What is Grounding?
When I asked my students how they would describe being grounded , they said: connected to reality, stable, anchored, safe, being in the present, secure, standing on your own two feet, independent, autonomy, conscious awareness, not at the whim of emotions, surrender, support, being authentic, and in the reality of the higher self. I then asked what parts of the body they used to ground, and received: eyes to see, hands to touch, voice and speech to yell, and feet to make contact.
Technically grounding refers to a wire that carries an electrical charge to earth so that it won’t disrupt situations and equipment in the immediate vicinity. In the body grounding refers to the energy that moves from the north pole (the head) to the south pole (the feet) and back again. Humans receive their grounding at birth from the main nurturer, usually the mother. Leaning against his mother’s chest the baby receives energy from her heart. When the mothering figure is present for and totally attuned to her child, grounding is implanted early in life.
Your personality, behavior, and body indicate your grounding. Grounding means that you have both feet on the ground, suggesting that you are realistic, rational, and that your ideas make sense; your thoughts are logical, coherent, and clear. People with both feet on the ground take responsibility for what occurs in their lives. They make decisions and cope with the consequences of those decisions. People who feel safe and secure in adulthood seem to have had early experiences that enabled them to develop trust, such as being held, snuggled, and rocked. When you have not had positive nurturing experiences, healing requires you to learn how to self-soothe in order to give yourself some of the experiences you missed out on.
Energy flows from head to toe and back in the form of a figure eight, crossing the body at the solar plexus and again at the soft palate when you are grounded. With grounding you embody all that you are, soul, spirit, body, personality, and behavior. You are in tune with the earth and centered. You are a fully moving and breathing creature filled with life energy.
Grounding represents the present moment, being in the here and now, and making real contact. You experience seeing and being seen; speaking, sharing and receiving the other; and touching and being touched. Grounding relates to trust; you feel safe. If you fall, someone is there to catch you. Significant people in your life are loyal and honest, and they will not deceive you.
Rooting, similar to grounding, means having permanent contact with the earth. You move away from the competitive desire to achieve false pleasures, you surrender to the life force and its healing energy, and you connect more deeply with your own feelings and impulses. Being rooted is to be solidly anchored, to have permanence, to belong, to have a solid base.
Grounding and the Body
To be grounded all four corners of the foot, excluding the toes, should touch the floor. Imagine the soles of your feet kissing the earth. Feet reflect safety or its lack. They co-ordinate with and represent the root chakra. When the toes curls under, the person holds on for dear life; life has been threatening or traumatic. High arches due to contracted muscles indicate having experienced hostile or negative mothering. The person grows into adulthood desiring to get away from her mother and from mother earth as well. Collapsed arches, known as having flat feet, reflect a tendency to give in to others or to give up and disrespect one’s own wishes and desires. This tendency can be offset by being too willful or rebellious — in an attempt to overcome one’s own weakness. The person may be submissive in general or have submitted to authority in early life and now resents having done so. Low self-esteem results when one has not stood up for oneself and fought for oneself. Bunions reflect unresolved anger that has been held over time and has created a build-up of energy in the foot. If the energy from the head or torso does not move down into the calves, ankles, and feet, people will not feel safe and secure, will have trouble standing up for what they believe, and their decisions may not make sense.
The ankles represent sexuality. If you massage your ankles, you can bring good energy to your sexual center, chakras 2A and 2B. To awaken your sexual energy, I suggest wearing an ankle bracelet. Thinness of the ankles mean that you did not get enough nurturing and feel deprived — you have underlying abandonment issues. Deep in the unconscious sits the belief, “I will never get what I need in life.” Thickness of the ankles can reflect stubbornness, fear of moving forward or taking the next step, and conflict between staying stuck and moving forward. Thick ankles, as well as other blocked or thicker sections of our bodies, hide a “no” to life.
On the other hand a collapse at the ankles — when the ankles turn in toward each other or pronate inwards — indicates a tendency to give up, to be needy, and to feel unable to take care of oneself — derived from experiences based on the mother’s unavailability. Sprained or broken ankles, and other joints, represent repressed hostility. People who have repressed hostility sometimes throw their bodies around leading to accidents, sprains, and breaks.
Ankle issues impact one’s sexuality. So whether you struggle from abandonment, deprivation, fear of movement, stubbornness, giving up, or hostility, these issues and behaviors will than appear in your sexual life, until actual healing occurs. A sexually healthy person is able to maintain his or her energy flow and release excess charge through the orgasm. Grounding and healthy sexuality could be considered analogous.
The lower legs, from the knees to the feet, depict the relationship with your mother — the female role model — for both men and women. Because the knee is a joint, one should never stand with it locked. Joints are intended for weight transfer. Your knees need to be soft at all times, even when you stand still, because it is difficult for energy to get down to the lower legs if they are locked. Knees that flare out from each other — turning out slightly away from the body –suggest a discomfort with sexuality. When energy moves down from the root chakra and from the sexual chakra that sits directly above it, it may flare out at the knees or calves rather than moving straight down into the earth. Imagine your legs as walls of a tunnel and the energy is meant to funnel down between them — through the middle of the tunnel into the ground. Instead it pushes out against the walls of the tunnel, widening the tunnel, and never reaches the ground below. By flaring out one’s sexual energy disperses into the atmosphere.
Look for people in your life who lock their knees when they stand or who don’t put their whole foot on the floor. You will be amazed at how many people you know who block their life energy, suppress their sexuality, and resist its flow.
