It can serve when trauma, or overwhelm, hits.
If you breathe quietly in your body, and you feel your bodily experience, and stuff happens to you, you notice something is happening out there, and you say, “oh this really sucks, this is really unpleasant,” but it is something that is not you, so you don’t necessarily get hijacked by unpleasant experiences.
The big issue for traumatized people is that they don’t own themselves anymore. Any loud sound, anyone insulting them, hurting them, saying bad things, can hijack them away from themselves. And so what we have learned is that what makes you resilient to trauma is to own yourself fully. And if somebody says hurtful or insulting things, you say, “Hm. Interesting that that person is saying insulting and hurtful things.”
You can separate yourself from them.
And we are really beginning to understand how human beings can learn how to do that; to observe and not react.
We have to feel safe, and it has to be a bodily perception and not a cognitive perception.
You need to actually feel that feeling. You need to know what is happening in your body. You need to know where your right toe is, where your pinky is. It’s very very basic but sorely lacking in our diagnostic system. Simple things like eating, peeing, pooping because that is the foundation of everything.
These are foundational things. All of which go wrong when you get traumatized. The most elementary body functions go awry when you are terrified. And so trauma treatment starts at the foundation of a body that can sleep, a body that can rest, a body that feels safe, a body that can move.
-Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, innovator in treating the effects of overwhelming experiences (trauma). Source: On Being Podcast: How Trauma Lodges in the Body