Learning To Feel What Seems Unfeelable

I often write about the importance of learning to feel into your body. It is in your body that the keys to unlock the things that hold you back can be found.

I always write this knowing that it is possible to learn to do this, as I have done. But I am also aware it is not easy to reach there. It is virtually impossible without the assistance of a trauma trained counsellor.

I was reminded of this recently when I read a blog by a trauma yoga teacher.

She wrote about leading a yoga and meditation class in the mental health ward of a hospital. Her clients were people with dissociative disorders.

Feeling Into Your Body Is Something You Have To Learn To Do

Having learned, as I have, to be able to feel into her body in safety, she realised she had to allow for the difficulty these people experienced feeling into their bodies. When you have unresolved trauma from the past it is very hard to feel into your body where all those unprocessed and very scary memories are stored.

This experience forced the teacher to explore how to bring attention inside without being so frightened that you dissociate. She explored how to bring attention inside without feeling like you are floating, disconnected from your internal and external environment.

Being In The External World Is Easy, But Go Into Your Internal World And It Becomes Very Hard

We find it so easy to get angry or irritated by people in our external world, why is it so hard to turn out attention internally to situations in our past that hurt us?

Why is it that we can be courageous in the world around us, but when we come to look in side ourselves and allow us to feel what we find there, we are terrified?

Every Child Needs An Adult Who Loves Them And Can Teach Them How To Self Regulate

If you never had an adult in your childhood who was able to attune to you. Able to teach you how to make sense of what was going on in your body. Able to help you learn how to regulate your emotions so that your internal world is not terrifying. Then how could you learn?

When you lacked someone to guide and teach you then how do you navigate your internal environment?

Trauma Trained Counsellors Learn How To Do This

This is what a trauma trained counsellor knows to do. I have learned how to connect those broken pieces inside. How to piece your body, mind and heart together so that you can feel safe to look inside yourself.

I know these techniques work because I used them myself to learn.

All those trapped memories need to be processed. Until you learn the skills and have someone skilled to walk beside you and help you, you will not be able to process this trauma. And it will cripple your life.

Childhood Memories Of Trauma Are Frightening

Those memories are frightening. They hurt. They are full of a child trying to understand a very frightening world. There is a deep sense of shame, of being wrong. Of thinking that what happened was your fault and because there was something wrong with you.

There is despair at never seeming to get any better. There is rage at the unfair things being done to you. There is hurt that someone who should care for you can do this. There is disappointment that no matter what you try, nothing gets better.

All these terrifying memories are the reason you become numb. Feeling them is terrifying so blanketing them, freezing them, dulling them is the only way to survive. And because they are still there your body reacts to them in the only way it can.

How Your Body Reacts To The Pain

You get terrible fear and pain from these memories.

You get anxious, depressed, you do whatever you can to shut down the memories.

You take pills, you drink too much alcohol, you try an array of drugs, you go on spending sprees, you do any behaviour that is repetitive to drown out those horrible memories and feelings of deep shame and unworthiness.

What You Need

What you need is someone to teach you how to manage those emotions. How to release the feelings of unworthiness, exclusion and shame. How to release these harmful feelings.

You need to take it slowly. To only visit those memories when you have the skills to calm yourself.

Yes you can reach a point where you can make the choice to be who you want to be. A place where you know how to respond to calm yourself. Where you know how to respond to not put yourself in a fight/flight/freeze state. And I can help you with that learning.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How Conversation and Journalling Prompts can improve your Communication, Creativity and Self-Awareness as well as Boosting your Mental Health and Well-Being

Soon I will be resuming my live talks in my Facebook Group Plentiful Life Exploration.

Last year I always used some cards I own during the live talks.

The cards are called Deep Speak (by St Luke’s Resources) and aim to respect the right to a voice of all people.

These cards are designed to encourage people to tell their stories, offer opinions and listen to others when they tell their stories.

They also help you to learn more about yourself. This makes them wonderful as journalling prompts and for self reflection.

