TRTC Series: Returning Home

“You go as deep as your grief is. You gotta go deep into the brain. Deep into the body.” – Wim Hof

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You Sons O’ Bitches did it. You put up with six weeks of my bullshit. Even if this is only your first week, thank you for taking the time to check-in with this series. This is all you get for now fuckers, no more kudos until the end.

When was the last time you did a body scan––have you ever done a body scan? If you’ve never done a body scan, take a moment to do it now and check in with yourself. Chances are that one of the following is taking place:

  • Your forehead is tense
  • Your eyebrows are furrowed (furrowed might be my new favorite word)
  • You’re clenching your jaw (give that little guy a wiggle)
  • Your throat is constricted
  • Your shoulders are raised
  • You’re hunched over
  • There’s tightness in your chest
  • Your breathing is shallow
  • There’s tension in your hands or feet
  • You feel some form of sensation/emotions as you turn your attention inward
  • Right now, there is tension somewhere in your body. Go and find it.

Here’s a rough draft version of a body scan. I’m going out on a limb and saying that you probably had at least one of these taking place, if not multiple; if you didn’t, holla at ya boy, because I need to know the secret.

I’m choosing to end the series here because this is where I’m at today on my path. Being able to dissect and look at our thoughts is essential––up to a certain point, and this is saying a lot coming from me. There’s no need to be in our heads 24/7, a realization I’m working on now and will do a separate blog on this idea of “turtles all the way down” in the upcoming weeks. At the end of the day, if I can manage to get out of my head and into my body, it usually tells me everything I need to know, and it doesn’t need to go further than that.

Continue with the pursuit of self, and you’re almost guaranteed to experience an entirely new relationship with your body––if you haven’t already. The idea behind this is that, for so long, we have been out of touch with our bodies and as we become more aware, we begin to notice everything that we’ve been internally ignoring.

That bullet list from before is the micro bullshit that we deal with on a daily basis, and the sad part is, unless we’re a little more tuned in with our bodies, we don’t even realize. We’ve gotten so used to being out of synch with our bodies that this becomes the new norm. But this isn’t normal. This is what an accumulation of stress, poor postural mechanics, injury, and trauma (physical, emotional, or childhood) looks like manifested in our bodies, and you can bet your sweet ass that years of this begins to take its toll.

How we externally interact with the world is most likely a direct correlation to our internal landscape.

This is only half the battle though.

As you continue to read this, watching me ramble, the more you’re going to start to learn how trauma manifests itself in the body and why I believe that this is the meat & potatoes of this series. The goal for today is to do the unthinkable. We have to…dare I say it, befriend our own body. We have to return home.

BREAKING NEWS!

You would have just thought that I said some real next level shit right there, but the real next level shit is dealing with the old trauma that has been buried. Another un-fucking comfortable blog, I know, but it doesn’t have to be. I want to walk you through my understanding of this subject, and hopefully help steer you away from the mistakes that I’ve made.

So, this is it, six weeks ends now. Let’s do it.

“We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk The Body Keeps The Score

Less Distractions, More Awareness

Yo dogs, first things first; we need to realize that our relationship with our internal landscape is most likely a mere fraction of the potential that it could be––which is a pretty fucking big deal so don’t roll your eyes at me. I feel it.

What this looks like; it becomes harder for us to tell whether or not we’re internally out-of-wack and harder for us to accurately gauge our emotions knowing what’s happening (anxiety, depression, anger, grief, shame) and why it is happening.

(This makes me think about how somebody will ask me for a deep tissue massage, then I do a deep tissue, but their body begins to tense up, so I back up. Then they become grumpy and tell me I can go deeper, as their body is still tensing up. Yeah, this is an excellent example of somebody who’s not on the same page as their body.)

Some of us may not give two shits about any of this, which is fine. But a better relationship with our body will only make this life easier to navigate. And if I’m being honest, it just fucking feels good man. To be in tune with your body is the tits. The bee knees, the great Gambino, the gabagool, the cat’s meow––you get it.

You had me at “tits” Justin. Awesome.

You’re probably wondering where to start because you’ve officially declared that from this day forward, there is no more “fucking around.” God damn do I dig you you beautiful son of a bitch.

Well if you read “Everything We Are Not” and already started to work on challenging different aspects of yourself, then that’s a huge step in the right direction. We should be actively working on trying to remove any unnecessary distractions in our life. How could we ever know what’s up with our internal if our external is full of chaos?

