If you believe that you have no control over what happens and that external factors are to blame, then you have what is known as an external locus of control.
As we see in this post, your locus of control can influence the way you respond to events by attributing causality, and also impact your motivation to take action. If you believe you can do "something about it" then it is more likely you will take action and feel empowered instead of hopeless.
Positive self-esteem is a factor that may play an important role when the attribution is internal. Success attributed to an internal cause (the person) is a source of pride. Success attributed to ability and/or effort is a source of pride because both ability and effort are internal attributions, and feel controllable. Failure attributed to an internal cause is a source of disappointment, and it may mobilize the person to do "something about it", to better themselves. Internal attributions both for success and failure are felt as controllable and the person believes there is something they can do about it.
Internal locus of control is often used synonymously with "self-determination" and "personal agency."
Internal locus of control looks like:
External attributions of success and failure are perceived as out of the person's control. Therefore, there is a more passive attitude towards it that can impact negatively the self-esteem of the individual. When success or failure happens it is perceived as if it is because of luck / fate / other people's doing and it feels as not controllable. Successes that are attributed to external causes will not help the development of a sense of pride in the person as it is not perceived as effort/ ability. Failures attributed to external factors will create a sense of hopelessness with the feeling that "there is nothing to do to change it".
External locus of control looks like:
Fray, and Owens (1973) measured peoples locus of control using Rotter's locus of control test and then had participants perform an experiment around a vigilance task. Participants with higher internal locus of control performed significantly better on the task than those with high external locus of control; showing that people with internal locus of control have significantly better attention and alertness, qualities that improve performance on countless tasks people have to perform throughout life (Sanders et al. 1973).
However, it is also important to note that internal locus of control does not always mean "good" and external locus of control does not always mean "bad." In some situations, having an external locus of control can be a good thing, for example when a situation may harm your self-esteem or is genuinely outside of a person's control. So, it will really depend on the circumstances and what seems best for that person at that given time in order to be able to move on and feel in control of their own life.
Am I what happened to me? Or am I what I choose to become?
Our personal story does not need to determine the narrative of OUR life story.
Our personal story is a compound of events, reactions, actions, and associated feelings, emotions, desires, and passions.
Challenges, difficulties, traumas, failures, positive experiences, successes, love and break-ups. We can make a coherent narrative of our life story by considering our early experiences, the beliefs developed after these events, the sense of control, the protective nature of our actions lead by our nervous system and our faith in personal resilience.
In therapy, we explore all of this, giving meaning to the story of your life in order to develop a sense of agency and self-efficacy, to become the person you want to become despite the difficulties of what happened to you. It may be a long journey but could be one of the best journeys we can embark on.
Please leave your comments below.
You can also find more in this Instagram post.
DON'T THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT!
Okay, I’ll wait. No cheating!
How long did you make it without thinking about it?
My guess is, not even 5 seconds.
Wegner, a psychology professor at Harvard University, developed his theory of "ironic processes" to explain why it's so hard to eliminate unwanted thoughts.
He found evidence that when we try not to think of something, one part of our mind does avoid the forbidden thought, but another part "checks in" every so often to make sure the thought is not coming up—therefore, ironically, bringing it to mind.
"OK, so what do I do about this?"
"Is there any way to avoid unwanted thoughts?" The short answer is NO.
Here is the thing about intrusive thoughts:
Intrusive thoughts are automatic and will come up from time to time. Some people will experience them more often than others. It is important that if you feel that your daily functioning is impaired because of them, you seek professional support.
How can we manage intrusive thoughts?
1. Identify and label them
2. Accept them
3. Defusion and Mindfulness
4. Take action
I hope this post brings some light into how to manage intrusive thoughts when they appear at your door.
Let me know in comments your experience.
Trauma robs you of the feeling of being in charge of yourself. In order to regain control over yourself, trauma needs to be revisited. However, trauma is much more than a story about something that happened. The emotions and sensations imprinted during trauma are experienced not only as memories but as disruptive physical reactions in the present.
