My good friend and colleague Jenn Cardoso is passionate about resilience. She dove deep into learning about trauma and movement after we had first met (at Jane Clapp's Movement for Trauma Level 1) 3 years ago. (You can read more about that here.) I love following her on social media (follow her on Instagram if you aren't already)— she posts things that I would never think of, and has an insight into the human condition that resonates deeply with me.
But a funny thing happened today. She posted an amazing video about self-regulation when she was feeling dysregulated. She was showing how to do the Butterfly Hug, a technique created by Lucina Artigas during her time working with survivors of Hurricane Pauline (Mexico 1998). I saw this and thought, "Wow! I want to try that." I have a different history with trauma than Jenn does, but I understand feeling dysregulation in my body.
Wait a second — what is the dsyregulation I'm talking about? I'm talking about when you feel like you are moving out of your Window of Tolerance. More language that's unfamiliar? No problem. The concept was first introduced by Dr. Dan Siegel. This infographic might help:
If you've experienced trauma in your life (by trauma I mean acute trauma like abuse; some kind of physical accident that left you with lingering emotional trauma; a long-term situation that was damaging emotionally to you; anything else that might have left you with post-traumatic stress disorder — yes, this is many, many people) you might understand the feeling of being dysregulated on your way to either hypoarousal or hyperarousal (see infographic above).
When we are feeling dysregulated there are many ways to bringing ourselves back to the Window of Tolerance. It might mean co-regulating with someone else. It might be connecting to something in our bodies. It could mean bouncing a ball, or balancing on something.
The thing is — what works for one person might not work for another person. In fact, what might be someone's perfect way to come back to calm could trigger another person. Yup. It's complicated. I LOVE savasana. If I can come to find stillness and connect with my breath, I'm good. Meditation, as hard as it is, is an anchor for me. I have friends, however, who will flip their lid (that's a technical term for what happens in their brains when the pre-frontal cortex goes off-line and the central alarm goes off) when they have to be still. The perfect thing for me can trigger someone else.
So, I sat down to try this Butterfly Hug exercise. After about one minute, I started to panic. The heat of my hands and the weight on my chest were flipping my lid. Fortunately, I understood what was happening, and so I moved my hands, and took my attention to my breath. No problem. What works for someone else might not work for me.
I'm writing all of this here for a few reasons. If you are taught something amazing by someone and you hate it, that's okay. You are normal. You are just different than the other person. If you find that you are dysregulated or out of your Window of Tolerance often — there is help for that. There are many ways to help create a larger Window of Tolerance, to deal with the trauma that is held in your body. And, if you aren't like me, and you don't like to bring your attention to your breath, maybe you'll love the Butterfly Hug. Watch the video here.
Lastly, if you want to learn more about all of this, Jenn and I are doing a weekend workshop together May 25 + 26 called The Integrated Science of Breath and Trauma. It's going to be mind-blowing. We created it for yoga and movement educators, but would be great for therapists of all kinds. And if you fall outside of these categories but are passionately curious about what you just read, sign up now. Early bird pricing ends April 22.
EDIT: This workshop has been cancelled, but will be recreated in an on-line format. Stay tuned for updates!
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