🔎It is well researched in psychology that we continuously recreate our sense of self-worth.
👉This is based on approval / disapproval from our caregivers first, and then from others & society.
These messages can:
💜promote, validate, empower
💔dismiss, marginalize, criticize
our experience of "self"
🔹As a psychologist, I see oppression and its expressions as causing clear psychological trauma.
💥We know that Trauma, especially when systematically reproduced by
racism and discrimination, has generational impacts on the health and well-being of people.
➡️Breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma depends on all of us, especially those who are P R I V I L E G E D
🔆Being trauma-informed includes preventing, recognizing, and responding to many types of trauma.
🔆Crucial to this recognition is understanding that
different forms of systematic oppression, including discrimination and exploitative practices, are traumatic.
🔆This cycle of trauma and oppression calls for healing-centered solutions that have an impact on multiple generations simultaneously (Center for Hunger-Free Communities)
Check out more in this post
🔎Photo source: www.kristenallott.com
🔎The Vagus Nerve is the longest and most complex of the cranial nerves. Vagus means “wanderer”.
⬇️It travels from the brain stem down to the abdomen and connects with many major organs participating in many of our bodily functions such as breathing, digestion, heart rate and many more. It is closely connected to the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and therefore plays a big role in regulating stress responses 💥
🏵️The ANS runs our bodies automatically without us being aware of it🏵️
The ANS has 2️⃣ branches, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, and responds to signals and sensations via three pathways, each one with a characteristic pattern of response.
✳️The working principle of the ANS is “every response is an action in service of survival”✳️
The ANS acts to manage risk and seek safety. These actions are automatic and adaptative, generated well below the level of conscious awareness.
🔹The sympathetic branch is situated in the middle part of the spinal cord and prepares us for action. It responds to cues of danger and triggers the fight or flight response.
🔹The parasympathetic branch has two pathways traveling within the vagus nerve.
👉Ventral vagal pathway: responds to cues of safety and supports feelings of being safely engaged and socially connected
👉Dorsal vagal pathway: responds to cues of extreme danger. It takes us out of connection, awareness and lead us into a protective state of collapse This is the freeze response.
🔎Polyvagal theory helps us understand that both branches of the vagus nerve calm the body, but they do so in different ways.
👉Fight or flight response of the sympathetic branch releases adrenaline and prepares our body to action by mobilizing the muscles, dilating the pupils, increasing the sweating, accelerating the heart rate, enhancing the senses, etc.
👉Shutdown or freeze, occurs through the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve. This reaction can feel like the fatigued muscles and lightheadedness of a bad flu. In addition to affecting the heart and lungs, the dorsal branch affects body functioning below the diaphragm.
Check more here.
The mind & the body are not two separate entities, although they are often treated that way.
Chemistry & biology 🔁 mood, emotions, behaviour, thoughts & beliefs.
➡️Communication happens via chemical & physical messengers, such as hormones & neurotransmitters
🏵️If you’ve ever felt your stomach tighten up when you were anxious, you’ve experienced the mind-body connection
💛Befriending the body💛
Physical self-awareness is often the first step in mental health treatments.
in therapy, one way of exploring emotions is by noticing sensations in the body such as pressure, heat, breathing, tension, tingling, pain, hollowness, etc.
🏵️Have you ever noticed a gnawing pain in the stomach when thinking about a negative event.
✳️Our body reproduces the mental content of events✳️
⚠️When these events are traumatic, noticing the physical sensations can be very distressing. This process needs professional guidance.
Instagram post here for more visual information.
🔹Social oppression and mental health
In recent years, the way we have understood & perceived mental health has undergone major changes, mostly for the better.
However, the "system" has not been conducive to the discussion of one's social oppression and its impacts & relevance to mental health.
Therefore, most people continue to view mental health from a perspective that is fundamentally biased (based on privilege), individualized & based on medical diagnoses.
