When you’re depressed, paralyzed, shut down, or dissociated — knowing what is happening can support healing and a compassionate look at the body and how it’s trying to protect us and adapt. This episode is a practical and scientifically-based discussion about understanding the basics of the nervous system in overwhelm or trauma. By noticing the signs, you can support your body in feeling more safety, resilience, and capacity with very basic tools.
We are so used to going in the hard stuff of our lives and overriding and pushing beyond what our bodies need. This can create an auto override and autopilot — are we really here in our hearts and bodies?
In this episode, I share many signs of nervous system overwhelm, 12 things to do to support and heal trauma, a bit of Polyvagal Theory and Somatic Experiencing, and the way our nervous systems can be affected in relationships. The more I have understood the nervous system, the more compassion I have been able to feel for others and humanity.
How can we understand our nervous systems through animal behavior? Find out in this episode. I also bring forward questions I like to ask myself: How much of me is here? Where is my awareness/what is the quality of it? How am I in my body?
Next week, I will share three experientials that are connected to this episode.
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This episode is about what to do when you’re depressed, shut down, dissociated and numb, and why this is happening. It’s a compassionate look at the body and how it’s trying to protect us, and adapt. So, in this episode, we explore noticing signs of nervous system overwhelm, the polyvagal theory, how to heal trauma, and 12 ways that you can support yourself when you’re feeling nervous system overwhelm or dissociation, and how this can all bring more understanding and humanity to our interactions, in relationships of all kinds.
Candice Wu 0:41
Hello, and welcome. You’re listening to the Embody Podcast, a show about remembering and embodying your true nature, inner wisdom, embodied healing, and self-love. My name is Candice Wu, and I’m a holistic healing facilitator, intuitive coach, and artist, sharing my personal journey of vulnerability, offering meditations and guided healing support, and having co-creative conversations with healers and wellness practitioners from all over the world.
Candice Wu 1:12
I want to make a quick announcement that also is in support of the podcast, that I’ve recently been supporting people by holding one-on-one emergence with them. This is completely collaborative and designed specifically by you or you can hand over the details to me to handle but it is a wonderful opportunity to get one-on-one time with me in an immersive setting where we can work exactly with what you are wanting, desiring, challenge within your life, from all these different ways of embodied healing — family constellations, Somatic Experiencing, spiritual practices, voice dialogue as well as be in a space that you and I select together that can hold your experience. This can be with or without a horse, where we have experiences to be with a horse and journey into connection and wisdom that the horse can bring. The horses are extremely intuitive and can sense what you’re feeling and what you’re not feeling, and mirror that to you as a way to bring you more information on the next path of your life.
Candice Wu 2:38
I love doing this work with people because it gives me the chance to hold that space in a longer period of time, that we can really go deep and get to the root of things as well as support you in feeling the peace and pleasure that you want to feel. You can find more about that at CandiceWu.com and also by reaching out to me via email or through the website at [email protected]. This offering, as well as other offerings that I have, are all in support of the podcast. Some of the proceeds go towards producing this podcast and bringing new guests on, and I’ve been talking about this for a couple of weeks now but there is a database of all healing experientials and meditations that are on the podcast by me as well as guests, and you can search on that for things that you’re looking for. The page is at CandiceWu.com/meditations.
Candice Wu 3:36
The podcast also has its own search at CandiceWu.com/podcast. On top of that, each of the podcasts are being transcribed, the experiential and meditations are, too. So, in case you prefer to digest the material through the written word and your visual acuity, then you can go on to each podcast link and right below where it says that you can click to listen, there’s a transcription. The experiential meditations are being completed in a backward order. So, starting from the newest and most recent working its way backward, and we’ve got about three-quarters of them done, which is really exciting. Now, let’s jump into this episode.
Candice Wu 4:23
So, a while back, I talked about anger, and anger is part of our experience of a fight response in the nervous system. And what that conversation brought for many people was this understanding of why anger is important, and what it can bring us and how it can support us in our lives, and bringing this compassion to this emotion that’s been villainized anger. There are so many places where we think, “Oh, we shouldn’t be angry.” And we get mad at ourselves being angry, and yet anger is this before vital life force energy that protects us and keeps us alive. We have this instinctual body that first and foremost wants us to survive. So, that’s where it comes from but it can also inform our understanding of what we want, need and are doing in the world besides the survival mode part.
Candice Wu 5:23
So, that episode is that CandiceWu.com/anger, and it comes with three experientials around working with anger and engaging with it in a different way, relating with it, as well as healing, using anger. And that connects to this episode because, in this episode, we’re talking about Nervous System Overwhelm. The nervous system has several states of being, and three of the primary ones are fight, which we just talked about, flight and freeze, and some people add a fourth one, which is appease, which I think, in my opinion, connects with freeze. It’s an active freeze that submits to something when it feels safer to do so.
Candice Wu 6:17
So, today, we’re talking about the freeze response of the nervous system, and to be more exact, polyvagal theory, which explains what’s happening to the nervous system when we have this phrase or shut down response, and I’ll talk all about the signs of this and noticing if you’re experiencing this. The freeze response is called tonic immobility because it comes from how our animal body will protect itself if we get to that state of overwhelm, of feeling threatened, of a lack of safety. You might be already wondering, “Well, I don’t really have real threats going on, and how come I’m feeling x y&z? How come I’m feeling dissociated or numb or all of these symptoms?” And we’ll go through those.
Candice Wu 7:14
It doesn’t take much for our nervous system to get activated, and if we are getting activated, it is a sign perhaps that you have some previous trauma that wants to be worked through and renegotiated. Of course, a present a situation can bring us to tonic immobility or freeze state, if we need it, and so it’s really important to understand that when our nervous system believes that we’re that unsafe, then it’s going to turn on this function of numbing, of separating, and dissociating from this experience, to preserve yourself, to preserve your body, and your being.
Candice Wu 8:03
So, let’s back it all up here. One morning, recently, I woke up with dizziness, and it was so interesting, I haven’t had this experience in a long time, and there was a particular reason that I was experiencing it, and I was aware of that. I was in a group setting where we were specifically working with Nervous System Overwhelm, and I hadn’t quite navigated what my role was yet. And in a situation where there’s a bit of uncertainty, and the group’s feeling overwhelmed, I can have a tendency to take on that energy of overwhelm. I’m very emotionally empathic and responsive to those energies, but I specifically have a weaker boundary around that because when I was in my young life, my family was extremely overwhelmed and shut down, and those emotions that they’re not digesting, went somewhere, and they flooded my system. So, I get triggered and overwhelmed in this experience in the present day.
Candice Wu 9:14
So, I woke up the next morning, with that dizziness, as I will go to the bathroom, and like slammed my arm against the door in passing or I would feel like woozy and just unable to see straight. So, I sat down with myself, and luckily, I was aware that this was likely related to my nervous system feeling activated rather than in the past, I would have wondered what was wrong with me, I would have wondered if I needed to go to a doctor or I would get scared, and that probably would add to it, and maybe that would be true that I would need to go to a doctor at some point, but all these tools in my tool belt, all these wonderful tools from Somatic Experiencing as well as family constellations, but primarily from Somatic Experiencing, that can be used before you need to take the next step, and especially I knew I was pretty healthy.
Candice Wu 10:23
I wonder, “Well, did I eat something that was a little off,” but I wanted to just try a couple of things to see what would happen, and I sat down with myself and first just felt what I felt and noticed the dizziness, and asked my body, like, “What do you want to do now? What is the organic movement or impulse that wants to come through?” And nothing really showed up except for just like kind of wanting to curl up, which is one of the signs of nervous system overwhelm, but I knew that if I helped my body find safety, then this would probably pass, and I could deal with the emotions that would come. So, I chose to use one of the tools, which I’ll explain further in this episode of running around my space or jogging in place is what you can do, too, but running around my space, and then doing it in super slow motion so my body could integrate it, and register that I took action and used the energy of a flight response, running, flight and imagined myself run to a safe person and a place.
