The healing need to do nothing : positive immobility

Its been decided that if you lie down, no one will die.

Robert Bly

The fourth healing response to free ourselves from regression may actually lie in being still and feeling our feelings, getting free of the compulsive need to engage in fear, fight or flight as a defensive reaction against our wounds being retriggered in the present.

Immobility can be a state of entrapment for many of us who were not encouraged to be healthily self assertive,  but there are those of us who do too much and immediately question our self value if we are not busy doing something.

I know when I started tapping into my own deeply repressed pain at around 8 years of sobriety, my husband got really angry for me for taking a day off work to stay in bed.  This was recommended to me by my then therapist who knew I needed time to just be and process feelings that were starting to emerge now I was no longer numbing myself out with drugs and alcohol.  When she recommended me to do that, I said to her “How can I do that?  I always front up for work no matter what?”  “You simply go to the doctor and tell him or her you need a few days off work due to depression and ask for a sickness certificate.”  Part of me balked, could I really do this?  I could and did, no one died and I got some needed time out.

The outcome once I made the truth known at work was that I received a lot of support.  They knew the painful difficulties I trying to deal with at that time and they cut me some slack, which is exactly what I needed to do for myself.  I came from a family with a very strong Protestant work ethic.  No one ever took a day off work and they worked their fingers to the bone.  It is one of the reasons my eldest sister had a cerebral bleed at age 34.  The family pattern was trying to break apart and I would be the second one to try and break it before falling apart physically, but I met a lot of resistance from my husband who was not in sobriety and was invested in blocking a lot of his own feelings of grief.

I read once that our society’s massive consumption of alcohol grew around the time the Protestant work ethic came to be the common zeitgeist.  The harder and longer people worked, the more stress and the more need to relax, but the less time available to do this in natural ways, and the more they turned to alcohol.  That was the pattern in my family of origin.  Alcohol was used to wind down and in the end took a toll on my father’s health and landed me in AA at the age of 31.

Taking time out to rest, be quiet and recharge is essential to recovering from stress and trauma.  But unfortunately due to the nature of trauma, as soon as we start to relax the demon of our trauma or Inner Critic raises its ugly head with symptoms or negative messages or we start to replay old symptoms kicking us for relaxing and letting go.  As the parasympathetic nervous system tries to kick into gear the sympathetic nervous system is triggered. Finding healthy ways to unwind and relax physically, emotionally and mentally is essential in overcoming age regression and traumatic flashbacks.

And we also need to find a way to sit still and feel our feelings.  Not write about them, not talk about them, but actually FEEL them, which is a totally different thing.  It occurs when we descend to the heart of suffering that we may have blocked the way to for years with rationalisations or defences.

Sitting still and concentrating on the breath can be triggering for some of us who may live in deep fear of our feelings.  We fear that the breath we breath will swallow us whole due to the fact deeper in our body and our heart we find realities that we unconsciously believe are too deep and painful to face.  Fighting against our feelings by analysing, criticising, blaming and shaming ourselves or others is also another defensive way in which we resist being in the moment and opening up the locked door of our heart that holds so much pain and anguish deep inside.  But if we are truly to heal this is what we need to do.  Sooner or later we need to sit still and face ourselves.  For in the end we are creating or re-creating or destroying our life through every choice we make to either take action or be.  Only by listening to our heart can we come to know which is right for us.  Being still, open and receptive is an important part of this process.



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