Today I am going to write my blog with some prompts for you.

If you would like to share your answers you can do so on my page Plentiful Life Counselling, or join my group Plentiful Life Exploration and comment there.

QUESTION ONE

The first question is an opener – to get the conversation started.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I would love to know what your book was.

Mine was Anne of Green Gables. I loved the way this unwanted girl found someone who wanted her and set about learning to be herself and to be able to achieve what she wanted in life. So inspiring.

How about you?

QUESTION TWO

The next question is one about identity. That is such a difficult thing for many people. Here is a question to help you explore who you are.

Do you have a favourite family story?

I would love to know what your story is.

Mine is that my grandfather, as a young 19 year old, had to leave Scotland to find work. He was supposed to sail to Canada where his older brothers were waiting.
But my Grandfather hated the cold. He got to the port and there was a ship sailing to Australia there as well. So he bought his ticket to Australia and got on the boat. Wow! He really hated the cold.

I have always been in awe of his courage to sail to a country where he knew no one and there would be no one to support him. He made a life for himself and survived very well. Such a wonderful role model.

QUESTION THREE

The next question is about relationships.

Have you ever been let down by a friend?

That is a challenging one. It hurts to be let down by someone. Often when you share your story other people judge it as being unimportant. But of course it is.

I would love to know what your story is.

Mine is that I had planned to take a trip with a friend to a new place I had never been before. We were going to stay a few days. I researched what we could do and where we could stay. I was so excited. Then my friend told me she was going to this place with another friend. I was so upset and felt so rejected by this. I never said anything to her but I felt she must have decided she didn’t want to go with me. In reality I suspect she had forgotten we had made this plan. I sometimes think it would have been better if at the time I had said that I thought we were going to go together and that I was disappointed. Instead I distanced myself from her and our relationship was never as close again.

QUESTION FOUR

The next question is about values. Values are so important. They guide how you see the world and how you relate to others.

How rich do you want to be?

That is seemingly simple. But many people hold values around wealth and the type of people who hold it.

For me, I want to have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. By comfortable I mean being able to pay my bills and have the odd treat. To not have to lie awake at night worrying about money.

QUESTION FIVE

The next question is about emotions. This is a lovely reflective question that allows you to explore who you are and how to regulate your feelings.

How do you control your anger?

I would love he hear how you do that.

Anger is so hard to control. I always try to remember to breathe deeply and slowly so that I can remain in control of my feelings. So often anger involves feeling in danger and needing to defend yourself. When that happens, the rational part of your brain is no longer accessible and it is impossible to control your feelings. Breathing deeply and slowly sends a message to the brain that you are safe. It allows you to be able to think about how you want to respond and allows you to choose a response that is helpful for you and others.

QUESTION SIX

The last question is about beliefs. This is another one that is important for you to understand about yourself and for others to learn about you.

Have you ever had something you’d call a spiritual experience?

I would love to hear from you.

Spiritual experiences cover a large range of things. They can include seeing a wonderful sunset and watching in awe at its beauty. They can include feeling the presence of a loved one who has died.

For me I have experienced both those things.

THE BENEFITS OF EXPLORING QUESTIONS LIKE THESE

Learning to explore and share your story, even if it is only with the pages of a journal, is an important way to learn more about you. It helps you to understand why you feel the way you do about things. It helps you to feel able to share stories of the sad things in life, of the traumatic events, of the hurtful things. It helps you to heal, either by yourself or by seeking support from a counsellor.

Learning more about yourself allows you to be more present to what your body is feelings. This allows you to better understand what you are feeling. This skill is important in living life successfully, being able to regulate your emotions and form relationships with other people that are mutually respectful.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

Sometimes things that happen in life can make it hard to understand what you are feeling. It can also be hard to feel safe with others and be able to set boundaries that allow you to have comfortable relationships with others.

Sometimes you need help to learn these things and to untangle the difficulties of the past. This is where a counsellor can help you.

