Lately, I have been going to this therapist to work through some gnarly deep shadow/emotional stuff. Somatic therapy focuses on the body, and the relationship between body and emotion.
So, we've all heard of "fight or flight" response, activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the part that gets us ready for extreme action. What's new to me from this therapy is the "freeze" response, which is equally powerful as fight or flight. It's really that "fight, flee, freeze" are the big three fear options. What's different about "freeze": it's a powerful activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Normally we think of this as the "good" part, that is relaxing, calming, lowers blood pressure, and so on. But really, the parasympathetic nervous system can be just as damaging and out of whack when it is stimulated by triggers as the sympathetic nervous system.
A strong trigger on the parasympathetic nervous system results in a state that ALL mammals and lizards share that is essentially a "play dead" response. In fact, this response can be so strong that it can stop the heart. A strong parasympathetic trigger can generate dissociation, and even mystical experiences. Even a slight dissociation from a situation, like a tendency to withdraw, numb out, or check out is a parasympathetic trigger.
So here's what I discovered about myself: I have many "micro-freezes" during the day. What happens is my breath become slower or restricted, I want to avoid or dissociate, I notice that I'm not moving my body -- in fact I'm holding my body still. This could be in response to very ordinary stimulus: my wife asks me a question, I get an email that needs a complex response, or really almost any demand on my attention, then I micro-freeze.
This parasympathetic trigger happens big-time when I'm faced with a difficult emotional situation or hard conversation.
The opposite of freezing is motion. This is what my therapist told me to do: breath deeply, look around to orient on the real environment, let my body move the way that it wants to, let sensations in my body move around, and move with the sensations.
So yesterday I had this long, complex, high-stakes meeting with a potential consulting client. In the meeting, I kept letting myself move, kept breathing and shifting in my seat, even standing up, rather than freezing. This is very different from what I've done in the past in these situations.
I was a bit self-conscious. Am I fidgeting too much? I just included that concern in my overall total "manning" of the situation. I definitely moved more than usual, but it was OK. Sometimes I moved "invisibly", like moving my hands under the table or clenching and releasing my butt muscles. All of it helped.
This is the point of this post: try moving instead of not moving. Breathe instead of holding your breath. Let energy move your body, and let energy and sensation move IN your body. Believe me, this is FAR more healthy and natural than what we've been taught over and over to "hold still". I'm even moving around a lot writing this post. Notice where you are freezing or micro-freezing and do something different!
The result of the meeting: I was far more present, I contributed a huge amount -- positioning the whole project, offering my creative ideas, getting along really well with everyone in the meeting -- I was so HAPPY through the whole thing just giving myself permission to move and breathe. And the result: the principal in the meeting gave me a big consulting contract. Yeah!