I’ve discussed various aspects of Polyvagal theory here
One of its core principles is the observation that your subconscious needs to feel safe, at a primeval level. Much “top down” or “talking therapy” fails because your primeval brain doesn’t listen to logic, it communicates in emotion. It needs to physically feel safe.
One of the crucial drills is the seated safety drill. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to have to assume you have practised this drill
You need to own this drill as its your safety refuge in the journey you need to take to begin to discharge some of the stress you have built up.
As a massage therapist and a trainer, my expertise is to make physical connections to support mental health. Whilst I did my counseling qualifications back in 2005 and my “motivational interviewing” when I was a GP referral trainer, and my stage hypnosis training in 2015, my approach is not to fumble around in your conscious, making you relive awful stuff. It’s to work on a very basic physical level, to make you feel safe.
Start by thinking of something that you think is stressful ( think of a 4/10). Now I want you to identify the physical sensations of your stress state. Below is a list compiled by Elizabeth Stanley.
If it helps when I feel stressed, I feel a pressure in my chest, and a pounding in my ears
|Faster breathing||Reduced visual field|
|Difficulty breathing||Hair standing on end|
|Tightness in chest or belly||Losing bladder /bowel control|
|Faster heart rate/pounding heart||Racing thoughts|
|Butterflies in stomach||rumination/looping thoughts|
|Dry mouth||Anxiety or panic|
|Clenched jaw||Impatience irritation or rage|
|Pale and cold skin|
The drill becomes this.
sit down, get safe, with your back against the wall, on a solid chair. Think of something stressful full and switch your attention between your physical contact points and one of your physical expressions of stress. Keep on doing this until you feel a sensation of discharge. A sensation of discharge could be any of the following.
|Slower deeper breathing||yawning|
|Slower heart rate||sighing|
|Relaxation in the chest of belly||Stomach gurgling|
|Waves of warmth||farting|
There is a little bit more to come but for now, recognise the physical expressions of stress activation, and “ground and release” them.
There is more to come. but for now, learn this.
NB, only practice with thoughts that generate a 4/10 stress response. Dont jump in to something super traumatic