Knees that are flabby — looking a little like baby fat — may indicate that the person does not wish to grow up. When a heavier lower body — knees, thighs, and pelvis — connect to a much thinner upper body — it indicates that the person tends to be willful and intent on getting what she wants. Rather than demanding her way, she will placate or befriend you so that you can’t resist. Knees that pronate in or collapse in toward each other, even touch, give the message of giving up, falling down on the job, or letting someone else take responsibility. Knees they that touch, so that there is no space in between them, say “no” to sexuality quite loudly.
The calves represent the third chakra, the solar plexus, self-center, or ego, in the body. This center may be strong or weak depending on the personality. Very thick calves indicate an unwillingness to share or explore feelings. Thinner than normal legs and calves express neediness and deprivation. Since they are not good at self-soothing, these people attempt to get others to take care of them by demanding attention or acting helpless.
Variations in skin color from one part of the leg to the next may reflect energy or emotional blocks. If the color of the leg above the knee is different from the color below the knee, it may mean that energy stops at the knee and that the person feels insecure and unsafe. You may also observe discolorations at certain places on the legs, birthmarks, body temperature changes, and hair growth, all indicating energy blocks that interfere with grounding.
The thighs connect to the pelvis and to the root chakra; they represent sexual issues and concerns. If the woman had a good relationship with her father in childhood, her hips and pelvis will be well formed. On the other hand, if the relationship was negative or troubled in some way, there may be some distortions in the thighs or hips. By father I mean male significant other: it could be the father, grandfather, uncle, older brother, or neighbor. Usually it is someone with a good amount of testosterone, which is why I am suggesting that the influence was male. Similarly, for the male if he had a good relationship with his mother in the first decade of life, his thighs will have a nice shape, not too thick or thin, his pelvis will be of normal size, and his buttocks will be well rounded. Mother stands for a female significant other: aunt, grandmother, older sister, or baby sitter. This person’s estrogen influenced the child, because sexuality develops in relationship to receiving stimulation from the opposite sex sexual hormone, but not too much of it.
Advice for Therapists
Ensure that your clients are properly grounded before you do anything else in the session. Observe your client’s grounding and give them exercises to improve it if necessary. Grounding will allow your clients to receive, be open, and be present. It will keep them from flooding if you accidentally bring more energy into the session than they can handle. Ungrounded clients may appear to be distant, detached, nervous, or depressed. Ask them when they lost contact with you, did they leave during the session, or were they absent even before they walked into your space. People sometimes leave mentally or spiritually, although their bodies are still in the room. Distancing or distraction occurs when a threat is experienced. Clients may feel threatened by something in the present– by you or your space–, the past, their feelings, or their history. If your clients are traumatized, have experienced trauma, or are new to therapy or body work, ground them through their relationship with you, by providing a warm and supportive atmosphere. Offering a grounding relationship helps those who need a guiding hand. Be aware how you feel when you work with both the same and the opposite sex. If you are female, do you remain present for your male clients, and if you are male do you stay present for your female clients. Where and how do you cut off your feelings in the session? When do you become ungrounded?
Character Defenses and Grounding
The character defenses or character structures have different ways of presenting themselves in reference to grounding. The schizoid person’s body, with a fragmented energy field, tilts and twists to the right or left. The personality tends to be cold or absent. The oral or undercharged person is ungrounded. The body collapses, the legs are thin and lacking color, and the personality is weak and easily influenced by others. The masochist, a blocked, overcharged person, appears overly grounded, so that the body lacks normal energy flow and the movement is heavy and plodding. The psychopath’s energy is upwardly displaced, so that both the body and the personality appear hung-up, and the individual exists in a made-up, unreal, mental world. The rigid structure is split, cut in half at the waist, so that the heart is separated from the legs and pelvis. Considered the most grounded of the five defenses, the rigid’s energy flows stiffly throughout the body.
- List the ways you are not grounded in your life.
- What early life experiences ungrounded you? If there was one major experience in your past that ungrounded you, what would it be? (example, parents fighting)
- What do you do to help yourself feel more grounded when you feel ungrounded?
- Explore the ground with your body. Slither across a carpeted floor like a snake. Move across it like an earthworm looking for food, and romp around the room like a monkey, jumping up and down for joy. Then crawl as if you are a baby just before you learn to walk.
- Stand with back straight, feet shoulder width apart, and reach both arms up toward the sky, stretching your upper body. At the same time press your feet hard into the ground, without locking your knees. Experience the place inside your body where heaven and earth seem to merge.
- Experience the difference. Walk around your room “ungrounded”, on your tiptoes with you neck bent off to one side. Now walk “grounded” with your knees slightly bent, feet fully on the floor, and eyes wide open and in contact with the room.
- Massage and foot exercises. Take off your shoes and socks and wiggle your toes. Now massage your feet, toes, and ankles — five minutes for each foot. Hold and massage each heal in the palm of your hand. Stand up.
- Waterfall or forward bend. Bend over at the waist and touch the floor with your hands. Bend your knees until your hands can reach the floor. While bending over hold onto your ankles and then move your hands to your heels and hold your heels. Pound on your legs with your fists. Use the side of your fist, closest to the little finger, bounce your fist against your calves and thighs and let it spring back after each bounce. Stimulate your legs top free up your energy.
- Describe the following parts of your body which have to do with grounding: feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs.