I’ve found an important part of cPTSD resolution is paying mindful attention to bodily sensations.
Many of us pay little attention to our own bodies. We are often out of touch with the present moment and how it feels to be alive right now. We lead such busy lives that it is difficult to remember to come back to ourselves.
If you have cPTSD then this tendency is exaggerated to an extreme. Rather than being centred in your own being you are “exploded outwards” and experience yourself as a reverberation to what is going on around you. This was necessary for survival in the past when you needed to be attuned to threat but now it causes you further suffering. You have a constant gnawing sense of fear and an incapacitating sense of shame. You are caught trying to run away from and ignore your own ever-present unpleasant feelings.
Taking time to tune into your bodily sensations helps to reverse this pattern of self-abandonment due to earlier traumas which is at the core of cPTSD. Any act of turning your attention towards yourself can help to alleviate your deep feelings of toxic shame. Furthermore your bodily sensations are an important source of information about your well-being and whether the people and situations in your life are good for you.
On a more spiritual level your body is a portal to your invisible and indestructible reality. When you inhabit the body and connect to the animating presence within you begin an inward journey towards realms not only of stillness and peace, but also of great power and vibrant life.* Your experiences of abuse have alienated you from this realm of well-being that is available within but by getting back in touch with your bodily sensations you can start moving towards being centred, peaceful and at the same time vibrant and alive.
I found it really helpful to practice a body scan. Here is a suggested scan adapted from the Arielle Schwartz, PhD, Complex cPTSD Workbook
- Find somewhere comfortable where you can sit in peace and won’t be disturbed for the next few minutes.
- Bring your attention to the breath and make space for anything you are feeling including areas of heaviness, tension and constriction.
- Bring attention to your feet legs and pelvis. Notice the sensation in your muscles and on your skin.
- Scan you awareness up through your torso giving attention to your abdomen and lower back, upper back and chest.
- Then similarly to your shoulders, arms and hands.
- Sweep attention up to your next, throat and face. Notice your eyes, mouth and tongue and the general sensations of your head.
- As you complete your body scan take a moment to notice your body as a whole.
When you complete the exercise you will feel much more centred and connected to yourself. Over time you become more aware of your patterns of tension and breath. As your awareness increases your body will naturally want to move towards states of greater relaxation.
* see Eckhart Tolle. The Power of Now on “Connecting with the Inner Body”.