Trauma lives in the body through implicit memories, unconscious and unseen. These body-based memories can trigger our bodies to perceive threat to our well-being over and over even if the actual trauma or threat has passed. They become templates for our future interactions. This is a implicit memory. The reaction to these memories will cause hyper or hypo arousal, disassociation, and aggressive states. We may experience disruptive physical symptoms that, when experienced again and again, can cause chronic illness. For instance: you might have trauma caused by a family member, but you have inherited a painting or photo that you are expected to display. Walking past this artwork again and again every day could work to deepen your trauma. The body response that recognizes threat and keeps is safe causes problems in the present state. Thwarted mobilization response, which governs fight, flight, fawn or freeze can result in chronic pain, habitual anxiety or anger and loss of benevolence. Embodied awareness (interoception) helps us repair the impact of continued non-resolved mobilization to threat.
You might have a plethora of clothing that is bursting out of your closets. Perhaps you cannot keep it from growing no matter how hard you try. Energetically this clutters your space and keeps you in a spiral. You remember that at some point in your life someone told you what you were wearing wasn’t appropriate-it was too sexy or too dowdy or too tight or too loose. We can work with your pile of clothes by working with the traumatic idea that you are not allowed to dress as you would like. How would an authentic YOU like to dress? Feng Shui can be used to properly support a bedroom and closet so they are in alignment with our authenticity.
You might create great clutter in your space. Like me, this clutter may have always protected you from the trauma you experienced or emotion you are having difficulty integrating. Clutter is really abandoned relationships with the feelings our things give us. When we buy a lot of things, we are hoping to find the feeling that helps us mitigate the empty feeling. Once a feeling has worn off, the “thing” becomes a detriment or obstacle. So we keep trying, and buying; and we keep abandoning the things when they don’t work out or give us the improvement we are looking for. We lose or become fearful of intimacy with our things and then the relationships around us. We long for connection, but our old patterns may view this as a threat. What irritates or blocks us in our spaces can be a challenging cue to examine ourselves.
Feng Shui is an intentional process for creating a supportive space according to environmental rhythm and managing the shifts in energy over time. We can work with emotional shifts and patterns and understand how to be resilient with the trauma. There may be things in your space that trigger your traumatic, implicit memories daily and continue a pattern of dysregulation. If we use Feng Shui to notice them and the sensations they create in the body, we can heal your space and help mitigate trauma in the element where it was created. This requires working, not only with your space and the 5 elements, but with body-based regulation and bottom-up healing. The 5 elements represent expression of movement and relationships in the nourishing and reductive cycles. By understanding the body’s natural rhythm, we can access the space between arousal and reaction and do the hard work of recognizing the balance that exists. We create balance between two opposing states of energy. By working with Feng Shui and the 5 elements, we cultivate the here and now and titrate trauma so it can be managed in small steps rather than a heavy catharsis.
Sensation is the language of your nervous system. Our sense of self is achieved through a vital connection with our bodies. Look at your home as a space full of collective energy. Your home has a rhythm and a heartbeat. If you can attune to the energy in your home, you can determine what it is asking of you. When our nervous system is dysregulated we get trapped in patterns. Patterns of avoidance or anxiety become rewarding because we know what to expect. Somatic exercises can help us get out of our heads and away from attachment to repeated behaviors/thinking. We might see our unsupportive, unorganized space as shameful. Really what we are feeling is the threat of judgement by others. Working with breathing, sound exercises, color contrast and mindfulness techniques, we can reconnect with ourselves and our space through interoception. Moving in your space, singing in your space, connecting with your space all assist in mindfulness and self-regulation.
Working with Feng Shui, we look for arrangements that cause a feeling of threat. We look for sharp edges on furniture, visual chaos or crowded rooms, nervous system hijacking color schemes or patterns, artwork that represents the past or is not in alignment with desires and intentions. We might implement rounded corners in a space, reposition mirrors or furniture (especially beds), and we might bring the outside inside to allow more natural elements in the space. We might explore metaphysical changes such as chakra blockages and lack of integration in the body. Feng Shui helps us notice the lack of energy movement in an entire space and notice where prior experiences repeatedly hold us in a pattern. We are always going to experience disruption emotionally and mentally, and a more energetic, flowing space allows us to treat those disruptions with ease. It allows us to emotionally put on the brakes before we have a full-blown response.
Renowned author and psychologist, Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk comments in his book The Body Keeps the Score, that “the past is alive and well and living inside your body.” (van der Kolk, 2014) The result of this notion can manifest in your space as clutter, physical obstacles, unsafe room arrangements and as abandonment in the collapse of cleaning and organizing. The manifestation helps us disconnect from pain and implicit memories, but can also disconnect us from vitality and the potential of our dreams. Over time, small trauma patterns accumulate. When we can’t cope, we clutter or become hyper vigilant in our homes. After attending to the nervous system, a balanced Feng Shui approach will create harmony.
Using Feng Shui partnered with somatic, body-based techniques, we address the patterns that arise out of incomplete relationships with our things and our self-protective responses to pain. We sometimes do violence to ourselves by living in spaces structured by past experiences. Trauma-Sensitive Feng Shui can help us shift out of a stuck state into a more balanced and grounded state in our space.
Pairing somatic healing with Feng Shui allows a practitioner to specifically address an area of the home that may be exacerbating emotion or other patterns of chronic dysregulation. Disruption of health can have a detrimental effect on the nervous system which will become dysregulated in repeated patterns. This will, over time, cause chronic disease.
Exploring how our nervous systems get dysregulated allows us to better understand our symptoms of anxiety, depression, and hyper or hypo stimulation. Using Polyvagal theory and Feng Shui we can work strategies that bring us back within our zone of resilience through bottom-up healing. We share a reciprocal relationship with our space – an unseparated, interwoven energy. Healing the energy in the space may begin with recognizing body-based sensations and symptoms and how they manifest in the home. Using Feng Shui that is sensitive to dysregulation allows us to cultivate acceptance of our wholeness and overall well-being. We and our spaces are so much more than the worst thing that has happened to us and using Feng Shui, we can work the flow of our space so there is agency and integration and less chaos and misalignment.
**Medical Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health professional or social worker.
Other Strategies in my approach might include:
Visual mirror work
Drumming to reconnect natural rhythm
Reframing negative bias to reflect gratitude and forward movement
One-pointed awareness, focused breathing, and calming breathing
Singing or chanting
Buteyko Breathing for activation (if appropriate for client)
Box breathing (if appropriate for client)