A Note on Perfectionism & Pain-Seeking: Trauma Other Therapies

We highlight the following information not to encourage you to jump to conclusions or to act outside your scope by offering therapeutic advice. Rather, we hope that such information can pique your interest and encourage you to keep your eyes open. With ever-increasing awareness and sensitivity, you may find new opportunities for subtle tweaks in how to best support each student.

  • It can be helpful to be aware that some students may be using perfectionism as a way to unconsciously punish themselves. This can be one way that unhealed trauma may exhibit.
  • Some students who are experiencing disassociation or other trauma symptoms may seek pain as a way to feel more embodied or in control. (Matthew Remski)

Trauma-Informed Yoga

The first inquiry is to get really honest with ourselves about how we use our yoga practice: Are we using it to punish ourselves, to further our perfectionism? I did yoga for years with these goals of doing certain postures; it was not an investigation of what I was actually feeling. Instead, we should ask how can we use yoga as an opportunity to tap into sensations in the body without judgment. This allows us to get in touch with unexpressed emotions and impulses, and we can move those through our body. And, by staying connected to your breath or your sense of grounding, you can keep from getting overwhelmed. – Seane Corn

Trauma Survivors May Seek Pain

It is a counter-intuitive fact that pain experienced in the relatively controlled environment of an asana class can be alluring to some practitioners. To the dissociated, it can offer re-embodiment. To the traumatized, it can offer the repetition of sensations within a scenario of greater autonomy. The pain you choose can be better than the pain that is forced upon you; you may be able to adapt to chosen pain with more clarity… Most responsible teachers today will caution students away from pain. They know it should be left to qualified therapists to help students explore why they might be drawn to pain. They also know they’re treading on dangerous ground if they try to interpret the meaning of pain for anyone but themselves. – Matthew Remski