The most terrifying thing I have ever done, is not something that most people would think of as terrifying, it’s simply facing the parts of me that scare me, the bits of me that bring up fear, vulnerability, panic, terror in everyday life.
If I move away from my safe space, home, loved ones or my known comfort zone, fear sets in and my body reacts as if something terrible is going to happen.
We all have different levels of this, for some people just getting out of bed in the morning is a challenge, for others it’s trying something new, for me fear and anxiety can spring up when I step out of my comfort zone.
This comfort zone is a safe place that is familiar, known and visited regularly, so there are few surprises and even if there are some, we can cope easily with them. Stepping outside of this comfort zone, brings up overwhelming feelings that tighten my stomach, making me feel physically sick, it grips my chest making me feel like I can’t breath and the emotional build up inside brings floods of tears, often preventing me moving forward or taking another step in that direction.
This can happen in normal situations that others may find a breeze. When something unfamiliar appears, panic sets in, the feeling of overwhelm and inability to cope with the onslaught of strong physical emotions makes doing simple tasks very difficult.
The book “Overcoming Trauma through Yoga” by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper PhD explains why we may experience such reactions in our body.
“Trauma may result from overwhelming or violent physical experiences, or from difficult psychological and emotional experiences.”
“In trauma, the body’s alarm systems turn on and then never quite turns off. And we experience the intense suffering of never truly feeling relaxed, at ease in life, always on guard, with the primitive brain constantly scanning for threat or opportunity.”
“The most profound legacy of trauma may be this timeless feeling of being battered by unbearable physical sensations: crushing feelings in your chest, agonizing tension in your shoulders, and burning pain in your abdomen, accompanied by the conviction that you are utterly helpless to do anything about it.”
“The trauma is a thing of the past, but your body keeps reacting as if you are still in imminent danger…You know you should not feel this way, but your body keeps getting hijacked into feeling intolerable sensations and emotions. This makes you feel crazy: on some level you realize that the danger is over, but your insides, the sensations that churn around in your body, keep warning you of impending doom.”
The good news is that you can learn to make friends with your physical sensations, feelings and emotions, we can learn to feel safe within our body and to start to calm our mind with a mindful and gentle approach to yoga and meditation. We can learn to listen to our body and trust in ourselves, we can calm those difficult emotions by getting to know ourselves and understand our needs. If we approach ourselves with kindness then we can begin to move towards inner strength, resilience, wellbeing and peacefulness.