Grounding yourself is a vital part of therapy. Consider the following:
You are feeling overwhelmed in your personal life and decide to begin therapy to help you manage the anxiety. Yet, a few sessions in, you reach a moment in which you are consumed with emotion; you strain your back, drop your eyes, can’t catch your breath. You thought therapy was supposed to make you feel better, but in this moment, you seem to be the victim of your emotions.
Unfortunately, a common misconception surrounding therapy is that every session ends with feeling lighter or happier than when you started. Though this sometimes occurs, the deeper you dive into the source of your emotional turmoil, the more likely you are to experience a flood of painful memories, negative self-proclamations, or relational failures. Grounding yourself is important and necessary.
What your brain goes through in therapy
In order to get through the day, we have to find quick solutions to deal with the stress, anxieties, fears, or depression that are plaguing us. Often, we revert to is shoving them all into the back of our mind, finding temporary distractions in our work, vices, other people, etc.
Therapy is a place that asks us to go to the back of the mental closet. Once there, we begin pulling things out, little by little, until there is a mess in front of us. This clutter produces a state of emotional overwhelm. You may feel an emotional overwhelm outside of therapy as well, as you attempt to balance work and home. When we reach such a state, we want to dissociate or negate those feelings.
But, just as you wouldn’t leave a child’s playroom with all their toys strewn across the floor, we can’t leave our emotions in an unresolved state.
“How are you feeling in your body?”
If your therapist has ever asked such a question, they are attempting to help you start grounding yourself in your present emotional state. This is so that you can get a better handle on what is happening internally. When we think of therapy, we think of a verbal engagement; talking back-and-forth through a set of issues. However, we also have physical responses to our experiences and those physical responses play an important role in keeping us in the here-and-now.
When we are emotionally consumed, we detach and may feel ourselves being pulled back to a moment in which we didn’t feel in control or a victim of our circumstance. In order to process and heal from those memories, a therapist will need you to be grounded in the present. Once in the present, we can apply tools, feel in control of the situation, and better label our emotional state.
Your body is an anchor
Think of yourself as a boat at sea. The memories and emotional baggage you carry are waves that have the potential to sweep you away from the navigational path you are on. Your body is the anchor that holds you in place.
Therapists will take note of your present state of body, including voice, posture, gestures, and eye contact. All in an effort to better assess what you are feeling. When words fail to communicate, the body steps in as an additional device.
Your therapist will also bring you back to the present by asking you to focus on an emotion through the body. For example, you might hear a phrase like, “I want you to focus on the anger. Where do you feel it in your body?” When you can place the emotion in a central location, you can get a handle on it and then work to effectively process and heal from it.
How to practice body awareness
Though you might be focusing on processing your emotions through your body in therapy, you can also practice body awareness in your everyday life. Try grounding yourself through exploration of meditation or yoga. This helps you gain healthy strategies for processing your emotions and a better sense of control over your reactions in overwhelming situations.
We often have a very cognitive way of revisiting painful or troubling memories. This method can spill over into how we deal with everyday stress. To get to the root of any concern, we need to venture deeper into our inner emotions. The body is the door to these emotional states.