I’ve finished my first of three years in the Somatic Experiencing® training program. The last four full months have been spent working with between five and seven clients a week. Here’s something I’ve noticed.
So many of us are looking for a way to feel happiness, pleasure, excitement, and joy. It’s a common theme, one that’s been mentioned often, so far.
What I’m talking about, here, is different from not being able to feel safe, or content. Though that’s a thing, too, and a topic for another day.
I’ve heard it associated with our natural inclination for a negative bias. In order to have continued to survive to evolve into the creatures we are today, we needed to be quick to notice danger. That mushroom made me sick or made Sam die. There is a movement over in the weeds, OH! it’s a tiger, I better take action.
Survival depends on being able to see/identify/act in dangerous situations.
That’s an easy out for why we don’t savor the good.
But I think that’s an incomplete way to look at it. There is evidence of humans enjoying things from all the way through our history (art, ceremony, music, etc.)
I suspect that there is more at play…
Among other things, in today’s world, very few of us have to watch for real danger on a regular basis. Sure, driving a car or walking alone (for some of us) are examples of times we must be on our guard. But mostly, the food we come across in the grocery store is safe and there are very few of us who have to worry about our housecats dragging us home to feed their kittens.
Instead of deciding that it’s in our nature, consider this: many of us also have a hard time accessing anger.
That’s a healthy, primitive emotion- it’s the emotion that indicates our boundaries have been threatened, and we need to act. How many of us have managed to suppress anger to the point that we identify as a sweet, peaceful person who never gets angry.
Our loss of ability to feel pleasure (either emotionally or physically,) joy, excitement, happiness, can occur in the same way. These “positive” feelings are just as primitive and healthy as anger and sadness.
In short, we learned not to access them.
I could wander into Trauma. It’s a long, twisty, tough road for many. And talking about it here might even activate you and make you feel uncomfortable.
And I don’t need to.
Instead, let me draw a straight line. Pleasure, happiness, joy, especially excitement; just like anger and fear, are all activation. As in, our nervous system rises to the challenge, so to speak.
So we work with the “good” feelings the same way and the “bad” ones. Incidentally, this can also be how we work with feeling safe and content.
Slowly. Feeling into the feeling only as much as we are able in the moment. Tracking it, allowing some workable amount of it to travel all the way through the body. This, in and of itself, increases the capacity for those “good” feelings.
Another way to work with it is to slowly, carefully, track down where in the past those feelings became not ok or unsafe. And work with that.
In practice, both of these are uncomfortable, though I have found that feeling the happy is less familiar and normalized than digging into the past and working on unsettling memories.
But holy cow, is it liberating! To realize that we can feel good. Maybe that we do, but we have such a bias against it that we bypass it and forget it.
Combining the two, in the company and guidance of a trusted healer over time can foundationally change your life going forward. We are rewriting the coding of how you work.
I use the term “renaturing” for the work I do with folx. So in this case, we’re renaturing you, finding that base nature which is aware and experiences both the “bad” and “good,” in a regulated, healthy way.