Check out more here
🏵️The human brain is always seeking to find meaning from the information of our environment. Once it has constructed a belief, it rationalizes it with explanations after the event. The brain then becomes invested in the beliefs and reinforces them by looking for supporting evidence while blinding itself to anything contrary.
🧠Irrational beliefs, in particular, are those about us that we have heard and internalized in our childhood, or that have been self-generated through difficult and/or traumatic experiences. These limiting beliefs constrain us in some way and are constantly brought into play and appear in our minds through automatic thoughts. Without realizing it, they are part of our day-to-day. How much attention do we give them? How much do we listen to and believe them? We get trapped in mental loops where we selectively pay attention to everything in our environment that reinforces that limiting thought-belief. We dismiss alternative options and positive evidence making the loop more intense.
✳️Learning to accept these thoughts as a product of our mind while paying attention to our external reality with curiosity (e.g by practicing mindfulness) could be helpful.
✳️Noticing our body sensations can also help to differentiate our thoughts (internal) from our body & environment (external) to put them in perspective.
✳️One way to start breaking mental loops is to detect those negative vicious cycles and accept them without fighting.
✳️Another way is to know that they are just thoughts, and cannot hurt us, and redirect our attention to the present moment by tuning into our personal values.
🔅Self-compassion and talking gently to ourselves can be a positive change if you practice it regularly. Try it and tell me how it goes.
Albert Ellis chose the term irrational as a euphemism for unhelpful, illogical and inconsistent with our social reality.
The four types of Irrational Beliefs
✳️Demands: These are the primary Irrational belief. They often feature phrases such as must, absolute shoulds, have to, need and ought. Example: I would love to succeed and therefore I have to!
✳️Awfulising: awful is defined as anything that is evaluated as being worse than 100% bad. Example: If I don't succeed in my presentation is will be awful!
✳️Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT): Otherwise known as I-can't-stand-it., LFT beliefs feature an acknowledgement of a struggle and an assertion that the struggle is truly unbearable or cannot be stood. Example: If people are rude to me I cannot stand it!
✳️Conditional Self (other, life) Acceptance: Otherwise known as self-downing and generalization, this is where we define our self based on one aspect. Example: If I fail at something important to me then I am a failure
Irrational beliefs list by Albert Ellis:
"It is a dire necessity for an adult human being to be loved or approved by virtually every significant other person in his community"
"One should be thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving in all possible respects if one is to consider oneself worthwhile"
"Certain people are bad, wicked, or villainous and that they should be severely blamed and punished for their villainy"
"It is awful and catastrophic when things are not the way one would very much like them to be"
"Human unhappiness is externally caused and that people have little or no ability to control their sorrows and disturbances"
"If something is or may be dangerous or fearsome one should be terribly concerned about it and should keep dwelling on the possibility of its occurring"
"It is easier to avoid than to face certain life difficulties and self-responsibilities"
"One should be dependent on others and needs someone stronger than oneself on whom to rely"
"One’s past history is an all-important determiner of one’s present behavior and that because something once strongly affected one’s life, it should indefinitely have a similar effect"
"One should become quite upset over other people’s problems and disturbances"
"There is invariably a right, precise, and perfect solution to human problems and that It is catastrophic if this perfect solution is not found"
"You can give people (including yourself) a global rating as a human and that their general worth depends upon the goodness of their performances"
Check the Instagram post.
Let me know if you can identify any irrational beliefs in yourself, in comments below.
🏵️'Meaning reconstruction' & 'meaning-making' are the central processes in GRIEF
When unanticipated or incongruous events occur, a person needs to redefine the self & relearn ways to engage with the world considering the loss experienced.
Usually, the person does not return to a pre-loss level of functioning but instead learns how to develop a meaningful life through adaptation
The experience of grief is unique for each person. however, research has shown some commonalities in normal grief placed in 4 general categories:
sadness, anger, blame, helplessness, shock, pining, emancipation, relief, numbness.
disbelief, confusion, preoccupation, sense of presence, hallucinations- visual & auditory.
hollowness in the stomach, tightness in the chest & throat, oversensitivity to noise, sense of depersonalization, breathlessness, weakness in muscles, lack of energy, dry mouth.
sleep & eating disturbances, distracted & absentminded behaviour, social withdrawal, dreams of the loss, avoiding reminders of the loss, searching & calling out, sighing, restless hyperactivity, crying, visiting places or carrying objects that remind of the loss, treasuring objects that belonged to the deceased.