Once you learn to tolerate physical experiences based on trauma, you can begin to make sense of them, to integrate them into your life history and personal identity. Integrating trauma also means putting it in its place on a body level.
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., believes that contemporary mind-body interventions actually promote change by forging communication and restoring the balance between the rational and emotional brain systems through a third pathway: the medial prefrontal cortex.This area manages the emotion regulation/inhibition process and it is also connected to the amygdala, that is the threat detector of our brain.
Mindfulness practices, for example, help to strengthen the medial prefrontal cortex increasing emotional regulation capacity. Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves.
Traditional talk-based psychotherapy, and most cognitively-oriented trauma-focused therapies, are viewed as taking a top-down approach to treatment. Most often this involves efforts to resolve trauma symptoms by working with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain most responsible for logic and reason. A top-down approach in psychotherapy starts with looking at how the mind is interpreting information, how do we make sense of events. It focuses first on the cognitive aspect and targets the frontal lobes. The higher brain is the place where logic lives. A logic-first approach can be less effective because, if your brain has experienced trauma, the trauma response de-activates the thinking areas, and activates the lower areas of the brain.
Some of the top-down therapies are:
- Talking therapies:
The bottom-up approach begins with information acquired from the body’s sensations. The bottom-up approach understands that feelings and body sensations happen first, before it access the rational areas of our brain. Therefore, bottom-up interventions work by accessing the limbic system (emotional brain) and by directly targeting sensory receptors located throughout the body. The idea is to develop a sense of safety within your own body. Trauma-informed therapy creates healing relationships in which it is safe to begin to look at the reasons why a person feels unsafe (and unable to control thoughts and feelings when triggered), without being overwhelmed by taking a tritration approach. Titration is the skill set that involves managing the speed of processing by slowing down the activation/ arousal responses. The healing relationships include the therapist-client relationship and the client’s own relationship with himself or herself. This is why it is so important that you feel safe and connected with your therapist.
To activate this bottom-up process, the following activities could be used:
- Rhythmic movement
- Deep, relaxed diaphragmatic breathing
- Synchrony exercises between breathing and heart rate
Some of the bottom-up therapies are:
- Sensorimotor therapy
- Somatic experiencing
- Yoga therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Ego states psychotherapy / Internal Family Systems (IFS)
- Mindfulness-based therapies
While either path can help a client begin to self-regulate, it is important to think about what a specific person may need. A blend of both can help individuals to begin to cope with their bodily experiences of trauma while they begin to think and feel differently about their experiences, their emotions, and their sense of self.
See more about this in my Instagram post.
Please leave your comments below!
Despite its considerable public health importance, childhood attachment is very much under-represented in medical training and practice.
According to attachment theory, pioneered by British psychiatrist John Bowlby and American psychologist Mary Ainsworth, the quality of the bonding we experience during our first relationship (infant-caregiver) often determines how well we relate to other people and respond to intimacy throughout life. This will impact not only our adult interpersonal connections and how we feel about them, but also it will affect our capacity to regulate our emotions in situations of distress and danger.
We are all born with attachment-seeking behaviours such as crying, clinging, imitation & smiling. These behaviours are designed to keep caregivers close, and to ensure that the baby’s needs for survival, sensitive care and safety are met.
Attachment is a process. Attachment is an evolutionary adaptation, is not a diagnosis.
Attachment allows children the ‘secure base’ necessary to explore, learn and relate. It is important for safety, emotional regulation, adaptability and resilience. Attachment with the caregiver allows emotional regulation to develop. Through co-regulation the caregiver soothes the child's emotional distress.
Attuned parenting provides meaning to the ‘inner world’ of the child. Through verbal and non-verbal communication the caregiver reflects back to their child what they believe is happening in the child's mind that is the basis for emotional regulation. Through this process, the child learns to self-regulate.
We cannot do everything alone. We are not capable of healing in isolation, we are interdependent since we are born. The presence of those close to us makes a difference even in the most horrible circumstances. Our culture might encourage us to think of ourself as do-it-yourself projects, but we get more positive results when we adopt a we-can-do-it-together approach.
