Brace Yourselves

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I've been thinking about you, and about the many of you who have in come in seeking relief from those places where you hold all your tension.

I have those places too. Neck, shoulders, sometimes my stomach.

And so my question is, if we weren't holding it there, or anywhere, what might that feel like?

I'm guessing the first response would be, "Well, it'd feel great! Duh.."

But here's the thing. There's a reason why we do that. Why we tense up, clench up, brace parts of our body.

It feels safer. Yeah, I know. Weird. This has been referred to as 'body armoring', and without going into huge detail here, the term was coined by controversial psychotherapist, Wilhelm Reich, to describe conditions in the physical body where repressed childhood memories are chronically held.

Psychological trauma aside, I have also read that we tend to tense up as a means of creating a sense of stability in our bodies when faced with difficult situations. Like someone yelling at us. Or driving. Or dealing with any kind of stress, until this becomes an automatic and ingrained response and condition. It's as if in response to the external chaos we're facing, we create solidity in our bodies so as not to feel blown over or swept away.

While we can imagine experiencing tremendous relief in having those tension-holding muscles released, we may also feel strangely vulnerable and insecure. Especially if we were to be in those trigger situations again, without the response of bracing ourselves.

So, again, what might that feel like?

Maybe it's helpful to remember that our nervous systems and bodies are responding to every day situations as though they're more threatening than they are, because they remind that deeper part of our selves that feels like something life threatening. Being yelled at as a kid was scary. Seeing adults out of control was terrifying. Overstimulation and invisible monsters under the bed can still affect us as adults.

What might it be like to pay attention to the breath and the body and maintain a state of relaxation in the face of stress (provided it wasn't endangering), and fully felt the emotions that arose, no matter how uncomfortable?

Maybe it would help to remember that we're adults now. Maybe it would take some practice in bringing awareness to the situation and directing your focus in a different direction.

Like on your feet. Feeling yourself rooted in the earth. Gracefully poised and relaxed, but stable and secure.

Or on your core and center. Secure in the unshakable truth of who you Really are.

Both of these require some practice and mastery outside of stressful situations so that they can be called upon easily in times of need. And like with anything, awareness is the key. Notice when your shoulders tense up, your jaw clenches. Breathe into those places and let go.

So, now let me ask, where do you hold your peace?

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