Candice Wu 11:56
And so, I just did it for as long as I felt like I needed an imagined myself going there, and when I arrived, I let my body rest there and receive the experience of safety that this safe place and that person would bring me in my imagination, and allowed my body to feel it. Remember that the body doesn’t truly know if it happened or not, and if it gets to go through the motions with awareness and witness, then it feels that it has happened. So, my body got to experience that it got to safety and got to receive the love and support that I really needed, and then I had some tears, and I felt my body come down. I felt my breath deepen naturally, so without having to force it. I felt my vision get clear. I felt that presence, in my imagination, of course, of the safe person that could give me the love and the support that I needed, that I sensed I needed, that I could touch into the emotions that it was revealing in me and those could move.
Candice Wu 13:19
And so, here I’m not numb anymore, I’m not dizzy anymore, the emotions can come down. The energy that went up, that was too overwhelming to digest, going downward and out word had a way to move now. And after that, I felt great. I actually felt way better than the day before, and all that moved, I wasn’t dizzy anymore, and I was ready to go with the day.
Candice Wu 13:47
So, for me, that’s years and years of practice, and working with different practitioners, healers, and therapists to develop that tool and myself but I want to share some of those tools in this episode today. Many of them coming from Peter Levine’s study and practice of Somatic Experiencing, all of which derive from how animals in the wild release trauma are they complete, the movement that needs to be completed and the energy that comes through the instinctual body. They don’t typically experience trauma, in the same way, that we do, at least. Of course, there are discussions of different kinds of animals, and also ones that are more domesticated that are experiencing trauma, but typically the ones in the wild that make it, they have this natural way of completing what needs to happen, and then they’re feeling safe and in the world again, with all their possibilities of experiencing.
Candice Wu 15:01
So, what I’d like to do now is invite you to come into this question: How much of me is here right now? So, as you’re listening to me, as you’re here with yourself, wherever you are, where if you’re in passing in transit or you’re sitting down or you’re doing errands, just how much of you is here with yourself, here in the world and present? Notice how much of you is not here, and this is not to be judgmental or critical or as a test. It’s just gauge and sense to be aware of where you’re up, you’re at. You might sense that 50% of you is here, and some amount of you is left behind in an experience that was upsetting or at work. How much of you is here? Where is your awareness and what is the quality of your awareness? How are you feeling in your body right now?
Candice Wu 16:26
If you’re someone that’s so used to toughing it out or plowing through or going into the hard stuff of your healing or pushing through at work, you might be overriding a lot of signals of your nervous system that tell you, “This is a little too much.” And that cycle is something the body can get used to. It’s like auto override and autopilot. So, that’s one major reason to understand the polyvagal theory and how the body can go into nervous system freeze is to notice where you’re being unkind to yourself and pushing beyond what your body wants to do. I get that at the end of the day, there are things that you need to do, and what times and ways in which you need to push through, but if we could push through a little less and not ignore our bodies, we might experience a lot more, and we might experience a lot more pleasure and joy in our lives as we’re going through the things we know we want and need to do.
Candice Wu 17:37
So, to simply feel better, it’s a real thing, that we want to feel better in ourselves, and to feel a deeper understanding of who you are and to ally with your body, to navigate your full experience. These are all really good reasons to understand the freeze response, and it gives a way to understand each other, to understand yourself in trauma or what parts of you have been traumatized, what that means, and to understand how other people might be experiencing this, and how in relationships, there can be a dance of withdrawal and attack going back and forth. And there can be also a feeling of abandonment when someone withdraws and has a physiological trauma response such as shut down.
Candice Wu 18:41
Stonewalling is also sometimes mixed with using that as a weapon, like shutting down in order to hurt the other person or to get a reaction out of the person, but it can be diffused by understanding what is going on behind the scenes. And also, if you understand the polyvagal theory, you can understand how extreme stress can lead to the shutdown experience, and how to read your own body as well as where other people are at so you know where they’re coming from or have a little more compassion.
Candice Wu 19:19
So, as we jump into noticing where our nervous system is overwhelmed and in a freeze response, we need to talk about polyvagal theory, which I’ve dropped in a few times here, and I also talk a bit about in the anger podcast. This is a theory by Stephen Porges. The polyvagal theory reflects the primal need for us to survive and stay alive, and how important that is to our body. It covers three states of our nervous system, one which is connection of ventral vagal response, fight or flight, which is a sympathetic response either one of those because it compels action or shut down, which is dorsal vagal. There’s an easy image in which to picture this, and it’ll link that I’ll put onto the show notes, Dr. David Puder describes a lioness and a gazelle, and how you can see this in nature, and I’ll briefly describe it here.
Candice Wu 20:28
So, picture a lion finding a gazelle, and the gazelle sees the lion or senses something, notices danger, it starts to perk up, and its ears go up, neck stiffens up, and at some point realizes they have to run. So, get the sounds running and that’s a sympathetic flight response, and let’s say the lion captures gazelle. The gazelles’ nervous system then will kick into a shutdown response, playing dead, so to say. And in that place, the gazelle is conserving energy in order to make their grand escape if they can, but also to enact a dead state so that perhaps they’re not going to be as desirable to that lion, and maybe that lion will get distracted. And that can create the opportunity for the gazelle to run away.
Candice Wu 21:31
So, let’s say that happens, and the lion gets distracted, bringing this gazelle back to their cubs, and the gazelle sees this moment and ceases it and runs, sprints, coming back to life, back into a sympathetic nervous system response from where they were in the tonic immobility, and they run to safety. And in that place, I want to mention pranking because they end up celebrating and having a victory dance of “I’m alive. I’m strong, I’m, I’m okay” and humans reflect that, too.
Candice Wu 22:16
So, polyvagal theory touches on three states of the nervous system, reaction or response, a state of connection and social engagement, which is a ventral bagel response, a fight or flight, which is a parasympathetic response, or shutdown, which is tonic immobility, which is dorsal vehicle response. So, the reason we have that response, the reason that the nervous system just turns the switch for us is that it feels like what we’re experiencing is too much or too dangerous or too risky, and it’s better to wait it out.
Candice Wu 23:01
So, the interesting thing is, whenever we’ve had an experience of this in the past, where something was too risky to do, like, we wouldn’t scream back at our bosses or at our fathers when we were five years old, if something happened, where we felt threatened or hurt or scared, maybe we wouldn’t punch them, but our animal body would want to because we want to protect ourselves in a situation of abuse or some other scary situation, and in those moments where we didn’t do that, and we chose to freeze up instead or become paralyzed, our body does this to protect ourselves from further danger, and we just hope that it will end and go away, but the thing about that is that anytime we’ve had that experience, that shutdown mode lives in our body, and our body still can be in that shutdown mode from years and decades ago, and in fact, even through the ancestry, the shutdown response from someone else in your lineage can get passed down into your nervous system, into your DNA.
Candice Wu 24:23
So, time doesn’t much matter here. The nervous system is responding to safety or lack of safety and danger. So, it will freeze until it realizes its safety, and even though our mind knows that we’re safe right here, now, our body has to know it, too, and it has to go through the process of completing what it needs to in order to feel that it is safe, and to the primitive body that’s typically some action that protects us self by running, fighting, pushing, moving, yelling, biting, all of those very basic ways of protecting ourselves come into play. So, when you’re feeling certain symptoms of this dorsal vehicle response, it’s a chance to notice, “Oh, my body is feeling really unsafe, and needs to find safety.” And perhaps there’s something showing itself in terms of previous trauma or something I’m going through right now, that makes my body feel like it isn’t safe.
Candice Wu 25:39
So, what are the signs of dorsal vagal or tonic immobility in our body, the frozen state? As I mentioned, this state is about self-preservation. So, the body might freeze or become immobile or paralyzed like you can’t really quite take the next step. The body feels very heavy, like heavy in a way that can’t move very well or rigidity starts to happen in the body, tension, and constriction. You might notice yourself feel dissociated, separate from your body or not quite here, a numbness, a feeling of disconnection or overwhelm.
Candice Wu 26:28
You might feel dizzy or spacey, a loss of words, inability to comprehend or taking information, your digestive and reproductive systems may go offline and shut down, so you may feel lack of sexual desire, feel indigestion, bloatedness, you may feel nauseated, want to throw up or spontaneously urinate or defecate, the heart rate, blood pressure, facial expressions, and immune system responses may decrease. So, that’s the conservation mode, and at the same time, you may feel extremely exhausted and fatigued, a difficulty moving or doing anything, an apathy, perhaps hopelessness, shame, a sense of feeling trapped, disconnected from the world are withdrawing, and in the state our brain has decreased metabolism so that causes challenges in comprehension and thinking, making decisions, our body awareness decreases, and it may take a lot of pressure or impact for our body to feel anything or feel much, and we have a decreased ability to create narrative memories.