The type of attachment we have experience in our early years and childhood creates a template that serves as a predictor of the types of attachment adaptations we expect to form in adulthood. It will create a blueprint and it will be re-enacted in every relationship we have based on our perceived level of safety / threat.
Secure attachment is attunement. This adaptation is marked by emotional availability, ability to express one's needs, self-sufficiency and healthy boundaries.
Diane Poole Heller says in her book that she believes that we all long for love and connection and that such longing comes directly from our secure attachment system, which is inherent in everyone, no matter our attachment style.
Secure attachment reflects a positive-enough environment that creates and engenders basic trust.
Main ingredients for an upbringing environment that promotes secure attachment:
This adaptation is marked by fear off intimacy and closeness, relational discomfort and difficulties recognizing and expressing one's needs.
Adults with the avoidant adaptation are sometimes denigrated as “Detached,” “off in their own world,” “insensitive,” “cold,” “standoffish,” “lone wolf,” “workaholic”.
People with an avoidant adaptation tend to regularly experience approach stress, even with people they love. However, we know that avoidant people actually do want connection, they just need more transition from alone to together time to take the pressure off and ease the way for a smoother path to connection.
Diane Poole in her book recommends that those who align with the avoidance adaptation try to focus a little more on physical embodiment and emotional presence.
Main ingredients for an upbringing environment that may result in avoidant attachment adaptation:
This adaptation is marked by fear of rejection, hypersensitivity to perceived threat, need for reassurance and for intense interaction with others.
Adults with the anxious attachment adaptation are sometimes denigrated as “needy,” “clingy,” “oversensitive,” “controlling,” “high-maintenance,” or “high-strung.” Diane Poole explains in her book that people with an anxious attachment adaptation tend to feel upset when are alone and not in close proximity to the important people in their life. They might be high-functioning and in contact with their secure attachment network when in the presence of their relationship partner, but as soon as their loved one leaves, they begin to mistrust the connection.
People with anxious adaptation may find more difficulty to transition from together to alone time. This may be explained by the fact that they rely on "external regulation", constantly looking to use others to down regulate, or calm, their overactivated nervous systems. These individuals may benefit from learning to feel safe alone and use self-regulation and grounding techniques.
Main ingredients for an upbringing environment that may result in anxious attachment adaptation:
This adaptation is marked by emotional dysregulation, confused sense of self, internal conflict, feelings of constant overwhelm, controlling behaviours, ongoing sense of failure and lack of impulse control.
In some ways, disorganized attachment is a combination of the avoidant and ambivalent adaptations, but it is mixed with fear-induced survival defenses switched on to deal with ever-looming threat.
The disorganized adaptation comes with a lot of confusion — cognitive, emotional, and somatic. This creates lack of confidence and sense of ongoing failure. Disorganized people with these feelings often don’t like to try new things because they’re convinced they’re going to fail at whatever they do. People with disorganized attachment adaptation struggle with emotional dysregulation, and they can move through life with too little control, especially when it comes to their emotions. It can be hard for them to manage their feelings, which leads to a lot of acting out.
Disorganized attached people may dissociate a lot and nervous system may shut down into freeze response as a defense to a hostile perceived environment.
The primary contributor to disorganized attachment—as first identified by Mary Ainsworth—is when parents are the source of fear, and the children's attachment system shut down.
Main ingredients for an upbringing environment that may result in disorganized attachment adaptation:
Disclaimer: Attachment adaptations are not personality traits or clinical diagnoses. We can oscillate between different styles depending on the situation and the person we are interacting with in a given moment.
Source: Book "The power of attachment" from Diane Poole Heller.
Self-esteem reflects the opinion we have of ourselves, the judgments we make of ourselves and the value we place on ourselves as people. Self-esteems refers to an attitude towards oneself. When we say it is an attitude, we refer to the habitual way of thinking, loving, feeling and behaving with oneself. Self-esteem shapes our personality, sustains it and gives it meaning. It is generated as a result of the history of each person. Self-esteem has a dynamic nature, it can grow and it can weaken. We have to continuously nourish it.
