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When healing intensifies

Curling ocean wave symbolizing flood of sensations as healing intensifies

Using somatic practices to heal emotional wounds is extremely effective. But the journey can be too intense at times. There are times when giving up seems like the wisest choice. And it’s important to know that these times are a temporary, normal part of healing.


If you’re highly empathic or neurodivergent, you’re especially likely to experience a flood of hard-to-name sensations that hit your cognitive awareness as a giant wave of fear or terror. And it can derail your entire process like it almost did mine.


This happens because somatic practices, done well, establish a conversation with your body and allow you to hear its messages for perhaps the first time. As it turns out, there’s a lot your body wants to tell you once you start listening, especially if you’ve never paid it attention before.


Here’s what can happen as your interoceptive system comes online:


  • You get too many signals to make sense of, and it overwhelms your processing power.

  • You get too many signals that conflict, and it overwhelms your processing power.

  • All of the above.

  • A mix of the above, fluctuating by the hour.


It can be tempting to stop training, stop listening and go back to the dissociated safety you know and love. And there is no shame in doing exactly that. The journey is hard. But remember, embodiment has its benefits – joy, presence, internalized power and boundaries, to name a few – so it’s worth coming back to your body as soon as you feel safe enough to continue.


Making sense of the overwhelm


First, it helps to know that this is a natural part of the process. There is nothing wrong with you, and in fact, as uncomfortable as it is, the flood of interoceptive information is a measure of progress. Here’s what’s happening:


  1. You are finally aware of the vast amount of information inside your body. Everything from hunger pains to inexplicably complex emotional sensations have always been there, but you’ve learned to tune them out, suppress them and negate them until and unless they’re too loud to ignore.

  2. The sheer volume of information (in both senses of the word) sends your newly-aware cognitive brain into a loop of anxiety as it tries to make sense of it all.

  3. This triggers your threat-sensitive amygdala to start the stress response – tension, rapid/shallow breathing, big emotions like fear and rage.

  4. And this stress response increases the amount of interoceptive information you’re receiving.


You can sense how the loop can quickly spiral, even as you intentionally interrupt it with the stress management techniques you’ve already mastered. Like a boulder rolling downhill, the momentum is hard to stop once it gets rolling.


But here’s the best part: Hidden in the storm is the next phase of your journey.


Think of the churning torrent of information as a pool of white noise:

  • Within white noise are millions of individual tones.

  • Imagine reaching into the white noise to pick out just one tone.

  • This is the way through.


I struggled with this part of journey for many weeks and lived with a sense of terror radiating out of my bones. I thought all was lost, I’m too broken to fix, too far gone to save, too different to be helped. I labeled it a regression, not knowing it could actually be just another segment of my Dark Valley. I dreaded being “unacceptable” in my frightened state, and I didn’t know how to talk about any of it because it was so damn big.


So I started writing. I wrote until I reached the bottom of that pit of white noise, until one of the tones stood out and made sense. It took many, many days, and my writing was both dark and hopeless until I landed on the learning:


The fear was a void. And the void was the result of having healed and released many, many traumas but not yet filling my internal world with what comes next.


With that understanding, I could finally take action to start filling that void with new hopes, dreams and acceptance. With that understanding, I could move out of fear because action is the antidote to the frozenness of fear.


So if you find yourself in a flood of sensations that defies comprehension during your healing journey, and if it shakes the very foundation of your hope and will, take comfort in knowing:


  1. It’s a sign of immense progress.

  2. It doesn’t last forever.

  3. Even if you feel like you’re lost, you’re exactly where you need to be to level up to the next phase of the journey.

  4. There is great wisdom to be found in the churn.

  5. Once you find it, fresh resources will show up, and you can trust you’ll know exactly what to do.


The churn is the healing.

Churn, baby, churn.

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