Child Abuse

On Grounding: How To Detach From Emotional Pain

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Grounding is a set of simple strategies to detach from emotional pain, for example (unhealthy cravings, self-harm urges, emotional eating disorders, etc.) Grounding can also be a way of returning your attention to the outside world and away from yourself.


When you are overwhelmed with emotional pain, you need a way to detach so that you can gain control over your feelings and stay safe. As long as you are grounding, you are more likely to be able to overcome urges. Grounding ‘anchors’ you to reality.

Many people with PTSD and dissociative disorders struggle with either feeling too much (overwhelming emotions and memories) or too little (numbing and dissociation). In grounding, you attain balance between the two—conscious of reality and ability to tolerate it.


Grounding can be done anytime, anywhere and no one has to know.

  • Use grounding when you are: faced with a trigger, having a flashback or dissociating.
  • Keep your eyes open, look around the room, and make sure the light is good to stay in touch with the present.
  • Rate your mood before and after to test whether it worked. Before grounding, rate your level of emotional pain, or your level of dissociation. Then re-rate it afterwards. Has it gone down?
  • Try not to be judgemental or think negatively. The idea is to distract from the negatives.
  • Stay neutral—no judgments of good or bad.
  • Focus on the present, not the past or future.
  • Grounding is much more active than relaxation exercises and focuses your attention.

Grounding is deemed to be a better way of coping with PTSD and dissociative disorders than relaxation practice. As during relaxation the focus is too much within the body, which at the worst may bring on flashbacks.



  • Describe your surroundings to yourself in detail. For example “The walls are white, there are three pink chairs and a blue sofa. There is a picture of a brown border collie on the wall with a gold frame around it.” You can do this out loud if appropriate, or in your head if you are in public.
  • Play a game like “Scattergories” in your head or with a friend or family member. Choose a letter of the alphabet and try and come up with as many examples of a category you choose as you can. For example C … Boy names: Christopher, Curtis, Carl, Charles etc.
  • Describe an everyday activity in great detail. For example if you like gardening “I open the shed door and pull out the lawn mower, I connect it to a power supply and climb on. I turn the key and put it into drive….”
  • Make up a nice little story in your head, or out loud. “I am putting some roller skates on, and I am slowly gliding away from all my emotional suffering down a beautiful smooth lane, having fun listening to my favorite music LOUD!”
  • Say a safety statement. ‘My name is _________; I am safe right now. I am in the present, not the past. I am in _____________ the date is _____________.
  • Read something, saying each word to yourself. Or read each letter backwards so that you focus on the letters and not on the meaning of words.
  • Use humor: For example have a “Funny Memory Bank” where you store up your favorite witty moments for those detached, rainy days.
  • Count to 100 or say the alphabet very slowly or very fast.
  • Repeat something meaningful to yourself, such as a prayer or quote. For example you could use the Psalm 121 (If you’re a Christian).


  • Run cool or warm water over your hands.
  • Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can.
  • Touch various objects around you: a pen, keys, your clothing, the table, or the walls. Pay close attention to colors, weights, textures etc.
  • Firmly stamp your feet on the floor, literally grounding yourself. Feel the tension of your feet against the pressure of the floor.
  • Carry a ground object in your pocket—a small object such as a rock, stone, crystal, bead, piece of string or cloth, or a stress ball that you can touch whenever you feel triggered.
  • Jump up and down.
  • Stretch, reach upwards and pull yourself tall. Extend your arms, legs, fingers and toes.
  • Walk slowly, noticing each footstep.
  • Eat something yummy. Notice the flavors, textures and feelings that come up for you.


  • Use Cheering statements, as if you were talking to a small child. For example “You are having a difficult time adjusting to these feelings, but you are doing so well. You should be proud of yourself.”
  • Think of favorites. Think of your favorite color, animal, season, food, time of day, TV show.
  • Picture people you care about. Even get a photo book made of positive pictures or pictures of people you love!
  • Remember the words to an inspiring song, quotation or poem that you like or feel positively about. Maybe write out the words and decorate it for your wall.
  • Remember a safe place. Describe a place that you find very soothing it could be when you went on holiday to the beach, or walking in the woods. Or just a time you felt safe and peaceful at home in your living room or in bed.
  • Plan out a safe treat for yourself, such as a trip to a coffee shop with a friend, making a nice dinner or a bath with some nice toiletries or candles if you feel safe to use them.
  • Think of things you are looking forward to in the next week. Perhaps schedule your time so you build some structure for chores and pleasurable activities. It can help to know what you are doing and also not just sit at home with nothing to do. This can cause difficulties.


  • Practice as often as possible. Even when you don’t feel overwhelmed or dissociative. This way it will come more naturally to you when you are struggling.
  • Practice faster. Speeding up the pace gets you focused on the outside world quickly.
  • Try grounding for a Ioooong time 20 mins at least, and then repeat.
  • Try to notice whether you do better with physical or mental or soothing grounding.
  • Create your own methods of grounding. Any method you make up may be worth much more than those you read here because it is yours.
  • Start grounding early in a negative mood cycle. Start when you begin to feel the early warning signs of dissociation or when you have just started having a flashback.


Adapted From Living Well:


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