In high school I sat in the back of a room, hoping I would draw less attention and so I could make a quick getaway. Wanting to fly under the radar and wanting to feel in a position to escape were survival skills I had cultivated after months of bullying in eighth grade in a different school system. Always being ready to flee made me less present in my high school experience. It took me time to feel safe again in a school. But I did. Over time, I have learned to move around where I want to sit based on the environment, my mood, who else I knew in the room, and my comfort.
Today, I begin my fourth module of Somatic Experiencing training. We meet in a windowless and beige room, that is somehow also light and welcoming. While the training is very interesting, the days are long. The material presented during our lectures can be very hard to digest and mildly triggering. Accordingly, you will find me this morning, and for the next four days, set up in the front row next to the center aisle. This position allows me to maintain a narrow visual focus which helps me stay present during lecture, to feel that I can spread out despite the chairs being in close proximity to one another, and to get up and move to the back with little disruption as an act of self-care. Because, sometimes, I don’t want to be in the front row with a narrow focus.
During lectures the teacher tends to talk in generalizations, but during demos and videos we watch very real and relatable people do healing work. In this particular module we are going to be addressing healing that follows Global High Intensity Activation (birth trauma, anesthesia, suffocation), High Impact Trauma/Failure of Physical Defense (falls and brain injury), and Inescapable Attack (escape inhibited, rape/abuse, animal attack). It is going to be a doozy for my nervous system.
I have found that if I stay with a narrow focus while watching demos and videos I am more likely to overwhelm my own system which leaves me feeling terrible, triggered, and unable to learn as much. For demos, I move to the back of the room and I can see my whole cohort, the edges of the room, and I am aware of the easy egress behind me. I feel simultaneously contained yet free to leave. From this position I can observe people working on trauma while I stay grounded and present.
If you feel like you need to be “all in” all the time, you are also probably prone to feeling completely drained at the end of your days and projects, unable to appreciate all you have done. The Laura who sits at the front of the room is an “all in” sort of gal. However, the absolute nature of “all in” (as well as - “ready to escape”) does not allow for the ever-changing nature of our moods, energy levels, systems and environment. In order for us to sustain any long-term project (healing, training, creating, etc,) we need to be okay with sometimes just showing up, sometimes giving it our all, and also everything in between. For me, being in the front of the room is akin to jumping into the pool. I am completely submerged because that is what I was seeking to do with that cannonball. Whereas being in the back of the room is “toe in” like those days you are there, at the pool but only good with putting your toe in to feel the water. I am a-ok with both.