Releasing Emotions in the Body

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“The body is the most reliable truth meter.”  ~ Adyashanti

Recently, I found myself in tears during a yoga class. It was near the end, and as I tried to keep my face down and roll up my mat, I felt the teacher come and stand near me, lending supportive energy as she chatted with another student. I knew she had noticed my upset and probably recognized it for what it was – a healthy release!

As the teacher had recently explained, certain poses, especially hip openers, can release emotions we’ve been holding onto. Fear, trauma, grief, anxiety, depression – all these murky feelings get stuffed down from our eyes when we do not cry, our throats when we do not scream, our hearts when they are broken, and settle in our hips.

That day, I was overwhelmed with grief about my father, who passed nine months ago. So although I understand the stages of grief will go on for a while, and the feelings of sadness were not daily anymore, my body released more grief in that class, and I felt better because of it.

Yoga teachers and massage therapists will tell you they see this all the time. Our bodies are silos, storing all of our past experiences and present worries. When we are able to find ways to release, in supportive environments, we let go of some of that stored “grain.” Combining physical attunement with a more neutral, relaxed mental state allows these emotions to be liberated.

“If we do not work on all three levels – body, feeling, mind – the symptoms of our distress will keep returning, as the body goes on repeating the story stored in its cells until it is finally listened to and understood.” ~ Alice Miller

In this quote, Alice Miller is expressing what science is coming to understand. Peter Levine, Ph.D. (In An Unspoken Voice), and Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. (The Body Keeps the Score) research, explore and write about the evidence that much of our trauma is held in our bodies, and with this knowledge lies hope for releasing it as well!   

Just think about how much we hold in. We are taught from a young age to hold. We hold onto uncomfortable emotions caused by abuses and traumas we suffer as children, showing the world a face that says everything is okay. We hold it together as we grow, facing cruelty at school, disappointments and broken hearts. We hold our breath, sometimes not daring to breathe deeply out of fear or sorrow, sometimes not breathing at all if the terror or grief is too great. We hold still, not wanting to call attention to what we see is our broken self. We hold back tears – so many tears that we are certain we would drown those around us if we let them go.

A law of physics would tell us that this holding has to release at some point. And we see it around us in all its unhealthy forms – illness (turning it inward) and violence (turning outward). The challenge then, for us, is to find healthy ways to release it from our physical being.

Yoga, massage, reiki, and other forms of healing are effective but can be costly. You can also find release in a soothing bath, an intense workout, vigorous dancing, tactile art, or a project that requires physical exertion. There are many ways to loosen what you are holding onto. Find what feels right for you, and know that different kinds of emotions may need different kinds of release.

“The cure for the pain is in the pain.” ~ Rumi

When it comes to releasing what we are holding onto, we must also allow ourselves to be held where it is safe. If you have a supportive partner, let that person hold you while you cry and release. Being held by the right person for the right purpose is profoundly healing.

And most importantly, in your own private space allow yourself to be held in God’s love, wrapped up in Divine comfort, and sink down into that place where only Love exists, and let go. God will hold you, God will hold space with you for all those feelings and God will eventually help you up.

“Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grown from charred soil. The sun rises.” ~ Anne Lamott

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

June 29, 2018

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Patching Ourselves Up

“Frequently, as so many of our poets and psalmists and songwriters have said, the invisible shift happens through the broken places.”   ~ Anne Lamott

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What a beautiful thought. The shift happening through the broken places. As we seek to heal our trauma, to find the balm that will soothe our raw wounds, we often find ourselves feeling broken. We feel broken at the point of trauma or the memory of the trauma. We feel broken in relationships or in our ability to show up every day. We can even feel the deepest wound; that our spirit is broken.

How can we heal our broken spirits? How can we patch ourselves up enough to get our life back on track? How can we show our wound to the world?

I recently learned about a beautiful Japanese art of repairing broken pottery called Kintsugi. Broken pottery pieces are fixed with a lacquer that is mixed with a precious metal such as gold or silver, so the location of the repair is quite visible. The meaning attached to this custom is that the repair becomes part of the history of the piece of pottery. Rather than discard a beautiful bowl because it is broken, the repair becomes part of the story of the bowl. There is no attempt to hide the break. In fact, it becomes luminous.

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So it is with us. How many times have we tried to glue an object together, trying desperately to hide the breaking point, only to have it split apart again? How many times have we tried to glue our life back together, hide our wounds, only to have it split apart again? It seems we have a resistance to accepting that the damage happened, so we try to mask it. What if we practice Kintsugi on ourselves? Honor our wound by illuminating it?

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”   ~ Rumi

This thought from Rumi echoes the essence of Kintsugi. A wound, a trauma, can be our opening to receive God’s Love. When we try to patch it up and pretend it isn’t there, we don’t leave ourselves open to true healing. If we honor our wound and slowly repair with golden light, the wound becomes a part of who we are, not a tragic scar we must hide.

This is not to take away the earth-shattering traumas we have dealt with in our lives. And it isn’t a thought you can come to quickly or even soon after a trauma. It took me many years to come to a point of accepting my wound. It took much soul-searching, spiritual reading, therapy, and Divine love for me to see that this repaired vessel is just as beautiful as before, and that the wound doesn’t detract from the beauty within, but deepens it.

            “It is not the wound that teaches, but the healing.” – Marty Rubin

Let us patch our wounds today with golden light. Let us patch them with the pure Love of God. Let us look at them with new eyes and stand in awe of our ability to heal.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

August 4, 2016

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Healing is Perception

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            Everything is either an opportunity to grow, or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.                                  ~Wayne Dyer

I’ve been going on walks lately, grateful to live in a quiet neighborhood where I can truly just listen to nature when I walk. When I lived in a busier place, I tried wearing headphones for music, just to block out the street noise. But I couldn’t. And I still have a hard time with headphones. As many years as it’s been since I experienced trauma, I still have to be able to hear my surroundings at all times.

