How Embodiment Has Helped Me Process Trauma
Learning to experience life in a more embodied way for the past 5 months has been interesting and eye-opening. I've made some wonderful self-discoveries and I've also had some moments where I felt frozen and questioned my reason for even attempting a coaching certification. What about me is so damn inspiring that someone will want to pay money, to have me guide them into experiencing their felt senses?
Maybe one singular thing.
Recently I found myself feeling more anxious and my digestive system was kinda going all over the place. I would come home from work, intending to start the final module in the FEC program I'm enrolled in, but I didn't. I would make tea, sit on the couch, read a book, or binge Netflix. I just couldn't bring myself to go upstairs and take the initial step of officially starting the final module. I'm really not like that, I haven't procrastinated for years (I did when I was quite young, typically with projects or assignments that brought me great anxiety.)
Each day I felt some feeling of apprehension, and then flashbacks of traumatic events started to trickle in. I would see and feel fragments of memory from my car accident in December. I knew that this was happening more because I was making plans to take my new-to-me car for a drive soon. Yet I was also having flashbacks from my mom's bicycle accident. I kept having that gut-wrenching feeling creep in when I heard her cry out from the impact. Why was that happening? Why was this memory coming in and overtaking my mind?
I figured that it was because I was feeling stressed about the season picking up at the bike shop. Spring can be a super fun time at the shop, but it can also feel very overwhelming due to the increased workload. Free time is gone and long hours take over. I assumed all of this anxiety, nervousness, and irritable gut were due to that.
This had been going on for a few days, and on March 20th (the first day of Spring), my mom texted me to tell me it was the anniversary of her broken leg.
Ironically, I had been revisiting the book I had started in December (before my car accident) titled: Waking The Tiger by Peter A. Levine*, and in the book, he talks about what may happen to persons around the anniversary of a traumatic event. I read about how one can either go about (unknowing to them) re-experiencing the past trauma (in some capacity) around the anniversary of the traumatic event. It made so much sense! I felt like my body was trying to process some amount of frozen tension that I still had surrounding the events (car accident/mom's accident) and being so close to the anniversary of her accident, everything started bubbling up. Kinda like my body said, "It's time for you to process these events a little more." My body was sending me signals that I was more than happy to not pay attention to.
Who loves the sound of processing feelings and emotions from a traumatic event? Allowing yourself to more fully sit with and experience the feelings. We live in a world where we try so hard to push past any negative feelings...we like to avoid. Pretend they don't exist. Doing so makes it easier to keep on keeping on. Living in constant avoidance and not allowing yourself to process the trauma allows frozen tension to remain trapped in our bodies. You might experience frozen tension in many different ways- sometimes it might be a feeling of being numb and unable to feel anything. Sometimes it can cause anger to build or anxiety to be elevated. You might even develop symptoms in the body like aches, pains, or digestion issues. You may possibly go through a period of time where you avoid activities and/or procrastinate (Freeze response).
I knew that I needed to take some time to move some of this tension, but it meant having to bring awareness and acknowledgment to what was going on. I put on some music that I felt would be helpful for me- a playlist that was actually built around magnifying happiness. I opted for this because I felt like it would be more beneficial to me for ebbing and flowing between experiencing some deep sh*t. I opted to do this movement practice in a way that would let me travel to the very edge of the trauma. I would dip my toe in, and allow myself to fully feel the emotion that came up. I found that once I let myself sit in it, giving it full acknowledgment, the sense of anxiety and stress that I had surrounding it would dissipate. Then I'd take that lightness and move with it, letting my whole body move however it wanted, to dispel more of that tension.
I did this for a half hour, and afterward, I felt so much calmer and more centered. I had a feeling of confidence surrounding myself and my desire to be an Embodiment coach. I also felt like the future knowing of work becoming super busy did not make me feel so anxious.
I know in the scheme of it all, I moved micro amounts of frozen tension out of my body- but small steps are bigger than no steps at all. With Embodiment and the tools we use during coaching sessions, we remind the client that they are always in control of their experience. They can choose how far in they go, or if they choose to trace the very edge. I did what felt right for me at that time, which was tracing the edge.
I am super grateful for the tools I'm learning in the FEC program....and this is exactly why someone would want to work with me. I've been through some tough and traumatic shit, and learning how to live a more embodied life has really helped me push past some of my triggers and repetitive patterns so I can focus on living as full of a life as I can. The tools I am taught are tools that I use on a daily basis. When shit gets tough, I have the resources and knowledge to help me get through it, instead of trying to hide it or hide from it- and they are exactly the same tools that I'd be using while working with someone wishing to incorporate more Embodiment into their lives.
*Waking the Tiger is such a fascinating book! Normally I am somewhat intimidated by books with so much learning, but it is written in such a way that I feel like I can digest the content and not feel overwhelmed. If you have experienced traumatic events in your life, you may find this book to be an interesting read. I had just read about the Fight, Flight, and Freeze responses right before my car accident- and in doing so I knew what was going on with my body post-accident (releasing tension).