What does "feeling present" feel like?

Sideways

Moderator
So, is it how you react or how you want to react in the present?
For me? Grounded fear was yesterday when there was a spider appeared on my couch.

When I'm round my parents? I know I'm not staying grounded (yet), there is rarely any reason to be afraid in the here and now, so when I (frequently) feel afraid in their company, that's not being present or grounded. That's trauma-brain messing with me.
 

Friday

Moderator
What does it feel like to be present?
Alive. Alert. Engaged. Aware. Adaptable.

Adaptable is something that’s difficult to put into words for people without military experience, because they don’t have the experience of 2 realities : The least common, where you need independent thinking, and the responsibility to assess & act without any kind of over-arching structure; ROE, SOP, AO, AOR, needing to stay on mission, seek anyone’s else’s authority before whatever, etc.. Nothing is above your pay grade. You are IT. Your life, your choices, assess and act as you yourself deem fit. As opposed to “normal”. I can adapt during “normal” times, but it’s within some veeeeeeery strict confines. And my adaptability isn’t key to living, in those instances; often, very much the other way around.

So you prolly get what I mean without the novel length explanation, but since it ties so heavily into the other aspects, I’m putting it up here, anyway.
If I’m NOT adaptable? In non-mil life? There are good/justifiable reasons for that, and then there’s the PTSD clusterf*ck.

Good/justifiable reasons include things like

- getting gloriously shiftfaced on a girls’ night out. (So I take steps in advance, because I know I’m going to be drunk; like getting a babysitter, & arranging transportation, and eating ahead of time.)

- before coffee. Half awake, half asleep, unless there is an emergency I don’t “plan” anything during that time, nor, if something comes up (like someone wanting to have a conversation) do I engage (give me a few minutes to wake up, have some coffee, take a shower! Then? Golden. Now? Nope. I’m not “all here” yet!

- Grief/Mourning. There are times where “I’ve just lost someone” means I need to be working, or whatever… but even then? I’m not going to be 100%. I’ll be close, but not complete. As soon as I shift out of that, into feeling it? Nope. I’m not here, right now. And that’s okay, and expected, and steps need to be taken to work around that, rather that ignore it.

- Illness/Injury. Ditto the above, there are phases to that. In some? Yep, I’m here, and I’m fine. Just in pain/miserable, so there’s a short fuse/window. During others? I couldn’t think my way out of a wet paper bag, and the glass right by my head is reeeeeeeally far away to reach for.

- Dead on my feet; tired, hungry, hot/cold… in desperate need of a shower, sleep, food, and a change of clothes… not necessarily in that order.

- So focused on any one thing, to the exclusion of all other things; whether that’s a new baby, new boyfriend, the game I’m playing, the work I’m doing, the person I’m pissed off at… doesn’t matter whether it’s positive/neutral/negative.

- Under pressure “to behave”. Sure, I could shift gears and make shit happen… but it’s not really acceptable to, in the environment I’m in. PTA meeting, in court, at church, etc. The “acceptable” course of action, before even doing so much as answering a phone call, is to excuse myself and step away. Much less anything more consuming of my attention, much less requiring direct action. First? Remove myself from the environment which has strict codes of behavior attached, and then go about my life.

The same durn things that I would expect -and cut someone slack for- if it was happening in their lives. Because they happen in everyone’s lives. People are affected in various ways, for various lengths of time, and that’s also normal/expected.

***
See the theme? In order to be adaptable I have to be mentally and physically aware of what’s going on -both around me in the immediate- and more generally speaking; around myself and those I’m committed to (family, friends, work) and be able to adapt to changing circumstance; in relation to anyone or anything in both the immediate and wider areas.

How adaptable/ I am varies day by day, and during different times of day, under different conditions. The same way it does for anyone.

