Tuning out and tuning in

Many of you may have heard of the phrase “zoning out.” We all do it at one point or another. It happens when our eyes glaze over during a boring lecture in class, or when we’re especially tired after getting no sleep the night before. But for those of us who have experienced trauma, tuning out your surroundings can become a powerful coping mechanism; and sometimes the ONLY coping mechanism for a while.

When I was younger, tuning out my surroundings, the people in my life, the hurt, the anger, the emotions, numbing them and losing myself in a world of daydreams quickly became my greatest skill. I read novels of escape and adventure to escape the trauma of my childhood abuse. I roamed the grassy fields behind my parents’ house alone, pretending I was a warrior princess, or a ninja, or a cop with a gun, someone that nobody could hurt. That nobody would DARE hurt. Or when my brother would hurt me, I would fly behind the walls of myself, to a fortress of my own design. To a place where I was in control of my own life. To a place where I was strong; not a weak, scrawny, beaten down and abused little girl who was trapped in a world of hurt.

Tuning out became my only way to survive, because the pain was too intense, the feelings and emotions too disturbing to tune in to.

Tuning in again after years of abuse can seem nearly impossible. I have spent my whole life lost in my head, tuning out everything around me. But once you are surrounded by good things, by good people and good friends and beautiful surroundings and better opportunities, it is time to tune back in again. But how?

In an earlier blog, I wrote about “Grounding Yourself” which is one important training tool of tuning in to your world again after abuse. Yoga can be another way to tune back in, and meditation (something I hope to write more on later) is yet another. But there are other, simpler and yet much more difficult small ways that I have trained myself to tune back in.  Here are a few of them:

Remember to breathe.  Funny how sometimes, even when I just sit outside and read a book, I am holding my breath.  So breathe in, breathe out, and inhale the freshness of the air around you.

Make eye contact with others.  This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to train myself to do.  For me, the abuse trained me to be timid, to be shy, to never look in the face of others, for how could I face anyone?  Ugly and small and pathetic as I once believed myself to be.  And yet, overcoming this seemingly small barrier, this small obstacle, has lifted my spirits and given me more courage.  I feel proud, proud of myself, every time I can remember that I am the equal of the people around me, and that I can look them in the eye.

Really look at things.  Often, I have a tendency to look through things, not at them.  I pass over them and deny their existence.

Get yourself to a place where you no longer have to tune out your surroundings.  Free yourself from your abuser, surround yourself with good friends, build a support group, and get to a place in life where you want to tune in.  Where you want to feel every moment, be present in every moment, soak in every wonderful moment of the freedom you have to be yourself.  Free yourself from the guilt.  Free yourself from the hurt.  Find healing and then enjoy that healing by being present for every moment of it.

It’s time to put the past behind and tune back in to the wonders of the world in which we live.


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