⚠️Please note that not everyone will experience all of the symptoms.
🏵️The mourning process
Many authors have listed up to 12 stages of mourning. The Kübler-Ross model is the most popular which outlines 5 grief stages.
🤔 The problem with the stages is that research shows that grievers do not progress through these stages in a stepwise fashion. However, people believe this is how they "should" grieve and it becomes self-critical, exacerbating some of the difficult symptoms experienced during the mourning process.
✳️There is more than only one healthy way to grieve.
🔆The tasks of the mourning process
Psychologist J. William Worden proposed a different model. He believed there are 4 main tasks a griever needs to do for “the process of mourning to be completed” & “equilibrium to be re-established”. This task model puts the person in an active role instead of a passive one, giving the griever some sense of control in their own process. .
🔹To accept the reality of the loss
🔹To process the pain of the grief
🔹To adjust to a world without the deceased/loss.
🔹To find a way to remember the deceased/loss while embarking on the rest of one’s journey through life.
⚠️ People may need to revisit certain tasks over time because grief is not linear
Check my post here!
🔎Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. Some of these thoughts are unhelpful & self-critical.
Have you found yourself caught up on those thoughts not being able to stop thinking about them?
🔆This is called FUSION
When we are in a state of fusion with our thoughts, it seems as if:
🔹thoughts are reality & are happening in the present moment
🔹thoughts are the absolute truth
🔹thoughts are important & we have to take them seriously
🔹thoughts are orders & we have to obey them without questioning
🔹thoughts are wise & we have to follow their advice
🔹thoughts are threats & frightening
Defusion involves distancing, stepping back & observing thoughts & feelings for what they are (streams of words, passing sensations), not what they say they are (dangers or facts).
In a state of defusion with our thoughts, it seems as if:
🔹thoughts are merely sounds, words, stories, bits of language
🔹thoughts may or may not be the truth
🔹thoughts may or may not be important
🔹thoughts are not orders, we don't have to obey them
🔹thoughts may or may not be wise
🔹thoughts are never threats, even the most painful ones does not represent a threat to us
Think about a self-critical thought that often comes to your mind. Now try to say:
✳️" I am having the thought that ..."
✳️" The story I am telling myself is ..."
✳️" I am having the feeling of ..."
✳️Put a funny melody onto the thought (e.g. happy birthday song)
✳️Put funny cartoon voices onto the thought (e.g think of Shrek saying the thought)
✳️See the thought as a slogan of an advertisement
🔆The goal is to learn how to build a different relationship with our thoughts, giving them space and seeing them for what they are.
Check my Instagram post for more.
🧠Did you know that there are different evolutionary layers on the human brain?
⬆️The brain is built from the bottom up. It develops level by level within every child on the mother's womb.
👨🔬Neuroscientist Paul MacLean formulated the 'Triune Brain' model, which is based on the division of the human brain into 3 distinct regions:
🦎Reptilian brain/ brain-stem
basic life-sustaining systems: arousal, breathing, satiation, wake, hunger, sleep, chemical balance, heart rate, temperature, pain, balance
"emotional / mammalian brain", responsible for emotions, perception, categorization, monitor & interpretation of danger, pleasure, visceral sensations, record memories of behaviors.
🤔Rational brain- Neocortex
planning & anticipation, emphatic understanding, sense of time & context, imagination, reflection, use of language, understanding abstract & symbolic ideas, inhibitions of inappropriate actions
❓Do you think emotions are either Positive/ Negative
Read this list:
I am sure most of the people reading this will consider the 4 last as positive & the rest negative.
