How is your body responding to the "holidays"?
The night before Thanksgiving at my mom's house, I realized my body was in a subtle-but-powerful trauma trigger -- irritable, lashing out, throat and chest tightening, mind spinning, fury. This had a tiny bit to do with watching the Scientology Documentary on TV, and a whole lot to do with my body's and nervous system's imprint of what holidays "mean". Because my body and my nervous system long ago formed powerful assumptions about the holidays, thanks to the yuletide emotional bootcamp circa 1993-1995.
Back then, the massive inflow of emotional, energetic, analytical and physical data ran through the matrix of my pre-teen brain and amounted to this: Holidays = scary, fighting, disappointment, heartache, disconnection, not belonging, being left out, sad, fury, alienation, pain. And somehow, my body and nervous system were still holding those assumptions, even though life is so much sweeter now.
Trauma triggers are useful. They can show us where our unfinished business lies. But what do we do with our triggered selves? Here are some strategies that help me, and they might help you too:
1) Acknowledge with compassion. Consider that your inner bitch is actually an ancient inner trauma response. Your emotions and intuition are valid, even if they're sometimes misplaced. There's a reason you're upset. Honor it.
2) Create some comfort and safety. Soothing your body and your nervous system takes you out of trigger mode and gives you some space and perspective. Try: deep breathing, having a good cry, having a damn cookie, leaving the room, seeking out an ally, etc.
3) Explore the threat. What is actually taunting my nervous system? What's happening now that's bringing up a fight/flight/freeze response? What's the unfinished business or the unhealed wound?
4) Consider choices & respond consciously. Is this something I need to make peace with independently, or are there conversations to be had, questions to be asked, skeletons to be pulled out of the closet, truths to be confronted?
That night before Thanksgiving, I was very fortunate. I had an amazing conversation with my mother that helped me calm my nervous system, because I was able to shed pent-up tears and be deeply heard by her. She held space for me as I identified the unfinished business from my past, which the holidays were kicking up for me. And she's been my ally these last few weeks as I've pulled some family skeletons out of the closet and had difficult but freedom-inducing conversations. And I've finally made my peace with December.
To all you emotional freedom-fighters out there, I wish you the happiness that's a by-product of truthful expression and scary-courage. I wish you the satisfaction that comes from trusting, honoring and positively utilizing your gut response, your body's reactions, your nervous system triggers. Cheers to you. I know that's what you're practicing for when you get on the yoga mat.
Below you'll read about several workshops to help us honor this season, and all that it stirs, together. For some extra support, Yoga Therapy Gift Certificates are now on sale.
Happy freakin' holidays. May you thrive.