Love Your Body
Tina was lying in bed with her husband one night when he told her he loved the way she felt in his arms as he held her.
The comment troubled Tina because she couldn’t remember the last time she felt her husband’s touch. After that, Tina noticed that when her young son held her hand, she rarely felt the sensation. She also couldn’t feel it when her daughter leaned into give her a hug.
Medical testing showed that there was nothing wrong with Tina’s sensory perceptions. So she talked with a friend. Her friend had worked with trauma victims before and knew that Tina had been sexually abused for years as a child.
“It’s a result of the trauma,” She explained. “There is nothing wrong with your body. It’s just that most people who have had these sorts of experiences turn off feeling without realizing it. At first, this helps you cope through abuse. But even when it’s over, some survivors have trouble with staying in their skin.”
It’s hard to love your body when you can’t feel it.
Why Can’t I Feel?
Imagine you’re in your home. You can’t get your living room light to come on. First, you try changing the bulb. Then you call an electrician. The electrician tells you that your wiring is fine then gently points out that you never flipped the switch to on.
In order to cope with a difficult situation, you may have turned off certain emotions or sensations in your body. Sometimes, it’s easier to feel nothing than to feel the pain, shame, and discomfort of situations we have no control over.
These coping behaviors kept you safe when you were young. It was your bodies way of surviving.
What Can I Do?
Start by trying to dial into your senses right now. Can you feel the chair against your back or the phone in your palm?
Is your neck tight as you stare at your screen? Are your shoulders hunched or are you completely relaxed? Do you feel your stomach muscles tightening as you observe the sensations you’re experiencing?
You may also want to take up physical activities that help you to stay in the moment. For example, some people find that “art therapy” that involves dancing, chanting, or drum circles to be helpful.
Other trauma survivors prefer yoga, kickboxing, or mindful stretching. However if that feels too overwhelming, you might find participating in theater or improvisation classes to be useful. These give you the space to explore your body sensations while focusing on the class itself, rather than your emotions.
What Should I Know Ahead of Time?
Understand that reconnecting with your body after trauma can be a difficult thing to do. It can be accomplished with time and sustained effort. But when you first start doing this, you may notice a variety of emotions welling up. This is common and, in the moment, it may feel overwhelming.
Sometimes as we begin this journey our body goes into our fight/flight/freeze pattern and this makes it extremely difficult to heal. If this is the case for you make sure you get the help you need. Loved ones and friends can be amazing support during this time but most likely you will need some professional guidance to help you work this through.