Technique 2: Clenching and relaxing

Technique 2:    Clenching and relaxing

Stop thinking and start feeling! This exercise allows you to really get in touch with your body and find out what it needs. Learn to feel how your body is coping with your life and everything it has experienced This exercise increases your body awareness.

Lie somewhere comfortable, preferably not on your bed (unless you are trying to get to sleep), and make sure you are warm enough. I like lying in the middle of the carpet with a cushion under my head and another under my knees. If you are feeling particularly bad, have a long bath or shower first or perhaps try the hot and cold water technique from level one before starting this.

Focus on your feet. Notice any feeling you can pick up from them. Become aware of everything you can feel, which foot feels more comfortable, whether you can feel your socks. Notice hot, cold, tingling, numbness, tightness, etc. Are there any areas you cannot feel? Does one foot feel bigger than the other? Is one sticking out to the side more than the other. Allow as much information to come through from your feet as possible. Then gently and slowly clench and relax your feet muscles.

While you are clenching it will be easier for you to feel exactly where your feet are. As you let go of them, see if you can stay in touch with how they feel. Does the felt sense of them disappear as you let go? As you relax, has the feeling changed? Can you feel tiredness, aching, tightness etc? If you can’t feel anything, try clenching again. Just notice how they are.

Don’t worry if the feelings are not clear to start off with. Ask yourself questions about the temperature, size, location, tightness, etc of each part and you may be able find answers them. For example, do both your feet feel the same height off the ground? You know they are physically at the same height, but sometimes one foot can feel much higher than the other, or much further away from your head than the other.

Then move on to the next set of muscles – the calves, and go through the same pattern of 1/ focusing on what you can feel in that place, 2/ clenching & relaxing, and 3/ feeling any reaction. This is not about making anything up, pretending or analysing. It is purely and simply about letting the feeling of your body come into your awareness. You don’t have to do anything other than let this information come to you.

Carry on throughout your body. If you start getting involved with one part of the body then go into as much detail as you like. Don’t be surprised if you start twitching or you suddenly feel changes of temperature or tingling or floaty sensations. Work all the way through your body focusing, clenching and relaxing and then noticing any reaction until you have worked through your neck, facial, and forehead muscles.

I recommend doing this at least 10 minutes or more everyday. At first you may not notice much. Don’t worry. The more you do it, the more you will relax. The more you relax, the easier it is to feel.

If a major distraction keeps popping up, like a thought, a pain or ringing in the ears, that’s normal, but just keep going back to the body. You may need to clench a few times before you can really focus on your body. Sometimes it takes a good ten minutes to really start being able to focus properly.

You can only ever really focus deeply on one thing at a time. If you are focusing on your foot with all your attention, then you won’t be focusing on your tinnitus, or other aches and pains. Its fascinating how the more you focus on parts of your body, the more you can influence how it feels. It gets more and more interesting the more experienced you get at it. For more information please read “Focusing” by Gendlin.

This is about receiving information from the body. You are feeling not thinking. Noticing, not analysing. Just notice what its like being you….

If you find areas you can’t feel at all, don’t worry. Just become aware of the numb bits. How far does this numb, mystery area extend? Where can you start feeling clearly again around it?

These patterns change all the time, even while you are focusing on them. Your body will feel completely different in ten minutes time, on a different day, in a different mood.

Are there any emotional feelings held within? Is there sadness behind your tight chest, for example, or a feeling of anger behind your legs that feel like they want to kick? Perhaps there is a feeling of too much responsibility in your seized up neck and shoulders.

When your mind starts to wander, just simply refocus on your body and start noticing how you feel again. If you are a cerebral person (most tinnitus people are) use the clenching technique to really anchor your mind back into bodily sensation.

This is the perfect exercise for when you can’t sleep. Tiredness is held in the body. If you come out of your thinking mind and connect with where the tiredness is held in the body, and how it feels, you are more likely to fall asleep.

Before you finish this exercise spend the last few minutes seeing if you can connect with what feels OK, comfortable, calm, safe, relaxed, easy, spacious etc. inside. What feels OK? Learning to get in touch with all these positive feelings is one of the most positive things you can do. I wonder how good you are at doing this? Can you say what feels OK in you just now? I don’t mean in your head, I mean something specific in your body that feels OK. There is usually plenty that feels OK, but we sometimes become experts at focusing on all the bad bits. Which do you do?

I went through a stage of practising this for about 45 minutes every day. I was amazed at how the worst tantrums and feelings of despair and anxiety could eventually be settled just by maintaining my focus. If you persist with this technique you will become aware of all the energy and how it is stored in your body. This awareness helps you let go of things. I can do it these days to let go of a headache or bad mood. It takes practice, but with practice it works.

From my experience of treating literally hundreds of people with tinnitus, I have found that those who set up a programme of therapeutic support and spend time working through this technique, make good progress. Give yourself a few weeks trying this every day and see how it is for you. Most people generally get a lot out of it, especially if they have spent a whole lifetime living in their heads! Ring any bells?