While experiencing a traumatic incident our nervous system responds with a fight, flight or freeze mode. If this trauma response is interrupted and unable to complete it becomes the “go to” response when triggers arise in the future.
Common unresolved trauma symptoms include frightening thoughts, flashbacks, feeling tense or on edge, having negative thoughts about oneself or the world and distorted thoughts like guilt or blame. These symptoms can be extremely debilitating. The nervous system reverts back to that unresolved trauma response even if they are safe in the present time. It’s helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve to bring some balance and stability back into the here-and-now.
Grounding techniques have proven useful in building the capacity to “self-rescue”. It is based on the assumption that if one is able to break his or her absorbed internal attention on the traumatic images, thoughts and feelings by instead focusing on and connecting with their current external surroundings through their senses (here-and-now), the accompanying fight/flight arousal will diminish.
The sensory grounding technique below will assist him or her in understanding that they are perfectly safe in their present context. It also demonstrates the value of using their sensory skills (sight, touch, smell, hearing, and even taste) to ground them to this safety in the present empirical reality.
3-2-1 Sensory Grounding Technique
- Describe, out loud if possible, 3 objects that you can see in the room that are above eye level. These must be physical, not imaginal, objects.
- Identify, out loud if possible, 3 “real world” sounds that you can currently hear sitting in the room (the sound can be beyond the room).
- Pick up an item, really feel it, and describe out loud if possible, the texture of this object. Repeat this with 2 additional objects.
- Return to objects that you can see and now identify 2 above eye level. Do the same with 2 things you can hear and 2 things you can feel.
- Repeat this now with 1 object each for sight, sound, and texture.
- Now consider what happened to the negative feelings, thoughts, and images associated with the traumatic material from before the exercise. How do you feel? Have they lessened or disappeared?
I hope you find this technique helpful! If you would like to make an appointment to further discuss techniques to combat trauma symptoms please contact me at www.jenniferbrumcounselling.com. I would be honored to meet with you.
Wishing you a gentle journey,
Technique courtesy of Eric Gentry