When the biggest feelings no one wants to feel get trapped in your body, that is the suffering.
Below is a relevant definition of Misophonia. Wikipedia holds the words and 2 decades of my life holds the experience.
What is misophonia?
Misophonia is a disorder of decreased tolerance to specific sounds or their associated stimuli that has been characterized using different language and methodologies. Reactions to trigger sounds range from anger and annoyance to activating a fight-or-flight response. The condition is sometimes called selective sound sensitivity syndrome. Common triggers include oral sounds (e.g., loud breathing, chewing, swallowing), clicking sounds (e.g., keyboard tapping, finger tapping, windshield wipers), and sounds associated with movement (e.g., fidgeting). Oftentimes, hated sounds are repetitive in nature. -wikipedia.
There’s a trigger (the sniffing, the gum shewing…) followed by an intense (most of time) internalized distressed reaction including strong emotions (also refer in our society as “bad emotions) that get stuck inside of us. And you add to this the fear of having this cycle repeated which keeps one person in a permanent state of fight or flight mode & hyper alertness.
For years, I have focused on reducing the triggers (the noises, the visual ticks) and so are most of the current available treatments, not knowing that it is not where it begins. Avoidance, earplugs, headphones, boundaries, educating the people you love are all coping strategies but can only bring you so far. I can’t change the world around me, but I can change what’s happening inside of me, even my personal neurobiology can adjust.
My journey into healing, like any healing journey, is about going within. And for that… there are many roads available.
Here’s my take: the most difficult of all is not the trigger itself, but what’s happening inside of us because of this trigger.
If you look carefully at those words, they are the exact words Dr. Gabor Mate use in his personal definition of Trauma. He developed, teaches, and use a psychotherapeutic and somatic based approach to heal trauma, that I also use for myself and in my practice with clients.
“Trauma is not what happens to you, it is what happens inside of you. -Dr.G.M
My mom used to clear her throat all the time making this very loud noise (I think it is my very first time having the awareness of: “I’m getting really irritated with that and holding the duality; “but it’s my mom, I can’t be mad at her because she won’t love me anymore. That’s a kid’s mind. That’s what… at age 9, 10 or 12? I can’t remember. Yes, kids need their parents to survive (attachment) if this is not safe, the kid might avoid expressing his/her real feeling. Red flag. Because Misophonia is all about those huge feelings.
I strongly believe that there is a root cause in childhood as we developed misophonia. The same way Dr Gabor Mate explained ADHD as an adaptation, the neuroplasticity and body adjust to protect us in response to childhood trauma (aka: having our emotional needs not met).
That car ride was 2hrs long, I remember having to do it every other week-end and trying in some ways to express how I was feeling… cause This, this… this feeling of anger that one get stuck with is the real problem. It got completely stocked in my throat, like a big ball in there, then the agitation in my body, a sense of furry coming in, close to panic and it could get so intolerable I would feel like rage would want to explode out of me. And then somehow the triggers multiplied and extended to my whole family leaving me alone with a pile of emotions I would have to swallowed, trapped inside of me.
What I did not know
The hardest. The hardest was to try to harness all those emotions alone, as a kid. Then growing up carrying this pain, and still not knowing how to liberate myself from this inner agitation, distress, and anger, simultaneously holding the beliefs that something is wrong about myself.
Here’s the cue.
You can’t do it alone.
And misophonia will bring you alone. Earplugs, music, avoidance and teaching the one close to us are the only ways we knew, it keeps us separated (aka more disconnection and suffering) and ultimately, it’s just not enough. I am here to confirm that there’s other options.
If what we feel inside is the equivalent of the definition of trauma, well so is the treatment.
Before I really dive into my own healing journey and walked more confidently this path of alternative healing, I had no clue that all of this was still stored in my body and that everything I was called to do had its reasons.
My road was long.
First, I traveled away from all the triggers and noise that was already in my life (aka family, school, buses) for a full decade. I got immerses in sport (became a professional kitesurfer) which allowed me to spend hours alone on the water using my body in such a way that it would help my nervous system stay regulated and feel grounded. I even stayed away from competitions and stress. The sport itself combined nature, water, wind, and I felt like all those elements were helping me to stay regulated. I discovered yoga, meditation and included them in my daily life as well as mindfulness for about 2 decades.
The first time I ever experienced a drastic change was after a Vipassana retreat.
Of course, first I thought I would die, I had no clue how I would do this, but I trusted. I trusted something bigger than me. I had already done so much personal work and practices that I was ready.
In case you don’t know… Vipassana is a 7-day silent retreat where participant practice meditation in a GROUP for about 7hrs/day, sleeping in a shared room. You can imagined, just this whole context was highly anxiogenic. Only the thought itself of someone in our group starting to sniff during a session would start my heart racing, I would feel the bodily sensations of panic, just thinking of it.
As Robert Frost say: ‘the only way out is through.
In that retreat (of course it was hard *AF) but honestly, I was expecting worst. Not everyone had the flu at the same time, you know what I mean. I was also spotting the less noisy people to sit next to. The one who could barely move for 2 hours (cause yes you can hear someone gently moving with your eyes close) or who did not make any sound while breathing, they were my safety.
Noticed the words I use. “safety, panic…
That remain my very first miracle.
Considering that I had done my best to avoid triggers and family dinners for years. I had no social obligation anymore like being reframed in a 300ppl room for your university exams, where I looked like a complete maniac because honestly, intense distressed would happened inside of me. I could not just leave like in public transport.
So I did it. Vipassana. There were moments of distress, and I was dealing somehow with them, until at some point it became so, so, so extreme inside of me that without any signs, my body stopped. From extreme inner agitation to nothing. I went asleep for a moment. This is about 12 yrs ago. After that retreat, I went to my parents, and I could not believe myself. I could not believe it was gone. I could not believe I could sit beside my dad without having zero sense of agitation reaching inside of me. That is why I call this my first miracle.
It never returned, at least never close to what it was.
I can say I leave a pretty non-misophonic life. I do feel sensitive towards certain noises, especially when under stress, but I can regulate myself without even going to a strong distress sensation. The key element is the awareness, I can see the thought pattern starting to form, I notice the tension in my body and the emotions that are presents and I know how to utilize or let them free. I had a sense I was developing another trigger towards my son and simple awareness saved me (well I guess it’s a cumulation of all my practices and self-study).
There is still a part of fear in my body, the old memory of this trauma, therefore I continue my healing journey, which is a journey of awareness, of compassion, of understanding because yes “The truth will set you free -John 8:32.
I just want to tell you:
“I feel you and you are not crazy. When I recall those souvenirs, I can still access the agitation, the pain, I remembered clearly crying for a noise to stop, wishing I was deaf, asking GOD to help me without never any help, for years. Holding the belief that there’s something wrong with me.
You are a Masterpiece, it is really, really, hard all what you are holding and containing, this can be transformed in your own personal power with time: there’s a way out, I guarantee.
In our society, anger, agitation, rage, guilt, shame, emotional tensions are not taught, explained, modeled. They are bypassed, ignored, suppressed, or condemned. That causes even more tensions and constrictions and fear and more distress. A somatic approach helps liberating those emotions stored in the body. Step by step we also get to look at our childhood with compassion but more clarity to understand what really happened. This mix of mindfulness, compassion, self-inquiry is a path to healing misophonia.