Candice Wu 28:09
We might feel a little or no pain, our lungs might constrict and we breathe slower, the vision may feel blurry or not clear, fuzzy, blank, fixed or spaced out, and sleep may be disrupted as well as the body posture, our body may want to curl up and collapse in a ball. On the other hand, have the inability to think critically or process in our minds, our mind also may get stuck on certain thoughts. So, in a panic state of flight response, our body gets flooded with the energy to mobilize us to move, and if we get to move and complete that ability to protect ourselves, we feel okay, we feel good, but if it doesn’t, then that energy can go up, and we might start to rationalize and think about things, and we might take a meaning about ourselves and the world. That, if it gets left there, it may feel like a permanent fixture of who we are, and we move about the world believing this and our actions reflect that.
Candice Wu 29:29
And so, those thoughts may run itself or linger in the state of freeze. So, if we get into this state, and this can happen when you’re in a therapy session that your body just starts going into that place where you have no emotions separate from the experience, numb, that may mean that your body is in a free state, and in a way, in a big way, that is retraumatizing to them nervous system because it can just get stuck again. But in another way, if it feels okay to navigate it and you have the tools or support, it’s a great place for your nervous system to learn a new way and not get stuck again, so it can bring healing. So, the idea is to support the nervous system in shifting out of dorsal vagal navigating dorsal vagal and shifting out into ventral vagal, which is our survival.
Candice Wu 30:33
Social engagement is vital to our survival, and it gives us a sense of safety and calming when that engagement is safe, when that engagement has compassion and an observing witness. So, when we’re in this state just to name the opposite of dorsal vagal and freeze, this ventral vagal state is where our immune system is healthy, and we are able to feel in our bodies, we can feel a normal kind of happiness or openness, peace, contentment, and even curiosity about life, we feel possibilities, we feel flexible and movable, we’re sleeping wow and eating normally, and we can relate to others, connect to our emotions, be empathic to others, and listen, we feel grounded.
Candice Wu 31:32
So, neither of these are fixed states, we are constantly in flux, navigating our bodies and our experience through how our nervous system is responding, and responding to our environment and our internal container of trauma experiences that have accumulated and what we perceive personally as triggering, activating or threatening. So, your system can move in and out of these states, and ideally, we have the flexibility and capacity to move through each of these states and navigate all of those states so that we can feel okay in ourselves. And to be clear, if we have unresolved trauma in our past, which most people do, even little things and when I say trauma, it means something incomplete, where nervous system and body wanted to do something to protect ourselves but we didn’t or couldn’t. And if we have unresolved trauma in our lineage, then we may be living in some version of fight or flight perpetually or in a numbness or shut down or as deep as depression.
Candice Wu 32:53
So, the dorsal vagal freeze response in the nervous system, if it gets stuck, can turn into depression. In Chinese medicine, the liver channel connects with our desire and what we want, and the movement towards what we want and giving life to ourselves, and if that gets disrupted, liver and gallbladder relate to each other, gallbladder making decisions and taking action. If that gets disrupted, then we have depression, and that relates exactly to this system from Somatic Experiencing where if there was something we instinctively wanted to do or wanted and didn’t receive it or couldn’t do it, then our system gets disrupted, too. And if we don’t resolve that, then it stays, it lingers, and it becomes our state of being of depression or sometimes we’ve even called that our personality, and yet, these are just various nervous system responses getting stuck.
Candice Wu 34:04
So, I want to shift gears into supporting yourself when you have this overwhelm in your nervous system or shut down, and how to support yourself to move out of it, to navigate it, and to even heal at a deeper level. So, before we go to the 12 different tools I have for you today, I want to talk about what happens when you come out of freeze state. If you freeze water, and you let it fall out, it melts, and it comes back to the state that it was in before it froze.
Candice Wu 34:45
So, just like that, whatever state we were in, whatever happened or feeling state, and sensations stay in our body we had before our nervous system felt it was too much. Then when we saw out, when we come back in our bodies, when we come back to safety, the nervous system will touch back into what it was before you went into freeze, to begin with. Sometimes, that’s a big emotion and sensation in the body, and sometimes it’s not. There’s an easy way to move through this if you pendulate, which I’ll talk about later, easing in and out of that experience, safety into challenge, but if you think about it, if you can’t fight or run, then you play dead. And so, when you come out of playing dead, just like the gazelle it’s going to fight or run, it’s going to want to do that because that’s the energy loaded up into the system, and where it stored that energy up to be used later and couldn’t be used at that moment, then later it will come online, and that energy will be present to be used to move the body.
Candice Wu 36:11
So, in the simplest way, your body might experience anger or anxiety or other emotions that overloaded the system right before going into a free state. So, be prepared for that and I don’t mean to scare anyone, but just know and understand that emotions will come and see what ways you can support yourself with that. And what we’re also doing is activating body memory so your body holds implicit memory. That’s information that you may or may not be conscious of. Usually, we’re unconscious of it, and when we touch into the body and the experience, and the emotional state, we are activating that body memory, and that can be timeless. So, it might not have been the thing that just happened literally in this five minutes before you got into another state but it could be what happened in your childhood or as I mentioned, what happened in the lineage getting touched on, and if you believe in a past life, it can touch on what happened in a past life.
Candice Wu 37:30
I talked about a couple of past life experiences of mine in the podcast at CandiceWu.com/past-life-trauma as well as CandiceWu.com/deepmystery and CandiceWu.com/deepmystery2. So, those are three different podcasts, and you can see where implicit memory was being drawn up in my body where I didn’t know about what it was, but my body was showing it and the emotions were there, and it revealed itself. So, the storyline might not be there, but it’s held in the cells of your being, of your body. And if your body doesn’t know safety in this moment and feel it, that memory, that information will live there until safety is found. What we’re also doing when we’re helping the body to find its way out of a frozen state is we’re helping the body expand the capacity of experiencing, and to not override through it and keep tripping that system that throws you into numbness or overwhelm.
Candice Wu 38:40
So, a key principle here is to provide yourself and your body with what it didn’t have before, when a traumatic experience happened. You may not know what those things are, but we can probably make guesses because it’s often that someone wasn’t there, time wasn’t there, there was something that we didn’t get, or there was a certain kind of safety that wasn’t there.
Candice Wu 39:12
So, let’s jump into the 12 things that we can do when our body feels this level of overwhelm. Number 1 is — “You can orient.” You can just take a moment and notice your surroundings, and look especially at things that feel pleasurable to look at. We naturally do this when we are in a ventral vagal state where we actually feel safe, we’re able to look around and take in what’s around us, we might be looking for a mate or food or possibility, but we can see pleasurable things around us, and we’re also alert to what might be dangerous if danger comes. Animals do that, too. So, it’s like a cat or dog coming to a space and checking it out, sniffing it out, and making sure it’s safe here.
Candice Wu 40:18
If you’d like a guided experience on orienting which is a Somatic Experiencing technique or tool, I have a guided audio on that, in the podcast conversations with the body. You can find that at CandiceWu.com/conversationswiththebody or ep82, and just scroll down to the experiences and you’ll find the one on orienting. That’ll also be linked in the show notes here today.
Candice Wu 40:49
Number 2, the second thing you can do to come down from a freeze state is — “Touch your body.” Touch your body from head to toe slowly to feel your touch, feel your body and feel what kind of touch would be soothing. It might be light and gentle touch or with pressure, but taking your awareness to how it feels that you can touch your body here and remind your body of its container of your safety. There’s also a guided experience that takes you deeper into that on the episode at CandiceWu.com/alignment or /ep47. It’s the experiential called Grounding Touch and Listening to Next Steps.
Candice Wu 41:43
A third thing you can do is — “Recognize that you are alive and safe right now, and tune in and touch into those very basic things that tell you you are alive.” And that might be noticing that you are safe and in a safe place at the current moment, and that is if you are, it might be noticing that you have food. If you do have food, it might be noticing if you have a place to sleep, and this will be one of the experiential this week. So, tune in later this week for a guided experience on this.
