Self-care is really popular these days.
It’s being talked about everywhere from lifestyle blogs and yogini Instagram feeds to mainstream media outlets.
And it’s no real wonder that that’s the case.
Who doesn’t like the idea of spending a little quality time with yourself? Of doing things that make you feel good? Of taking good, nurturing care of yourself, to combat the daily grind of our frenetic modern world?
We all know how stressful it can be.
Practicing self-care also has the powerful effect of allowing us to receive -- which is especially meaningful to those of us for whom receiving love and care has been a complicated prospect in our lives. Those of us who are used to giving (and giving, and giving) instead.
It flips that dynamic on its head, and damn if it doesn’t feel good.
On the whole, I think the degree to which self-care has exploded into the mainstream is ultimately a good thing. The fact that so many of us are ritualizing self-compassion could only move us, individually and collectively, toward a more caring, human world.
It’s a measure of our growing self-worth that we prioritize and value ourselves this way.
But we need to talk about a not-so-minor aspect of this whole exchange.
One that may actually be keeping us detached from an essential part of ourselves in the very moment we’re trying to give ourselves what we need.
It all comes down to what we’re using self-care for.
What we’re really using it for, beneath and beyond the obvious benefit to our day-to-day lives.
Because there’s something that may be hiding itself in our cycles of nurturing attention, and it might come as a surprise as to what that is. It’s not really a part of the mainstream conversation.
We need to talk about our trauma, big and small.
Something I’ve noticed recently is how often we use self-care to address the symptoms of our underlying trauma without getting at its root cause.
In many ways it’s that underlying trauma that makes navigating the perils of modern life that much more difficult.
It makes us more exhausted, dissociated, depressed, anxious, and confused.
(In other words, exactly the parts of our experience we’re using our self-care to help us cope with.)
Our trauma also turns experiences that otherwise wouldn’t really register for us into ones that require considerable effort on our part to navigate, and resolve.
The accumulation of this effort depletes us, and we use self-care to refresh and restore ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, of course the self-care still feels good, and makes a difference for us as we grapple with the difficult parts of our lives. Self-care may truly be the practice that allows us to get through the daily grind with our dignity and our sanity intact, no matter what we’re using it to address. It does take an edge off. It provides a real benefit, and serves a real purpose.
None of this is untrue.
I’m just asking you to consider if a deeper truth, a deeper dynamic, is present for you -- so that you can address the trauma at its root if you choose to.
I think it really comes down to the following: how much time per day, per week, are you investing in self-care? How much of a difference is it making for you? Is it resolving your troubledness, or just deferring it for a time?
It’s safe to say the rate and relentlessness with which modern society inflicts anxiety and dread on all of us is steadily increasing, and it would be easy to assume that’s what’s necessitating our doubling-down on self-care.
Surely some part of that is true.
But what if our underlying trauma is nevertheless raising the threshold of the amount of regular caretaking we need to feel safe, loved, valuable, and whole?
And how much of our ever-increasing investment in self-care would still be necessary if we turned some of that time, energy, and attention to healing those underlying wounds instead?
You may not know the answer to this -- or be able to appreciate just how much your underlying trauma impacts your day-to-day experience of your life -- until it’s transformed.
True healing is that powerful, and that unpredictable. It opens you up to ways of being in the world you never could have considered before. Our wounds skew our perception of what’s available, and true.
More and more research is coming out now about how trauma stores itself in the body, and how that trauma can be completely and effectively released, for good. I’ve experienced this in my own life, and it’s incredibly, incredibly powerful.
To have that hidden weight lifted to the point that it doesn’t hold power over you anymore.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but modalities like breathwork, EMDR, past-life regression, reiki and other forms of energy healing all engage trauma at the root.
And maybe you already put treatments like these in the category of self-care. That’s all well and good, but the mainstream is simply not having the conversation in these terms.
So heal your trauma and who knows what’s possible. There are no ways to predict who you might be, how you might feel. What stressors that impact you now might have no effect at all. What recurring pains and problems will dissolve before your eyes.
In closing, there’s a fundamental aspect of self-care that’s essentially life maintenance -- keeping yourself tuned up and running smoothly as you chart your course through life. We’ll always need some level of self-care as we deal with the basic stress, pain, and disappointment of a human life.
But if we find ourselves constantly investing in that self-care, making it a lifestyle, where we’re spending more time maintaining our life than we are living our life -- or if we take good care of ourselves and still can’t find relief -- then maybe it’s time to shake things up. To take a closer look. To consider how trauma could be making your lived experience that much more difficult, and to address the dynamic not on the surface but at its source.