How to Reconnect to Yourself
Connection with one’s body might seem abstract or difficult to curate. As a therapist and yoga instructor, when a client tells me they don’t know where to start or they are having trouble defining something for themselves, I always suggest starting with what we do know.
With that being said, I would argue we can not answer the question “how to reconnect to yourself?”, without first defining what disconnection looks like in or with the body.
I tend to think about my connection, or lack thereof, with my body as a relationship like any other in my life. If I am setting aside intentional time to spend with her, if I am doing the things for her that she wants and needs, if I am being curious - not critical - about her experiences, then I am working to foster healthy connection and relationship with her.
So what happens when I haven’t done those things for a while, or quite possibly, because of wounds or trauma, never developed a relationship with her? How could you facilitate an environment in which you can reconnect with yourself?
Why you’re feeling disconnected
The Oxford Languages Dictionary defines disconnection as “the state of being isolated or detached” or “the act of detaching one thing from another”.
When I apply that definition to the state of one’s body/being I feel a great deal of sadness and grief. Trauma research and psychology has given us a lot of language over the past several decades about how and why someone disengages in their relationship with themselves.
What is important to note, is that disconnection is protective. If you are longing to reconnect with your body/self, please hear that there are valid and meaningful reasons you chose the strategy of disconnection. Whether we have experienced “T” or “t” trauma, our bodies find ways to stay safe. Big “T” trauma would be considered the major and obvious wounds committed against ourselves or our bodies (abuse, neglect, physical harm). Little “t” trauma can be defined as unmet needs or more chronic, minor wounds that a person/body tolerates over the course of a lifetime. Both types of trauma cause the body to react to and deal with pain. The body learns the path of least resistance as a way to manage the discomfort. Often, this protective, reactionary response causes a disconnect with your body. Part of the process of reconnecting with ourselves is to teach the body that she is safe now.
“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is playing out inside. They learn to hide from themselves.” - Bessel van der Kolk, Body Keeps the Score
Ways to reconnect with yourself
On a practical level, any type of embodied practice - yoga, walking, sipping coffee - can all be used as mindful tools to build a safe relationship with ourselves. Here are some of my favorite Tethered Practices.
Yoga can be an intimidating practice to start if you have never participated before. However, it is not necessary to know the postures by heart or speak Sanskrit in order to benefit significantly from the way the practice facilitates engagement and intention with the body. Yoga is a beautiful way of communicating with ourselves and allowing the mat to reveal the parts that need more tending to.
Walking is a favorite practice of mine. Tuning into the way our body is moving and the environment we are walking in and around can be a great grounding exercise. Next time you are walking your dogs or strolling through your neighborhood, take a minute to set an intention for the time with yourself. Take inventory of the way your body feels and what sensations it is using to tell you important information about itself.
Breathing is something most of us don’t have to think about on a daily basis. However, the majority of clients I work with, when first starting the journey of connection with their bodies, rarely practice active breath work in a way that supports the parasympathetic nervous system. Our parasympathetic nervous system is the part of our autonomic nervous system that supports, what experts call, “rest and digest”. It is associated with returning the body to routine practice where the body feels safe and relaxed. When we are engaging the parasympathetic part of our system, we are able to stay more grounded and present with our bodies. When used as a regular practice, intentional breathing exercises help our bodies move into a state of rest and, again, reinforce a feeling of safety with and in the self.
Seeking Professional Body Work
Things like implementing a regular practice of massages, chiropractic care, craniosacral therapy, and others can improve the conversation we are trying to have with our bodies. Think of these professionals as trusted facilitators to your relationship with self. I love to think of the professionals in my life as “mirrors” to me. When used appropriately and safely, body work can be an incredibly reflective practice.
Sometimes putting language and words to our body’s feelings, sensations, and thoughts can be a very therapeutic practice. Remember, we are trying to foster a healthy, safe relationship with ourselves in order to reconnect. Think of journaling like writing a letter to an old friend you long to reestablish friendship with again. How would you describe your experience to her and what would you want her to tell you?
The path to reconnecting with ourselves starts with a foundation of safety. Like in personal relationships, we are hesitant to share or be vulnerable if the environment feels threatening. Next time you become frustrated with yourself or your body, ask, “am I creating an environment where she can thrive?”, “am I listening to what she is trying to say?”, “am I giving her permission to be scared, or tired, or lonely, or content?”
May we be a people who practice healthy relationships with ourselves so that we are able to foster deeper connections with others and the world around us.