It doesn’t require 100% physical & mental acuity. I can be beat up from the street up, and still be adaptable as hell. Because I take that into account and plan/act accordingly. Because I CAN. Ditto, I can be so tired I can barely think at all, much less straight, but as long as I make allowances for that? Like by delegating, or “Give me a few minutes to wake up” or “I’m sick, you’re going to have to slow down, or if it’s important talk to John”? Voila.
With PTSD my adaptability flys right out the window for totally irrational & largely unplanned reasons.

- Brought to my knees in grief… when no one has died.
- Unable to think clearly, not because I’m tired/hungry/sick/drunk/in pain… but just because
- Unable to focus even on my own immediate surroundings/present/future, much less easily see my own AND those I owe it to (family, friends, work)
- As gutted by the most minor changes in plans, as if a bomb had gone off, or my kid got hit by a car, or I got hit with food poisoning… or any other sudden MAJOR change of plans happening from this point forward.
- Etc.
NOT ... Alert. Engaged. Aware. Adaptable.
NOT feeling Alive?

If I can’t set aside my feelings when I need to OR cannot lean into them? If I can’t “see” what needs or wants doing, or can see just fine but cannot action it? I And a thousand other examples? Easily reversed from the above? I’m not present.
 

Friday

Moderator
Ok - so 911 is present now dissociation. I can function, I know where/when I am, but I don't feel anything. I only know I'm stressed if my hands shake. It's totally feelings off/working now mentality
Keep in mind… being able to apply professional distance? Is PART of being present. Everyone screws it up from time to time, but NOT being able to do it at all? Or not being able to switch back and forth as required? Isn’t being present. It’s either

- being so wrapped up in your own self that you cannot set your feelings aside to BE professional
- being so _________, that you cannot engage / connect with others in order to be EITHER personal, professional, or both.

That _________ has a whole helluva lot of different possible meanings. Guarded, scared, hurt, obsessed, new, distracted, angry, boundary-free, arrogant, in pain, and maybe 50 other motivations. Temporary, long term, under certain conditions, etc.

***

Same token? The single most effective way I ever found at getting my Then/Now separated? Was to drop in & out of work-mode // survival-mode (and normal life) on a regular basis. I …think???… It let my mind start to repair the boundaries of different situations calling for different things. Instead of everything crashing in on me all at once.

It was accidental my first go-round with PTSD… during my contracting days… I got on this merry-go-round of work-party-beach. Work a job for a few weeks/few months, come home and party until that got boring, then sleep on the beach/surf until my head unf*cked itself. Take another job. Rinse, lather, repeat. Eveeeeentually the pattern started to shift until instead of homeless for weeks/months I was building a life to come BACK to. Which led to I might party for a few days, before heading home, not weeks/months. But before that could even begin to happen, there had to be this mental shift of THIS HERE & THAT THERE. I wasn’t capable of that, when things were really bad.
 
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whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
I kind of felt checked out but I wasn't having the never ending intrusive thoughts that are always in my mind. And I was able to push away the few that came up. So does that mean I was "present?" Or was I in "not here" mode and just going thru the motions of pretending I'm ok?
Take or leave what I say here. This is an important topic for me, but I come at it after intensive training in MBSR.

What you describe here is, in my view, still dissociation. I don't believe that "pushing away thoughts and feelings" is something we do when we're present. In fact, being completely present and aware means you notice all feelings and thoughts. The difference, as I learned in MBSR, is that we don't "grab onto them" and do anything with them. So, when I get intrusive thoughts about death, rather than assign meaning or worry or anything to them, I sort of say to myself, "There they are again." And that's it.

