in relationships before it gets too uncomfortable. Or, we run before we have time to think of a constructive plan of action. Or maybe, we get so scared we are like a deer in head-lights and we freeze. The freeze can become a permanent posture showing up like a wall or shield around us. We look through this wall/shield as we engage life and we are not free to feel, sense, and experience what life has to offer.
The trauma gets stored in our brains like a time capsule and we may catch ourselves functioning from it in our present life situations. Our intrinsic memory, that part of the memory that associates present situations to past experiences, relies on old beliefs and reaction patterns. So, we may duck out of the way when there is no present situation that warrants it, but a noise or an action reminds us of a time we needed to, or someone may act slightly in the way a person did in our past and we will respond in a heightened protective way whether the present situation calls for it or not.
Science is showing how our brain and body gets programmed to make such connections. What can we do to help us relieve some of the internal stress and pressure so that when it happens in the present we can begin to stay more present, assess the present situation and not act out of habit?
Grounding is a way to come back to strengthen our bodies and minds so we can come back to a homeostasis and calmer functioning in various situations. We don’t have to repeat old patterns out of habit. Rather, we can assess the present situation with more faculties available to us.
Here are some things to do that can help you recalibrate yourself in mind and body.
12- Step Programs have a great phrase that can come in handy during stress and when old pattern thinking shows up:
Move a muscle change a thought. For some people this will be a more vigorous activity than others. Do what is comfortable.
Some people can do yoga and others find it too slow. For those who find it too slow, realize that your stress level functions differently and what can be most helpful is something more aerobic to release tension. For others, aerobics is too harsh. Remember we go to fight, flight or freeze automatically so to switch out we need something that will help recalibrate us. There is no fast rule. Do what works best for you.
SUPPORTING THE SENSES WITH MINDFULNESS
Such as when you eat say: “I am now eating”, move the food toward your mouth be aware you are doing it, notice what it looks like, the colors, the smell, put it in your mouth and move it around in your mouth become familiar with the taste, texture. “ I am now chewing”, slowly chew and count your chews to 20, then swallow,” I am now swallowing….”
3. Opening up your eyes, take time to look at a beautiful object. Keep your focus on the object and let all other thoughts to pass by as if they are going across a movie screen. When you find you got lost go back to your focus. Your mind and body will not necessarily be calm when you do this. That is why they call mindfulness practice.
DEEPER WORK TO ANCHOR A SENSE OF GROUNDING
Brainspotting offers many approaches to provide physiological shifts to foster a greater sense of calm, grounded and connected. For more information on Brainspotting go to: http://www.cynthasis.com/blog/. Or, call to set up an appointment 917 816-3534.
A SIX WEEK CLASS SERIES ON GROUNDING IS OFFERED IN ATLANTA. Call for more information or to register: 917 816-3534.
The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Professional Perspective’ contact Michele.