With all the talk on how meditation benefits an individual when it comes to physical, mental, and spiritual health, it seems strange to throw into the mix the possibility that meditation can have any downside. Let’s face it, we live in a world that helps us, almost urges us, to look outside of ourselves for salvation. Undertaking any practice that can help a person return the focus to the self has got to be good. Shouldn’t it?
Checkout this recent Psychology Today post from Alan Fogel on how, if a person isn’t properly armed with sufficient support, the challenges that some experience in meditation can become very overwhelming. According to Fogel, who bases his article on his own experience in working with individuals who face meditation challenges, when unresolved physical or psychological wounds appear, dissociation can occur. While this isn’t necessarily bad, if issues like this arise, it’s imperative that an experienced person help guide the individual back into a more balanced and healthy state.
David Treleavan, a specialist in spirituality and health, has suggested that “sustained attention to the body can lead to a dissociative, or freeze, response” that he has named “contemplative dissociation.” This typically occurs when the present moment of body sense awareness touches old physical or psychological wounds that have never been resolved. The result is that one gets stuck in the pain and can’t get out. Using more psychological language, this is a form of rumination or somatization focused on pain and dysphoric feelings…
…There is only one way out of these states: get some help. People who are suffering in this way need a professional who is trained to recognize somatic states of entrapment, a therapist who can guide the person back into a more balanced and healthy state of body sense awareness and a more productive contemplative practice. Meditators whose practice leads them to their own places of discomfort, and others who are in such distress, may seek psychotherapy. Because meditators have also experienced the healing effects of mindful awareness of body sense, they may feel drawn to somatic awareness practices that are designed to integrate both mind and body, practices such as Rosen Method Bodywork, Body Psychotherapy, and Somatic Experiencing.
Read more from Fogel on keeping mindful and staying grounded around your meditation practice here.