The beliefs about ourselves, other people and about life are all learned. They have their roots in our experiences. Our beliefs about ourselves can be seen as conclusions we have come to on the basis of what has happened to us. This means that, however unhelpful or outdated they may now be, they are understandable – there was a time when they made perfect sense, given what was going on for us. Remember that core beliefs are there to protect us. The key is to identify now, as adults, if we need to continue ¨believing¨in them or if they no longer serve us.
Also, remember that the negative beliefs about ourselves are opinions, not facts. They are conclusions about ourselves based on past experiences (usually, but not necessarily, early experiences). A broad range of experiences, including both the presence of negatives and the absence of positives, can contribute to our core belief, and to our self-esteem.
It is quite common to confuse self-esteem with self-concept and use both as synonymous terms. Although the two concepts are related, they are not equivalent. In self-concept, the cognitive dimension prevails, while in self-esteem the evaluative and affective dimension prevails.
We can say that self-esteem develops from childhood and is impacted by the interactions, opinions, emotional availability that we have received from our primary caregivers, on top of other significant interpersonal relationships experiences. Not only are the words we receive what matter, but the behaviors, the responses that our parents and other meaningful relationships have had towards our demands and needs. As an example, imagine that as a child you have been excited about something and wanted to show it to your mother. She then told you "oh, that it is beautiful", however, she did not look at you, did not approach you and did not connect with your need to be valued. If this happens repeatedly, it will, most likely, impact your self-concept ("what I do is not important enough" "what I say is not interesting enough") and it will affect how my self-esteem develops. So it is important to consider that not only what we say about others is important, but how do we relate to them. Is the quality of the attachment and interaction that will affect our valuation of ourselves.
Regarding the self-concept, we can say that it influences the way we appreciate the events, situations and people in our life. If I have a negative perception of myself, I will not value my achievements the same as if my perception of myself is positive. At the same time, the self-concept influences considerably the behavior and the experiences of the individual. The person develops their self-concept, creates their own self-image
Self-esteem has 3 interrelated components
🌸Cognitive Component: the set of knowledge about oneself. The representation that each one forms about their own person. This varies according to psychological maturity and cognitive capacity. It indicates ideas, opinions, beliefs, perception, and information processing. Self-concept occupies a privileged place in the genesis, growth, and consolidation of self-esteem, and the remaining dimensions walk under the light that the self-concept projects to them, which in turn is accompanied by the self-image or mental representation that the person has of themselves in the present and in the future (aspirations and expectations).
🌸Affective Component: Value and worth that we attribute to ourselves and the degree to which we accept ourselves. It can have a positive or negative nuance according to our self-esteem: "There are many things about me that I like" or, on the other hand, "I don't do anything well, I'm useless." We make a judgment and have a feeling around our personal qualities.
🌸 Behavioral component: Related to intention, decision to act, and to carry out a process in a coherent way. It is self-affirmation directed towards the own self and in search of consideration and recognition on the part of others. It is the effort to achieve respect for others and for ourselves. It includes the set of skills and competencies that each person possesses when demonstrating their attitude to the outside.
🌸 Self-awareness has to do with knowing your strengths and weaknesses, understanding what are the personal qualities that you have.
🌸 Self-concept is the beliefs and ideas about oneself. The self-concept has to do with the cognitive dimension of what you believe about yourself, your self-perception. It will create your self-image and will impact the way you behave.
🌸 Self-evaluation is the inner capacity to evaluate our behaviour as positive or negative. Has to do with the meaning associated with our achievements and failures.
🌸 Self-acceptance has to do with an individual's acceptance of all of his/her attributes, positive or negative. Accepting all our parts as a whole. This does not mean that you like them, but you do accept them.
🌸 Self-respect means honoring your worth, preserving your dignity, and taking pride in your abilities, take responsibility for your emotions.
🌸 Self-esteem is a person's overall sense of self-worth or personal value. In other words, how much you appreciate yourself. Is the affective and emotional component of the self-concept.
Leave your comments below!
