By Jennifer Beauvais, LMHC, BP
Our emotional bodies are set up to naturally heal. If we can take the cues and work with the in-born processes of the body, we can transform and heal trauma and emotional pain. We can permit disorganized states to organize, shift reaction into diversified responses, and update our internal files so that we know we are no-longer living in a dangerous past.
What we often don’t realize is that our psyches are primed to do this. Healing is a function of natural systems. We see how life takes over after a forest fire, how a wound scabs and heals, how life continues to thrive in the deepest parts of the ocean, but we do not often add our emotional health to the list of things nature governs.
However, if we learn to move with the processes of nature, we heal. It could have to do with the fact that our emotions run on our biological circuitry, which is subject to the healing power of our bodies. Nature does not like to waste energy and will always be seeking out homeostasis. It takes extra energy for our bodies to be in a state of challenge (fight, flight, freeze, fawn, collapse).
If our bodies are in chronic dysregulation, we are using a lot of energy to get day-to-day. We will keep receiving clues that things are out of balance until we do what is needed to get out of the way of the healing process. Our entire being is built to return to harmony, stop wasting energy, and heal. Below are three ways nature has designed us to return to emotional health.
END POINTS: Our culture has, strangely, created unspoken rules that prevent us from following the natural healing process of our bodies, and therefore, our emotional states of being.( I will call this connection between body and mind the “body-mind.”)
For example, as Susan Aposhyan describes, our bodies will sequence energy as a means of bringing the psychobiological system back into harmony. This means that, as tributaries return water to the ocean, the body will often move energy (including the sensations of emotion) to leave via our endpoints.
Our six endpoints include our face/head, our hands, our pelvic floor, and our feet. When energy wants to leave, we will cry, scream, bite, shake our hands, feel sensation in our pelvic floor, or need to move our legs and feet, among other movements.
But what has our culture limited? Expression through our endpoints.
Don’t cry, don’t sing, don’t dance, don’t shake, don’t do anything that reveals what is happening under the surface. The energy stays in, buried, and records itself in the brain as unmovable and ever-continuing. The emotional pain persists, even unconsciously, and often as though we are the age, size, and same level of vulnerable as when the offending event occurred.
GET OUT THE MEGAPHONE: So the body-mind raises the bar. This kind of underlying dysregulation will not do! It’s energy expensive! Our body-mind will tell us something is unprocessed using disturbing emotion or body sensations. Like splinters, these incongruent energies – which are wanting to resolve – will continue ‘sticking out,’ creating inflammation, until we find the proverbial tweezers and pull them out.
However, again, our cultural understanding of emotion often gets in the way. Even in the privacy of our own company, we might feel ashamed of the emotions and related thoughts that arise. God forbid one cries or feels angry, even if we are not harming anybody. It’s almost as though we see having emotion as irresponsible, rather than learning to be responsible for the healing power of our emotions.
CYCLES MUST COMPLETE: Emotions occur in waves or cycles. They quicken, get big, then retreat. If we can somewhat safe through this wave of emotion, we tell our bodies we can handle the feelings. We feel more competent.
When our body-mind responses are thwarted, the cycle will continue to want to complete, sending us signals of our underlying distress, until we create the environment in which it can do so.
Take somebody who was held down as a child, even just to receive booster shots. The child’s body likely will have wanted to push the doctor away. Perhaps that impulse to protect themselves will remain ‘unfinished’ for years, resulting in fear of the doctor or a sense of helplessness, or any other myriad of emotional pains.
In a safe setting, such as with a trained trauma therapist, that child –who might even be an adult now—can be guided to allow the body-mind to recall the event and complete the cycle of pushing away. The body-mind may also finally be allowed to experience the impulse of helpless fear safely, telling the body that the scary event happened, they are intact, and they can now move on.
When we work with the nature of emotions we can heal. We were not meant to stay in pain, and our body-minds will rely on their own inherent healing power to set things right. We just need to recover our abilities to move with this natural force. When I work with clients, I use somatic and trauma-informed practices to guide them to recovering their own intuition and body literacy, and support them in learning to trust this inner wealth of wisdom. Many practitioners are out there who are helping folks recover this lost wisdom. And when we do the work, we become cultural activists who stand for the ways of the body, the earth, and nature.
Art Credit: Nunzio Paci