Candice Wu 42:28
Number 4, the fourth thing you can do is — “Connect in your mind with a safe person.” If you open to a person who brings you a feeling of safety, love, peace or groundedness, someone who’s been there for you before, and you can separate any times that this relationship has felt conflictual, but try to find one that is the least conflictual you can. That can be with a person, an animal, a spiritual figure, nature or a symbol. So, we’re resourcing anything that could feel safe for you. I have two healing experientials that you can tune into if you’d like support with that, and the first is at CandiceWu.com/emotions, the meditation on resourcing emotional safety and healing trauma, and the second one is loving kindness, and that one is episode 65d, so d is the fourth experiential in Untangling Love part two, that’s at CandiceWu.com/ep65. And again, all of these will be listed on the show notes, so you can just go to the webpage at CandiceWu.com/overwhelm, and you can find all those there.
Candice Wu 44:06
The fifth thing you can do is — “Be with a safe person or animal or be in a safe place in real life.” But while you’re being with that person, notice how it is to experience their support, what it is that supports you and let your body receive that feeling, and slow down so that it can register to your awareness and into your body, and that leads to tool number six, which is — “Slowing down.” In Somatic Experiencing, they call it titrating, so, allow yourself to slow down your experience of whatever it is you’re doing or wherever you’re at, and just notice what’s happening.
Candice Wu 44:55
The seventh tool is called — “Pendulation” that’s also from SE, Somatic Experiencing, and that is to go back and forth between safety and the challenging experience that you’re having or even the numbness or whatever freeze state experience you have. So, pendulation is to sense into a breath or two or 30 seconds, whatever amount of time of a safe person or something that helps you feel pleasure, as we talked about earlier, and the other tools, and then to pause and go into challenging emotion or the state that you’re feeling already right now, and back and forth, back and forth. And just to notice and track what happens as you go back and forth, and allow your nervous system to dip into safety and feel more embodied each time. You can find a guided experience on that at episode 24, CandiceWu.com/ep24, which is the episode on emotions and how to navigate your emotions.
Candice Wu 46:17
Tool number eight is — “Using movement to support you.” Some people like to use shaking, just literally stand up, shake your whole body for a couple of minutes. Let the body move. It’s like shaking up stuck energy so that it starts to flow. You can also ask your body if there’s a place that could move. where would it begin? Which part of my body can move? If it’s your eyes or a pinky finger or your hair, if you imagine your hair moving, your knees, which part of your body can move? And as you let that movement happen, slowly and let the body feel that and integrate that, and see what that allows for or what you start to feel as that happens. You can also tune into organic body movement farther than that by just imagining if my body could move, what would it do? How would it want to move and just imagining that, see what your body feels, what sensations or emotions, and if you let it move, then what happens?
Candice Wu 47:42
Tool number nine is one that I did when I felt dizzy that day, is — “Letting your body run.” And you can drag in place or you can run across a room or a field, any place that feels safe for you, but as you run, slow it down so slow, that you can feel every little part of your body move, even your arms, your toes, your calves. And as you run, visualize running towards safety, whatever that means for you, whether that’s a safe place, person, thing or situation. And when you get there, imagine receiving exactly what you need, whether or not you know exactly what you need. Imagine receiving whatever it is that you need to feel safe when you arrive there or connect with the safe person, place or thing that’s there. This will also be one of the experiential this week. So, tune in later this week for a longer guide of that.
Candice Wu 49:04
And tool number 10 is — “To reveal or allow anger.” Eventually, you can practice more Somatic Experiencing techniques and being in the body or even self-defense or martial arts, and you can tune into the anger episode for some ideas about moving through that, and that’s at CandiceWu.com/anger. Tool number 10 is practicing assertiveness. So, feel into your ability to choose and move, right when you are feeling that numbness, do the opposite. Do something assertive, do something doable, manageable, and let yourself be in the witness of your experience as you do it.
Candice Wu 49:57
And the 12th tool I have for you today is also going to be an experiential later this week, and it’s — “Tuning into a moment in the last couple of days or day that you felt like yourself or where you felt okay or where you felt like you were alive.” And backtracking if you can’t find anything in the last couple of days, look into the last couple of weeks or the last month or two or even as far as couple of years if you’ve been in this state of stuckness for a while, touching in and making contact with the last time you felt okay or like yourself or pleasure touching into that allow your body to experience what it’s like right now to remember that, and sometimes, there’s a spontaneous breath or a little bit of ease that begins to happen or as I said earlier, other emotions might come through because your body starts to feel safe again.
Candice Wu 51:13
In this experiential that I’ll guide later this week, I’ll guide you to feel into a couple of different points where you felt okay or like yourself, and then a time that you experienced a challenge but got through it, which can help your nervous system be reminded of your strength and ability to get through life and that you did get through it, and noticing our current challenge. These are also tools from Somatic Experiencing.
Candice Wu 51:47
So, those are the 12 different tools I wanted to offer you today, to support yourself in your nervous system coming out of freeze state, and also feeling safety, even before your body becomes overwhelmed if you start to notice little signs of it or that you’re getting to that threshold, it’s a great thing to do to support your body and feeling that safety before you get there, and to come down from that event. And as I mentioned earlier, be prepared for any emotions or body sensation or experience that comes out of, comes through with coming back to a little bit of safety, because when your body finds that safety again and understands it, integrates it, the emotions that didn’t get to be felt or the sensation and impulse that didn’t get to be had, will want to be had, maybe at work or in the middle of something and you don’t really have time to go through all of your nervous system responses that want completion, but recognize you may be feeling those as you come back into your body and come back online.
Candice Wu 53:10
You might start to notice gurgling or burping or a different kind of breath come through. All of these are signs of healing, and signs that your body’s coming back online, that the ventral vagal response is coming back online and your body’s feeling a little safer, and it’s a good time to use any of these tools to continue that safety. I wrote a blog post about how the body tells you that healing is happening, and it’s a list of several ways that your body shows you the signs that healing is going on in your body, is moving towards coming back online or healing even though it might not feel like it. You can find that in the show notes, and also, at CandiceWu.com/tinyhealingsteps.
Candice Wu 54:09
So, this was a lot of information today, and sometimes when people hear this information, their body starts to go numb, and they feel a little fuzzy, and that state of freeze starts to take over because we’re even talking about it, and if that is you, tune into the experientials that are later this week. Rewind to a couple of the tools that were mentioned here today that sounded like they might help you, and just try them. Be curious and open, and see what touching your body might do, even if you think it’s one of the most basic things and it is, and that is touching into the basic needs of our primal body, our animal body.
Candice Wu 54:58
With these tools, I have felt so much more embodiments and grounding, and feeling empowered even because the state of freeze does bring that same physiology as shame. It’s this collapse, it’s like I can’t do it, and it comes with lots of thoughts. It’s something that I didn’t talk too much about in the list of signs of overwhelm, but that is a major one where if you start to think a lot and think these really negative thoughts about yourself or the world, and you even might know that these aren’t really true, but they just can’t leave your mind, that is where the energy of the fight and flight response goes upward instead of out the lens we have, because that energy doesn’t have much other place to go, it goes upward into the mind, and so the gut in the polyvagal system informing the mind and feeding these thoughts, but the thoughts relate to the meanings we’ve taken on and the filter through which we see, we particularly see the world and ourselves, and so, it can bring on the worst of the worst there, because, in the states where we thought we weren’t going to survive or that we needed to shut down to survive, there was something going on that made us feel so threatened, and those thoughts can stay with us, the meanings that we took about ourselves can stay with us from there.
Candice Wu 56:35
That is also a sign that something in our experience wants completion and wants renegotiation, because we have thoughts that are negative about ourself or the world, and other sign includes thoughts that are negative about yourself and overthinking everything and thinking about things so much that you’re not quite in your experience in your body, in yourself. So, I encourage you to use this information to have more compassion for yourself, mainly to notice and understand that if you’re in this experience of feeling paralyzed or feeling numb or experiences of shame or worthlessness that may be a part of a freeze state, and there are ways to support yourself in moving through that. And if you notice other people withdrawing or shutting down, there may be a place to build connection and understand what they’re going through when they have that experience.