CAN I HELP?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with being better able to understand what you are feeling and/or healing from your past hurts, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Interoception: Understanding the Importance and Benefits of Tuning Into Your Internal Sensations

Did you know:

• That research is showing that your internal body and internal organs send signals to your brain and play a major role in regulating your emotions?

• That your brain flicks in time with your heartbeat?

• That your emotions are impacted by neural activity that is impacted by your body organs?

• That memories are more likely to be remembered when you are in the body state you were in when the memory was first laid down?

• That interoception is important to keep you alive and allows you to feel pain and discomfort in your body.

• That people have different levels of interoception and trauma, either in childhood or adulthood, can reduce interoception.

WHAT LEVEL OF INTEROCEPTION DO YOU HAVE?

One test is to sit comfortably in a chair. Somewhere where you feel safe.
• Close your eyes.

• Place your attention in your heart.

• Can you feel it beating in your chest?

• If so, can you count your heart beats without having to find your pulse and count with your finger?

If you can feel your heart, then you have good interoception.

Interoception is not well known. Most of the emphasis in life is on what we think, not on what we feel in our bodies.

But interoception is a vital skill for your wellbeing.

Did you know that research has indicated that how well you can feel the signals from your body determines how well you regulate your emotions. If you can regulate your emotions well then you are less likely to experience anxiety and depression.

If you can read what your body is feeling, then you can be better able to protect yourself from mental health issues, regulate your emotions, and resolve conflicts.

WHAT IS INTEROCEPTION?

Interoception is the signals, expressed in sensations, that you receive from your body. This includes sensations sent from your internal organs such as your heart, lungs, bowel, bladder and so on.

These sensations are constantly being sent to our brains, where they are read by the brain. The brain makes the decision whether we need to be consciously aware of any of these sensations.

Have you ever heard someone say they felt something in their body wasn’t quite right then found out they had a medical issue with a particular body organ? This is an example of interoception where signals from an organ indicating a problem were sent to the brain and the brain sent messages to your conscious brain that there was something wrong.

When you feel something is wrong but can’t quite explain that feeling, this is interoception at work.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOTICING BODY SENSATIONS AND UNDERSTANDING THEM

Most people’s brains are able to feel what is in their bodies, but they may not know how to interpret what they are feeling. They may not understand the link between what their body is feeling and the event that led them to develop that reaction in their brain.

Some people are totally cut off from the understanding of those sensations and may not even be aware they are feeling anything in their body unless they are taught to pay attention to those sensations. This is seen often in people who are depressed. They cannot feel their bodies and they feel numb.

Similarly, people who have suffered trauma, especially childhood trauma, often have difficulty feeling body sensations.

POOR INTEROCEPTION CAN LEAD TO ANXIETY

Other people are aware of these sensations but cannot understand what they mean. These types of people are more likely to report feeling anxious. They need to learn to connect these sensations with their conscious brains.

People who report feeling numb and separate from their body have been found to have poor interoceptive awareness. They struggle to notice what they are feeling.

Autistic people often struggle with interoception because they often struggle with Alexithymia (see previous blog on this). This is why many autistic adults suffer from anxiety.

INTEROCEPTION AND YOUR SENSE OF SELF

Interoception is the foundation of your sense of self.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE INTEROCEPTION

Mindfulness is one approach that has been found to increase people’s ability to tune into their internal sensations.

Exercise has also been shown to help with interoception, especially certain exercises. For people with trauma histories, the feeling of the heart racing is threatening as it can trigger the fear of a trauma response. Exercising and getting used to the heart racing, and learning how to be comfortable with that can help with the feeling of threat. Exercise will also allow you to use mindfulness to allow you to learn to read the signals your exercising body is giving out.

Interestingly strength training has been shown to reduce anxiety. It is thought that training the muscles changes the signals the brain receives from the muscles as they become stronger and better able to deal with heavy use.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

It is helpful to seek professional help with difficulties with interoception. A trauma trained counsellor can help you resolve any underlying issues and learn how to feel safe in your body. Once you feel safein your body then you can learn interoception.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your interoception, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz