When you experience pain and trauma, whether physical or emotional, you react instantaneously, entering a state of fight, flight, or freeze as your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive. The freeze aspect is essentially where you “put on the brakes,” bracing yourself to protect from injury, resisting what is happening. This reaction is created at a subconscious level; you may not be aware of your brakes or that you are holding them for hours, days, weeks, years or even decades.
When braking to stop a car, it is simple: there is one pedal to step on and off. When it comes to protecting ourselves and our body, we have multiple ways of braking. It can be a challenge to recognize them. Layer upon layer, brakes are a complex pattern of holding. Tightness, rigidity, or lack of mobility, of which most of us are aware, are areas where your brakes are engaged. On another level, fear, resistance, avoidance, and control are also forms of braking. Numbing out, disconnecting, stuffing of emotions, overthinking – yes, it’s braking! All of the ways you stop to protect yourself can be considered brakes.
I’d like to say removing your brakes is as simple as stepping off of them. Unfortunately, it might not happen all at once. It takes bringing the subconscious holding patterns into our conscious awareness. It takes time to feel and listen to your body. It takes watching and becoming aware of your reactions. It also takes courage to face some discomfort. If you allow it, Myofascial Release can give you the opportunity to enter a state of connection with the subconscious mind and remove your brakes.
While in a treatment session, you may assist the process of letting go in the following ways:
- Quiet: Talking is a left-brain, conscious action.
- Feel/Connect: Feel the sensations of the area being worked and stay with it.
- Breathe: Use breath work, softening on the exhale.
- Focus: Be aware of wandering thoughts. Let them go by coming back to feeling.
- Movement: If you have an inkling that an area of your body (neck, leg, arm, etc.) wants to move, shake, or stretch, let it happen. Don’t restrict yourself; sometimes multiple areas move at once.
- Emotion: if you feel emotion creeping to the surface, allow it to come up. Try not to stuff it down, creating tension.
- Remove Your Brakes: Allow for the idea that you have brakes. Give yourself permission to soften and let go!
The process of letting go can be challenging. Your therapists at NBT are ready to help you. If you feel yourself holding on, keeping your foot on the brake, then talk to your therapist during your next session.
Cindy Wysocki, LMT is a talented therapist that wrote our Letting Go: Taking Off The Brakes article while she worked at NBT.