Candice Wu 57:44
I’m really looking forward to sharing these experientials with you, and so there are three, as I mentioned earlier, out of these 12 tools, there are three that’ll be experientials, and the first one’s going to be on tuning into the basic safety, feeling that your body is alive, and letting that thing get. The second one will be times you feel like yourself or feel okay, and a time you got through a challenge and letting that be a resource to you, letting the body experience and remember how it is to feel this way. And that third one is the running, visualizing what’s needed, and finding safety, and that is skipping into, straight into having that flight experience but letting yourself arrive into a safe place. So, one day when we talk about anxiety, the flight response, this one will connect with that.
Candice Wu 58:45
I hope you find some of these tools just as helpful as they have been for me, and I will say there have been times in my life where I felt I was doing so much healing and certain things were coming up to the surface, so, in such a big way, like if you’ve been listening to the podcast, when I had the existential crisis experience, spiritual crisis or even other times where something came up, and I just felt overwhelmed with emotion, these tools have helped me so much to feel grounded again. I will not underestimate the power of our ability to imagine and to move, and to use these very basic simple things to support us, but it also will say, I didn’t know how to do this on my own. I learned this completely with support, and I have no idea what it would be like, really, to try practicing that on my own and seeing if it made a difference, and in fact, I might not have enough ability at that time when I was learning these things, to be able to support myself because a big part of our healing comes from connection with other people and our ability to let our nervous system co-regulate with other people, with people that feel safe in their bodies.
Candice Wu 1:00:12
So, if you’re trying this at home by yourself and it’s not working, so to say, give it a little more time, see if you do it again or a couple of times in a week. Try it every day with or without the audio, and also, connect with someone about it. Connect with a professional that’s informed about trauma healing and the nervous system, from the scientific perspective. Connect with someone who can hold the space for this in an informed way. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or want the support in a healing experience, and wishing you and your bodies so much compassion and love and support.
Candice Wu 1:01:03
Thank you so much for tuning in today, and I want to end with something light, gosh, what what what? Okay, I’ve got it. It is from an email I received from LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center. I love the people at LifeWorks, and I’m connected with them there in Chicago. So, shout out to all of you at LifeWorks, and this is a selection of a poem from Anna McDonald, it’s called AfroPunk by Cameron Awkward-Rich, and he is a trans person of color who has published two poetry collections, and here is the poem.
Candice Wu 1:01:44
“A mosh pit is not the same as dancing It’s more like a cat thrown into an ocean of sweat and elbows And any choreography that follows is just an animal trying to stay alive. In middle school even the cool kids wear their bodies like clothes that don’t quite fit But me, I’ve never been cool as I was in eighth grade Never wore my skin so well as that year I discovered white boys and black eyeliner and that violence they called a dance. But when punk be black, when it be a girl throwing herself into a riot of white It’s not cause she needs a lesson in survival, there’s the whole world for that But goddamn, if the bullet has to leave one chamber to fill another If the girl has to be split and split And the boy riddled with stars And if the world must go on If our blood must kiss the concrete, let the first time be an act of love Let it be a wedding song and not a funeral And if pain be unavoidable, let it first be a pain we choose Let us learn how far our bodies can ride it, before the music cuts out.” ~ “Afropunk” by Cameron Awkward Rich
Candice Wu 1:03:01
And with that, I’ll leave you with a little music. This would actually be number 13 of the tools of coming out of numbness, for me at least is listening to music that really brings me alive. So, here’s just a little bit of music for you, as we close today.
Candice Wu 1:03:19
Thanks so much for joining me on the Embody Podcast, and if you’d like to stay in touch, read self-love notes, connect with other healing experientials and guests on the podcast. Find me on my newsletter at CandiceWu.com/embody.
Sync Up with Being Alive: A Guided Healing Experiential to remind the Nervous System of Its Safety — EP92a
Safety in the nervous system and body can be restored when we let it register to our bodies that we are alive and that you have your basic needs met (if you do). Take a moment to support more safety in your body with this guided experience that is simple but can feel so helpful.
This experiential offers a very basic tool to support your body and nervous system in feeling more safety in releasing overwhelm, depression, trauma or dissociation or when you feel stuck and anxious. It can also help to build your capacity and your resilience for whatever it is you’re doing in life.
For a long time, I did not even know that I was overriding and pushing my body beyond the limits of it, beyond the signs of my body saying, “You’re overwhelmed, we’re overwhelmed, we are stressed.”
And we just call stress, stress, and without naming it more specifically what’s going on. We can just dismiss it in a way or we can apply some very generalized way of trying to relieve the stress.
Through Somatic Experiencing from Peter Levine, I learned that if we’re addressing the very specific ways that our body is stressed, especially when it’s saying, “I don’t feel safe,” then we can really heal at the root of that and begin to develop a new baseline in ourselves that feels calmer, more alert, and more available for the daily stuff of our lives and the things we want to do.
Sometimes, I had no idea I was pushing an overriding the signals of my body until I would do things like this exercise or do a little bit of yoga or something else that brought me down to a new level of relaxation — until I realized that new level I didn’t, I had no idea I was even feeling that stress, that overwhelms.
Nervous System Understanding
If you want to learn more about what happens to the nervous system, and how it affects our bodies when we’re feeling overwhelmed, paralyzed, shut down, dissociated or depressed, and what happens in the healing process, the process of shifting that, check out the introductory episode to this experiential where I talk about the many signs of nervous system overwhelm, 12 things that you can do to support and heal overwhelm, trauma and depression, and a bit of Polyvagal theory and Somatic Experiencing to help us understand and be more compassionate to how our body is responding, and being in the world.
You can find that episode at CandiceWu.com/overwhelm.
So, now, let’s jump into this experiential, which is one of three experientials.
The other two involve tuning into resource and strength, and in the main episode, the introductory episode, I also list several other healing experientials that I’ve offered in the past that you can tune into, plug into, and you can also search all those on my website at CandiceWu.com/meditations.
This particular experiential is something that truly helps me even though it felt so basic, over time, I began to sink deeper and deeper into it, and my body felt new levels of feeling safe.
I was able to feel more in connection with the very essentials of life, and the core of what I’m doing here in the world, and how I’m being in the world and it gave me a lot of pleasure to just do the very basic things.
Why Noticing Being Alive Helps, if it Isn’t Obvious!
So, this experiential is about tuning into very basics of how you know you’re alive, and how important that is to our bodies to register that we are alive, we are breathing, and we have a plethora of things in our lives that support that.
And for you, it may be different from me or from the next person, but I’d like you to notice those things in this experience.
So, if there are things that I say, in terms of what we’re tuning into that don’t make sense for you, please feel free to change it and just leave behind respectfully what doesn’t fit for you.
Let’s Practice Together
Feel free to find a comfortable way to be, whether that’s sitting, standing or lying down.
Even if you’re in transit, this is something you can do, and I would not particularly recommend it if you’re driving, but if you’re on a public transit that is taking you without your effort, that’s okay.
So, as you’re right here with me today, begin to notice your breathing and let it be just the way it is as if your body is breathing you.
Begin to notice where your mind is, and allow yourself to disconnect from the things that your mind may be thinking or from where you’ve been placing your attention, releasing your connection, and your attention on all those things of the past, and anywhere that your mind is placed in the future or to-do-lists or worries.
For now, just let go of your attention on these things.
You can begin wherever you are, however you are.
You don’t have to clear your mind, but just releasing the grip on thinking about these things as much as you can, and feeling your breathing right here and now
As you’re feeling your breath, you might say to yourself or notice that I have breath. I can breathe.
Sometimes, it’s uncomfortable to notice your breath or to notice your body.
Just take note if that’s happening for you
I Am Alive
When you’re ready, shift to the awareness that, “I am alive. I am here and I’m alive.”
You might notice in what ways can you tell you’re alive.
What evidence do you have that your body is alive?
That may be your breath, it may be that you can feel your heart or your blood moving, maybe that you can feel the weight of your body, that you can hear things around you or inside.
It may be that you can see, see things around you, see your body or that you can smell or touch, and feel free to do any of those things that support you in deepening in that awareness that, “I am alive.”
Notice what it’s like to be in your body as you acknowledge that you’re alive.
Slow things down a little and track what’s going on on the inside.
