In our daily lives, we often overload ourselves with constant activity, and at times, it feels like we’re pushed into this relentless rhythm. Modern parenting no longer relies on community support; instead, we juggle the responsibilities of work and home life while being bombarded with information from all directions. It can be overwhelming.
So, how can we shift from this constant “doing” mode back to a state of “being”?
How can we reconnect with our bodies and emotions and process them effectively?
How can we heal our systems and discover our true selves, beyond the masks like overachievers or people pleasers we might wear as coping mechanisms to avoid pain and unprocessed emotions?
Are you ready to embark on a journey of healing and self-discovery? Are you prepared to uncover powerful connections that only your body can reveal?
The healing of your nervous system, body, and mind will lead you to the person you have always been deep down.
This journey involves deciphering the states of our nervous system and listening to our bodies. It teaches us that our symptoms are messengers. In Western thinking and medicine, we often ignore these red flags instead of investigating what they signify, what unmet needs they represent, and what requires our compassionate attention.
By tuning into our pain and seeking guidance to interpret our symptoms, we gain access to the roots of stress, chronic pain, anxiety, and nervous system imbalances – issues that Western medicine has long overlooked or dismissed.
This insight sheds light on why so many people today feel stuck, disconnected, detached, or lost.
Therefore, I would like to offer a basic explanation and some practical tools to help you develop new habits that align with your true self and essence. These practices will help you realize that your worthiness is determined by you, not by any external factors.
I’ve learned a great deal about spiritual bypassing from many of my clients. Often, they initially tried to bypass emotional healing but ultimately found it necessary to align with their authentic selves. Healing, as I see it, is a daily process involving conscious practices and changes in our programming, habits, and attitudes.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.“
C. G. Jung
WHY IT’S CRUCIAL TO UNDERSTAND YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
Not all stress, adversity, or trauma are created in the same way. Therefore, the journey of healing varies for each of us, as trauma is rooted in the dysregulation of our nervous system. The key to healing is learning to regulate this system, but where we begin differs for each individual.
As someone who appreciates neuroscience and continually shares insights from this fascinating field, my goal is to empower you on your healing journey. I aim to explain how stress and trauma manifest in our bodies, and how dysregulation occurs.
The first step in any change is awareness. By understanding the state of our being and our unresolved emotions, we can focus on more effective healing.
In this article, I will help you comprehend your own nervous system’s functioning and how to approach it with compassion. In today’s society, we often normalize nervous system dysregulation, leading to self-criticism. I want to help you understand what is happening and guide you toward healing.
Let’s embark on a self-discovery boat ride where you can connect with your inner waves created in reaction to the external ones.
MEET YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM, DECODE IT AND MAKE SENSE OF IT
After experiencing trauma, our nervous system develops patterns that reflect how we survived and adapted to what felt like a “dangerous world”.
In response to threats, the nervous system may enter high-arousal states, leaving us tense and on edge, or it may adopt low-arousal states, resulting in numbness, disconnection and lethargy.
How do you react when you become hyper-activated? Do you tend to become angry or impulsive? Do you seek out others for support, or do you prefer solitude?
Consider grabbing a pen and paper to recall your last moment of activation. What were you feeling and experiencing?
Maybe at first, you might have experienced some fear; your mind was chaotic, and you felt compelled to do something to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling. Alternatively, if you are more inclined to shut down and experience hypo-arousal, your description might resemble this: “I suddenly felt so sleepy, extremely tired, devoid of energy, just wanted to sleep, experienced numbness, and then I stopped caring about it all.”
Everyone’s experience of their nervous system is unique. Let’s delve deeper into understanding our nervous system’s role in shaping our perceptions of the world and how trauma, chronic stress, and dysregulation are interconnected with our emotions and healing.