* Based in the work of Melanie Fennell , and the Self-Esteem Pyramid model of Jesús Diaz Ibañez
They, in turn, influence your emotions and your behaviour. They are also connected to the beliefs you have about yourself, the world, and others. These maladaptive thought patterns are usually automatic and can be difficult to identify if we aren’t aware of them.
We all experience cognitive distortions to some degree. However, people that have experienced trauma tend to have more maladaptive appraisals of self, others, and the world. They tend to experience more emotional discomfort because of those cognitive distortions. Threatening appraisals related to the trauma and its aftermath may be developed in those experiencing PTSD, such as the overgeneralisation of danger (‘bad things always happen to me’) or judgements of their own actions (‘I should have coped better’).
Based on Dr. Aaron Beck's work, Dr. Burns* has identified 10 common cognitive distortions that can contribute to uncomfortable emotions. These are:
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure.
Example: When a student makes a mistake in the exam, he thinks “I’ve blown my exam completely.”
Drawing a faulty conclusion about something based on one experience. You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it.
Example: you get rejected on a job interview and you conclude that you will never be able to find a job.
3. Mental Filter
You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all reality becomes negative. You focus only on the negative aspects and dysqualify all the positive aspects.
Example: You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.
4. Discounting the Positive
You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count." Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.
Example: If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well.
5. Jumping to Conclusions:
- Mind reading
Assuming you know what others are thinking. So without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you.
Example: someone looks at you with a stare and you assume they are negatively thinking about you.
You predict that things will turn out badly when you have no evidence to back your predictions. Before a test you may tell yourself, “I’m really going to blow it, what if I don't remember?"
6. Magnification and Minimization
You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities.
Example: you get a message from your boyfriend saying that he wants to talk to you, and right away, you stat imagine the worst possible outcome.
7. Emotional Reasoning:
Assuming that your emotions reflect the truth.
Example: “I feel guilty. I must be a terrible person.”
8. “Should statements”
You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. “Musts,” “oughts” and “have tos” have the similar negative effect. “Should statements” that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration.
Example: After giving a presentation at work you think “I shouldn’t have made so many mistakes.”, when in reality the presentation went pretty well.
Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. You feel that the problem is with that person’s “character” or “essence” instead of with their thinking or behavior.
Example: You may make a mistakes, but you are not a "mistake".
10. Personalization and blame
Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem. Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.
Example: you believe you are a bad father because your child gets in troube at school.
⚠️ Disclaimer: This article serves as a psycho-educational resource only. I encourage you to discuss with your therapist how this applies to your unique situation. Everyone’s experience is different and some information might not be relevant to you.
*Burns D. (1989). The Feeling Good Handbook. Harper-Collins Publishers. New York.
It is important to understand what is your communication style and learn what are the main communication mistakes, to learn not to make them!
🗣️ What is your communication style?
Assertive communication is based on balance.
It is about saying what you need in a clear and boundaried way, at the same time that you respect the other person. These individuals value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs and are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.
e.g. I feel scared when
you raise your voice.
I would like you to speak
in a softer tone.
Aggressive communication is based on winning.
You do what is in your own best interest without regard for the rights, needs, feelings, or desires of other people. When someone uses aggressive communication, they want to use their power to influence the decision / outcome. They may come across as pushy or even bullying. Their power is used to win, taking what they want without asking for the other person's opinion or needs.
e.g. Shut up!
Your tone is so loud.
Keep it down!
Passive communication is based on avoidance.
You try to avoid conflict by agreeing with the other person. You try to protect yourself by not expressing your feelings, needs, or opinions.
As a result, passive individuals do not respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations. Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the buildup. But once they have reached their high tolerance threshold for unacceptable behavior, they are prone to explosive outbursts, which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. After the outburst, however, they may feel shame, guilt, and confusion, so they return to being passive.
ej. Okay, if that is
what you want...
Passive-aggressive communication is based on manipulation
You appear passive on the surface but are really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way.
