I recently found myself in a room of about 150-200 people. We were at a conference. All sat round tables in a nice hotel. The input had been great. The food, honestly, was even better. The connections and networking and human to human support was the best.

 

And as the 2 day business event drew towards a close, we were led in a group Guided Meditation / Visualization.

 

The guy leading is a business expert. He is not a therapist. He is not a nervous system specialist. He is not aware of how the world looks and feels to people who have experienced trauma. He has a big heart and just wanted to share with the room something that he himself had been finding really useful at home.

 

The conversations I had with several people after the final group photo was taken, and we were mingling in the bar (like every great party, no one was quite ready to go home yet) were not surprising to me…

 

Responses

“I just couldn’t get into it…”

 

“I thought it was just me…“

 

“I loved the place he described – that’s my favourite place to be too – but I really didn’t like it when he told us to close our eyes… I felt bad but I kept peeking!! “

 

“I just couldn’t do it right… I thought it was my fault – there must be something wrong with me”

 

“Everyone else seemed to be getting into it – I just kept my head down, but I didn’t enjoy it.”

 

Ladies. (And gents that get this too… obviously). We need to talk.

Truth Time

There are some things you need to know.

This is not just my opinion.

This is truth and fact and neuroscience and the gift of my decades working as a nervous system specialist and therapist with children and adults recovering from trauma.

If you have ever been in a GUIDED MEDITATION / VISUALIZATION situation – especially a group one, and not found it leading you to sparkles and revelation and joy-filled enlightenment… please read on…

 

1. Guided Visualizations are NOT a useful thing for everyone – they may or may not be for you…. Either way is fine and therefore can have exactly nothing (0%) to do with your ability or sense of self. They call on a part of our subconscious which our body wisdom will know if it’s good for us to access right now – or ever. If you have ever struggled with a guided meditation, please consider dismissing the self-blame and condemnation, and instead thank your internal wisdom for stepping in!

 

2. If you ‘couldn’t get into it’ it may just simply be that you weren’t feeling safe enough. There are all kinds of reasons why – the environment, the music, the words, the topic, the pacing, the delivery – heck the very Nervous System state of the person leading… or the person sitting next to you… will all be affecting you subconsciously and if you are not feeling deeply safe, then you will not be able to access your subconscious in the way a Guided meditation (good one) requires. Our bodies are set to keep us safe – and our internal, not-turn-off-able ‘I’m not safe right now’ detection system is strong and powerful and will literally stop us becoming vulnerable in a setting that it has assessed is not safe enough.

 

3. If you have ANY negative history with breathing (I know I don’t need to specify) – a meditation that starts out with instructions and specifics on how to breathe will not be safe for you. End of. Do your own breathing. Your body has and is keeping you alive. Your body is amazing. Your body knows the way to healing and recovery and safety, and for many, MANY people, starting with breathing is NOT it. You are not weird or wrong or dysfunctional in any way! Relief sigh? 😉

 

4. The room looks like ‘everyone else is getting into it’ because we are BRITISH… and many of us have learnt to survive by Appeasing. This is a trauma response. We endured by disappearing, by not rocking the boat or going against what is being asked/expected of us. For some this was the survival skill that literally saved our little lives. For others it was one of our biggest lessons from education and is the result of decades of systemic cultural conditioning and abdication away from our self / our body wisdom / our authenticity. It is a journey to learn to live a different way… especially in a culture that is not quite ready to do its own work yet.

 

 5. The dynamic of a group Guided Meditation is utterly different to a personal one. In your own home, listening to a track and visualizing along with a familiar voice can be utterly empowering. The voice is talking to you, but you are in control. Being in a live room with hundreds of others, led by a person on a platform, who you can’t turn off, slow down or even pause while you really find that comfy position for your own body, or notice as you tune in to your body, you actually need to pee and go do that…is VERY different.
Notice the power imbalance of the live setting, and if you ever feel disempowered – you can take back your power by disengaging. Think about something else. Go to the toilet. Yup. I know… Yes you can… I give you permission, if it is still hard to give it to yourself… please do what you need to, to honour what your body is telling you. If you are not enjoying it – you can stop trying harder. Disconnect from it, not you. It is not your fault. It is your brilliant wisdom. Feel into your choice to disengage, own it, celebrate it and while it may seem wildly scary the first few times… you may notice me cheering like a loon for you in the corner of your mind’s eye. It’s OK to start to keep yourself safe, and honour your process without blame.

 

I want to let you know, I was so impressed with the guy who led this experience. He was open and asked for my guidance and help to make it better: safer for everyone, next time. His heart is 100% in the right place – and he is owning that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. I love working with people like this. Open, reflective, teachable and willing to change. Whatever platform we have, whatever the size of our audience… our impact will be positive or negative – depending on the amount of safety we create for our customers, our clients, our people.

I know his next time will be safer…he may even have more people choose to work with him in future as a result…

But do our agreements still stand ladies… ?

 

Further Reading To learn more about how bodies communicate, how Nervous Systems impact everything and how to start implementing the science of safety for your people read GROUNDED. www.groundedbook.net . It’s for everyone who was ever a child.

Claire Wilson is a trauma therapist, behaviour and nervous system specialist with 3 decades of clinical experience. An internationally acclaimed communicator, TEDx speaker, writer and initiative maker. Her book Grounded was the first book published making Polyvagal Theory accessible to normal, non-sciency people, and is now being translated into 6 languages. She is the founder of GROUNDED GrownUps® and the GROUNDED Parent Retreat®. She maintains a private practice, International coaching community and consultations for parents, charities & business owners to help increase their impact by going beyond trauma-informed to trauma-safe.
A sought-after international specialist, and consistent advocate for the voiceless, Claire has been instrumental in getting the world to be significantly safer for children and adults who have experienced trauma. There is still much to do…
claire@groundedgrownups.com