Trauma begets trauma and will continue to do so, eventually crossing generations in families, communities and countries until we take steps to contain its propagation. – Peter A. Levine from “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma”
I have to be so careful about getting on Facebook these days. I have to consistently, consciously choose from a grounded and embodied place whether I want to jump on that roller coaster of polarized, conflicting information that is mostly designed to divide us. And not just divide us from each other, but within ourselves.
Intensity, overload, and trauma are at an all-time high right now, between COVID and the horrifying, senseless killings of Black Americans. And while it’s critical to be tuned in to the plight of humanity and do our individual, personal work to unwind systemic racism, it’s important to do so from an embodied and grounded place. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get pushed and pulled this way and that and to let emotions run rampant with no effective way to process them. So much trauma is being activated right now, in EVERYONE. Not only current trauma, but trauma that is hundreds, even thousands of years old, passed down through generation after generation. And that trauma does not live in our minds, or even our emotions. It lives in our bodies.
I just finished reading My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. I resonated with this book right from the start because it addresses intergenerational trauma, something I’ve been working with and talking about (in the context of sexual wounding) for years. The author, Resmaa Menakem, has researched this quite thoroughly in his work as a trauma therapist as well as in the 111 footnotes provided in the book. I read every single one of those footnotes along the way, and took his free online course available on his website as well. I learned a great deal about racialized trauma, white fragility, and white-body supremacy that I was completely unaware of… and I have a lot more to learn.
The Insidious Facebook Feed
We can’t possibly make good choices unless we are grounded and settled in our bodies. Even for someone as grounded as me, it’s a challenge to stay in my center when I expose myself to my Facebook feed. There was a time when that feed was a source of inspiration and upliftment for me, but times have changed. So, I’ve taken to being very selective about when I visit that space, and for how long. I don’t keep a Facebook tab open on my browser anymore, and when I do log in, I click straight to my timeline rather than succumbing to the feed.
So, how do we stay embodied, grounded, and settled with the overload of trauma that gets activated in our bodies just from watching the news or YouTube videos or social media posts? What I notice in myself is that such a high degree of mental intensity and overload quickly accumulates as unspent emotional energy and elevated stress levels. This energy builds up in our bodies to the great detriment of our health. Over time, it leads to health issues, lowered immunity, depression, and loss of hope. I know how important it is to manage these overloads as they arise.
My dear friend and colleague, Dawn DelVecchio, talks about how the media uses emotionally-charged distractions (ECD) in order to aggressively push out the agendas of those who are grabbing for power, and to keep us fearful and divided. These agendas and the people behind them do not serve humanity, but look to control and manipulate people to their own greedy, selfish, and short-sighted ends. She says “At this time of great change, they are rolling out one ECD after another to create planetary destabilization.” I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of playing their game. It’s a real balancing act to stay connected to the plight of humanity and those who have been marginalized for way too long, without being overcome and taken in by the ECD. My personal answer to this is always to come back to my own healing in my own body, which is what led me to read My Grandmother’s Hands.
I would like to offer you some ways to get grounded, embodied, and settled in your body so that you can make decisions and choices about how to move forward in ways that serve your body, your life, your relationships with others, and the good of our human community.
1. Practice Daily Grounding
Being grounded means being fully present in your body and connected to the earth. If you already have a practice, great. Use it every morning before you start your day, and several times throughout the day when you feel off your center. If you don’t have one, or have one and don’t use it, a web search will turn up a wide range of options to choose from. Pick one that resonates for you and make it a habit. Your body will thank you.
2. Be Discerning with Social Media Consumption (and Ditch the News!)
With millions of people come a lot of different opinions, perspectives, and points of view. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of different, propaganda-based agendas are being pushed really hard right now on social media, and many of them are very convincing. But are they true? With the advent of cutting-edge AI technology called “deepfake,” anyone can create realistic-looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things they didn’t actually say or do. These people can be fabricated or they can be well-known people saying things they never said. How can we possibly know what’s real and what’s not unless we are deeply tuned in to our own core?
3. Find a Meaningful Focus
An unsettled body does not have much capacity for focus. There may be a constant desire for distraction, stimulation, or escape. Notice when this happens and take some time to come back into your body with a grounding or centering practice. From that place, consider what you would like to give your attention and focus to, something that matters to you. Come back to that grounding or centering practice each time you feel distracted… and you will, because there’s a TON of distractions in play right now, many of them conflicting with one another.
4. Move Your Body
Our bodies are designed and brilliantly engineered to move. Walk, run, ride a bike, dance, shake, or exercise. Preferably outside. Especially if you’ve been sitting at your computer. Breathe and shake it off. Animals do this when they are stressed or frightened. They shiver, shake, or run around in circles to discharge the energy of stress.
5. Find Safe Ways to Express Emotions
When you feel emotions, the impulse is often to stuff them away or shut them down. When you do that, they fester and boil and often come out sideways unexpectedly. It’s uncomfortable to feel what you feel sometimes, but it has tremendous value to your body, your life, and your relationships. Have some ideas ahead of time (like, right now) about how you can move emotional and trauma energy safely so that when you need them, you know what to do. Safely means safe for you, for other people, and for the world around you. I have used couches, overstuffed chairs, and cushions to move my anger. It’s also very helpful to make the sounds that go with the emotions. It’s amazing how much energy making sounds can move, and very quickly.
6. Get Out in Nature
There’s nothing like nature to soothe the body, mind, and soul. Even sitting on a stoop looking at a bush can make a difference when you really let it in. Get to a park if you can, or if you’re lucky and privileged enough to have nature out your door, step outside. When you are with nature, be fully present and really take it in… textures of tree trunks, leaf shapes, the way plants move in the breeze. Open your senses to the sounds, the sensations, and the colors and be present with all of it. Give yourself permission to receive the blessings and bounty of nature. Feel the wonder of her cycles of death and rebirth. Take it in and let it nourish you.
7. For Heaven’s Sake, BREATHE!
Your breath is the fastest way to come back to your body, back to presence with yourself and your current reality… this actual moment of now. When you focus on your breath, several things happen: thoughts fall away, emotions have permission to move, you come back to your body, and space opens up inside you and around you. Make those breaths deep and slow, and don’t stop until you get all the way “here and now.”
In closing, I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with outrage, protesting, marching in the streets, and calling for change. But ultimately, the change that most needs to happen is in our own bodies. When we can show up free of intergenerational trauma, we can truly be a contribution on this planet. For me, as a white woman, I know that the only way to do that is to take a deep dive into my personal work around racism, white-body supremacy, and white privilege. I am committed to that work, and to doing it from an embodied, grounded place.
Intergenerational sexual trauma is also present in every one of us. I offer safe, sacred, therapeutic sexual healing workshops for women where we work directly with your body and your energy to move that trauma out so you can have have truly connected, supportive relationships and live a passionate life of meaning and purpose. It’s really not necessary to relive events or talk about them, and you’ll be amazed at how much change, healing, and growth can happen in a short amount of time. Check out upcoming events here.
Love & blessings, Amrita