Removing distractions from our life also doesn’t mean, meditate in a cave for five years. Fuck that. Even I’m not down for that. If we don’t fuck off from time to time to help us get away from life’s madness, we’d go insane.

Our goal is to make sure that these distractions are not being used as a means to run away from responsibility or to numb ourselves against these uncomfortable feelings that only begin to surface the moment we start to quiet down.

In a way, until we are better able to navigate through our internal landscape confidently, our life will continue to remain as this series of unconscious perpetual momentum. This is our bodies way of trying to protect us, but sooner or later we need to step up to the plate and regain control. Stillness is what we want. In this stillness we find our truth and to get there we need to ditch the distractions.

“…He often said that people can never get better without knowing what they know and feeling what they feel.””  – Bessel Van Der Kolk The Body Keeps The Score

Understanding Trauma

“For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk The Body Keeps The Score

Guys…I’m finally qualified to talk about something––sort of.

I want to talk about an experience that I had during a meditation session a few years back. It’s a prime example of what happens once we finally eliminate our distractions.

It wasn’t until about two years after I first began meditation that I decided to take it more seriously, as I was getting little glimpses into its possibilities through my half-ass attempts. Those little tastes made me go all in one summer and what I got in return would have gone a lot smoother had I been a little more prepared for it.

That summer I hit meditation hard. For about four months, I didn’t miss a single day of meditation, but I usually put in a two-a-day. During one night of my meditation, when I was finally able to quiet down, a memory from childhood that I had long forgotten, came rushing to the surface and with it came a wave of fear. Instantly I was jolted back into reality, eyes wired open as I began to tremble. For so long I had forgotten that this even took place, but the second I became aware of it, there was no turning back. The deed was done.

Reading that, you’re probably wondering why in the world we would even want to find ourselves in this situation. Listen pal, at the time, actively seeking out trauma was not my intention, but merely a byproduct.

We can choose to open the locked doors of the mind if we want. I believe that in the long run, it will give us an overall better understanding of ourselves and insight into why we behave the way that we do. With that being said, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary if you don’t want it to be.

Coming across that memory was like getting punched in the face for $500. Suffer first, reap the reward later? (I don’t know, I went for it. I’m tired.)

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Repressed traumas like that are the very core of what continues to keep these distractions in place. Until they’re brought to light, they only make sure that we keep taking pills, drinking alcohol, consume caffeine, do drugs, working out seven days a week, work absurd hours, and numb ourselves with TV, video-games, or food, all in attempt to never let these walled off areas, surface again.

Think about how much energy this requires to hide ourselves, from our self. How long can we keep this going before we finally break?

I’ll end this section with this: Something that we need to understand about trauma is that it was in the past and I’ll say it again for the people in the back going “no shit.” The trauma was in the past. The emotions that you are feeling are what you suppressed at the time of whatever happened. But down the road, this begins to take shape in the form of subconscious holding patterns, behavior patterns, and cognitive issues that literally fuck our world up.

I know these feelings can be intense, but if you find yourself here, take it slow. If it’s too much, come back to it another day. That’s all you can ask of yourself. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than just “emotions of the past.” It is a long, slow, grueling process and if you’ve kept up with this series, you have already had a small taste of that.

“Maintaining a witness means remembering at all times that you are not your emotions, and that you are not your story. The feelings that you are feeling, are old. They may be evoked by your current love affair, but their origin is much further in the past. Simply being born can feel like an abandonment. Before we leave the womb, we are floating in perfect unity, without any sense of separation. Imagine what it must be like to move from womb into this world, being dragged out, turned upside down under bright neon lights. Imagine how painful that first breath of air can feel. When we were little, we could not cope with these intense feelings, so we suppressed them, put them away for later. Now is later. Whatever feelings your relationship is evoking, they are yours to feel, all the way through. Most likely, your relationship/s it just a messenger for feelings that are much older than this moment.” -Shakti

Understanding Holding Patterns

What are these fucking holding patterns he won’t shut up about? And how did I find myself reading another one of his god damn blogs when I promised I would never be back here?

Sucker.

Ok, trauma leads to mental tension which in turn leads to physical tension. Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong and the more we ignore this pain, the more it gives up on trying to let us know. It literally gets sick of our bullshit, so it stops trying altogether.

Yes, most of this pain can be treated through a form of bodywork, corrective exercise, or stretching, but if I work on a client and they keep coming back for consistent pain, chances are there’s something deeper going on that hasn’t been looked at.

