Balance: finding 'just right'.
“I’ve never worked with a client with addiction that doesn’t also have a significant trauma history.”
--Saj Razvi, Executive Director, Love and Trauma Center
How does trauma relate to balance? Trauma has the ability to throw many aspects of our lives out of balance. If balance is represented as a horizontal line – then ‘too much’ of any one thing would be above the line, and ‘too little’ would be below the line. So, if something is ‘out of balance’ it can be way above the line, way below the line, or even swinging between these two extremes.
What are some examples of ways in which we might be out of balance?
Overeating, or starving ourselves
Overdoing exercise, or never exercising
Wanting to sleep all the time, or not being able to sleep
Being promiscuous, or never having sex
Watching TV all the time, or never giving ourselves permission to “waste time” watching TV
Constantly staying busy, or not doing much of anything
Sobbing uncontrollably, or never letting ourselves cry
Feeling too much, or not being able to feel anything
Being aggressive, arrogant, and distant; or being compliant and trying to please everyone
Doing all we can do be attractive, or trying our best to be unattractive (even unconsciously)
What is a coping strategy? Think of a baby sucking its thumb – that’s self-soothing at its finest – coping with her needs or emotions by doing something that feels comforting. As adults, we do this too, it just (usually!) looks a little different. Our use of coping strategies can also get out of balance. If you think of that center line that represents balance, balance in this area would mean being able to bring yourself to a state of feeling calm or at ease by doing something that helps in getting to this feeling. Go above the line, and we may be just numbing out – avoiding life. Go below the line, and we may be stuck in a state of overwhelm or high anxiety, unable to soothe ourselves.
Are coping strategies healthy? Coping strategies are often healthy in moderation, but can become unhealthy when over-indulged in – like watching TV or playing games on your computer, or eating a piece of cake, or drinking a beer. There's no judgment here. Awareness, understanding, and compassion for yourself are going to be far more helpful than judgments. If you’re reading this as an adult, then I’m going to assume that whatever coping strategies you used as a child worked in some way. But that doesn’t mean they’re still working for you today. Self-soothing has value, but being self-aware of our habits is also valuable. Be aware of when you may be numbing out. If it serves you, go ahead and zone out to a TV show or a computer game for hours on end. It’s okay to give yourself permission to engage in these. As long as it’s not harming anyone else, you can decide for yourself if numbing out is serving your needs.
Stay tuned for more Q and A on drug addiction, eating disorders, cutting, perfectionism, emotion regulation, and presence.