Self-Soothing for Adults

March 5, 2019

This weekend, Kellen and I participated in the Wisconsin LGBTQ Summit. Kellen offered ear needles (NADA protocol) to eager conference participants, and some serious relaxing got done.

It was a milestone for us: last year’s Summit was our first venture into the larger community after our move to Milwaukee, so it was phenomenal this year to feel so comfortable and familiar.

One of the sessions we attended encouraged members of Wisconsin’s queer and trans communities to practice spiritual self care. It reminded me what a challenge that is in our cultural context. Most of us have been taught from a tiny age that our preferences and desires are frivolous or even selfish. We were trained to sit through conversations that ignored us or to smile through interactions that frightened or harmed us.

With that foundation, it’s no shock that it’s hard for many of us to say when we are uncomfortable or to name what makes us comfortable.

Because self-care requires self-knowledge, self-knowledge is a form of self-care.

I remember when my friend T’s oldest (ahem–now 11 years old??!!!!) was born. T talked about the attention that went into getting to know them. When does L feel safe? What calms L down? What makes L almost purr with comfort and pleasure? What makes L tense up–and is the tension enthusiasm or fear?

A wrench in the learning curve for a new parent studying their child’s preferences is that preferences change. At 2 pm, the child might like snuggling and hearing a slow song, and then at 7:30 pm, the same position, the same song, might bore them and make them restless.

You know what I’m gonna say: we were all infants. And that wise, comfort-seeking, comfort-knowing part of us lives on.

Just like infants, we can identify moments of comfort. Unlike an infant, though, I notice myself wanting the comfort to laaaaast and last. (It never does.) When I get antsy doing something that I thought would help me relax, I remind myself of an infant’s perspective. Stretching after waking, the texture of cloth against a cheek, the first gulp: these can feel like valuable and noticeable moments of comfort and pleasure. (And none is a guaranteed source of comfort or pleasure.)

This week, play new parent to your wise baby soul:

  • What makes me purr with comfort and pleasure?
  • When do I feel safe?
  • When do I tense up–and is the tension enthusiasm or fear?
  • What calms me down?

Advanced practice: you could keep lists of the above and/or commit to devoting at least two minutes each day to something that makes you feel cozy with comfort and pleasure.