This is where holding patterns come into play baby. Maybe it manifests itself as raised shoulders, lack of range of motion, a clenched jaw, shortness of breath, a specific spot of pain that won’t go away, or cognitive issues. On the surface they appear to be different, but underneath know that the mechanism is the same.

Physical – In my case, I have a really hard time letting my left arm completely relax, and it’s because I hyper-extended it and broke it years back (physical trauma). The surrounding areas instantly did their job, trying to protect the site of injury, but over time, this now has become a severe hindrance (holding pattern) in my life as it causes other areas in my body to not work in unison. I want to let my arm relax, but I don’t know how because the body won’t let go and because of this, the connecting muscles aren’t working at 100%.

At this point, it’s going to take some form of bodywork, corrective exercise, or deep relaxation/meditation paired with stretching to get this to release.

Emotional – Now let’s look at how an emotional trauma from childhood, can still be calling the shots years later. This type of scenario isn’t only limited to childhood though. This can run the same course from any traumatic event in our lives.

Maybe as a child, we were screamed at by an adult, and we couldn’t get away. The emotions that we felt at the time most likely were too intense for us to deal with, so we disassociated from ourselves. Again, another defense mechanism that our body/mind does automatically to help protect us. These emotions had to go somewhere, right? Well, they did go somewhere. They were stored in our bodies, in the fascia (a sticky, connective tissue made of collagen that wraps our muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and internal organs) specifically.

Over time, these restrictions can cause severe pain, or turn into these holding patterns and should we ever get them to release, with that can come a rush of emotions or sensations that were suppressed at the time of the event––as you read about in my meditation session.

I got to the point of deep relaxation where I was no longer trying to hold back whatever was repressed and with that came a spontaneous release. Will a memory always resurface? No. But don’t be surprised if one does.

Mental – Getting yelled at most likely isn’t enough to leave us with some serious issues. Not to say it can’t, but let’s look at how something a little more intense––rape, physical abuse, watching a parent get physically abused, experiencing a death in the family at a young age, a severe accident––can affect us on a mental level.

Tragic events like these, can’t be processed correctly as a child. Fuck, even an adult can’t handle these events successfully. Think about how shaken up something like that leaves an adult, and now think about what it can potentially do to the way a child’s thought process develops. It’s common to come across major cognitive issues, to mood disorders, or behavioral issues.

Again, just like I talked about in the emotional section. Think about how hard the brain works to keep memories like these suppressed. The brain does everything in its power to avoid reality. It works day in and day out to find some form of escape that cognitive issues down the road only makes sense. This isn’t a speculative theory, but reality.

“Our bodies are the texts that carry the memories and therefore remembering is no less than reincarnation.” – Katie Cannon

The Fix

“The challenge of recovery is to reestablish ownership of your body and your mind — of your self. This means feeling free to know what you know and to feel what you feel without becoming overwhelmed, enraged, ashamed, or collapsed. For most people this involves (1) finding a way to become calm and focused, (2) learning to maintain that calm in response to images, thoughts, sounds, or physical sensations that remind you of the past, (3) finding a way to be fully alive in the present and engaged with the people around you, (4) not having to keep secrets from yourself, including secrets about the ways that you have managed to survive.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk The Body Keeps The Score

I don’t have the fix… sorry. Or at least I don’t know what fix will work for you. Then maybe that fix will work for you, and then it won’t. And then maybe years later you realize that this is what you needed all along. I DON’T MAN, I’M JUST SPIT BALLING IDEAS HERE.

Regardless, I’m going to leave what worked for me, and one of them better work for you, because this is all I got. Besides these, there’s nothing else you can do. You’re fucked.

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. But really, I think that these are the most bang for your buck, minus therapy. (Never done therapy so I don’t feel comfortable enough to write on it.) I also don’t think anyone of them is going to be your saving grace, but a combination of everything, as it should be.

Bodywork – By now, everyone should be getting monthly massages merely for their slew of health benefits.

The two excuses that I get the most when people tell me why they don’t get massages is because of time, and because of money. If you tell me you don’t have one hour out of an entire month to go and get a massage, then that’s just poor time management on your part. I don’t buy this one anymore. As for money, if all your money is going towards bills, then fine, you get a pass. But, if you’re going out drinking five nights a week or buying things you don’t need, no pass for you.

