As much as I want you to get the relief that you need and that you deserve, I also don't want you to push yourself further than your safety state is able to take you. When doing more direct work on your trauma, like meditation, self-reflection, journaling or guided imagery, there is such a thing as taking it too far and needing to stop.
(BTW, listeners of my Stuck Not Broken podcast and I call this direct trauma work "Stucknauting")
What "stopping" means
"Stopping" means ending a trauma work session. As in, you're in your safety environment, grounded in safety, but then become dysregulated and then choose to end the session.
I talk a lot more in detail about this in Unstucking Defensive States.
Stopping could mean that you simply stop and re-regulate yourself. Stopping could also mean that you pause and then come back to the exercise after you're re-regulated and back in your safety state.
So stopping does not mean that you never come back to working on your trauma. Stopping does not mean that you give up. Quite the opposite, actually.
"Does stopping mean that I failed?"
Heck no! It's actually important that you stop or pause mindfully and make the conscious choice to do so. That indicates your vagal brake is active and you're able to notice before getting sucked into a dysreguated downward spiral.
We want to not do that.
So if you can mindfully notice your limit, then pause and return, this will help to further increase your distress tolerance.
So how do you recognize that it's time to stop?
3 signs it's time to stop:
1. Fear is taking over - the experience of fear, of immobilization in flight/fight, is okay. But we don't want it to be overpowering. When this happens, it'll be felt as panic or overwhelm (possibly rage too).
2. You're no longer curious - when you lose access to feeling curious or interested, this suggests that you are losing access to your safety state. This is a good time to pause, re-regulate and then return when ready.
3. Uninvited memories surface - It's probable that you will have different images and memories surface as you delve into your stuck defensive state. And that's okay. But we want them to be welcomed, not intrusive. If a memory surfaces that you are not able to welcome, it's completely okay to pause the exercise, re-regulate and return when you're ready.
Next, we need to discuss what to do about it...
Ground in safety and return to safety
"Safety" of course refers to your Polyvagal state of safety and social engagement.
Ground in safety
When you begin a session of trauma work, you want to be grounded in safety. That means your body is existing in the present moment. You have access to your sensory inputs and the experiences of the external world as they are unfolding. That also means that you are able to look inward with curiosity at your SSIEC domains - State, Sensation, Impulse, Emotion & Cognition.
Return to safety
When you lose access to your safety state, actively do something to re-anchor yourself. Anchoring can look different for each of us, so there is one aspect that I will hone in on for now - allow for movement.
If you are getting sucked into dysregulation and immobility and unable to tolerate it, then I recommend being mobile. Get up and move around. Remind your body that you are safe and that you can move.
Fidgeting can be helpful for minor dysregulation. For more severe dysregulation, then getting up and leaving the immediate area and going to another might be more helpful. Once the immediate dysregulation has subsided, then you can return to your passive safety environment and work on more deliberately re-anchoring yourself in your safety state.
If you are interested in deepening your learning and practice on safety anchoring, I created a course for you called Building Safety Anchors. It's completely focused on your accessing and building the strength of your safety state. It prepares you for the next step of unstucking trauma.
If you're interested in the next step of more direct trauma relief work, I have a course for you too. It's Unstucking Defensive States. UDS is completely focused on teaching and guiding you into experiencing and relieving your stuck trauma. To go from fear to relief.
Of course, you can always schedule a chat with me as well to get clarity on any of my courses. No sales pressure calls, just a chance for you to learn more to help you decide on your purchase.