Grounding is a set of simple strategies to detach from emotional pain (e.g., drug cravings, self-harm impulses, anger, sadness). Distraction works by focusing outward on the external world, rather than inward toward the self. You can also think of it as “centering,” “a safe place,” “looking outward,” or healthy detachment.”
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 cannot possibly use substances or hurt yourself! Grounding “anchors” you to the present and to reality.
Many people with PTSD and substance abuse struggle with feeling either too much (overwhelming emotions and memories) or too little (numbing and dissociation). In grounding, you attain a balance between the two: conscious of reality and able to tolerate it. Remember that pain is a feeling; it is not who you are. When you get caught up in it, it feels like you are your pain, and that is all that exists. However, it is only one part of your experience—the others are just hidden and can be found again through grounding.