To some, that sounds hokey. But I can attest to the fact that regular practice (and it takes TONS of practice), it can eliminate the intrusive thoughts. It did for me. When I am super-stressed, they come back, but not nearly as long or as bad.
My dissociated brain is always "here" just without feelings.
Yeah, I used to live like this. Always. Well, when I wasn't completely checked out. One of the ways I learned I dissociate was by describing something that used to happen all the time to me. I'd stand in line at the grocery store, not really seeing, not hearing anything. Colors were all run together, voices at a far distance. I've always done that, much of the time. My T at the time was like, oh hell...you're dissociating. LOL I thought it was normal and that everyone did that.

some thing about this language just does not compute for me. because a lot of the actieveties for grounding are directly triggering to me. (breathing, yoga, massage, exercise, all of that.)
So change the language. I don't do any of that stuff when I seek to be present. I just pay attention to what is.
i do not know how one remains present especeally in the middle of a flash back.
You *be present* with the flashback. You notice it. Being present and aware is not pushing away the stuff you don't want to experience.
I dissociate a lot, all the time.
Yep. I do sometimes, but a LOT less than I used to.
I think we're all overthinking it. It's what @Sideways said, nothing woo-woo or hard to achieve. Everyone dissociates, daydreaming is dissociation.
Yep! Dissociation happens on a spectrum.
That's still dissociation. Anytime you are on autopilot you are dissociated, even if it is just mild. If you are on autopilot, you aren't present
Yes!
So it would follow that being present for unhappy/uncomfortable/scary/whatnot emotions or when I'm stuck in the past is where the dissociation occurs
Hm....I would say that NOT being present for those emotions is where dissociation occurs.
is it how you react or how you want to react in the present?
Definitely how you react. What is happening. Right now.
NOT ... Alert. Engaged. Aware. Adaptable.
If I understand what you're saying, I disagree. Although I think the more present and aware you are of what is actually happening, the less on alert you are. Because hypervigilance happens at a different level than the here and now. In my view.
 

Freida

Sponsor
For me? Grounded fear was yesterday when there was a spider appeared on my couch.

When I'm round my parents? I know I'm not staying grounded (yet), there is rarely any reason to be afraid in the here and now, so when I (frequently) feel afraid in their company, that's not being present or grounded. That's trauma-brain messing with me.
Thats brilliant
As opposed to “normal”. I can adapt during “normal” times, but it’s within some veeeeeeery strict confines. And my adaptability isn’t key to living, in those instances; often, very much the other way around.
Y'know, my t told me ages ago that "being adaptable" really isn't as good of a thing as we think it is. Her thoughts were that we can adapt because we can dissociate to not take things as seriously, dangerous, what not as they are.
See the theme? In order to be adaptable I have to be mentally and physically aware of what’s going on -both around me in the immediate- and more generally speaking; around myself and those I’m committed to (family, friends, work) and be able to adapt to changing circumstance; in relation to anyone or anything in both the immediate and wider areas.
Which is kind of the opposite of this.....
hmmmmmm
Was to drop in & out of work-mode // survival-mode (and normal life) on a regular basis. I …think???… It let my mind start to repair the boundaries of different situations calling for different things. Instead of everything crashing in on me all at once.
I need to do some thinking on this -- because I think I do it all the time without the repair part
Colors were all run together, voices at a far distance. I've always done that, much of the time. My T at the time was like, oh hell...you're dissociating.
Yes!
LOL I thought it was normal and that everyone did that.
Me too! When they first started blathering on about dissociation I'm all "what? that's not normal?"
Being present and aware is not pushing away the stuff you don't want to experience.
oh.
ya.
that.
I would say that NOT being present for those emotions is where dissociation occurs.
I like how you phrased that -- need to think on it a bit
 

Sideways

Moderator
being able to apply professional distance?
Odd example. It irked me when I first read it, didn't know why.

Add sleep and coffee, and it's come to me. My switched-on, work mode? Was a dissociated alter. So, waaaaay up the dissociative spectrum, but pulling off function and adaptability better than any of my other parts.

I think there's work mode. And then there's work mode. I can't speak to what it's like in the military, but my guess is it's probably not all that far from what happened for me.

That is, in order to work to the environment, I actually had to switch off a whole lotta stuff. So, idk, but I'm not sure that work mode is necessarily the kind of "fully present" that Ts are referring to. Because, for a lot of work situations, you gotta switch off a lot of personal stuff (and emotions) in order to pull it off...???

