Resolve it, or Just Manage it?

Hey, so looks like Thursday is the new Tuesday!

I wanted to tell you about this thing that I am just starting to understand more fully…namely, managing symptoms (stress, anxiety, panic, intolerable emotions) versus addressing the source. I think we tend to confuse the two, and sometimes there’s also overlap to add to the confusion.

Sometimes we all need to use things like meditation and breathing techniques to keep the stress at bay. The list of things that can be used for this purpose as very long…everything from supplements, to exercise, to energy work and prayer and counting to 10 while you visual the beach.

The activities conducted during a Somatic Experiencing session are often also helpful for feeling better, but there seems to be something different going on. There’s a way in which attending to experience in a way that doesn’t just try to get rid of activation, but actually connects us to it in a manageable way, seems to produce lasting change in the form of increased capacity. This is what we really need when we are experiencing chronic stress (over activation) because this is a sign of a disregulated nervous system (trauma).

Increased capacity is experienced as more ease across the board: being with difficult experiences more easily (like, wow, that wasn’t as hard as I expected!), navigating social interactions (wow, that turned out way better than I expected!), and things just don’t feel as difficult (gee, I must just be lucky, having a good week, or a good hair day).

Some activities might even produce these increases in capacity outside a session, as we become more and more skilled at keeping ourselves in the zone of manageable activation.

Other things still, might help because they follow this principle of manageability even if they don’t look like “doing SE” because they keep is within our capacity. Operating within capacity, paradoxically, grows our capacity. Staying within our capacity means not overriding self by being too busy, skipping lunch, or having too few breaks or too little transition time between activities. It could also simply be not hanging out in places or with people that are dangerous or abusive. It means not skipping vacation time or opportunities to be creative/spontaneous, and not being overly serious. Keep in mind that these things are also much easier to do if we have a fairly regulated nervous system, and if they come easily are a sign of health, and contribute to greater health and maintain our self regulation, but are not necessarily the cause of health. It’s a complex two-way relationship.

That said, I might sometimes offer coping strategies to some people for specific symptoms that feel intolerable (overwhelming, aka moving one from fight/flight into freezy states), but I’m always hoping that no one gets too attached to them in a way that interferes with being able to be with unfolding experiences in session and complete them organically. We can induce all kinds of states in search of answers…humans have been doing that forever.

Some people go through their whole lives managing their discomfort and stress, or searching for the “one”. Just wanting you to know that there’s an alternative to constant management and searching and all the energy that uses. You gots choices…just sayin’.

That’s all I wanted to say. Might be easier if I just said, don’t get too attached to anything, and don’t stress too much about getting attached to anything. But, I think you get the idea. Let me know if I’ve only succeeded in confusing you, and I’ll try to clear it up.



About Cynthia M Clingan

Cynthia Clingan is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Columbus, Ohio who offers somatic psychotherapy, spiritual coaching, and meditation and mindfulness instruction.
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