HEALING THE NERVOUS SYSTEM IS NOT A LINEAR JOURNEY
There are three different ways we can experience trauma and dysregulation in our system:
1) Shock trauma
2) Chronic accumulated stress
3) Developmental trauma (preverbal and adverse childhood experiences), including unresolved issues from previous generations
As we already mentioned, different traumas require different healing approaches. Resolving trauma and achieving regulation doesn’t always involve dramatic emotional releases; it depends on the level of stress we’ve internalized and how much our system has shut down.
Let’s have a look at possible scenarios that can unveil how much stress is locked inside us.
WAYS OF RELEASING TRAUMA FROM OUR SYSTEM
People who had a nurturing upbringing with an attuned parental figure, were able to develop strong attachment skills and learn to regulate emotions through co-regulation with their attuned caregiver. It gives them a solid foundation for processing shock trauma in their bodies so they usually don’t encounter obstacles when it comes to “letting off steam”.
However, for those who experienced childhood adversity, building this capacity is the first step. Obstacles may arise when attempting to release trauma from the body.
Tears, often seen as a form of release, could hinder the deeper expression of anger, especially for individuals, particularly women, who were conditioned not to display anger.
Conversely, tears might represent a release for others, typically men, who were discouraged from crying and tend to perceive anger as a more acceptable emotion.
Ultimately, your healing and release process is depends on you and it all hinges on your unique journey. Even physical symptoms can be signs of stress release. Some headaches, sharp pains, tingling, or cramps may stem from repressed memories. Understanding your own body is crucial in this process.
WHAT HAPPENS IN SHOCK TRAUMA/ ACUTE STRESS
When a wild animal experiences shock trauma, it can shake it off once it returns to safety. (I delved more deeply into stress reactions in a previous article). Similarly, our “healthy” response to shock should involve processing it in a similar way—shaking, shivering, or crying. This allows us to work through the shock.
However, our ability to follow this natural process depends on the level of stress and trauma within us.
Peter Levine extensively describes this process in his book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.
However, a challenge arises in the present-day context where almost all of us contend with chronic stress, juggling numerous tasks and operating in autopilot mode. Many of us are constantly in “doing” mode, resulting in accumulated stress. It can result in losing touch with our somatic selves – our bodily sensations and emotions.
ACCUMULATED CHRONIC STRESS
This phenomenon constitutes the second category of trauma/stress creation – accumulated chronic stress. Due to this accumulated stress, we may struggle to access “healthy processing”. We often fail to return to the baseline to establish “healthy sinusoids” in our lives, as we remain perpetually above the line due to our hectic lifestyles.
Those who experienced childhood adversity need to first build their capacity to feel. The question then becomes, how do we do it?
BUILDING THE CAPACITY TO FEEL
The initial step always involves becoming fully present. The “S.T.O.P” exercise is a practice I recommend often, especially for those starting to build their capacity. Try practicing it daily during breaks, for example while waiting for the kettle to boil.
1. S – Stop what you’re doing and sense the present moment. What is happening right here and now? Connect with your senses – what do you smell, see, hear, taste, and feel?
2. T- Track what’s happening in your body – sensations, pains – without judgment, just simple observation
3. O – Own what is there and fully Observe fully what is calling for your attention. Direct your breath toward that area
4. P – Prepare yourself to return to your environment by fully sensing your pelvic area if you’re seated, and press into the surface you’re standing or sitting on with every part of your body in contact with it.
Repeat this exercise, ideally completing it five times throughout the day or whenever you feel triggered. This practice will help you relearn how to bring your attention back to your body, feel its sensations, and cease overriding it with constant activity.
Because I can tell you one thing, healing without truly feeling and connecting with yourself is nearly impossible.
You can read more about the third category of trauma healing in the following article, “HOW TO HEAL EARLY TRAUMA AND ACCUMULATED CHRONIC STRESS.” There, you will learn how unconscious emotions and experiences are stored in our bodies, and how we can process and release them to restore regulation in our system. I will also introduce you to a free embodiment practice opportunity and explain how I work with clients dealing with dysregulation in their bodies.