Are Changes Hard for You?
Do you find changes in your life to be unusually stressful? Do you tend to feel anxious, get physically run-down, or even ill when dealing with anything new? Do even positive ones, like a vacation or getting married, feel stressful? Do you wonder why your kids have melt-downs every day at certain times of the day, like going to bed or getting ready for school?
Stress with transitions can be a sign of early “imprints” that can be traced back to our earliest life, in the womb or at birth.
Being born is a powerful transition.
Many factors can influence our experience of this passage from one world into another such as any complications or extra stressors around the birth and the kind of support babies and mothers receive.
These factors, and more, can have far-reaching impacts on our lives and relationships.
Transitions and stages of birth/prenatal development
There are five prenatal development/birth stages: conception, preparation, action, follow-through and integration. Impacts in these stages of our development can be felt like ripples at transitions and changes later in our lives. Let’s look at each stage separately, with some examples of impacts.
Conception corresponds to “intention.”
Conflict or ambivalence between your parents at the time of your conception might impact your ability to formulate an intention. The emotions felt by your parents may show up for you whenever you are trying to move forward in some way or make an important decision, such as buying a house or a career move.
Preparation refers to the internal impulses that prepare us to initiate moving forward, such as in the early stages of labor.
One common complication at this stage may include having the umbilical cord tightening around the baby’s neck. This might later lead to feeling the “life and death” struggle when trying to move forward.
Another example of influences before labor begins is induction by Pitocin, which results in intense, fast contractions with inadequate time to rest or recover between contractions. Babies can be irritable, colicky or have difficulty sleeping in the first few months of life.
Even though babies may seem to outgrow these issues, the “imprints” can last and show up under stress or similar transitions. You might find yourself feeling confused, frustrated, disoriented, or conflicting impulses when preparing to make a change. Or as you prepare to work on a project, you may feel angry and rushed, with little chance to rest or take breaks.
The stage when the baby is moving down the birth canal. This includes turning the head to navigate around the mother’s bony pelvis.
One example of influence at this phase is anesthesia given to the mother. The anesthesia will also affect the baby and disrupt the natural connection between mom and baby in the birth process.
Memories of anesthesia or other drugs at this stage can be reflected in someone’s tendency to dissociate or “check out” later in life. Other possible lingering effects of anesthesia “imprints” include fatigue, depression, feeling alone, and even a form of “paralysis” when you are faced with moving through changes.
The completion of a process. In birth, this means coming out of the birth canal and entering the outside world.
Complications in this stage, such as having the shoulders get stuck or being born breach (feet or buttocks first), can show up later in a parallel way. You may feel stuck, in pain, or disoriented as if you’re going backwards as you try to complete a project.
The final phase. In it the baby finds its way to the mother’s breast and is able to settle and recover from the intensity of the birth process.
There can be many reasons that this process can be interrupted, including medical emergencies for mom or baby. These medical emergencies can cause a separation for minutes, hours or even days. This separation then prevents the regulation, connection, and bonding that is meant to happen between mom and baby immediately after birth.
This disruption in connection is particularly prevalent for babies born prematurely. Babies in neonatal intensive care units have historically been subject to bright lights, constant beeping noises, frequent painful probing, and little holding. (Some of this has fortunately changed in recent years). These babies can grow up to be hypersensitive to lights, noises, or even touch.
As adults, there can be many ways in which dysregulation arises during the integration phase of transitions causing disconnection or conflict between you and the people that you love.
Are there things I can learn to handle changes better?
There are some basic principles that can help you when you’re feeling the stress and pressures of changes or transitions.
- Slow down: Take a break or pause. Breathe. Give yourself extra time and space before reacting or making a decision.
- Get support: Reach out to someone you know and trust. We are social beings and need each other to help us feel safe and cared about.
- Do something you love: Immerse yourself in all the things that nurture you and that bring you joy. Examples of this are spending time in nature, listening to your favorite music, reading a good book, doing yoga or playing with your dog.
- Be kind to yourself: We are hardest on ourselves, and a little kindness goes a long way in healing. Imagine how you would treat your best friend or a young child, and practice tenderness and compassion for yourself.
How can therapy help?
So, what can be done about patterns that started at the very beginnings of our lives? I am here to tell you from my own personal and professional experience that these long-standing patterns can be altered. It is possible to feel less stress and reactivity around changes and transitions in your life!
A somatic therapist, especially one trained to work with early imprints, will help support you to slow down, to track sensations or images, and to highlight your own internal resources. In this process, you will gain more clarity and feel how old patterns begin to soften in your body as well as your emotional reactions and relationships.
CST is a hands-on method that uses gentle contact to listen to your body’s story. SE helps you to track all the ways that your body and brain have encoded these memories through sensation, emotion, thoughts, and images.
There are implicit memories. In other words, these experiences are remembered by your body and nervous system They tend to be re-activated when there is another situation that seems familiar to, or mirrors, the original event in some way.
Changes will happen from the inside-out. Over time, you will learn to listen to your body’s cues and to trust your “gut” both literally and figuratively. You will learn how your body tells you “Yes” versus “No.” You will feel more resilient and able to handle stressful situations or changes with more ease.
How do I know if I need this kind of therapy?
- Do you know if you had a difficult or complicated birth, from what your parents have told you?
- Were there stressors during your prenatal development (in the womb), such as exposure to drugs, alcohol, or nicotine. Or maybe your mother was under high emotional strain during this pregnancy?
- Did you hear stories that you were a “colicky” baby or had trouble feeding or sleeping?
- Do you feel irritable or especially emotional on or around your birthday?
- Are you curious about your emotional reactions or patterns that show up in your relationships whenever you go through transitions or major changes?
If any of these questions resonated with you, CST and SE can help you find healing.
If you have questions about whether CST and SE may help you, contact us for a free phone consult!