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Exploring our trauma with deep self-compassion (Part 3)

What then can you do?  How can you support yourself?

For me, the first thing is to notice when you feel this way and to recognise that this is what might be happening for you.  Then just pause, take a breath and listen to your body.  Using the principles of Compassionate Inquiry®, explore the following questions:

  • What is my body feeling – physically / emotionally / energetically?
  • What support might these feelings be asking for?
  • What is the need behind the feelings?
  • How can I best respond, in order to address these feelings?

It might be helpful here for me to give you a personal example to illustrate this.

If I think about giving a presentation in public it initially fills me with fear and dread.  It calls to mind experiences when I was very young where I was shouted at for something and left feeling humiliated and powerless.  A part of me goes into a panic, believing that the same thing will happen again.  Just the thought of being so visible and vulnerable makes me deeply uncomfortable.  Rationally I know that, if I’ve been asked to speak, people want to hear what I have to say.  They will be rooting for me as they too will want me to give a good presentation, so that it’s interesting for them.  Even if it turns out that they don’t enjoy my talk they’re highly unlikely to yell at me or tell me to leave.  But despite knowing all this in my head, my body is still giving away my emotional reaction in a set of physical symptoms that are much stronger than the situation itself would warrant. 

Thankfully I’ve now learnt tools and techniques to support myself when I feel this way.  I know to take a moment, to pay attention to how I’m breathing, to centre and ground myself, and probably to practice some mindfulness and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or ‘tapping’) to regain my sense of balance, perspective and control.  I’ve also discovered that I quite enjoy sharing information, once I get over my initial nerves!  (I’d never have believed this could be possible a few years ago, so I can honestly say that if I can do this, anyone can! 😄)

The next step is to be gentle with yourself.  Your mind, that inner critical voice, may be bombarding you with all sorts of negativity and judgement, but be reassured, it’s actually just trying to keep you safe.  But, like an overwrought parent or stressed teacher, it’s ‘wagging finger’ approach is a knee-jerk, over exaggerated response, and not ‘truth’.  So, you can thank it for its concern, then politely tell it to go and sit in a corner while you handle things! 😊

From here, it’s time for some self-compassion and forgiveness – for the way you’ve been criticising yourself, and for how your reactions seem to be so out of proportion. 

Tune in to your body.  What parts of you are experiencing discomfort right now and how can you best support them?  Taking a moment to pause, and to breathe – deeply, as if you’re taking the breath right down to your tail bone – will help to still some of the anxiety within you, helping to shift you from ‘fight or flight’ and closer to ‘rest and repair’.  When we’re in ‘fight or flight’ we’re ‘blinded by panic’ because our field of vision narrows – literally and metaphorically – to where we might only be able to see the barriers and problems right in front of us.  As we start to recover our balance and calm, we reconnect with our creativity and our ability to find answers and solutions that weren’t even on our radar previously.

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