Important information on trying out mindfulness: Coping mechanisms and kindness
We trauma survivors have developed coping mechanisms to protect ourselves. This means we must approach mindfulness carefully and kindly in order to feel safe and steady. Before you try practising, please read the important information on this page.
Coping mechanisms: why we need to take mindfulness slowly
As trauma survivors, we have learnt ‘coping strategies’ or ‘coping mechanisms’. There may be phases when they are very effective at keeping us safe, but other times less so. Maybe getting angry is your coping strategy, or isolating yourself, or having a really good ‘mask’ that shows one version of you to the world, and underneath there is a different version of you.
When mindfulness asks us to begin a process of stepping outside our coping strategy, it may feel like a threat. So, we need to go slowly, trusting we know how to find stability and steadiness if we start to feel wobbly. It is important to know you can allow yourself to move to your own coping mechanism at any time. Or you can take a break, go for a walk, make a cup of tea, watch TV, phone a friend. Whatever you would usually do to cope.
Gradually, this site will teach you how to use trauma-informed mindfulness to steady yourself, but it takes some practice and some time. The most important aspect of trauma-informed care is to take care of yourself.
Practise kindness as well as mindfulness
We need to use mindfulness practices with great kindness, carefully, slowly and with great respect for the hurting, scared or wounded part of us. Life has dealt us a blow. It is vital that the teacher, or our inner self-judging part, doesn’t deal a second blow by pushing us in places and at times when stepping back, or leaning on our coping strategy, would be better. This is the crux of trauma-informed care.
Scanning for danger and triggering: mindfulness can be steadying
Trauma arises after an experience of extreme danger and leaves us with a sort of internal ‘scanning device’ which performs the task of checking for safety. You may have heard this called ‘vigilance’ or ‘hypervigilance’.
As trauma survivors, when we pay attention to something (even a supposedly lovely flower), our scanning system simultaneously comes online, checking for danger. If it notices something that resembles a threat (according to our past), we can be triggered.
If you feel your scanning device come alive, it can be helpful at first to slow down and check things out. Actively look to see if there is any danger. After a while you will learn trauma-sensitive mindfulness practices that offer you steadiness when this happens.
Giving time to your self and your practice
Anxiety tends to say “urgent!”, and yet mindfulness needs time, repetition, and a little pinch of patience too.
If we can create, or connect with, small but frequent experiences of steadiness and safeness in our world, gradually these small moments start to extend or merge together, and we may feel ready to go a bit deeper, or to try a new or different mindfulness practice that stretches our ability to be in a place that used to feel dangerous. Just this step. Step by step.
Now that you understand how to approach your trauma-informed mindfulness practice with gentleness, you might be ready to take a 7-day mindfulness course.
If you still have questions or concerns, you could join a Zoom Q and A or book a one-to-one session with me, Susanna. There is also a draw every month: sign up with your email for the chance to win a free hour of tuition or guidance.