ETA For example, you're noticing and processing detail to a degree that you just don't in a regular, kick back on the couch mode. But, that's coming at the expense of a lot of stuff getting switched off.

ETA. Nothing beats a good irk to get the cogs turning again!!
 
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internal

Sponsor
So change the language.
to what? i don't think i've adequately described my problem here-i have an issue with the language on multiple levels.

the first being it sounds hokey. which, whatever-that's just the language. that's not the real issue because as you say you can just change how you describe it. my problem-the second being-usually when i have an issue with the language, i replace it with its clinical counter.

but i find it difficult to do that here because i don't actually know what this language is even supposed to be describing. what is "just stay grounded"? what is "just be present"? how do you describe that clinically? because this is supposed to be clinical. so what's the actual modality?

when i was about 14-15 or so i had a therapist and i recall at one point i had a flashback. i was inpatient. we used to have all these activities like massage therapy and shit. anyway my therapist happened to be there during this. i was sitting there and this guy was like roll up your sleeves, blah blah

and i had a total f*cking meltdown because i was told if i didn't participate i'd be in trouble-and this dude was much older and he was doing something weird to me, which in my view-like, that literally happened to me all the f*cking time.

and in the middle of all this my therapist was like hey, you know what would help, if you counted how many objects you see a round you. like okay, i know how to f*cking count, that's not my problem, here. you know?

my current therepist has agreed with me that this stuff is not effective for me. what works for me is analysis and processing. and i can do that. it may not make me "present" (whatever the f*ck that means), but it makes me be not-distressed.

and right now? that's what needs to happen. i need to be-not-distressed and maybe further down the line when i've eaten more of the therapy sausage and my brain expands and i get more enlightened i will understand what else is happening.

and it takes a lot for therapists, and most people, to admit that. because that's all they're trained to do and when people show up and say it doesn't work for them.

the instinct is to say, "well, just try harder, because it worked for me. it worked for all my other patients. what matters is being in the moment and living life as it is now."

but not everyone is the same.
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
The only things these exercises are bringing to me are breathing properly, and have anchors around. So I can now that I’m here and not there. At the office, picture of the cat is proof that D will not be there bringing me a cake (and screwing it up afterwards). So, it’s not that I’m grounded. I’m still distracted. But I know that now is now.

But seemingly for me being grounded is being so much in the surroundings I seem to cease to exist. So I guess, it’s not being grounded either. But it’s not a place of suffering or wondering. It’s a place where things come normally, with feelings and all, but normally. Not jumping at your face. Not shouting at you to do something.

But so, being grounded is that something like, function without suffering? Is function the criteria at the end?
 

Friday

Moderator
Because hypervigilance happens at a different level than the here and now. In my view.
180 degrees of difference between vigilance and hypervigilance.

Being alert means I can react swiftly and correctly to what I’m aware of.

I don’t notice the change in footing and just stumble through it as if I was unaware, or watch the car merge into me (or drive into the cement barrier if it’s my lane that needs to merge), or walk past my kid I see crying, or stare at a ringing phone, or just sit there aware that I’m hungry without feeding myself; conversely it means I also do NOT throw oil on a fire, or collapse into tears when the crosswalk light changes, or tackle the mailman, or, or, or… 1,000 everyday things that don’t just require being aware that they exist, but also need choosing in both TO act, and HOW to act, once I am aware of them.

I need to do some thinking on this -- because I think I do it all the time without the repair part
I meant it literally, not figuratively, if it helps.

Dropping in & out of work mode without actually being at work is one of those broken-boundaries kinds of things (like the past intruding on the present, or treating personA as if they’re personD), rather than reparative kinds of things.
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
because this is supposed to be clinical.
Interesting. Because I don't see this as clinical at all.

I see it as something everybody should just be doing. I don't use the term "be present" very much. I just call it awareness or being aware. And I don't equate it with grounding. Grounding is clinical to me.

*shrug* That's just me.
 
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