Throughout my life I have relied on a sense of being understood to feel safe.
It’s served me well – it’s given me a capacity for breaking down and understanding things and explaining them to others in ways they are likely to grok, even when I’m under immense stress or pressure. My body has learned that if I can manage to be understood, then I can be safe, and it has learned to communicate clearly, calmly, and rationally even under extreme dysregulation, when it’s important to me.
Despite my being in the field of trauma healing and mental health, I have never really taken care to learn nervous system regulation in my body. My work focuses on solving the patterns that are unconsciously generating the problems causing the dysregulation, and being able to notice which ones are actually problems that need solving and which ones are just triggers from the past (past triggers, being realized as such, generally are easy to handle once we remember we’re safe in the present).
I don’t knock teaching nervous system regulatory techniques, but my own awakening path has been to learn to listen to the messages of my dysregulated body and use that communication to make real, tangible adjustments in my life. For me, that’s safety. It has always felt counterproductive to my healing to essentially use regulatory exercises to tell my body to stop feeling what it’s feeling. If the feeling is justified, I would rather solve the problem – which is what my body is relying on me to do by communicating the feeling with me. If it’s not, if the problem isn’t actually real, then – for me, anyway – the feeling usually dissipates.
Some situations cause justified fear in the nervous system but are worth trying to solve from a cooperative place – for example, situations of unintentional harm between friends or loved ones, workplace reprimands based in healthy accountability, or navigating potential breakup conversations in relationships. In situations like these, I’ve taught myself to rely on my ability with words, to communicate in non-blaming, solution-oriented conflict resolution approaches even when my body feels like it’s a 4yo whose dad lost her at a carnival (). I figure a person who cares about me ought to be sympathetic to my dysregulation given the circumstances, and that as long as I remain fair toward them in my words and actions, then the state of my nervous system should be a non-issue. My nervous system actually functions as a means of letting both of us know that something is wrong – in a way, I rely on my body to communicate that the problem genuinely needs solving, that I’m not lying about it. When you’ve grown up being gaslit about your emotions, your dysregulated nervous system actually feels like a good buddy assuring you you’re not crazy.
I am being told loud and clear that I am in a place in my development where this will no longer fly.
“First the water, then the light.”
Water is the element of emotions and intuition. Light represents illumination or knowledge. First safety in my body, then mutual understanding.
This is a new challenge. Silencing my body feels like betraying her again. She spent a long time not talking to me, understandably, after I had spent a lifetime telling her to hush and be quiet.
But apparently I’m at a point where I have to lead with her. My nervous system is to set the tone for the interaction, to set the stage for the outcome, not my words.
Because my energy is felt before my words.
(EVEN OVER TEXT, APPARENTLY.)
So I’m finally going to have to become one of those people who does a morning body practice, tapping, or whatever, that I’ve always been way too autistic to get down with.
Also whew, it’s been a long time since I moved a piece this big, welcome back yall I missed you.