You can't use better tools unless you have them
We can't use better tools unless we have them. Unless we know they exist. Unless we know that they are accessible to us and we are capable of using them.
When we're under stress, our reflexes work quickly. They fire off whatever response is most accessible, most familiar, most reliable.
In therapy, especially trauma therapy, we are often exploring which tools/reflexes we've been employing, and how they've both benefited and limited ourselves and the people around us.
Trauma limits our creativity, our courage, our curiosity, especially when it comes to what we as individuals are capable of doing, being, or having. We then limit ourselves.
Although I've suffered no garden-related traumatic stress, my experience gardening this summer is a good analogy.
I've always enjoyed growing things but this summer is the first time I've truly maintained a garden. I have flowers, herbs, veggies, and shrubs. Working from home has allowed me to spend a lot of time cultivating my garden as I'm here so often. I can run outside between sessions to simply enjoy the garden or dabble in weeding.
Gardening, as many of you probably know, has a learning curve. It's not as simple as putting things into the ground and harvesting perfect produce a few months later. There are steps and rules and materials and tools that have to be considered. You also have to do other things outside like mowing, weed-whacking, and raking when you have a home. I'm exhausted just thinking about it!
Quickly, I found myself struggling to keep up with the lawn and the garden.
One problem I kept running into was that I didn't have all of the materials I needed. For one, I don't really have gardening clothes. And not that there's a specific outfit that must be worn for gardening (because, capitalism) but, the point is most of the clothes I'm willing to get dirty are my fitness clothes: black, hot, capri leggings, and tank tops.
And so, all summer, without more appropriate clothing, I've had more sunburns than this melanin has ever seen, and my shins have been covered in bug bites and scars.
I also haven't always had the right tools. Earlier in the spring, I was using a snow shovel to move dirt. I didn't even realize how ineffective this was until my more-seasoned gardening friends promptly pointed this out as nonsensical and let me borrow their proper shovel.
It took weeks of me doing things the hard way and scratching myself up before I was motivated to make modifications. And, truth be told, it took my mom bringing the right tools up and pointing out how much more smoothly things go when the tools match the problem.
I'm still working on gathering all I will need in the long run, and I've realized weed-whacking, in particular, requires a certain level of skill, but I'm also quickly learning that when things feel really difficult or uncomfortable there's likely something I can use or adjust to reduce my discomfort or make things easier. I don't always know what it is at first, but I can take the time to explore solutions.
And, perhaps most importantly, when I can't figure it out on my own I can ask for help. There are people who are interested in helping me.
Imagine applying this perspective to your somatic-emotional experience:
What are the circumstances under which you power through or assume there is no better solution?
What are your beliefs about yourself when it comes to doing or coping with hard or new things? Do you tend to assume if you can't do it that it's just not possible?
When you're experiencing new or difficult things do you feel: thoughtful? curious? hesitant? confident? insecure?
How do you feel in your body when you're struggling? What happens when you perceive something will be or is challenging?
When you're lost or confused, how likely are you to admit you are struggling or reach out for help?
In a way, healing asks us to believe before we know to be true. We have to believe that we can grow our capacity to cope and change. This requires courage and a willingness to take risks.
Perhaps a fruitful practice is exploring these themes in areas of your life that feel less charged. Task-oriented things like gardening, organizing, or building can be safe ways to explore our capacity for being challenged.
Once you have the felt experience it might feel easier to explore this in the concept of anxiety, triggers, or other somatic-emotional symptoms. I then often encourage clients to write down, or document in some way, these tools so that they are easier to locate in times of need. With practice and repetition, they will feel more and more familiar.
Remember: as much as self-sufficiency is an important piece of self-care, we all also need support. Not sure what to do about your feelings of anxiety, panic, or triggers? Sign up for my Find Your Roots coaching group starting in September!
Find Your Roots
Wednesday September 8, 15, 22, & 29
E-mail me to get started: Raina@RootToRiseSomatics.com