What is Grounding?
Grounding is about learning to stay present (or for some get present in the first place) in your body in the here and now. Basically it consists of a set of skills/tools to help you manage dissociation and the overwhelming trauma-related emotions that lead to it. Processing done from a very dissociated state is not useful in trauma work. Neither is the goal to be so overwhelmed by feelings that you feel re-traumatized. Once you are present, you also need to learn other means of managing the feelings and thoughts asst with traumatic memories.
Every one is different. Different grounding techniques will work for different people. The following are some general categories and ideas. Exploring the pros and cons of various approaches with your therapist can be useful in determining which will be the best fit for you.
-Grounding often takes the form of focusing on the present by tuning into it via all your senses. For example, one technique could involve focusing on a sound you hear right now, a physical sensation (what is the texture of the chair you are sitting on, for example?) and/or something you see. Describe each in as much detail as possible.
-Diaphragmatic or deep breathing: Trauma survivors often hold their breath or breathe very shallowly. This in turn deprives you of oxygen which can make anxiety more intense. Stopping and focusing on deepening and slowing your breathing can bring you back to the moment.
-Relaxation, guided imagery or hypnosis- folks with dissociative disorders are engaging in a form of self-hypnosis much of the time. The trouble is, it is out of your control! Some trauma therapists are also trained in hypnosis and can help teach you how to use dissociation in a way that works for you. For example: you can develop a safe container for traumatic material between sessions, create a safe or comfortable place (“safe” may not be a concept some survivors can relate to or may be triggering to some) 0r learn ways to turn down the “volume” of painful feelings and memories.
Grounding and emotion management skills can help you proceed with the work of trauma therapy in a manner that feels empowering instead of re-traumatizing.