When I tell you that I have been exploring and trying to "fix" myself for years, I mean it. Imagine having a broken first step and every single time that you walk out of your house you trip over it. You keep trying to repair it but the glue doesn’t hold, the bricks are cracked, the cement doesn’t dry, and you just find yourself in the same position day after day, tush over feet.
That’s sort of what my self-exploration journey has felt like — and I know that most of that is because I was built pessimistically.
But, the other part of it is because I was missing a crucial piece.
I finally realized that I should probably work on myself when I found out I had gotten married and had children without my recollection. (OK, I’m kidding. Of course, I was there and even fully consented to these events, but what I mean is I wasn't fully present for them.)
In fact, it turns out I wasn’t really present for the first 30 years of my life.
My memories were pretty non-existent and my masochistic heart was willing to do anything to find the ugly truth behind why I had blocked out an entire lifetime. Show me the nasty!
That’s how my healing and self-growth journey began.
There was no big ugly trauma to blame my repression, depression, or lactose intolerance on — let’s normalize compounded stress as traumatic as well.
It was 2014, I was 30 years old and I had been motivated by intense internal suffering to dig deeper into myself.
It’s important to note here that suffering can come at any age and at any time and for any reason. No trauma is too small to cause internal suffering or depression.
My suffering came from feeling completely lost, confused, directionless, and memory-less. Practically, that looks like weighing 100 pounds, starting a new career, being a young mother and wife, drinking too much, and feeling all-around purposeless and depressed.
I was convinced that recovering my childhood memories would unlock a path that made sense for me, so I tried everything: I dug into therapy, EMDR, hypnosis, chakra work, reiki, massage, meditation, psilocybin, shadow work, Human Design, Gene Keys, Astrology, coaches, healers, classes, seminars, videos, and books.
All of those things worked, to a degree. They helped me move closer to my values and the truth of who I was and the work I was meant to be doing in this lifetime.
But, something still felt off, wrong — as though I was swimming against the current.
It wasn’t until I found the single, best, tool for healing that things began to change. Now, before I reveal it, I want to say that all of the aforementioned things do work and I still practice most of them daily.
However, there was something bigger, better, and more useful that every single person on the planet should begin (or integrate currently) into their healing practice: somatic therapy.
What I’ve learned from my somatic therapist is that the nervous system is our best tool for healing and self-development. A dysregulated nervous system will create pain, suffering, anxiety, depression, drama, and an all-around chaotic life for us, a large percentage of the time.
The nervous system learns what is dangerous and safe in childhood. It responds with fight, flight, or collapse. It’s pure survival.
Prolonged stress can cause us to “get stuck” in one of these rings of the nervous system ladder. For me, it was collapse. Disassociating was my superpower. As an 8-year-old immigrant from Israel, I retreated to my own world where everyone knew my Hebrew language.
I stayed there for the next 30 years or so, floating between this world and my own. In the last few years, my feet have finally begun to touch the ground as I have been diving deeper into the nervous system work and pulling myself out of survival and back into reality.
Why is somatic therapy the most crucial and useful tool for healing?
Most of us try to "repair" our mindset first — i.e. if I change my thoughts, I can change my life. Yes, there is truth to that. But the body doesn’t get enough attention. And it's precisely in the body that we store repressed memories, traumas, limiting beliefs, conditionings, patterns, and stories.
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We can change our mind to expect happiness and joy but if the body finds happiness and joy to be uncomfortable (hey, I’m not used to this!) then it will perceive it as danger and send us into survival mode wreaking havoc on our minds, bodies, and lives.
If you are new to self-development, healing, trauma, or spirituality, l encourage you to start feeling your feelings with somatic therapy, own your own, or with a partner, coach, friend. Understanding your nervous system and what it perceives as a danger — and why — is the best self-awareness work any of us can do.
Because once we know it, we can change it, we can heal it, we can make ourselves feel safe again in the world and within ourselves.
Feel the feelings, express the feelings, show your system how to find calmness, and from there you can expect incremental success with anything else that you do.
Somatic therapy should be taught in schools.
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Danna Yahav is an author, writer, and coach. You can find her on Instagram @this.is.Danna