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Trauma Recovery: How to Start Getting Unstuck

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Getting unstuck isn't easy, and sometimes it's downright hard. Novelty can be exciting in its newness, but it can also be anxiety-producing. When you're making a change, you're entering a new territory.

Making change depends on the strength of someone's window of tolerance and how much distress they can tolerate. Change may be especially difficult for someone stuck in a traumatized state.

In this blog, I will give that person some starting points for the traumatized individual to begin making changes and getting unstuck.

Learn a new paradigm to lay the foundation for getting unstuck.

The Polyvagal Theory is a good one. I highly recommend it! If you didn't know, I'm kinda obsessed with it and based an entire podcast on the foundations of the theory. I've also got a page dedicated to easily understanding it, it's called Polyvagal Intro.

Whether it's the Polyvagal Theory or some other paradigm, the benefit is getting a new and hopefully more comprehensive understanding of yourself and how you fit into the world. Without the foundation of a solid paradigm, navigating the process of getting unstuck might seem a lot more out of control and overwhelming. But with a nice solid foundation under your feet, it will give you something to fall back on during your process.

It doesn't have to be the PVT. But, of course, that's my recommendation for where to start. You might also find the grounding you need through religion and the paradigm of yourself and the world it offers. Or, if you're already a believer, it might be time to revisit your beliefs and start anew. You could also look deeper into the work of Peter Levine or Kathy Kain for a better understanding of somatic psychology and healing. The PVT is one piece of what they go deeper into.

After having a new paradigm, you can then develop it into a new narrative.

man meditating in flower meadow

Create a judgment-free narrative to start getting unstuck.

Yes, it's possible. You can give yourself a new narrative with a new or refreshed paradigm. Because that solid foundational knowledge or worldview, it can help construct your stories about yourself. A new narrative is the application of the new paradigm to the self. I'll again advocate here for the Polyvagal Theory in particular.

Once you understand the biological components of the PVT and the autonomic nervous system, there is simply no judgment involved with applying it to the self. It's just biology. It's a scientific explanation of the bodily processes involved in how we get stuck and stay stuck. It applies to every single one of us and is judgment free. I hear from podcast listeners or Instagram followers that they felt a deep sense of relief in having the new paradigm of the PVT and then having a new narrative for something that happened in the past. Typically, it's referencing some traumatic event they went through. Or a realization about their upbringing and how that impacts them now.

But instead of the story being about how they're broken or defective, it's a more accurate story about being stuck in a defensive state. This new narrative brings with it a sense of hope and optimism. Because if you're stuck, then that means you can get unstuck. The biological science of the PVT also brings with it a roadmap for making change - the polyvagal ladder.

woman astronaut with flower bouquet  behind her

Notice the moment to start getting unstuck.

After creating a new paradigm and narrative, anchor yourself firmly in the present moment. The teachings of the PVT and your narrative of yourself will do the most good in the present moment. Yes, they apply to the past as well. But bringing those pieces to the present moment can help you attune to your biology right here and now.

You exist in the literal physical environment in the literal present moment. Not then, not there. But right here and now. If you exist then and there, you're probably in a defensive state. (Was that too convoluted?) Basically, I'm saying that if you are currently feeling those old feelings, there's a good chance that you're in a defensive state and have lost access to your capacity to tolerate the defensiveness. And if that's true, then the paradigm and the narrative will do little good.

You can start to return to the present moment by using your present-moment interactions with the environment through your senses. I teach more about this in section 4 of my Building Safety Anchors course, then lead you through a few practice days. Senses might be one of the most obvious ways to feel the present moment. After all, that's how the present moment speaks to us and influences our polyvagal state.

woman exploring her subconscious

Anchor yourself in safety for getting unstuck.

So that's all well and good, but you want to anchor yourself in the present moment by feeling safety. And this is where the Building Safety Anchors course comes in handy. Because it's all about discovering what works for you and your wonderful nervous system through finding feelings of safety. I teach you six different avenues for doing so, senses being one of the six.

Or you could subscribe to the Stuck Not Broken: Total Access Membership. Total Access gives you all of my trauma recovery courses and my private supportive community of people on their own trauma recovery journey.

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Generally, you can feel safety through small changes in your state. As you increase your ventral vagal safety activation, you will unlock your capacity to breathe easily, smile, use eye crinkles, and socially connect with others. You might feel more playful or more relaxed. So coming to the present moment and noticing your shifts is great, but coming to the present moment through safety, in particular, is ideal.

As you exercise your safety pathways, the possibilities for getting unstuck increase. Having a strong ventral safety system is necessary for the process of unstucking. (Unsticking?) Those pathways will be vital in tolerating the defensive energy as it discharges or returns. Seriously, they're important.

astronaut in flower meadow

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Excellent post! Thank you for breaking down PVT!

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