Comments: During our experience of PTSD we may find that we scan the environment constantly trying to get as much information out of it as fast as possible. This is called being hypervigilant. We may not notice, but underneath this habit of watching our surroundings is a kind of wild, scared feeling of searching for and seeking potential danger. It doesn’t matter if we know intellectually that we are no longer in danger because this is originating from an unconscious, instinctual and animal part of ourselves. It’s like we have a wild animals’ eye attached to us that is always stuck wide open, like a sentry always at the ready even if nothing is there anymore.
Also, we may have a tendency to be dissociated, disconnected from what is going on in the here an now, absent, a space cadet, our mind off in some place other than the present.
Goal: The goal of this exercise is to begin to train ourselves to stop scanning the environment in such a hyper-alert, robotic and habitual way. We can be alert and aware to danger without having hypervigilance.
Also the goal is to train us to be OK with the present moment, to settle into the body again, to make it a safe place to exist again. We can learn not to be disconnected from our self /body anymore.
This is a basic, “easy” level felt sense exercise.
Instructions: Relax your body. Relax your eyes. Slow down your attempts to get information out of the environment around you. Notice the environment in a calm way. Pull your attention inside your body. Now, ask yourself the following 4 things about your body right now, the acronym for this is PATH:
P. Where do I feel pressure?
A. Which parts of my body feel the air?
T. Where is there tension?
H. Where can I feel heat?
This exercise goes from the body’s surface where we usually experience pressure and air, then into the muscles where we usually experience tension, and the most heat is generally deep in the center where it is perhaps more difficult to sense.
After going through the steps, see if you can look at the environment from a calm place. Notice how you can be alert and perceptive, in a reasonable and calm way, about the state of the environment even while you are simultaneously taking note of how your body feels inside.
The tendencies to dissociate and to be hypervigilant develop unconsciously during trauma and become part of PTSD. To counter this, whenever you lie down or are sitting for a bit remember to do “P.A.T.H,” your PATH to learning internal awareness and developing the felt sense.
Do you have a picture to share of your healing journey? What does your experience of the PATH Exercise look like? The images in this post are part of Healing Trauma in Pictures and Poems, a book about trauma and the healing journey that I am working on. I welcome you to participate. Send any contributions to heidi at heidimariahanson.com. Visit new-synapse.com to read the partially completed book.
Source of the P.A.T.H. to Internal Awareness Exercise: Heidi Hanson
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