Passive-aggressive communication is a style in which individuals appear passive on the surface but are really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way. People who develop a pattern of passive-aggressive communication usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful – in other words, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Instead, they express their anger by subtly undermining the object (real or imagined) of their resentments.
e.g. You can keep yelling,
if I have a headache
afterwards it will be
your fault, like
🆘 Main communication mistakes
1. Using "You" language
Relationships should not be a competition. Speaking with “me vs. you” language means seeing the other person as the “enemy.” Talking from a "you" perspective will make the listener defensive.
Try to use "I statements" instead to convey how you feel about the situation. An "I" statement is a style of communication that focuses on the feelings or beliefs of the speaker rather than thoughts or charactistics that the speaker attributes to the listener.
"I" statements can help foster positive communication in relationships and may help them become stronger, as sharing feelings and thoughts in an honest and open manner can help people grow closer on an emotional level.
I have made a post about this. Check it out here.
Another positive way to have a conversation to solve an issue is communicating using "we". Try to reframe the "you" to "we" and think of yourselves as a team. Work together, not against each other.
2. Making assumptions
Assuming before you have heard the whole story could damage the relationship.
Thinking “Oh I don’t even have to hear the rest of this – I already know what they’re going to say!” could bring you to a wrong conclusion about the other person. I am sure you would not like other people assuming things about what you have said, so do not do it to others either.
Active listening and asking instead of assuming will help in the communication process and make coming to an agreement more feasible.
3. Beating around the bush
Not being clear in what you want to say can create misunderstandings. If you are not clear and concise with your message, the other person may do their own interpretation.
Be assertive with your message. Say what you need and why it is important without disrespecting the other person.
4. Lack of empathy
It is important to keep in mind that perception is not reality. What you may see and think is not necessarily what the other person sees and thinks.
It is typical to see people attacking each other's character (e.g. "you are a bad person") instead of what they say or do (e.g. "your behaviour is not acceptable").
It is important to empathize with the other person and try to understand why they have behaved the way they did. By asking questions about their motives we can build up compassion and understand. From that place, it is easier to come to a resolution and learn from the future.
Let me know in comments, what are your thoughts about this and if you have identified your main mistakes.
🌸Evolution has shown that anxiety is an adaptive response and is beneficial for survival.
💫We know that emotions are cognitive and somatic reactions, with a short duration, to specific environmental stimuli.
👍There is an infinite number of human experiences that cause normal anxiety. As research has shown, the main difference between adaptive or normal anxiety and pathological anxiety is between the source and the intensity of the experience.
🧘♀️We could apply this to all range of emotions. We can feel sad because is appropriate in a specific situation, but if we feel sad chronically without a clear "reason" this may become a problem to keep up with our daily activities.
💕We can say that emotions play a crucial role in our daily lives enabling us to cope with everyday situations.
🆘However, if the emotion we are feeling gets "stuck" and prevents us from functioning it may have become a problem and therapy could be sought to help.
🌸COPING WITH ANXIETY🌸
- Identify the trigger
Spend some time writing or thinking about what is the trigger that makes you feel anxious.
- Move your body
Do some gentle stretching, go for a walk, use the yoga ball and bounce, release it by shaking, do a self-massage, etc.
- Take long deep breaths
Deep breathing helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for resting and digestion (calming effect)
- Practice mindfulness
Look around and focus your 5 senses on the present moment.
- Be compassionate
Talk to yourself as if you were talking to your best friend. Use kind, validating & encouraging words.
- Take action- Do something you enjoy
Don't stay in the "why" you feel anxious. Instead, think about "what" do you need to do to feel better. Do something that is aligned with your values & brings you joy.
The autonomic nervous system responds to the challenges of daily life by telling us not what we are or who we are but how we are in our bodies. Regulating trauma through the body is necessary to integrate the experience. Cognitive work around the narrative and meaning of the trauma experience will come in a later stage in therapy.
⚠️The autonomic nervous system manages risk and creates patterns of connection by changing our physiological state. These shifts are slight for many people, and, in the moments when large state changes happen, their system is resilient enough to help them return to a regulated state.
🚫Trauma interrupts the process of building the autonomic circuitry of safe connection and
sidetracks the development of regulation and resilience. Trauma compromises our ability to engage with others by replacing patterns of connection with patterns of protection.