Notice the parts of you that feel more connected with safety, calm or peace, and be aware that as you connect in this way, other feelings that are uncomfortable or challenging might also come up.
As you’re feeling safer, the nervous system recognizes that it’s safe to feel, safer to feel and I show you some of the feelings that have been waiting for you to notice inside, and feel free to take a break anytime.
Are You Safe Right Now?
Notice if it is true right now for you: I am safe.
Perhaps that means that nobody’s hurting you right now or that you’re not in danger.
Sometimes, we may not feel safe on the inside, but to acknowledge the very physical and concrete things that let us know we’re safe can support our nervous system in feeling safer.
So, if that rings true for you, notice the words and the feeling that come with: I am safe.
Now, notice if any of these are true for you: I have food.
Notice what that feels like to acknowledge in yourself, that very basic need: I have shelter. That is if you do have it.
Perhaps you might notice:
I have freedom
or I have loved ones
or I have myself.
Only focus on the ones that you truly do have that you can acknowledge and feel some gratitude for.
Perhaps, honoring that you have some of these basic needs that support you in being alive, and take a moment to acknowledge any other things that you feel are included in that very basic need of being alive and being safe that support you now in acknowledging.
And if any one of these, that we’ve named or you’ve named, really touch you right now or support you in that connection with safety, feel free to focus on that, now.
Let your body deepen into sinking up with that knowing with that awareness.
Notice the sensations inside, your emotions, how your breath might change over time, any movements in your body that are happening, and also any images that come up in your mind.
Here, take as long as you need.
Feel free to come back into your space, into the world around you whenever you feel ready, giving your body any sort of movement or touch that it would like.
If your eyes were closed at all, take your time to open them when it feels right, feeling your presence here.
Notice your surroundings and feel any shift in yourself, whether that’s an opening towards calm and relaxation, and safety in terms of a peaceful feeling or in terms of an uncomfortable feeling that’s coming up because your body and nervous system may feel a little safer.
And here, I’ll leave you with a little music as you transition to support your body in feeling here and feeling safe, as much as possible in this moment.
Thanks for joining me on the Embody Podcast, and be sure to tune in to the other two experientials at CandiceWu.com/overwhelm.
Restore Resilience in the Nervous System and Feel Like Yourself: Guided Healing Experiential — EP92b
In this basic Somatic Experiencing practice, we bring up simple and often overlooked moments that you felt like yourself or felt safe or even “ok,” as well as a time you got through a challenge and a current unresolved issue. This gives a reminder to your nervous system of your strength, ability to move through life, and that you can feel or begin to feel like yourself and safe.
This healing experiential is to support you feeling like yourself, to support the release of overwhelm, depression, anxiety, to support grounding, and your nervous system capacity as well as to tune you into your resource, resilience, and strength.
We will be tuning into times where you felt like yourself, a time that you got through a challenge, and noticing a current challenge. All of this to support the nervous system in remembering how it is to feel like yourself and to bring safety.
This healing experiential is brought to you by Somatic Experiencing practices and one that I learned from my teachers, particularly from Bianka Hardin, one of my supervisors who has learned from many other teachers in the Somatic Experiencing world.
This experiential is one that I have found incredibly helpful, and it is something that you can just take a few minutes and do.
We will take a little longer in this experience together, in this guided way, but you can do this on your own by just taking one minute to tune in to one of these aspects that will bring up today and feeling them in your body.
It’s incredible how many much we can support ourselves in whatever we’re doing in life, in feeling more at ease and safe by just doing something simple like this.
This is one of three healing experientials that connect with the episode around Nervous System Overwhelm: Polyvagal Theory, Noticing the Signs of Overwhelm and 12 Tools Towards Healing Trauma, Depression, Shut Down and Overwhelm.
You can find the full episode at CandiceWu.com/overwhelm, and all of the experiences that go with it.
Taking A Moment Can Make A Difference
I know there are times for me where I felt like I’m so busy that I came and take a moment to feel my body or to feel okay or to support myself, and I’m really grateful that those times are generally over in my life because doing this kind of experience that I’ll lead you through here, doing these kinds of experiences over and over, and supporting my nervous system in downshifting, and feeling at ease and calm has greatly shifted my entire life.
And so, taking a moment to support myself has brought me closer to how I want to be in the world, and how I want to treat myself and how I can love myself. So with that, I hope this experiential gives you support in whatever it is that you need to feel grounded, okay, and safe.
Practice and Prep
I would recommend doing this healing experience when you’re not operating any heavy machinery or driving.
If you’re in public transit, that might be okay, but if you’re in a private space, in the comfort of your own home or a space that feels good to you, that would be the best.
So, allow yourself to be in your body in a way that feels good, whether that’s sitting, standing or lying down or in any body position that’s right for you. You can keep your eyes open or close them, whatever feels the safest for you.
Sometimes, when we tune into resource or good moments like we will hear today, your body might feel a level of safety that brings up uncomfortable emotions because it feels safe.
So, if that happens for you, feel free to stay with it as much as it feels okay, and when it does feel overwhelming, we’re nearing too much, nearing overwhelm, take a break, just pause the podcast or stop or just listen to the sound of my voice or look around you and look at something that’s comforting. Touch your body. We are talking about overwhelm here.
So, we don’t want to use the healing process that also pushes you into overwhelm by pushing it a little too far.
Even if you know you can handle that emotion, sometimes it’s not the most healing thing to plow through it, in terms of what your nervous system might really need to feel safer.
So, as you find a comfortable position and you deepen into yourself, into your body, just take a few breaths to let yourself fully arrive here, and take a pulse check or inventory of what’s going on inside, any emotions, sensations, where your mind is, your thoughts, how your body feels, what it’s like to be in your body right now.
And now, we’ll touch into five different aspects of memory and time, and then we’ll spend a little more time at the end with one of them of your choice.
First: Last Few Days So, let’s begin by tuning into in the last few days, the last time you felt like yourself.
So, just opening your awareness without any pressure, without expectation, just curiosity: when was the last time I felt like myself in the last few days? This can be a very simple or small moment or it can be a bigger one.
A small moment might be like when you had a cup of tea or you’re brushing your teeth or waking up with your head on your pillow or something else like checking a text from a loved one, connecting with a friend or putting on your PJs, eating something, looking at the window, doing an activity like, anything where you felt like yourself or even okay or you might have felt safe or loved or at ease.
So, notice that moment and if you haven’t found it yet, feel free to just pause the experience and take more time, and if you have found just one moment, dip into that moment, making contact to experience what it was like and what it’s like right now in your body to notice that moment.
Second: The Last Week
And now, we’ll shift into the second one and we can come back to this one if you’d like to at the end.
Now, shifting to open up time a little bit more to the last week: when was a time in the last week you felt like yourself, okay, at peace, safe or loved or even neutral?
And when you have that moment, touch into it and feel the visceral quality of what happens in your body as you recall this memory.
Notice your breathing, the sensations inside, emotions or movement. See yourself in that moment where you were, what it is you’re doing.
Third: The Last Two Weeks or Longer
Now, let’s touch into a third moment, opening up to the last two weeks to a month or even longer of a time in the last two weeks to a month or longer where you felt like yourself or you felt safe, peaceful, neutral or okay, where you felt pleasure.
Be curious about what comes up in your memory bank and what comes to you.
When you have that one moment, then picture that moment and make contact with the feeling sense that happens in this moment as you touch in.
Fourth: Notice A Challenge You Got Through
And in the next few breaths, we’ll shift gears to noticing a time in your entire life, anytime in your life where you had a challenge, and you got through it, where there may have been a very difficult situation or an uncomfortable situation, big or small and you got through it.
Notice that situation or memory of this time, and the moment that you recognize that you get through it.
And with this, also tune into where you were, what time of your life it was, perhaps even what season it was and how the weather was.
Who was around you? How did you feel when you got through it?
And how do you feel now in your body as you are aware of this difficult situation that you got through?
Notice any tiny little thing that your body does differently like a deeper breath and emotion that shifts or breaks open, release intention, a movement that feels more fluid, any feeling of spaciousness or peace or an uncomfortable emotion that moves and wants to be seen.
Fifth: Notice a Challenge in the Present
And with the next few breaths, let’s shift gears into the fifth moment.
