Can you feel safe in your body if it keeps freaking out?


Last night, I watched the last episode of Sherlock on Netflicks. Apparently, it has been out for a couple of years, but I just got turned onto it recently. (This is not unusual.) I enjoyed the easy viewing and the entertainment of seasons one and two until this last episode when a weird thing happened to me. But let me set it up a little more before I get into that. I like this Sherlock character because he has an acute and highly refined observational skills, IN-tense focus and an amazing memory. Yogi-traits, no? He, with the help of an endearing Dr. Watson, uses these abilities to solve crimes that should not be allowed to go unsolved in modern day tv-London. Once, he uncovered a Chinese art-smuggling network that was masquerading as a band of circus artists! He also broke into a governmental research lab that was suspected of breeding a genetically modified super-hound to fight in combat. You go, Sherlock. We had some good adventures together and I really enjoy his character. I feel connected to this fictional guy. I like him.

In this last episode of the second season, some bad stuff goes down. Moriarty, remade from the books as a modern-day super-villain and Sherlock’s mortal enemy, sets up Sherlock and (spoiler alert) Sherlock goes down. In one of the last scenes of the season, Sherlock sees no other choice but to jump from a tall building, convincing everyone, including his best friend, John Watson, that he has chosen to end his whole life. John sees the whole thing. And so do I.

As I said, I really like Sherlock so I’m sad that he jumped, but hI’m not too terribly upset. I know it’s tv and I’m convinced that there’s going to be some way that Sherlock outsmarts Moriarty and the rest of us. Plus, I have just pulled my laundry out of the dryer so I can fold the last load and I have it piled up on my lap and it feels warm and good. So I’m coping with Sherlock’s apparent suicide pretty well. But then the next part happens. John just watched his best friend fall to his death and he is not doing well. He’s on his way to Sherlock when he is knocked to the ground by someone running to help. John hits his head on the asphault…hard, and he is very disoriented from the head injury but mostly from the trauma of what he just witnessed. Time slows down, the camera angles close in on his face and then the sound gets all underwatery- slow and muffled. It takes me right there, to the ground, and my body starts to disorient along with John’s.

I’m still watching but I’m not doing so well. My stomach turns and my chest feels pressed and heavy. I’m not sure if the weird underwater sound-thing is coming from the tv or from inside my ears. It’s like I can hear my own head. I’m getting this flash-back to the feelings of shock and trauma that I experienced a couple of years ago—a different scenario, but same crazy nervous-system response that Dr. Watson seemed to be having. Even writing about it now is triggering some of those same sensations. We humans are so amazing. I can’t get over it.

John walks over to Sherlock’s body and he’s physically unable to hold himself up. Everyone around him is moving quickly in a blur. He can’t really focus and his legs give out and then he catches himself and then they give out again. John falls to the ground and gets knocked around by the people rushing. Each time he reaches out, someone pulls him back. No one will allow him to be with the body of his friend even for a moment. Soon, the people and the body are all cleared away and he ends up standing alone on the sidewalk. We are both traumatized.

I was feeling it, big time. The outside boundary of my body was in super-focus. I got warm and it felt like every surface of my body was weighted down with one of those radiation-blocker things that they put on you when you are getting your teeth x-rayed at the dentist. I didn’t want to move. I couldn’t focus my eyes. I guess all my eye power had to go to my breathing because it took so much effort. My body was remembering it’s trauma and this stupid tv show brought it all right back up to the surface. And I’ll tell you what. I was not expecting to be so affected by this show as I sat there, surrounded by my warm laundry at the end of a really nice day. I. was. not.

Jenn Wooten is a great lady. She also is a great yoga teacher. In class the other day, she talked about our bodies as being safe–safe to feel, safe to be in, and safe to come home to. I’ve been thinking about this and I am so very grateful to have had the experience of knowing this to be true. This feeling of safety has come gradually for me. Because of teachers like Jenn, Chase, and the many others that help me see things more clearly, because I have a practice that asks me to come into my body, connecting with my breath, and learning to be still in meditation, I’ve become more able to watch my responses and my emotions with interest instead of fear and judgment. I have started to feel safe in my body.

And then I had this experience of a tv-trauma-response and I became aware, again, of how powerful this experience is. As a person who has experienced trauma and is sensitive to triggers in environment, I can see how another person in this situation might not experience the body as safe. If there’s trauma that can come to the surface with a tv show or a loud noise or an argument, and it is still roaming around in the body, unaddressed, then this could be very difficult. Feeling like you can’t breathe or hear and are walking around with a full-body anti-radiation blanket while someone is squeezing on the chest, or feeling like it could strike at any moment, is not a good set-up for healing and safety. Living with and healing from trauma is difficult business.

I’m so grateful to my body and all the systems that are there, working hard to keep me safe and healthy. I’m also really glad that, because I’ve been able to connect to this practice of yoga, I can engage with great teachers and yoga philosophy that hold such deep meaning for me. I’m so glad that I have a practice to come to that helps me to inhabit this complex body of mine with it’s own history and experiences and memories. Because of yoga, my own anatomy and physiology is super interesting. I can see that they both play a huge role in my experiences. And what about that nervous system? Wow. Because of yoga and all that goes along with it for me, these sorts of sensations and responses start to make a little sense and I can see that my body is working for me and not against me. This helps me to see that it is possible for me and for others to heal and feel safe in the body.

8 thoughts on “Can you feel safe in your body if it keeps freaking out?

  1. Beautiful, Amanda. We store everything in the body, don’t we – or some analog of it anyway. We think we’ve worked through some samskaras so that nothing is left. But there are traces that can still get triggered. That’s really important insight, Amanda. Thank you. It isn’t that it’s unsafe to go back in the water, even though there is some reaction telling us that it is. The yogi has seen this before and can get enough space to say – It’s okay. You’re safe. It’s just a bad dream.

    We are amazing beings. And we do terrible things to each other. And those traumas come back as if they were happening now. And of course in a real sense they are. And many people can’t get the distance that a yogi might, and so they are plunged back in. Your insight recognizes the suffering while seeing it in healing perspective. Beautiful.

    1. Bharat, I am so comforted by your comment. Thanks for your regular presence in my life through this comment section of this blog and your blog. I appreciate your insight and reflections every single time. Especially today.

  2. Good for you Jen…I’m saddened to hear about your past trauma and today I pray for your continued healing and wholeness

  3. Our bodies are great gifts. They are able to guide us as long as we are able to listen closely to what it has to say. Your experience is unique to you. But it showed you how your body responds. As always, I leave full. m.

  4. The other thing that yoga teaches us is to watch what is happening to ourselves, a skill which definitely helps me to feel safe in my body. Body memory is so amazing isn’t it?

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