Don’t do this for you, but do this for your body. Our bodies need it. And when it comes to these holding patterns, this is going to be one of the best ways to work past them.

A massage may not always work though. Sometimes it might require a different form of bodywork such as Myofascial Release (MFR), Rolfing, or Active Release Technique (ART), among many others. One way to look at this; what tool works best for the job? Massage can help, but it won’t work on the fascial system the same way these other forms of bodywork will.

Or maybe the reason why you’re always experiencing lower back issues is due to a tight psoas and a weak core. Then you head down into the world of corrective exercise which is another excellent alternative. Figure out what the goal is that you’re looking to achieve and then find out what tool works best for the job.

Stretching/Breath Work – Just like these different forms of bodywork, stretching/yoga is going to be a great way to release these restrictions without having to dig up some of these old traumas. And when I say stretching, I mean really fucking stretching. None of this right over left leg touch the floor for ten seconds nonsense. Find a point of restriction and hangout there for at least two minutes but shoot for five––caveat to this is, as long as you’re not in pain while you’re holding the stretch.

When you find that point of resistance, focus on breathing into that area. On the exhale, whatever immediate tension or discomfort you feel, let that shit release with the exhale; however you have to do it. I imagine butter melting when I think of the restriction and exhaling. I don’t know where this came from and yes, I’m aware that it’s weird. I’m weird. Don’t judge me fuckers.

(Side note; if you’ve never done any sort-of breath work before, this idea of breathing anywhere into the body may sound like a foreign concept. Just know it’s not, and will require some patience and practice.)

Lastly, because you’re not actively trying to seek out some old baggage, it doesn’t mean it won’t come looking for you. As you hold a pose or a stretch, you might experience a wave of emotions (fear, joy, sorrow, or anger). Whatever your experience it is essential that you don’t back away. Find the courage to feel it all the way through. If you don’t, it only continues to stay in the body causing issues.

Meditation/Investigation – If you like to put yourself through hell as I do, then we move on to our last means of dealing with holding patterns.

For some time now, I’ve always noticed that whenever I get excited, nervous, angry, or anxious, there is a spot in my chest where I feel like all these emotions get stuck. This is my number one spot of restriction.

Before and after I had that memory pop up during my meditation session, I would always bring awareness to this spot during my meditation sessions, and this is what I’m asking you to do.

Can you locate where exactly in your body you feel your anxiety? Do you notice that you start to get angry when you bring your attention to your chest? Can you feel fear in your throat? Do you feel a heaviness in your gut? Inspector Gadget the fuck out of these areas until these feelings disappear.

Next time you find yourself with some downtime, start working on checking in with the body. You can do a full body scan or if you already know a spot of pain/restriction that gives you trouble (jaw, throat, shoulders, chest, low back) work on bringing your awareness to that area. Bring a sense of curiosity to that area, sit with it, and wait and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be more significant than that.

Content with The Body

I know it may seem like this blog had the word trauma thrown everywhere––which it does. Trauma is the driving force for most of our actions, but this blog was ultimately about being comfortable in our own skin. This is returning home.

Coming home and not feeling like you need to get away. I think if we can get here, we’re doing better than we realize.

“If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations — if you can trust them to give you accurate information — you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self.

However, traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.

The more people try to push away and ignore internal warning signs, the more likely they are to take over and leave them bewildered, confused, and ashamed. People who cannot comfortably notice what is going on inside become vulnerable to respond to any sensory shift either by shutting down or by going into a panic — they develop a fear of fear itself.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk The Body Keeps The Score

You Did It

You. Fucking. Did. It. Six weeks, done. Thank you.

This idea was something that I had been brewing since the summer but didn’t bother to put it into action until now and I’m glad I went for it. This series was challenging for me, but a blast to work on day in and day out.

Life can be fucking hard man. But there is a way out. That way doesn’t come without putting in hard work though. We wan’t the quick fix for everything in life, but this isn’t how life works, and the sooner we can accept this idea, fuck that, accept this reality that growth is hidden in discomfort, the sooner our lives can begin to change.

You know what? I was going to keep this going and have this big dramatic ending to this that only seemed right, but I think I’ve said all that I need to say in these past six weeks.

We need to step up to the god damn fucking plate and deal with our bullshit, so the rest of the world doesn’t have to. This is true change. This is where we can begin to make a difference.

Peace out fuckers and thank you for reading!

 

Edited by: Patricia Hendriks

 

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