As a trauma survivor, I have spent the majority of my life in my head. My Body was not a safe place to reside. It held all the emotions and pain of my childhood. It held all the reminders of my past trauma. So I dissociated and stayed in my head. It was safe in my head. I could make up whatever I wanted in my head.
Honestly, it is the way many people live their lives. We live in a reality we have created in our heads because it is a safer than reality. But the body is always reminding us of the truth we are ignoring. We can’t ignore the body. While we can dissociate, we can’t stop the damage to the body. The pain and illness will be there until we make the journey to the truth.
It helps to know this as I interact with survivors all over the world. Some don’t like what I have to say. Some think I am too quick to embrace the anger, rage and grief from the past. Some think I encourage people to live in the past and to not “move on”, even to remain a victim. Some think it is possible to recover while staying in the head. But unfortunately, they are listening to their inner defenders. I have heard phrases like:
“I have decided to forgive my abusers, so I am done with my recovery.”
“I have decided to be happy, so I don’t feel sad anymore.”
“I have decided not to live in the past anymore, so I am starting over.”
Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with these decisions. But we must recognize something important. These decisions are something we make in our head. They are intentions. They are not an end point. They are the beginning. When we make a decision, we are saying we want to clear out all the opposition within us that holds us back. And I hate to tell you, we will have opposition within us. If we have been through significant trauma, we will have a ton of it.
I remember when I first started using intentions. Immediately following the intention setting, I would feel horrible. I learned my inner parts were letting me know they disagreed with me about my decision. In some cases, they considered my decision to be silly and naïve. To them, the intention was a joke. But they felt that way because I hadn’t developed a relationship with them yet. They felt that way because they had no idea what I was capable of accomplishing or how serious I was. Over time, they learned I was very serious.
As I began to work with my inner parts, I learned how they really felt. I explored all the experiences they had that were completely contradictory to my intentions and decisions I had made in my head. My inner parts were clear that things didn’t look good for my plans. I could tell I had a ton of work to do. But it all started with an intention, a decision I made in my head.
So the next time you make a decision, consider exploring how you feel about that decision. Step back from the logic and examine what the body has to say about it. The head is helpful, but what about letting the heart guide you? Try these steps to come back to your body and ground that decision.
- Start with a short meditation and set your intention.
- When you set your intention, focus on your body.
- Notice any body pain or tension that comes up.
- Breathe in to that body pain or tension.
- What emotions do you feel?
- Allow the emotions to express through words by writing from them.
- Ask who is talking. Which inner part is expressing?
- Repeat this process and continue to allow your inner parts to process the past.
The next time you make a decision in your head, take the time to consider what is happening in your body. What resistance are you feeling? What words are you hearing under all those thoughts in your head? Listen to your body and take your decisions to another level. Make them happen in reality. And not just in your head.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW
Backing Up the Head with the Heart was originally published @ Beating Trauma and has been syndicated with permission.
Photo by ohhhbetty