We tend to judge an emotion as "negative" or "bad" because it feels unpleasant, uncomfortable in our body.
However, just because some sensations and urges are uncomfortable does not mean they are "bad" for us.
"bad" is just a thought, a judgment made by our "thinking self"
Check out the emotion wheel and try to identify which emotion are you currently feeling.
We create and believe different stories about emotions, it depends on our upbringing.
✳️Some examples could be:
A family that suppresses "bad" emotions & just allows to express "good" emotions.
A family that believes guilt means "weak", may consider guilt as "bad".
A family who believes "getting anger out of your chest" is "good", may see expressing anger as "positive".
If a child is frightened by their parent's anger, may think of anger as "bad" & something that must be avoided.
A family that did not openly express love & affection, may consider love as a "bad" & unpleasant feeling.
It is useful to spend some time thinking about our childhood experiences. This can give us insight into how and why we struggle with certain feelings.
🧐Try to think about:
▪️What were you told about the best way to handle your emotions?
▪️What emotions did you family express freely?
▪️What emotions did your family suppress?
▪️How did the adults in your family manage their own "negative" emotions?
▪️How did the adults in your family react to your "negative" emotions
As a result, what ideas are you still carrying around today about your emotions and how to handle them?
Check more in this post.
Dr. Dan Siegel coined the term Window of Tolerance, this is the optimal zone of arousal where we are able to manage and thrive in every day life.
Our window of tolerance can be narrow or wide and is different for all people and at different times in our lives.
When we are outside of our window of tolerance because we perceive a threat / don't feel safe, our nervous system responds by going into Survival Mode. .
Sometimes the nervous system activation and its consequent arousal can feel "too much" taking us up into Hyper-arousal or down into Hypo-arousal.
😠HYPER-AROUSAL- Activates the Fight/ Flight response- Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)
anxious panicky, angry, emotionally overwhelmed, unsafe, tense, stuck in worry thoughts, hypervigilant, impulsive. .
😦HYPO-AROUSAL- Activates Immobility response- Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)- Ventral Vagal
numb, shut down, disconnected, low in energy, heavy, zoned-out, dizzied, depressed.
✔️OPTIMAL LEVEL OF AROUSAL- Activates Social Engagement response- Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)- Dorsal Vagal.
✳️What can we do?
✔️Name the emotions, sensations, thoughts: this allows for a sense of understanding. .
✔️Focus mindfully on noticing how our body feels physically, allowing space to be and feel: this allows for a sense of validation and is a powerful grounding tool. .
✔️Try to identify what we need to do to move back to optimal arousal: Identify coping strategies that work for us. .
🎯The goal is to essentially broaden this window of tolerance, increasing capacity for people to hold emotional experiences (even intense ones) without become dysregulated or going into a state of hyper or hypo arousal by using the appropriate coping strategies needed at each given time.
It is important to be curious about our feelings, allowing ourselves to feel them at the same time that we feel safe and in control. Therefore, practicing noticing how we feel in our body, naming the emotions, writing down the thoughts, etc. , can really make a difference. Once we have done this, it is important to identify which strategies are helpful to bring us back to the Optimal Level of Arousal, and slowly build up a tolerance to feel distressing feelings with a better sense of control and agency.
Some of the examples of coping/ self-soothing strategies I propose for each state are:
😠When finding yourself in hyper-arousal try:
✳️deep breathing with long exhales ✳️shaking
✳️weighted blanket- accupressure mat
✳️smelling scents (essential oils/ candles)
✳️listening to music
✳️use a squeeze ball
✳️safe place imagery
😦When finding yourself in hypo-arousal try:
✳️short, shallow breathing
✳️movement- exercise- dancing- yoga
✳️mindfulness of the 5 senses
✳️rubbing ice cube on your body
✳️listening to music
✳️read something engaging
✳️be social .
⚠️Note: maybe some of them will not work for you. Please listen to your body when trying these and adjust / change / stop when necessary.
Check a visual image in my post.
Check more about this topic here.