The fifth moment is noticing a current challenge that you’re in, something that’s presently unresolved, incomplete or difficult for you, stressful or where you’re not sure of how the outcome is going to be, and that gives you discomfort.
Take a little taste of experiencing this difficult challenge at the moment, whether it’s seeing it from a distance or dipping a little deeper in, closer in, to the feeling sense as you bring it closer to you.
Take note of what it feels like in your body, what emotions come up, what your body wants to do, what you desire.
And as you’re ready, release your attention on that experience, noticing a few more breaths to clear the palate, so to say, of your attention.
Choose One To Deepen Into
And now, we come to the part of the experience where you’re free to choose one of these five moments that we touched into, and don’t worry if you didn’t have one for any of these.
Use what you have, and also, notice the experience of this, the process of this for you. And out of the five things that we touched into, choose one of those to connect with a little more time here.
Again, those five things were the last time you felt like yourself, pleasure, peaceful or okay in the last couple of days, in the last week, in the last two to four weeks or longer, a time that you got through a challenge, and a current challenge.
So, as you select which one of these five that you want to spend a little more time with, let yourself go right into that moment that you’re choosing.
Notice the setting of the experience, what’s around you, who’s there or involved, the whole image of this memory or if it’s the current challenge.
Notice the image that comes to you about it and deepen into the felt sense of whichever one of these you’ve chosen. Felt sense including the warmth or coolness of your body, in different places, tension or release, different sensations inside the body, emotions, movement, the energy of how you feel right now in this body, in this moment, as you call up this experience.
Notice your breathing and what changes as you stay with it.
Notice what happens next.
Take your time here to deepen even further.
Notice your whole body.
Let yourself move if there’s movement, and if it’s overwhelming it anytime, again, take a little break, and feel free to pause here if you’d like more time.
Release it All
And now, if you’re ready to just let go of whichever moment you chose, come back to your body in this moment, your breath.
If your eyes were closed, slowly open them just to look down at the ground or down wherever down is for you.
Start to notice your surroundings.
Feel free to touch your body in any way or notice how it already might be doing so, and stretch if you need it.
Take a moment to place your hand on your heart, if you’d like to, and thank yourself for connecting with these moments, to deepen into feeling like yourself, to expand your strength and resilience, to let your nervous system have this touching, to know its safety, trusting that this can support you in deepening your capacity over time.
Practice it Again
I encourage you to come back and do this perhaps, as I said, in a moment, like couple minutes, a day or while you’re at work or in the middle of something, you just take a break and touch into one of these moments, seeing how that shifts things for you or what you end up feeling as you do that or to come back to this whole experience and practice this over time.
Even practicing it every day for a week or two weeks or a month can be an extremely powerful exercise to support you in feeling those moments that truly allow you to feel yourself.
What began to happen for me is that I started to feel more present in the moments that were pleasurable to me as they were happening.
So, as we end and close today, I’ll leave you with a little bit of sound with the singing bowl that I got from Thailand. The first time I went about, I don’t know, seven years ago.
And we’ll close today, feel free to check out the other two experiences that go with this podcast, an episode on overwhelm and noticing overwhelm in the nervous system at CandiceWu.com/overwhelm.
Great to have you today and take care!
Arrive in Embodied Safety: Support the Flight Response of the Nervous System Guided Healing Experiential — EP92c
This Somatic Experiencing support guides you from anxiety or a tonic immobility (frozen) state of the nervous system to arriving at safety through a completed movement of running towards a safe person, place, or situation that you imagine and move with.
This healing experiential is to support you in coming out of a nervous system overwhelmed state or where you feel depressed, where you have trauma or anxiety or you may be feeling dissociated, and to support you and feeling safer in your body and here.
This healing experience is something that I put together through my learnings of Somatic Experiencing, and it is not to replace having a Somatic Experiencing practitioner or another practitioner that supports trauma-sensitive healing or therapy but is to supplement your own experience to provide you with one option of how you might be able to feel safer in your body.
Doing this can bring up uncomfortable feelings that you may or may not feel prepared for.
If you're concerned about that, you can learn more about that process of the nervous system coming out of a frozen state or tonic and immobility state into fight or flight and coming down to a calmed, relaxed state in the episode that goes with this experiential called Nervous System Overwhelm: Noticing the Signs the Polyvagal Theory Basics, and 12 Tools Towards Healing Trauma, Depression, Shut Down and Overwhelm. That episode is at CandiceWu.com/overwhelm.
The Flight Response
So, in this healing experiential, we'll be working with supporting the body and feeling a level of safety that can bridge you into the next healing movement or to bring you a bit of sense of a grounding, calmness or support, and supporting the nervous system from coming out of a frozen state into feeling and being in the body.
In this experience, I will invite you to tune into the body's sense of needing to run towards safety, just like an animal would do if it were in fear and threat.
We don't always run in situations but our nervous system and the animal body inside of us may want to.
And so, if we give it to that, through imagining and through body movement, then the nervous system can feel like it completes that run towards safety, towards a place that feels safe for a person or a thing that feels safe, and therefore, it is safe or feels safer.
This healing experience is derived from the experience that many people have when they're in an anxious state or when they are coming out of their body being “shut down”, playing dead because it's overwhelmed or dissociated or paralyzed.
When it's coming out of that, it needs to complete a run, typically or a fight or something that can protect us when we're in a threat situation.
Oftentimes, if we let this happen organically through the process of working with the body and the nervous system and the felt sense, and the movements, the body might start to push on the toes or heels or move the feet naturally or tap.
If we follow that, in times where I've followed that or worked with clients to do that, sometimes the body really does want to run away, but when we have the experience of dissociation or frozen, numbness, any of the things I've listed, we can use a run to stimulate that process and to help the body come into a different level of safety. So, as I said, there's more on that in the intro podcast, but let's jump in here to this experience.
Support Your Body With A Break
Like all of the experiential that I offer, if you are starting to feel a little overwhelmed or towards overwhelm, pause the experience.
Take a break, release your attention on what we were doing and just touch your body or look around you, and look at something pleasant.
Do something that you know is comforting to your body.
There's no point in plowing through just to do the experience because the nervous system may find itself overwhelmed again, and perhaps feel in the same kind of trauma that it already was.
And when I speak to trauma, I mean something that's overwhelming to the nervous system that becomes stuck or undigested or incomplete.
So, here, I recommend sitting or standing, and at any time, you can sit or stand, change your position as you need to.
I don't recommend lying down because I want your body to be upright, and please don't do this experience if you're driving or operating any heavy machinery.
This is meant best for the privacy of your own home with a friend or healer or therapist that also understands trauma or is a personal practice.
As we begin, I'd like to invite you to imagine and be curious about what comes up for you.
Let’s Bring Safety to the Nervous System First : A Place to Run To
If you imagine a safe person, animal, place or thing, something that gives you the feeling that you're safe or at peace or loved or cared for or something that comforts you, and if none of those are working on for you, just something that feels okay or neutral.
If this is a challenge for you here, that's okay. Be open for yourself that something could reveal to you.
It could be a person who is dead or alive or someone you met just one or an animal that you imagine a place that you made up or a real place that you know an object that feels good to you, just allow the process of discovering what might be safe for you, be one that is unpressured and non-judgmental.
So, if you need to spend more time exploring that, feel free to pause and do so now, and if you have something and you're ready to move forward, let's continue.
Notice Your Feelings
So, tune into your body and feel if there's any part of you feeling anxious, heavy, overwhelmed, numb, depressed, paralyzed, like you can't move, or even sadness or any other difficult feelings.
If you're not feeling any of these and you're feeling just fine and safe, you can explore what doing this experience adds to your feeling, and if you are feeling any of those things, you can track what's happening here over the time and course of our experience together.
So, take this moment to feel your feet, feel what part of your body can touch the floor.
If you don't have feet or you have one or one leg, feel what you do have and or imagine more body parts that you might need in order to move.
So, feel what parts of your body do touch the floor.
If your feet are on the floor, toes, feel your ankles, feel the muscles that activate in order to create movement, and let the feeling register to your awareness, to your body, not just your mind but to your physical being.
Begin Moving Your Feet
Now, allow your feet to move like you are walking or like you're running, and you can do this sitting or standing.
If you're standing, you can jog in place or run around the room or walk around the room.
You can go at whatever pace feels right for you, and whatever pace you want to explore.
