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Are you afraid to move?

A number of you have written in saying you’re afraid to move. Perhaps you’ve had a long journey with chronic illness and chronic fatigue, or even chronic pain. Now you’ve started to regulate your nervous system, began taking the Level 1 program for Primal Trust™, Regulate™ and you’re hearing how I recommend bringing movement into your daily routine… or maybe you’re interested in trying out some somatic practices that are asking you to move. And what’s happening is you’re noticing that actually you’re afraid to move, or you feel fearful that you don’t have the energy to move. 

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As a first step, I would ask you to be willing to redefine that. Instead of saying, “I don’t have the energy to move”, try, “I don’t have the safety to move.” And see if that resonates as truth for you.

Because actually, and what we’re learning through science, is how the cellular microcosm informs our brains of the energy our bodies have to work with every day – and lack of energy so often comes down to a lack of perceived safety. Movement typically comes all the way down to that cell danger response, where your mitochondria are locked up in stress and protection and for whatever reason, the messages of safety haven’t quite gotten down to the cellular level.

So at the very least, relabel your lack of energy as a lack of safety, start pendulating (pendulation is the natural pulsation between states of expansion and contraction in the nervous system) and moving through life and begin to imagine all the way down to that cellular level that your cells are starting to feel safe enough to pendulate – to just open and close, open and close. Like the waves in the ocean ebbing and flowing, or the wings of a bird expanding and folding. 

Even doing brain retraining practices or subtle breath practices and sending messages all the way down to the cellular level can be very effective. I know when I was going through chronic illness and deep fatigue, I hadn’t felt safe in a long time and that caused me to feel like I didn’t have any energy to move at all. When I was at my worst I felt like I couldn’t even move out of my bed or I couldn’t take a shower. I know what that’s like.

But here’s the thing. You do have energy: you have life force running through you or you wouldn’t be alive!

You’re just using your energy to be locked up in a protection response, and it takes a lot of energy to do that. It takes a lot of energy to hold ourselves in protection. So ask your body and your cells, let yourself know, it’s time. It’s time to start breathing, to start moving, to start living again. Breathe in and out, and tell yourself you are safe. Tell your cells they are safe. 

It’s time for you to start expanding a little bit into the world.

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Pendulation – the natural pulsation of expansion and contraction in your nervous system. Think of the movements like those of a jellyfish!

Just try, with a bit of pendulation, like little jellyfish, opening and closing, imagining that it’s safe to move. Even just swaying a little bit side to side, letting yourself know “I’m going to learn how to teach my body that it’s safe to move. All the way down to the cellular level.” It’s a great first step for those of you who are afraid of movement and to redefine what your lack of movement or your lack of energy is from.

Start using your tools of nervous system regulation consistently – breathe a little safer, and just a little more every day. Imagine it and let yourself know: It’s safe to get up and walk around the house. It’s safe to walk down the street. It’s safe to lay in bed and do contraction and relaxation exercises, to squeeze and relax.

Getting a new mindset is the start of the way out of all of this: it’s safe to learn to breathe again.

Cathleen King, DPT

I'm an expert on chronic illness, chronic trauma, relationship/attachment repair, and inner child healing. I’ve got the rare combination of in-depth doctoral-level education and training as a physical therapist, and many years of coaching others in wellness and lifestyle education. And, I have been through my own heroine’s journey of spending nearly 2 decades of my life navigating through deep, debilitating illness and finally found my way out!

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