I am not very fond of the term “self sooth”. I immediately think of a “soother”, which makes me think of infants. I then picture myself as a grown up with a purple soother in my mouth looking wistful. If there is anything I sincerely do NOT want is to look pitiful. So wistful will be my word of choice right now.
Scary and traumatic things happen to all of us. It is important we know adult ways to comfort ourselves and help get ourselves back on solid ground. For some people yelling is a fall back option when they feel out of control. For others, it is retreat: walk away, slam the door, emotionally disappear. Some people ignore or deny the trauma or painful experience. Others minimize it: “Oh, that wasn’t so bad. The basement flooded, I broke my leg and the baby was born all within about 15 minutes. I sailed right through the whole mess just fine. Really!
Dissociation is also a frequent method of handling trauma. Dissociation is about freezing the mind. Simply shutting down and not being present and not facing what has happened. You feel like you are caught in the wood work, or floating on the ceiling looking down at the scene below, or you go far away in your mind where you hope you cannot be found. It absolutely feels like survival for you. While you are out there in space somewhere trying as best you know how to survive, your partner and family members are feeling abandoned.
So what can we do to comfort ourselves at times of exceeding stress when we think we are totally unable to cope?
Take a nap. Listen to me! Do NOT discount this. Sleep regenerates and regulates. It takes you out of the fray and into your own consciousness. It allows for a shift of soul and mind. Taking a nap is all for YOU and is a time for comfort and be within your Self in a cozy and healing way.
Listen to or make music. Music allows our brain and our mind to refocus. It can bring control and understanding when life feels chaotic and unmanageable. Don’t bustle around doing this and that with music in the background. Settle and listen. Breathe and take it in. Day after day. For an hour or more at a time. Let music teach you to quiet your mind and focus on sound and order and drift emotionally into a place of bliss and absolutely no demands at all. Music brings order out of chaos, especially classical music. Though having said that, my brother introduced me to soft Jazz and I find that truly spectacular as well.
Puppies. Sit in a chair and knit, do cross word puzzles, do Sudoku, meditate, melt into a space of emptiness in your mind, and feel the comfort and warmth of your tired and oh so trusting puppy snoring on your lap. Total bliss. Precious moments for finding peace, balance, and hope. The warm body of Aimee on my lap reminds me how connected my soul is to every living thing on this plant.
Read. Find a book that takes you totally away from the strain of today’s life. Give yourself at least an hour a day to totally focus on a whole other world and emerge yourself in someone else’s solutions to problems and stress. A fanciful romance or sci-fi world can carry you away from problems that will be faced soon, but really, not quite yet. I like psychological detective fiction because it gives my mind a puzzle to focus on and often takes my spirit to other countries. I like Donna Leon or Louise Penny or Lisa Genova, or Jodi Pocoult. They fill my world with love and hope and mystery and never fail to teach me something amazing.
Life will feel out of hand, out of our reach to grasp or have control on, from time to time. Finding useful ways that work for you to help you feel safe, is immensely valuable. Those people who love and count on you can almost always feel your strength. You will falter. But if you have methods you can count on to get yourself feeling steady and strong again, you will sooner like both your inside self and your outside self. The more you love and take care of you, the more you are able to let those you love know how much they can trust you.