I would encourage you to explore going faster and feeling your muscles, your arms, your whole torso, your legs, feeling the movement, and if you're sitting or if you can't move in that way, imagine what it would be like to run and move.
Imagine that you're doing it, and let your feet tap or move in any way that they can, that your body can register that this could be happening.
If you're running quickly, now slow it down a lot to the point of like molasses, slow motion, and if you're sitting and doing this movement, do the same, nice and slow and easy.
In your mind, imagine how fast you might want to run right now, maybe jaguar speed or gazelle or any other speed that feels right based on how it is that you feel.
Imagine yourself running towards that safe person, animal, place or thing that you imagined in the beginning. Feel the journey towards the safe thing.
Feel the sensations in your body, in your arms and your legs, your feet, the pressure downwards.
Feel your breath.
See yourself get closer and closer to the safe person, animal place or thing, and let yourself arrive at your pace, and when you get there, you can stop running and rest. See the safe person, place, animal or situation or whatever you chose.
Imagine what it would feel like to be there with them or in this place receiving exactly what it is that you need to feel okay, to feel safe or to feel loved.
You get to make it up and design it yourself, receiving exactly what you need and what would be just right for you, and see what part of your body, your energy, your breath can receive that safety or care.
Feeling More Can Mean Your Body Feels Safer
Here, you aware, as I said earlier, that different emotions might come up When your body begins to feel safer, it can feel calm and peaceful but sometimes, tears may come, anger may come, sadness or other emotions may come.
That's a sign that your body is feeling a little safer. If you begin to feel like it's a little too much to tolerate, this is where you can take a break, doing so at any time.
Whatever is happening if you are staying with it, notice that and witness it without judgment, letting the sensation move through your body just the way it is, and imagining exactly what you need and desire in the safe place with this person or animal or situation.
Let your imagination support you in the very thing that would feel just right.
Now, notice any place in your body that is feeling, a deepening of safety, a reminder of safety or any place that feels okay or neutral, and it could be just a little spot or it might be a larger area.
It might show up in your breath or your emotions or the loosening of your body.
If you start to feel angry, and you're able to move through that yourself, feel free or if it's sadness, grief, loss or other emotions, feel free to stay with them as you can. If they are uncomfortable, beginning to be a little too uncomfortable, take that break.
You can also tune into the full episode of the podcast for other resources on how to come out of that overwhelm and to support more safety as well as the podcast on how to work with anger — if you'd like some suggestions.
And as you tune in to any place that feels okay, safe or neutral or good, let that deepen and expand.
Coming Back To NOW
As you begin to look around, if your eyes were closed at all, let them slowly open and see your present surroundings. Notice your vision and what that's like to see around you now.
Feel free to give a little touch to your body.
Notice any shifts or any difference in yourself, and also, notice what might be the same as when you began.
Stretch or move as you need as we come to a close of this experience today and if this was very challenging for you or you need more support, don't hesitate to reach out.
I'm happy to offer referrals or to work with you, myself or to answer any questions that may come up.
Feel free to use this experience anytime you are feeling the kind of numbness or overwhelm or not in your body, maybe depression, anxiety.
Be sure to also tune into the other experientials that go with this episode at CandiceWu.com/overwhelm, and the 12 tools that I have for you in that main episode that can support the process of moving through overwhelm, some very basic tools to support you in grounding and feeling safer.
Thanks so much for joining me today, and I leave you with a little music to transition, and see you next time on the Embody Podcast.
Sponsored by My Personal Healing Immersions and Retreats
This episode is sponsored by my personal healing immersions, retreats, and trainings. People who are interested in diving deep in their healing and transformation, or in learning from Candice can reach out to her to set up a personal retreat in a location of your choice. Time and length, as well as the content of the retreat is completely collaborative and intuited based on what you desire and need! Couples and Ethically non-monogamous and Polyamorous relationships are also supported.
Learn More About My Personal Mentorship at CandiceWu.com/mentorship
Links & Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Podcast Episode about Trauma: Embodied Trauma Healing From Science to Soul and Polyvagal Theory Basics
- Orient and Ground Yourself: 82a conversations with the body
- Resource safe person: Emotions episode Meditation ❤ Resourcing Emotional Safety & Healing Trauma 24a or Loving Kindness
- Self Touch
- Resource a Safe Person
- Anger Episode
- Pendulate Between Safety and the Challenge — 24b Meditation ❤ Building Emotional Capacity with Pendulation
- Blog Post: Noticing Tiny Healing Steps that Can Support More
- Shoutout to Lifeworks Psychotherapy and Anna McDonald’s Staff Favorite Poem, Afropunk, by Cameron Awkward-Rich.
Outro Poem “Afropunk” by Cameron Awkward Rich
A mosh pit is not the same as dancing
It’s more like a cat thrown into an ocean of sweat and elbows
And any choreography that follows is just an animal trying to stay alive.
In middle school even the cool kids wear their bodies like clothes that don’t quite fit
But me, I’ve never been cool as I was in eighth grade
Never wore my skin so well as that year I discovered white boys and black eyeliner and that violence they called a dance.
But when punk be black, when it be a girl throwing herself into a riot of white
It’s not cause she needs a lesson in survival, there’s the whole world for that
But goddamn, if the bullet has to leave one chamber to fill another
If the girl has to be split and split
And the boy riddled with stars
And if the world must go on
If our blood must kiss the concrete, let the first time be an act of love
Let it be a wedding song and not a funeral
And if pain be unavoidable, let it first be a pain we choose
Let us learn how far our bodies can ride it, before the music cuts out.
- 0:00 Intro
- 1:14 Brought to You by My Client Work and One-on-One Immersions
- 3:16 The Meditations Database
- 3:42 Transcriptions of the Embody Podcast
- 4:22 Opening: How Anger Can Be Helpful
- 5:41 Nervous System Overwhelm: The Freeze Response
- 8:04 Story Nervous System & Check-in for How Much Is Here Right Now?
- 15:00 Question for You: How Much of Me Is Here Right Now?
- 19:19 Let’s Talk About Polyvagal Theory
- 20:27 an Image to Understand Polyvagal Theory: The Lion and Gazelle
- 22:15 The Three States of Polyvagal Theory
- 24:26 The Nervous System Needs Safety — Even if the Threat Is Decades-Old or Not Even in Your Lifetime
- 25:39 What Are the Signs of the Freeze State?
- 29:35 Shifting Out of Freeze
- 31:32 Navigating the Body Between These States
- 32:14 Unresolved Trauma From Past Lives Is Part of This as Well
- 33:22 Relating Trauma to Depression
- 34:03 Healing at a Deeper Level: What Happens When You Come Out of Freeze State
- 36:42 Talking About Implicit Memory
- 37:29 Mention Past Life and the Deep Mystery Podcast Episode
- 38:40 Key Principle: Provide What Wasn’t Had
- 39:12 12 Tips and Tricks to Heal Trauma and Tonic Immobility
- 39:22 1) Orient Yourself and Notice Your Surroundings
- 40:49 2) Touch Your Body From Head to Toe
- 41:43 3) Recognize That You Are Alive and Safe Right Now
- 42:28 4) Resource a Safe Person
- 44:06 5) Be With a Safe Person or Animal or Be in a Safe Place
- 44:35 6) Slowing Down Your Experience and Notice
- 44:54 7) Pendulate Between Safety and the Challenge
- 46:16 8) Use Movement to Support Yourself / Shake Up the Energy
- 47:41 9) Run and Slow It Down
- 49:03 10) Reveal or Allow Anger
- 49:30 11) Practice Assertiveness
- 49:57 12) Tune Into a Moment That You Felt Like Yourself or Ok
- 52:22 Be Prepared for Emotions and Body Sensations
- 54:09 Information Overload — Freeze State?
- 54:58 My Experience With These Tools and Signs to Look Out For
- 57:43 This Week’s Experientials (Will Be Next Week Instead of This Week)
- 58:45 I Didn’t Learn How to Do This on My Own: Connect With Someone
- 1:01:02 Outro: Ending With Something Light a Poem by Cameron Awkward Rich
- 1:03:00 13) Leaving You With Music
- 1:03:19 The Embody Newsletter to Stay Up to Date
Intro Music by Nick Werber