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Updated: Jan 24, 2023

It is important to have some grounding skills when undertaking this work, especially if one has a history of trauma. At times, our systems can get overwhelmed with too much emotional charge. We may feel emotions or see images/memories that we believe we cannot handle in that moment, and our system can start to get dysregulated physically (meaning that a safety pattern is triggered).

There are some very simple ways to ground yourself that I will suggest below. Experiment, play around, and see what works best for you. The basic idea of grounding is getting into your body and senses, bringing in some openness and calm, and waiting for the charge to dissipate.

One simple phrase you can use is “it’s ok to not like this”. If there are uncomfortable feelings, try saying this to yourself in a loving supportive way and notice how your body responds and relaxes.

Often the quickest way to ground yourself is to simply notice that a part of you is pushing against or trying to escape this feeling. Can you make room for that resistance by noticing and opening to it?


This is a very powerful way to ground yourself if your system is overwhelmed. If you tap one finger on your body, like on your forehead, and do this gently, almost like you are caressing your forehead, you will start to notice your body calming down. All you have to do is notice the sensations of tapping moment by moment. That’s it. It’s a very simple noticing and being aware of a direct sensation, and staying with that sensation. Your attention gets pulled out of whatever charged words are triggering and into the present moment, which is what will ground the system. You can also touch something that has a nice texture, like a soft blanket, and just stay with that sensation of touch.

Then, once the system is more grounded, you can (if you want to release it further) slowly ease into whatever was charged. If you can imagine a cold pool of water, you probably don’t want to jump right into that. It would be too shocking for your system. But if you stand on the side of the pool and dip one toe in, then come back. Then dip your foot in, then come back. Then dip your whole leg in, etc. Eventually your body adjusts and the water is not so shocking anymore. We can use tapping in the same way to gently ease into noticing words that are very charged, like a deficiency or a repression command. Every time we go back to a neutral sensation, stay with it, then go back to the charged words, the charge gets released a bit. Before we know it, we’re standing in the middle of the pool and it’s totally fine and not bothersome at all. Eventually the charged words are neutral and not a problem. Gently moving attention back and forth between neutral sensation of touch and the charged word will do this. Key word is gentle, without force. The intention is to allow and make room, not push away or fix.

Direct experience of spaciousness

Another very effective way of grounding is to notice the sense of spaciousness that is always here. When you are really triggered, there's actually a contraction or tightness somewhere in the body, usually in the center like the chest, belly, throat, or jaw. Try noticing those sensations without trying to alter or fix them, and then just relax into the space around the sensations. You can take a slow deep breath and then on the exhale just let your awareness really melt into the space that is always here in the present moment. Stay with the spaciousness and let the sensations just come and go on their own. You will feel a very quick sense of relief and eventually more peacefulness.

Other ways to ground your system: take a warm shower, spend time in nature especially walking with bare feet on the grass, getting a massage, being with animals, smelling incense or essential oils, dancing, or any number of body based therapies like yoga, qi gong, etc. If you have a dog or cat, try just being with them and petting them gently. Help yourself to feel safe in whatever way feels right for you. Only you can truly self-soothe yourself.

As you get better and better at regulating your nervous system and supporting yourself to resolve emotional patterns when triggered, you will start to trust yourself more and more and see that there is truly nothing to fear when it comes to emotions and shadow work. Even in the midst of the most difficult and overwhelming feelings, it is possible to notice that there is overwhelm (which is a word which connects to the feeling) and a sense of spaciousness that can 'hold' the word and related sensations in the body. Often just that remembering of "Oh yeah, I do have the capacity to hold this" is all that's needed because we forget this simple fact (since the survival pattern overtakes us).

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