Four Steps to Recognize Your Internal Alarm System


In my last post I talked about a client who I recently worked with to access her anger reaction in the moment through Somatic Experiencing. She had been hanging onto her anger over a conversation with a friend. Instead of confronting the friend in the moment, she struggled to suppress her reaction and then, later on, to forgive her friend.

These are the four powerful steps that I taught her to improve her internal alarm system:

  1. She visualized her conversation with her friend.

  2. She began to notice what she was sensing in her body when her friend made the comment. She became aware of tension in her stomach. It is not only our thoughts that give us our warning signals, but our bodily sensations as well. These sensations might appear in different forms such as headaches, shoulder pain, or other physical symptoms. This exercise can also help a person to differentiate between the here and now versus past painful memories.

  3. She paused and became the kind observer of her tension. She now knew that her stomach would send her the warning signals she needed to listen to.

  4. She reported that she felt her stomach again in another conversation, but this time she paused for a minute and recognized that she was getting irritated. Because of her somatic awareness, she had the choice to speak up, and decided to address her irritation immediately. Her tension and anger were resolved, and she no longer needed to hang onto her feelings of anger toward her friend in order to protect herself.

Forgiveness is part of a healing process in which we take responsibility for what we are feeling. We free ourselves of the people who might have hurt us.

Recognizing our internal alarm signals and paying attention to our warning sensations can pave the path to forgiveness and, as a result, have additional health benefits.

Follow these 4 simple steps for an alarm signal tune-up:

  1. Visualize the situation that is distressing.

  2. Notice what you feel in your body.

  3. Observe your sensations without judgment, especially if they bring up painful memories from the past.

  4. Return to the original situation or picture another similar situation. Notice what you are feeling. Recognize sensations that signal an opportunity to make a new and different choice.

Appreciate your body's wisdom and commit to noticing its alarm signals earlier, honoring them (not suppressing them) and expressing yourself honestly with kindness toward others and yourself.

First published on Psychology Today.