On Friday I took my first belly dance class. Why? Because part of my PTSD recovery got me into dancing and now, even though I’m lost past my PTSD symptoms, dancing is so much fun I just can’t stop! There’s also this benefit….
My trauma was physical. Maybe yours was, too, so you’ll understand what I mean when I say that for a long time afterward I really hated being trapped in my body. Inside my own skin didn’t feel safe. More than that, my bones, my organs, even my muscles were all things I’d desperately wanted to escape. They were things, actually, that I had gladly dissociated from during my trauma, which lasted for weeks.
You can understand, then, how awkward it was later to be a prisoner within my own body and try to recover from trauma. (If you’re wondering what happened to me you can read about my history here.)
After my trauma, I went on to make a full recovery physically but never found a way to safely reconnect with my body. It wasn’t until my PTSD recovery (25 years later) that I began to (re)forge a connection.
In the beginning, I began dancing as a way to get out of my PTSD head for at least one hour every day. The side effect was that this kinesthetic activity helped me learn to be present in my body, collaborate with it, and trust that my body sometimes knew more than my mind and I should defer to it.
We can learn a lot from embracing a connection with our bodies. Our intuition is often physical. All of our emotions create physical sensations. Every thought, actually, produces a physical reaction that gives you knowledge, so being separated from your body can have negative consequences. We receive information from both internal and external cues; being divorced from your body can actually make you less safe because you’re not paying appropriate attention to the signals it sends to keep you out of danger.
Overcoming symptoms of PTSD taught me the importance of being at peace in my own skin, and the value of collaborating with my body to increase not only my sense of safety and connection but pleasure as well. Dance taught me how to flow in my limbs instead of just manipulate them. It was a valuable lesson about healing, and living, too.
Even though I’m PTSD-free I continue to explore ways to deepen my connection to myself. As a result of my ‘dance therapy’, by the time my PTSD recovery was finished I’d become a very proficient Latin dancer. Now, I’m pushing myself into new (and way outside of my comfort zone!) territory by starting to learn belly dance. (If you have tips feel free to leave a comment!)
Posttraumatic stress syndrome healing isn’t just about being able to face the past, it’s also about being able to connect to the present. That begins with a connection to yourself. How much of a positive connection and communication do you have with your body? What will it take to make it more productive?