Do you think your nervous system has become dysregulated?
Do you feel too much, or too little?
Notice yourself zoning out or getting panicky frequently?
Our nervous system is an amazingly sensitive radar, continually tuning in to see if we are being received, scanning to see if we are safe. When we are with others, particularly those we care about, our nervous system is constantly reading them to find out if they are with us. It has an amazing ability to pick up the tiniest data and to respond, resonate, adapt or react. This process has been part of human nature and communication since the beginning. These very instincts are what enabled people to survive and evolve as a species.
The dangers we encounter nowadays are of a very different nature. But they do happen. When you go through an experience that you feel you can barely manage, where your safety is threatened, physically or psychologically, your nervous system is primed to protect you. When we have to endure a traumatising event, our nervous system will do whatever it takes to get you through. And if you are reading this, it did it for you. That is its mandate. But perhaps at some cost to you. Most of us don’t know how to recognise and release this primal energy. Because most of us don’t have an off button for our nervous system responses, we can remain easily triggered.
Unfinished Defence Responses
Afterwards, it can be as if only one part of you keeps going, you get to keep your life, make your appointments, do the do, be you. And another part, is stuck in an unfinished process. When you were under threat, your need to defend yourself was a strong force with inbuilt instinctual manoeuvres for survival. Your body has a drive that wants you to complete those responses, sequencing them to the end, but often that cannot happen because of the situation. You do what you do to get through. You must. But then you can be left with responses that frozen, thwarted, suppressed, truncated, obstructed and derailed. Your survival energy wants to complete and will keep waking your deepest survival energy in order to finish the task. It is like when your smoke alarm’s battery is running low and it keeps going off.
Back when you were in crisis, the alarm sounded loud and hard, and your sympathetic nervous system will have spiked with the need to defend you, flooding you with cortisol and adrenaline, giving you an extraordinary capacity to scan your environment for opportunities to overpower or escape. And the energy and determination to do it. It is a superpower. But we can’t live that way. It is a short-term solution. Because we don’t know how to shut it down, it can keep occurring. We stay on high alert, flipping into fight or flight, activated and anxious at the slightest provocation. We can become frightened of our own physiological reactions. Our responses can seem so intense and disproportionate to the circumstances. It is as if our body has learnt how to instantly activate an emergency response, even if we are just standing in line in the supermarket.
Or we survive in high alert, vigilantly holding on tight, contracting against new physical sensations, getting through by knuckling down and bearing it but not feeling it. You can appear static and still, but inside you are wide eyed in fear, frozen in wordless terror. What is happening inside your body is as intense as if you had one foot flat to the floor on the accelerator and one foot hard on the brake. When life asks us to sustain these acute survival responses for too long, we simply aren’t built for that and we will default to another strategy to survive.
Sometimes because of all the crazy-making difficult and dangerous things that have happened to us, or just one major derailing experience, checking out of our body becomes the safest thing to do. We live in numbness, deadening ourselves, flat-lining our emotions, going through the motions but not really there. Sometimes an image, a voice tone, a word, some association triggers our memory, and we get hijacked by our survival response and space out. That is how our memory works, it is designed for the implicit processes to take over. In our mind, our fear response feels as if danger is happening now, and we go into immediate shut down. It is clever but not that convenient.
Relief and Release
When you have survived overwhelming experiences in your body, it can seem very risky to get in touch with your body. That proposition goes counter to all the signals that are sounding from within. Those signals are simply doing their job. When your survival strategies are frequently taking over, it is hard to imagine the body could be a source of empowerment and self-knowledge, but even then, it can.
Give yourself the precious time you need to begin your somatic recovery. Imagine being able to practice containment and to discharge small amounts of activation easily. To manage your flashbacks and discover your survival story under the overwhelm.
Safety is the work. In all my support processes and programs safety is paramount. We will create safety, safety you can navigate, safety you can call upon, safety you can monitor. I can help you create an awareness of the body-based symptoms that help you stay in your tolerance zone. Learn grounding skills, mindfulness practices, and strategies for dealing with triggers.
Over time you will learn to trust the instinctual processing of your energy and reclaim and reintegrate parts of you that got lost in the need to survive. You can return from alienation, withdrawal, and shame. There is life after fragmentation and freaking out.
Re-find Connection and Self Trust
We need to have our nervous systems on the right place on the dial or we get too much static to pick up what is going on around us or respond to others. It is natural and normal to rely on others to reassure us. The part of our nervous system that is called our Social Engagement System is usually our first line of repair. When we have been terribly frightened, we have not been able to be use our organic systems of solace. Imagine stepping away from isolating self-reliance, where you are afraid of your responses, to relating respectfully and sensitively. I like to support you to join me and others to rediscover your trust in your body’s system of safety, so you can live the life you truly want to be living. If you want to know more about my Psychotherapy or Trauma Recovery Support Programs read more here.