I struggle with self soothing. My alters, especially my child and adolescent ones, struggle with self soothing. We all had questions about what that term meant. Some of us still have questions like:
- What is self soothing?
- How is it different from self care?
- Why is self-soothing a positive coping strategy?
- How does it work?
- Can you provide examples?
My adult self tried to apply answers from a variety of sources, but the suggestions triggered anger, fear, shame, and grief. Then panic attacks. So I avoided thinking about self soothing until recently.
Physical pain requires other types of coping strategies. Strategies that trigger me and cause fear or anger to manifest into panic attacks or worse – self-harm. Unfortunately for me, those same strategies are tried and true for body memories. These strategies include:
- Trauma sensitive yoga
- Sensorimotor psychotherapy
- Movement or exercise therapy
sensorimotor psychotherapy does work and can be useful, but requires a lot of trust between the client & counselor. It also requires the client to be at a certain level of recovery with support in place for any increased symptoms. Deirdre Fay is one of the foremost practitioners. Her work is great; I tried one of her online workshops, but wasn’t ready for it yet. Maybe you will be. I recommend doing your own research and talking with a professional before trying any of her programs.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga
Trauma sensitive yoga is something I recently started once a month. Our first session was great. I learned a lot and am hopeful this will help with my physical symptoms in a variety of ways. But more on this later, after I’ve had another session and more time to try the practice at home too.
Exercise & Movement Therapy
Bessel Van Der Kolk promotes yoga as his number one form of movement therapy. But drama, dance, martial arts, tai chi, or any form of gentle, meditative movement can produce similar results. What matters most with this type of therapy is A) doing something the victim/survivor/partner/loved one enjoys; and B) choosing an instructor or group that feels safe, supportive, inclusive, and positive. A strong support system to help out when symptoms increase or triggers start to overwhelm is important too.
Self-Soothing Coping Technique
Self Soothing has been a struggle to define and understand up until the past month or so. My current counselor/therapist helped me understand that my child and adolescent alters define self-soothing as hurting others or being destructive/aggressive to feel better. That is what they learned from their providers and caretakers. And a volunteer on the hotline defined self soothing as: a conscious act of choosing self care and comfort instead of destruction, aggression, blaming, or self-harm.
What do you think of the
Re-learning that Self Soothing is positive and means comforting myself instead of hurting myself or others.
Helping my child and adolescent alters understand and accept this so that they can use the self soothing too.
Discovering all of the ways self soothing can help with muscle pain, body memories, and physical discomfort in order to build a tool box of useful strategies for present and future use.
Sometimes the strategies that can help us most are the scariest and most challenging to learn. I am not afraid to admit that I am afraid of my body. I am afraid of my appearance. I am afraid of the sound of my voice. I am afraid of showing my face on this blog or any social media.
That fear gets in the way of doing most positive actions or tasks to help me feel better. Instead of moving, everything freezes. I freeze. They freeze. We all freeze into paralysis. Can’t move our body.
But if you’ve learned anything about our system, you might remember how stubborn and persistent we are. And so all parts of us are talking with our current counselor/therapist to work on this. In another week or two, maybe we will share the results of our new practice.
What scares you? How helpful or harmful would it be?
May all of you who read this find ways to choose self care and support instead of self-harm or harm to others when triggered.
Thanks for reading