Deep Dive


I dove into the water the same way I dove into therapy: without too much overthinking and before I had a chance to turn back.

This wasn’t my usual MO: I typically weigh everything out, check all my options, reconsider, revisit, ask a few friends, journal about it, ponder some more, and then make a decision. But this time, I couldn’t get to the deep end of the pond fast enough. 

My insides were full of messy emotions, my mind was in a state of general confusion, and my body just wanted relief.

At that moment, relief came in the form of cool pond water on a warm summer afternoon. My body was going through a rebirth of sorts, and I needed all the calming sensory input I could get.

It was August 2014, and I was about a year and a half into the deep healing work of recovering from complex childhood trauma. My body was slowly learning to trust itself and stay in a place of peace rather than chaos, but along the way, all kinds of stuff from the past kept coming to the surface to be fully felt. Not that I hadn’t been feeling these things all along – I had, sort of. But whenever the feelings would come up, they would also bring with them panic and fear, both of which would make me fall to pieces emotionally and thus, believe it or not, keep me from feeling my feelings fully.

In other words, in trying to protect me from my feelings, my body was also preventing me from feeling them fully, making it impossible for the feelings to speak their mind and then leave, and helping them stick to instead around longer beneath the surface, only to rear their disruptive head whenever the right set of life circumstances presented itself.

As I did more and more of the deep healing work, I learned to feel the feelings, process them in therapy by using a bizarrely cool eye-movement method called EMDR, and work my way through them – not around them. 

This helped me integrate and move through the emotions. But it took a while: the emotional damage hadn’t happened overnight, and it wouldn’t get fixed overnight either. So in the meantime, I found respite in things that were healing and calming to me. And that summer, it was the water gliding over the largest sensory organ – my skin – that brought me immense relief and calm.

My memories of that time are clear: I’d start out standing in the water, just before diving in, with dozens of free-floating feelings inside me. Sadness, hope, nostalgia. Longing, compassion, fear. Anger, distress, regret. Pride, loneliness, and gratitude. I couldn’t even name them all, nor did I want to sit there and overthink them all.

I was learning to also perceive the feelings as physical sensations: Tightness in my jaw. Knotlike feeling in my stomach. Warmth spreading up my face. Feeling of nausea. Feeling of sleepiness. Feeling of physically pulling back and crouching to “very small.”

Much of the time during this particular phase of healing, there were no childhood memories attached to the feelings or sensations: nothing I could put my finger on. I learned that they most likely were feelings linked to events that happened when I was very young, under age 3 or so, before my brain could lock the events into long-term memory and associate the feelings with them.

Without a concrete story to back up so many of the feelings, I let them be. I was learning to not “over-label” my feelings, analyze them to death, worry about them too much. All I had to do was feel them, give them a place to be safe in my body, and help my body adjust to them – to the feelings, the sensations, the floating thoughts that passed through but didn’t stick around.

Somehow, my body found space to hold all these emotions – often all of them at the same time, it felt like – and I gratefully accepted the fact that my only job was to be OK with them, work with my therapist to process them through my body, and take really good care of Me.

So I swam a lot that summer. Most every day, if I needed to. Not very long each time, but long enough. 

I let the water hold me, and I let my body hold the emotions. I noticed how I could flip and turn, how my arms would move and crawl, how my feet would flutter and kick. I narrowed everything down to its base sensation, and I allowed my brain and my body to let the healing continue.

I let physical sensation be my guide, and I supported the emotions that showed up as secondary. No emotion showed up without a physical feeling, so I learned that if I first tapped into the sensation, the emotion was much easier to greet and invite to stay for a while.

My story is not an entirely uncommon one, and maybe you can relate. Is there a time when you recall sitting with a sensation rather than a feeling? Have you nurtured a practice of mindfulness or movement that allows you to tolerate discomfort without having to hide from your feelings? Do you practice sinking into your body, relaxing fully, and allowing yourself to simply physically exist without labels, judgment, or overthinking?

It’s something we tend not to learn as young ones in this culture, but it’s something we all can learn, intentionally and consistently, as adults. We have the choice now to decide what we want, and, more often than not, if we stake our claim in life and declare, “Yes, healing is for me,” then not only will we, indeed, find healing, but healing will also find us.

Overwhelmed to On Fire

How much would you give to sit across from someone who knows exactly what it’s like living every day with the overwhelm, anxiety, brain fog, frustration, and other effects of complex trauma–but has found their way out, to inner freedom, deep peace, and true joy?

Well, for anyone serious about living a richer, more rewarding life, the price would be quite high and worth every penny. But for a short time, for a small number of people, I’m offering that opportunity… without charge.
That’s right, with my Overwhelmed to On Fire call, you have the chance to work with me one on one, absolutely free.

Because I hold these calls personally, there are very few spots available, so if you’re serious about changing your life and would like the guidance and support of someone who has been in the trenches, worked their way out, and now successfully helps others do the same, use the calendar provided to apply for your session now.

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