I’ve been doing quite a bit of embodiment work these last few years, and have really increasingly done so since the advent of COVID, with it’s free floating impact on so much around me. As with many people with complex and developmental trauma histories, I historically dissociate from my bodily experiences except when they are very strong; the research indicates this, along with chronic activation of certain systems, may even be part of the pathway to the development of chronic pain and autoimmune syndromes in people with numerous childhood adversities and/or interpersonal traumas (and in myself, for that matter).
Today I watched a scary show; the storytelling was excellent and the material was intense. And for the first time in a long time I’m really experiencing that sympathic nervous system activation- rapid, shallow breathing, chest pain, panic, tremors, irritability, shutting down, all of it. It’s so incredibly uncomfortable but it’s also helpful… Being able to feel the activation means I can engage with it, and I can be curious about what might happen if I try different things, and I can do those things, and I can ultimately process it and thus activate the parasympathetic nervous system to bring myself back to a state of gentle alertness. That is quite a gift.
It was frightening for so many years to consider coming back into my body, to feel my own pain and panic and heartache. For many years it required deliberately intensifying sensation to experience it, or anything, in a bodied way. I did not expect that as I began to do this I would be grateful for the experience of fear and pain and sorrow, but I am. I am grateful to feel it because if we don’t feel it, we cannot heal it. What is restrained from our awareness stagnates in our bodies and our hearts and our minds. I won’t say the water is fine- it’s a living body. Things live in its depths and sometimes the waves are high or our teeth chatter as we stray into deeper, colder water. But it’s a journey worth making, and one that can give us the ability to enjoy cool water on hot day and the feel of buoyancy in body, heart, and spirit. So come on in– it may not always be fine, but we can explore it together.
(And, of course, exploration with a trained guide like a therapist is never a bad idea, and can definitely help with learning to swim and relating with the wildlife)