🧐If unresolved, these early adaptive survival responses become habitual autonomic patterns.
💮Therapy supports clients in repatterning the ways their autonomic nervous systems operate when the drive to survive competes with the longing to connect with others.
🤷No matter how incongruous an action may look from the outside, from an autonomic perspective it is always an adaptive survival response. The autonomic nervous system doesn’t make a judgment about good and bad; it simply acts to manage risk and seek safety.
Ways to regulate through the senses:
Find a posture that brings a sense of being anchored in ventral vagal regulation. Then, begin to slowly move inward by lowering the head, bending forward, and pulling in the arms and legs, while closely, tracking the autonomic state. Moving from center inward, there are nuances of quiet, deep relaxation, and peaceful stillness shaped by an active vagal brake. Try to track the subtle shifts and describe the experience with each change.
Touch is one of the basic ways we communicate. Looking at touch from an evolutionary perspective, people who worked closely together survived and were successful, and it may be that physical contact promoted that closeness. Touch is the first sense to emerge in utero and the most developed at birth. Skin is the largest human organ, and touch is integral to our growth and development. Early touch experiences shape adult experiences. Receiving moderate pressure massage experienced a shift from fight- fight state to social engagement/ connected state, while light massage brought and increased activation response. Touch stimulates the autonomic nervous system, and supports reducing depression, pain, and stress and increased immune function.
One way to use movement to shape the autonomic nervous system is to use a yoga ball. Sitting on a yoga ball requires constant micro-movements. For people who tend toward collapse/ freeze, making the small, ongoing body adjustments necessary to avoid falling off the yoga ball keeps enough energy moving in their system to stay out of shutdown, and consequently, they are more able to stay present. Even before birth, when we are still safe inside the womb, movement is essential to life.
📚Deb Dana -Polyvagal Theory in Therapy
Check my post here.
Let me know if this is useful for you, in comments.
🌸 3 emotional regulation systems from the Compassion Focus Therapy (CFT) model by Paul Gilbert 🌸
↪️There are three particularly important emotional regulating systems that work with each other to help us to manage the ups and downs of life’s challenges by helping us to calm our emotional experiences. Each system is designed to do different things and also to work with the other systems so they remain in balance with each other.
💫Supposing something has upset us, what are the things we might do to help ourselves feel better? We could use the drive system to do something we want to achieve, such working, a pleasurable activity or going for a walk/run and this could help in the short term. On the other hand, activating the soothing system could help long term. Often, we find talking to other people can make us feel better because we feel supported, understood, and validated and this really does help us to feel better when we are upset. This is because the soothing system is calming down our threat-based emotions. Same as when we were babies and our caregivers soothe us.
🏁The drive system
▪️The purpose is to motivate us towards resources. It stimulates and directs our desires so we achieve things. It helps pursue our goals. It is known as the incentive & resource-seeking system.
▪️The feelings associated are achieving, pursuing, progressing, wanting. It is activating. It makes us feel driven, excited, vitality.
▪️The hormone released when the system gets activated is dopamine. It plays an important role in how we feel pleasure. It helps us strive, focus & find things interesting.
⚠️The threat system
▪️The purpose is to pick up on threats quickly. It activates us to flight or fight. This is the "fall back system", the easiest of all to feel & trigger as it has evolved as a protection system.
▪️The feelings associated are anxiety, anger, disgust, fear. These feelings alert our bodies urging us to take action against the threat. It produces a sympathetic response in our bodies (racing heart, shallow breathing, raise blood pressure, etc.)
▪️The hormones released when the system gets activated are cortisol & adrenaline.
🥰The soothing system
▪️The purpose is to help us regulate the other two systems, and experience states of contentedness. It helps to restore our balance. It helps soothing feelings of distress.
▪️The feeling associated is contentment. This is a form of being happy with the way things are, feeling safe, not striving or wanting; an inner peacefulness. This system is linked to affection, connection, kindness & compassion.
▪The hormones released when the system gets activated are oxytocin & endorphins.
It is important to balance activities from each system in order to improve our well-being and prevent feelings of anxiety and low mood.
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