This is just another “gift” from traumatic stress. It’s not hyper-vigilance any more, but it is vigilance, and I suspect I will always have it. And I’ve decided that’s okay.

Meditating on this thought, I realized that someone on the outside might think I’m not healed. Not truly healed. But I realized that just as our traumas are deeply based in our perception, so is our healing.

I perceive I am healed, therefore I am.

At least for now.

Because I am entwined in a relationship with the Divine, I have complete faith that as I am ready for another level of healing, the opportunity to experience that healing will present itself. Healing is fluid, it is constant, it is a very real field of vibrational energy. And because it is a part of God, healing will never abandon us.

So the burden on us, then, becomes accepting where we are in our healing, and accepting that healing is never done.

            I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are                                but does not leave us where it found us.   ~ Anne Lamott

Some people I hear from who suffer from PTSD just want to be done with it. They want to be healed and over it and never have to think about it again. This is not only impossible, but leaves no room for God to take our hand and lead us to healing. I completely understand. At one point, I was hoping someone would invent a pill or a surgery that could remove select memories from the brain! What I would have missed in terms of growth had that been possible, is beyond my comprehension. I’m not the same person I was before, thank God. Through healing from trauma I was led to greater growth than I would have sought on my own.

In his book Upside, The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth, author Jim Rendon quotes Rachel Yehuda, director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She says,” Trauma causes change. There are a lot of opinions out there about how that change manifests, but you just don’t stay the same. That is a really radical idea. You do recover in some ways, but that recovery doesn’t actually involve returning to the baseline. It involves recalibration towards something new…”

Yes, “recalibration!” That is exactly what it is. We have to accept that we will not return to who we were before. We have to reframe our self-perception and move forward with our new, fragile self, holding tight to God. There comes a day in post-traumatic growth where you realize you will never be the same, and that it’s okay. You will recognize your “new normal” when you reach it. Time and therapy will get you functional. Faith and acceptance will help you more fully heal.

            If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.     ~ Buddha

 

It’s important that we accept ourselves exactly where we are in our healing. Uncomfortable in crowds? That’s okay. Need a light on at night? That’s okay. Need to check all the locks three times? That’s okay. We have suffered a trauma and whatever we need to do to feel safe and secure is okay. There may come a time when we don’t feel the need to do those things, but there may not; and that’s okay too.

Our trauma is our own. Our healing is also our own. No one can walk in our shoes or judge where we “should” be in our process. Love yourself right where you’re at.

God does.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

July 13, 2016

 

Happy Holidays from PTSD

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”                      ~ Albert Camus

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Whatever your spiritual beliefs, we recognize that December is a time of holidays and religious and family gatherings. While those around us look forward to the delights of this season, survivors of trauma often find this a difficult time to navigate. Whether you suffer with PTSD yourself, or live with someone who does, it’s important to be prepared and know that whatever you bring to the season is enough.

For some survivors of trauma, the holidays may be good. For me, it was a rare opportunity to sleep deeply, without fear. For others, the holidays themselves may be when their trauma occurred, and the fight or flight instinct is awakened, despite their best efforts. As we are surrounded with images of love and light and innocence, we may re-experience the grief our trauma brought us; of never quite feeling that profound sweetness of innocence again.

Though that may be true, and we may indeed be changed in irreparable ways, we can still find hope in taking charge of our perspective, in taking care of ourselves, and in taking control of our holidays.

“The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it…I would discover that it hadn’t washed me away.” – Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott so perfectly expresses what we trauma survivors know too well. The surprise and fear that feeling something so deeply can bring. It’s like being in the ocean. The same water that lets you float suddenly grabs you and pulls you under!

But we rise again to the surface and discover, “…it hadn’t washed me away.” If we can keep acknowledging that, each time we have a flashback, or a bad day, or a bad night – we haven’t washed away. We are here, and we are doing the very best we can.

If the holidays tempt you to feel struck down by waves (of memory, of family, of expectations, of anxiety) take time to notice that you are not washed away. Keep your perspective focused on your progress. You are here and you have gifts yet to give.

Next, take care of yourself. This is non-negotiable. As a survivor of trauma, you need to be doing this anyway, but even more so at the holidays. The holidays may hold more triggers for you than at any other time of year. If you are not rested, mindful, healthy and balanced, triggers will sneak up on you. Be your own best friend. Don’t neglect the Divine, or the Divine in you, for the sake of pleasing others. Show up when it feels right, and you can bring your best self. If you’re in doubt, ask yourself if a holiday experience is going to drain you, or fill you up? There will be the answer.

Finally, take control of your holiday. If crowds give you anxiety, avoid big parties or malls. If big family dinners are difficult, perhaps join with a smaller part of the family for breakfast, then find a place to be of service instead. You may need to create new rituals to honor where you are in your healing. For some, there is a need to be with family. For others, there will be a need to serve. Some will feel the old familiar need to isolate, but I urge you not to. If you need isolation and alone time for balance, that’s fine. But avoiding the holidays altogether will not serve your highest healing. And that is what the Divine wants for you.

Perhaps all we need do during the holidays is focus on the best ideology of this time of year. Give to yourself and each other: Peace, Light, Hope, and God’s Love.

“This Christmas, give the Holy Spirit EVERYTHING that would hurt you. LET yourself be healed completely that you may join with Him in healing, and let us celebrate our release together by releasing everyone with us.”

~A Course In Miracles

 

Take good care of yourself. Find in yourself, your “invincible summer.”

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

12/06/2015