Have been practicing somatic tracking and refucing my fear, however, I feel ‘stuck’ like i am not making any progress. Any suggestions as to why this is happening?
Welcome to the community @Andy1
Tagging some folks that might be able to shed a little light for ya
Hi Andy, I’ve found (and learned) that this is not one of those things that improves in a linear way. It was like, track, nothing, track, nothing, track, nothing . . .then boom, my pain went way down, then way up, then kind of just stayed way down.
One other thing I learned along the way is that I really needed to keep a pulse on the fear piece – it crept in so easily.
And, the other thing that worked for me was tracking in lots of tiny little blips, instead of a big “formal” tracking session.
Also, helped me to work on other pain recovery skills that I felt like I could make more clear progress on – like getting some things I like to doing back in my life.
Hope that’s helpful!
I think @Running_Mama nailed this, but I’ll add my two cents right below. Some of the toughest aspects of somatic tracking to master are “when to track vs when to soothe,” and Outcome Independence.
Somatic tracking is a great tool for when the pain is low to moderate, but when the pain is high, trying to track it will likely feel too difficult and frustrating (because when the pain is that high, it means the brain’s danger bells are ringing like a five-alarm fire). When the pain is high, it’s better to seek ‘soothing’ or ‘avoidance’ behaviors, like laying down or listening to calming music. Balancing soothing with somatic tracking depending on how intense the pain is will maximize the utility of the tracking while minimizing setbacks. It’ll also make the process less difficult - it shouldn’t feel like you’re slogging through it! If it does feel like you’re slogging, probably best to try taking some of the pressure off of yourself to track ‘perfectly’ or to fix the problem right away.
Which leads to the second point about Outcome Independence. If you’re tracking in order to try to decrease your pain in the short term, you’re Dependent on a specific Outcome. And what that tells the brain is, “this somatic tracking tool is being used to solve my pain, which means my pain is a problem.” And if the pain is a problem, then it’s dangerous and warrants an ongoing pain response. @Running_Mama’s note about tracking, seeing nothing, tracking, seeing nothing, then eventually getting a response is huge, because the tool has long-term outcomes, but often doesn’t feel like much in the short term. And it can become easy to get discouraged if your mile markers for success are measured in individual sessions, or days and weeks.
@Andy1 I hope that helps, and please let me know if I can clarify anything
I agree with @Running_Mama and @jkelley wholeheartedly - such great advice! I had a similar experience with somatic tracking when I started practicing this technique for myself. Here are a few things that I have found helpful personally and for my patients when working with somatic tracking:
- It is really helpful to remember that the long term goal of somatic tracking is to reduce/eliminate pain, but, the short term goal of the exercise is purely to change your relationship with the painful sensations and watch them from a place of safety, regardless of whether the pain stays the same, increases or decreases. For so many of us who have struggled with chronic pain, we can spend lots of time trying to figure it out how to fix it, problem solve about what is making it worse, worrying about how long it will be there, etc, which can be so exhausting and keep us in a pain loop. I like to think of somatic tracking as a little vacation from trying to “fix” your pain. You can think of somatic tracking as your time to simply let go and watch the show. This is where curiosity comes in.
- Curiosity: Somatic tracking is essentially a practice in being curious. Curiosity down regulates the parts of our brain that experience fear and control, which amplify pain signals. I find that if you can make the goal of somatic tracking to see how curious you can get about the sensations, while on your vacation from trying to fix or worry about the pain, this helps to take off the pressure of trying to change the sensation itself. What if you could watch the sensation without the pressure of trying to make it go away? This can be a great way to find your sweet spot with somatic tracking.
- Finding the appropriate time to do somatic tracking- when pain is 5/10 or less, I find this is a good time to do somatic tracking. When pain is 6/10 or above, somatic tracking can be difficult to practice without attachment to a desired outcome of reducing pain. Choosing avoidant behaviors when pan levels are high, or practices you know help alleviate pain are a better choice- ie- rest, taking a warm bath, etc.
- Before you start somatic tracking, spend a few minutes sending messages of safety to your brain. A great way to do this is diaphragmatic breathing (deep belly breaths)- where you can feel your lower rib cage expanding 3 dimensionally. This turns on your parasympathetic nervous system and gives your brain the message that you are safe. You can continue with this breath while doing somatic tracking.
- Start small- Start with very small increments of time, and do them often. You can create mini vacations that allow you to drop into curiosity and step out of problem solving, catastrophizing and stress around the sensations of pain.
I hope these suggestions help!
Thank you all so much for the insights. I truly do appreciate it.