What do we mean by 'grounding'?

Like Mindfulness, Grounding is the other mental health buzz word we hear an awful lot about at the moment. My therapist’s instincts want to protect the term ‘grounding’ from becoming just another cliché, so I’d like to explore this a little with you:

For me, grounding conjures up:

Rootedness –  as in trees.

Connectedness – as in nature, connecting to our ‘ground’, the earth etc.

Calming down (coming down to earth) – pausing in this place –

Before livening up again and becoming energetic.

Letting this new energy flow upwards inside of us (from the ground).

There is something cyclical about grounding. If we were to talk about it in other terms ie neurological, we could talk about grounding as energy moving in a circuit.

We know how it feels to be ungrounded. When we see it in other people, we tend to view them as not being very well attached to reality, or not living in the real world. When we sense it in ourselves it is slightly different. It is a felt sense of ungroundedness – the words that come to mind are overanxious, spacey, heady, not in our bodies, rushed, frenetic, speedy, dissociated. So, energy is going all over the place – not coming up from the ground and moving in a contained way through our bodies.

How can we stay grounded?

Well, mindfulness can help us stay grounded – this can be very helpful. People have also spoken to me about their own form of grounding: ‘solid and purposeful walking in the woods or through fields; a mindful shower to wash away unwanted energies'….then back in my head to ponder/create/be inspired but in a grounded way’ .

Sometimes these methods help and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes life can just carry us away.

Children are not very grounded. When we’re young we need our parents to help us stay grounded. Babies are completely ungrounded. When we’re babies it is crucial our parents connect with us so that our feelings don’t make us feel out of control (cue screaming baby!). Babies can’t regulate their own feelings, and they need to feel ‘held’ in order to calm down. My sense is that the parent, in ‘holding’ the baby, is completing the circuit, as I’ve described. They are helping the infant calm down, pause, and begin another cycle of expression. They are grounding the baby.

So we can also think about grounding as ‘holding’ .

How can we feel ‘held’ in order to ground ourselves?

If I can’t ‘hold’ myself, I often find others can hold me – partners, friends, even my children (though some people make me feel more ungrounded!).

I also, importantly, see grounding as a form of compassionate holding of ourselves. Can we be our best internal caregiver? Can we ‘hold’ ourselves as we might an over-stimulated child, or even a screaming baby? This takes a lot of internal work – not always to be done alone. Often, working with a therapist can be very helpful here.

But this relationship we have with ourselves is, I believe, the most important thing. Usually we don’t need to do anything. The child, or the infant in us is present as a ‘felt sense’. It is the agitated part of us that we feel can be neither heard nor soothed. Can we just be with this very young part, doing nothing? Hanging out together, getting to know each other a little better. Holding the baby until you both feel calmer? Taking the young child’s hand? There is a part of us that needs calming, but there is also a part of us that calms. There are two of us; there is always more than one thing going on.

Then, when you feel a little more held, you could go for a walk together.

Slowly slowly something shifts. You are back in your body, feeling your ground.