Did you know about the power of … shaking?
A friend of mine has been studying Somatic Therapy and a couple of years ago, she shared with me the powerful effects of the simple act of shaking.
She had explained to me (and I hope I am saying this correctly) that the reason we shake when traumatic events happen to us, is that the body is using its wisdom to help us move the trauma out, before it can lodge itself in our cells.
She also said that when something unsettling or upsetting happens to us, we can choose to voluntarily shake our limbs - and that we will often feel some prompt relief.
She had demonstrated the shaking, which I had found both fascinating and funny.
It wasn’t until six months later that I thought I would give this theory a try.
Working from an asylum attorney’s windowless office in Greece, I was doing my best to translate the young refugee’s story in order to turn it into an official request. The story was hard and the clock was ticking. His hearing was the next day and I could tell - no, I could feel - that he was nowhere near psychologically ready. The raw fear seemed to move fluidly from his left thigh to my right one as we sat crammed around the table.
All of a sudden, I remembered my friend’s shaking advice.
I asked the lawyer if I could have a couple of minutes with him and she seemed relieved at the idea of a break. Like I said, this was no picnic.
He and I moved ourselves to a corner of the small room and I did my best to re-enact what I had been shown. First my legs, then my arms, then my neck, everything jiggling in the silliest way. He quickly joined me and there we were, both shaking and unable to hold back some big smiles in this unlikely place. I glanced at the lawyer and catching my eye, she told me that “she was kind of feeling embarrassed on my behalf.”
A few minutes of that and we were back at our spot around the table, ready to wrap it up for the day.
I knew that I felt better. As though I had drank some soothing potion and that the nerves I did not even know were frayed had smoothed up. I asked our client how he was and he melted into a big sigh as he said quietly: “Beaucoup mieux, merci.” - Much better, thank you.
As we stepped out of the room, the lawyer touched my shoulder and thanked me. She said she was going to go home and shake for a good while. I knew I would do the same.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago as I find myself in a dentist's chair, getting ready to unexpectedly have a tooth pulled. I was 75 miles from home and not at all prepared for the surgery. Quickly gathering many of my mind tools around me, I surrendered to the good dentist’s hands as he skillfully and caringly did his work. The trip home was tough and I reached my kitchen emotionally fried. The next day was a work day and I pushed through it, the way we know how to do when we feel we have to. I “visioned” myself staying strong until I after my late afternoon online class, when I allowed myself to admit how freaked out I was.
That’s when I remembered The Shaking.
As soon as it came to my memory and the second before I actually began the jiggling, I could physically feel the places in me that were holding on for dear life. Like silky strands of the most perfect Stress Tapestry, there they were tugging, pulling, tightening and keeping me much more captive than the pain in my mouth.
So I shook.
Right there in front of my sink, and as my cat looked on, I shook. My legs, my arms, my shoulders, my neck. I shook the violation away, I shook the powerlessness, too. I shook until each fiber of that Stress Tapestry was nice and soft and beginning to evanesce.
There it was again, that magic. That free, no side effect, can-do-it-anywhere magic.
I am not an expert and so I cannot tell you exactly why or how it works, but I can tell you that it does.
Today, I invite you to give this Shaking thing a good try next time the Stress Tapestry decides to grow a few powerful strands. And to encourage others to do the same.
Oh, and if you want to know more, look up Dr Peter Levine.