I want to share with you a story of a woman I have been working with that illustrates relief from chronic physical and emotional suffering is just literally an “Awareness” away. Now, I am sure if you are anything like my client, when you hear that statement, you say to yourself: She can’t be serious….that woman has no idea what I have been through, the pain, the loss, the grief, the physical trauma, the childhood of absolutely “craziness” and a life history of just “really bad things happening to good people”. And you know what, you’re absolutely right, I don’t have any idea of what you have experienced.
But here is what I do know….Up to now, those experiences, past and current, those memories, have not only shaped your personality and will continue to do so, but also have shaped the chemistry of your brain, right down to the very essence of how you express yourself, in your posturing, your movements, your walk and even the sound of your voice.
Now this woman had longstanding neck and back pain for over 20 years with acute flare-ups of numbness and tingling into her arms and legs. So, using, Awareness Creates Freedom, the first awareness we explored was the collection of unconscious thoughts that shaped her belief system, or as I like to call it…her current working reality. These at first were just whispers, but as we spoke, we uncovered a long history around a core theme: be a good girl, don’t upset anyone, keep everything in its place, work really, really hard, and maybe you will be seen. But then, on the other hand, watch out, be very still, tiny, and small, don’t be seen or heard, and that way you’ll be safe. So, as we examined her collection of thoughts, she began to see (no pun intended) that she had conflicting desires…to be seen and not to be seen. It was a good strategy and had served her well for a long time but she was willing to explore a new thought and the possibility that the old one may have served its usefulness and could withstand a “little maturation.” Besides, if it helped her pain and suffering, who cared?
Now you and I both know “the awareness of a visceral sense of safety and trust is needed for transformation/relief to take place.” By visceral, I mean from your gut, deep in your bones, you have to know or have hopethat you will be safe enough in order to risk change. We have to feel this deeply because the oldest part of our brain is so hardwired for survival that when we sense the very perfume of danger, real or even a thought, we are going to employ our most familiar pattern of safety: either freeze or get so still, or somehow mobilize our legs and run like hell, or come out swinging and punching, literally or with our voices, or all the above.
So the second awareness this woman experienced, was how just thinking and recalling images, she physically and spontaneously started to employ her safety strategy; she became a witness to how she could make herself small. Her head sinking into the top of her spine that caused a buckling in her lower back that then dropped her breastbone like an anchor that couldn’t find the bottom of the ocean floor and created waves of nausea. The weight of her head bringing her teeth together, her lips flattening into a tight, thinning line, her eyes squinting as if preparing for the blow that was about to come, the back of the throat collapsing and her tongue becoming a flaccid lump of muscle that could make no sound. Her breath immediately caught up in an inhale that froze every bone in her upper chest, even under her armpits, draining the life force out of her arms; muscular tension spreading along the right side of the back of her head and into her right shoulder and tingling down into her right arm…Most of these sensations were familiar to her and strangely enough, provided a quirky, although painful, sense of comfort. She could make herself small and unseen and therefore “safe.”
But the eye-opener for her was the awareness of her ability to “bear witness” to what was happening, literally, right inside of her. Another “aha” was that in 60 seconds or less and all from thought, she was experiencing a “shrinking of her physical frame, a closing down and immobilization of her entire being, like the aperture on a camera lens, getting smaller and smaller.” It was in this place of awareness that together we explored some movement experiments that led her to know that she could still experience that visceral sense of safety and trust, but instead of her familiar closing down and collapsing inward, she could start to experience the curiosity in the concept of safety with openness and vulnerability.
Years of simply not knowing, not feeling “safe” enough or using her “old ” safe strategy, trained her to be unconscious to her patterns of inhibition, both physically and psychologically. Keenly developed, she put in place a strategy to hold her back especially when there was that urge for freedom of self-expression and discovery of who she could be beyond her occupation as a Physical Therapist, a partner, a wife, a mom. To put herself out there, taking her place, shining and shimmering among other professionals would be vulnerable no doubt, but it didn’t have to be overwhelming and limiting. “Awareness” of her personal pattern of restriction, intimately sensing how she “moved” inward toward contracted stillness was very different compared to an open stillness congruently aligned in trust and safety, knowing intuitively which direction to move next or what words need to be spoken in the moment. Awareness created for her a space, a choice: a freedom that she didn’t know existed.
I am happy and privileged to say that this woman continues to do well today. She is genuinely happy, lives in so much more comfort than she ever has before, and even today her story is an inspiration to me as I journey into the last half of my life. That woman in the story…why, that’s me, Carol Montgomery, and I am so happy to be here with you today as we safely discover your unconscious patterns of inhibition using movement and awareness. So, let’s get started, shall we?
Carol is a physical therapist, a co-creator of Integral Human Gait theory, a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, and a Senior Trainer in Movement Intelligence. Focus, Align, Teach and Inspire! These qualities not only describe her work, but they also describe her presence. She is passionate when it comes to reconnecting learning with human function and health. Carol is in private practice at MontgomerySomatics.com in Columbus, Indiana.