It appears that meditation is being talked about and promoted in every corner of our culture these days. The most popular form is called “mindfulness meditation,” which promotes quiet sitting. But if you’re struggling with out of control emotions you may need to proceed with caution.

Imagine this: You’re in a meditation group where mindfulness meditation is being practiced. The teacher instructs you to close your eyes and focus inward… be still and pay attention to sensations arising in your body or observing a thought or an emotion that comes up.
The reason for doing this is that this kind of on-purpose mindful attention has been shown to help steady a wandering mind… and eventually when mindfulness is practiced enough, it can enhance what’s called self-regulation – that is the ability to learn to control our behavior, our emotions, our thoughts.

The quiet sitting of mindfulness meditation can be triggering

I like active, expressive meditation. Experience one of these.

But for people who wrestle with trauma or difficult emotions, the instruction to pay close and sustained attention to their inner world can lead to a resurfacing of unresolved issues and feelings. For someone who’s unprepared, an experience like this can be overwhelming and trigger feelings of panic or flashbacks – leaving the person feeling like they’re trapped or helpless again.

Dissociation can also be an unsettling “side-effect.” Dissociation a kind of checking-out, something a person does in the face of a threatening situation. It’s especially common in cases of child abuse or neglect where if a child can’t run away or protect themselves, they disconnect from the scene. And this can carry through to adulthood where a person may be in situations as benign as a classroom or work and find themself disconnecting from their thoughts, their feelings, their surroundings. With dissociation, in your head you’ve “left the scene.”
You may be one of those who has already explored mindfulness meditation and had to abandon this meditation technique because of what it triggered for you. I believe it’s important to mention this because meditation – particularly mindfulness meditation, is wildly popular these days… because it’s a well researched tool for stress reduction. So it naturally makes sense that this would benefit someone who has experienced trauma as it’s considered calming and settling.

Mindfulness meditation is only one of many styles

But research is showing that there are those who wrestle with troubling emotions who should approach mindfulness meditation carefully – paying close attention to what’s arising for them, watching for signs of dissociation and a loss of their sense of grounding. Meditation teachers are also being educated around this so they can watch for signs among their students that an intervention of some kind is warranted.
Now mindfulness meditation is much different than the expressive active practices we do in my cannabis and psilocybin-assisted emotions work. The energetic movements and breathwork are very important in moving stuck energy – trauma. In fact, in the mindfulness meditation community, movement is now being recommended to help people connect with their body.
On a personal note I tried mindfulness meditation for many years. But as a trauma survivor I experienced so much dissociation during my practice that I eventually gave it up. I then discovered the Emotional Liberation work that I now teach.
But the beauty is that there are many types of meditation – and if one doesn’t resonate for you, try another! This is important because the ability that meditation supports in “going inward” is pivotal to your health and wellbeing.
What’s your thoughts on meditation? Have you found a meditation technique that works… or are you still exploring? Let me know by connecting with me here.
With Love,
Becca