Identify the exact specific physical sensation(s) you’re responding to when you feel good/bad or comfortable/uncomfortable in your body, and if possible, where the somatic coding of it came from. Then get curious about the beliefs or associations it’s connected with, and explore both the somatic sensation(s) and the beliefs/associations until what you need to heal comes into clarity, emotional energy is released, and/or the feeling becomes more tolerable.
5. You’re dealing with death work.
Breaking old patterns, or breaking the “rules” you learned to follow can feel like dying, especially the first time you do it. For example, the first time I ever went braless in public I had fifteen years of negative somatic coding (aka fear, shame, and tons of alarm systems screaming “DANGER!”) attached to the sensations of being braless in public. I walked around that day in an absolute panic, desperately wanting to run away, disappear, or be swallowed up by the earth.
I felt like I was dying, or wanted to die, or that the whole world might suddenly explode because I had broken this one important rule. It was a level of discomfort I could never explain to someone who didn’t have my specific history of boobs, beliefs, fear, shame, and trauma. Going out braless got easier with each time I practiced however, and now going braless in public is no big deal at all.
Learn to recognize when you’re dealing with death work; notice when your discomfort comes in the form of heart racing, sweaty palms, tunnel vision, lightheadedness, a major rush of adrenaline, hyperfocus, and a feeling of pending doom, a feeling like you might die, or a feeling of wanting to die or disappear.
Validate for yourself that this is normal and doesn’t make you crazy or weird, but that it’s just a natural side effect of breaking an old deep pattern or “rule” tied somehow to your survival. Identify the pattern or rule you’re breaking (for example: wearing shorts or a bikini, being fat in public, eating carbs, being bigger than your partner, etc.), and practice facing your fear or breaking your pattern/rule over and over again using baby steps until it no longer has this power over you.
6. You’re conflating shame and discomfort.
Shame and discomfort are not the same things, and learning to parse them apart will allow you to practice tolerating discomfort without it automatically triggering shame. Once you learn to identify discomfort coming from clothes that are too tight, the newness of your own body, negative somatic coding, or death work, the next step is to separate that discomfort from shame.
For example, if you’re gassy and bloated after a big meal, you might be a bit physically uncomfortable. But if you also believe flat abs are important to your worth and being bloated makes you a disgusting failure as a person, then you’re not just going to feel uncomfortable physically, you’re also going to feel the discomfort of shame.
Do the best you can to identify and name the specific threads of discomfort coming up for you, and separate them mentally from shame. Remember that shame and discomfort don’t need to co-exist, and that the discomfort is often real and valid, while the shame is not.
Then explore the shame with curiosity if you can, to name exactly where it comes from, what it’s saying to you, where you learned it, who benefits from it, and how it might be attempting to serve or protect you. Let yourself be uncomfortable while also letting go of the shame (aka the meaning, beliefs, stories, and associations) associated with it.