Coping Challenge: Self Soothing is Positive instead of Negative

Background

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.

Present Day

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
  • Self-soothing
  • Movement or exercise therapy

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

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

The Challenge

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.

Final Thoughts

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

 

PTSD: When my angry energy makes me tired

Fear keeps me awake.  Anxiety disturbs my thinking processes/cognitive ability.  Adrenaline gives an energy boost until the crash.

But anger???  Anger does two things:

  1. In the moment, I feel like I could take on a legion of warriors and win.  Energy is swirling around me and adding strength to my muscles.  Not so much aggression (although it looks like that to most outsiders) as battle-readiness
  2. After that, or if the anger lasts a long time, I feel exhausted.  Instead of waking up ready to take on the day, eating or doing chores, or enjoying myself with people and hobbies, I feel sleepy.  And if I don’t listen and sleep, I start to feel sleep deprivation even though I am not sleep deprived.

Why talk about it now?  Because I don’t want to feel tired when I am this angry.  I want to find a safe way to let it out so that my body/mind/spirit can feel some relief.  I want to listen and attend to the needs of my physical self through exercise, and yes, a punching bag or some kind of activity that involves self-defense/fighting.

Growing up, I didn’t like sparring, but I also didn’t fear it.  Sparring taught me a lot and helped me feel confident I could protect myself.  Not until the teachers and classmates started criticizing and humiliating me on purpose did I start to fear classes.  And when the flashbacks started in college, I couldn’t stop the rage from taking over and making me more aggressive during sparring and practice sessions.  Something that did not go over well with my teacher, younger brother, friends, or other classmates.

Eventually, I got so scared of hurting someone that I stopped all together.  When you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not, it’s hard to feel in control and able to spar without hurting someone.  And when everyone around you is talking about you behind your back and watching you like you’re going to “lose it” and hurt someone, you just want to get out and leave.  Or at least, we felt that way.

I want to not be afraid of going into the “zone” of rage and dissociation whenever I feel angry or scared.  I’d like those parts of me to come out into the light and be an active part of our system.  I am proud of them.  The other parts in our system are proud of them.  We want to feel what they feel when they defend us.  We want to participate in learning self-defense and protection.  We want them to be able to use our body and experience the endorphins and happiness that comes from physical activity too.

But enough of that for now.  I am tired.  My parts are tired.  Yesterday at therapy was intense.  And the self care we did after our morning session was even more tiring.  So a nap is in order for now.  Then following up on our new routine and some more self-care to get ready for work tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.