For a long time, I did not have a clue what mindfulness meant. I still don’t completely have a hold on what mindfulness means, but I’m using the biggest superpower of the traumatized as an in. That superpower is dissociation. I had never thought of it as a superpower before, but it can be killer awesome in some situations. For example, one time I did HeartMath training, and it was all about calming yourself down and relied on a workbook called “transforming anger.” When my vital stats were taken, my blood pressure and pulse were super low, making me look like one cool cat. However, I had just eaten, and I am convinced childhood trauma has left lingering physical symptoms, such as being tired right after eating, being cold all the time, and having low blood pressure and low blood sugar. To me, these are indicators of being “out of my body” in an effort to deal with the stresses I was handed as a child-the outright neglect and abuses.
In entering into my next stage of healing, I am focusing on this capacity to dissociate. It isn’t really a superpower. I haven’t even noticed the ways I dissociate. Eating, depression, habits of mind and body, feeling stuck or tired, tuning out, isolating, being too busy…anything to take me away from my feelings. I tried last year to find a way “in” to relieving myself of some of the burdens of dissociation by committing to a path of grief. I would intermittently grieve or even try to contrive the feelings or situations I needed to grieve. This worked for awhile and is still my intention. But it was monolithic, only focusing on expressing my grief and not addressing any of the structures I have in place to avoid my grief.
Once I started reading about dissociation, some fascinating things came to light. I read somewhere-oh, I must try to get the source-that in the brain of a traumatized person, there is more activity in the left prefrontal cortex than in the right. For me, I am convinced the right prefrontal cortex is where numbing and dissociation happens.In my IFS work, my numb part appears as a white, round light over the right side of my head. This part doesn’t have much to say and just gives me impressions and feelings. She is a protective part. In only one session that I vibrantly remember, and perhaps a scattered few, did she transform. In this particularly powerful session for me, my “numb part” showed herself to me as a mother whale, circling and swimming protectively around her baby, connected to her child, communicating via ancient telepathy.
But often I feel as if in a daze as my numb part actively protects me from things that are no longer threats, or either everything is perceived as a threat. This makes me spacy, completely unaware of clutter in my environment, overwhelmed, and feeling disconnected from people. I am actually disconnected from life. If life has been painful or dangerous in some way, it stands to reason that my whole body would orient itself towards protection and “leaving” the situation in order to survive. I understand this. It’s just a matter of finding my way back into my body.
In order to do that, I am embarking on a renewed interest and organization in self-care. I cannot learn to regulate unless I am involved in my life in meaningful ways. I cannot fully contribute unless I am in tune with what is happening around me and the people in my life. So, I am committing to un-learning to the degree I can, dissociative behaviors. How on earth can I do that?
First of all, I am going to move my body. Yoga has always been good for me, as well as walking. Yoga especially takes me to my feelings because my body is stiff and uncooperative. Second of all, I am going to really take care to watch where i am resisting or avoiding life. I don’t want to be too busy, but I also don’t want to avoid living. So I am going to take opportunities to socialize and be part of the flow of life, not just when I am in the mood. I have learned that isolating makes me more depressed and introspective. The other thing is to get my eating in order. I am a very healthy eater and eat as local vegetarian as possible, but I want to simplify my diet and just be curious and aware about when I am using eating to dissociate. I am also decluttering my house, prompted by my therapist giving me a structure to get started on a yard sale. I thought that was a brilliant anti-depressant, anti-dissociation strategy and so I’m using it to enter into a flow of life and improving my surroundings.
I will write my way into life, paint my way into life, sing my way into life, feel my way into life, move my way into life, and fill it with all the love I missed because I had to protect myself. I will live again from all the places and times I was dead. I will become, and be, and grieve, and LIVE.