INTEGRATING MIND, BRAIN AND RELATIONSHIPS

Stay up to date with the latest from the blog!

image/svg+xml

NOT JUST SUPERFICIAL CHANGE, BUT DEEP AND LASTING CHANGE.

Download my FREE EBOOK on the Foundations Of Well-Being:

9 SCIENTIFICLY-BASED PRACTICES TO
HELP YOU INCREASE HARMONY, HAPPINESS AND HEALTH.

PLUS get instant access to my FREE EBOOK on the Foundations Of Well-Being:

9 SCIENTIFICLY-BASED PRACTICES TO
HELP YOU INCREASE HARMONY, HAPPINESS AND HEALTH.

Lynn_Redenbach_front_photo-01

Taking a Deep Breath In Troubled Times

by | Nov 19, 2016 | For Everyone

Like many, recently I have been overtaken by strong feelings in response to world events. At times, this emotional storm energizes me to take action, fuelling my determination and deep longing to be a part of the solution. However, at other times, my system becomes so overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.  Then, I get lost in feelings of powerlessness thinking that any action I can offer is insignificant.

Somewhere between these two responses I find quiet times for reflection bringing a deep desire to understand better how I might contribute in a positive way. However, this capacity to reflect is dependent on the state of my mind, body, and relationships. Like all of us, my nervous system and feeling-thought activation needs to be in an integrative state in order to be proactive and responsive. We humans cannot act with the fullest of our potential if our nervous systems are stressed, our emotions flooded; nor can we respond when we shut down and avoid what is before us.

Clearly, in order to do anything proactive we must face reality. We have to see what is actually happening to our families, communities, countries and world. Therefore, during stressful times like these, it is important that we develop the capacity to notice what is occurring internally as well as in our relationships with each other. As individuals, we must learn how to be aware of the different aspect of our internal experience, for example, noticing our patterns of thought, emotions, sensations in our body, and levels of nervous system arousal. Dr. Daniel Siegel (2010; 2012b), has articulated three capacities that facilitate this process: observation, objectivity (i.e. without judgement), and openness (heart and mind). Similarly, in our relationships we can develop the ability to listen deeply and observe the unfolding dynamics between us.  This facilitates us becoming aware of when/how we are honouring our differences and finding ways to connect across them (Jordan, Kaplan, Baker Miller, Stiver, & Surrey, 1991; Siegel, 2012a).

Developing the capacity for deep awareness is important because we cannot change what we are not aware of. At the same time, we cannot take our responses at face value; our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are informed by a complex mix of biology (i.e. temperament, gene expression, presence of disease, fatigue, hunger, etc.), memory (i.e. explicit and implicit), the state we are in, beliefs we hold, and so on. Left unnoticed, these influencing factors continue to impact our perceptions and behaviours having us to believe what we see as truth. Therefore, if we are to find a way through the complexity of life we best do so consciously.

Then, each of the aspects of our experience outlined, provide potential entry points into our reactions and responses. For example, we might notice that in response to overwhelming feelings of fear that we shut down with the accompanying thought: “There is nothing I can do about it so why bother” or, “I’m so angry that I need to _____(fill in the blank)!!” Another person might notice fear recognizing that their nervous system is running high. When this happens their body’s muscles tighten and they have an urge to engage in behaviours that have them escaping reality, if even for a short while. When we move into high arousal (sympathetic nervous system) or low arousal (parasympathetic nervous system) reactions, we loose our capacity to respond with the whole of our being. Therefore, we must learn now to intervene with these states, once we develop the capacity to notice what is happening inside us.

As stated, it is hard to be aware when activation is either very high or shut down. When this occurs, we need to bring either calm to our system, or increased presence and aliveness, respectively. There are many avenues into the nervous system, however the easiest and most accessible way into our nervous systems is our breath. Taking a deep, belly breath – especially one where the exhalation is elongated so that it is slowed down to a peaceful and easeful release of air – activates the body’s relaxation response.   You can do this practice daily, sitting or laying down for a few moments.  However, his can be practices anywhere at anytime. While this simple practice won’t resolve any of the challenging situations I have spoken about, it will support your brain and body to be more capable to face challenges.

References

Jordan, J., Kaplan, A., Baker Miller, J., Stiver, I., & Surrey, J. (1991). Women’s growth in connection: Writings from the stone center. New York: Guilford Press.

Siegel, D. (2010). Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation (1st ed.). New York: Bantam Books.

Siegel, D. (2012a). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Siegel, D. (2012b). Pocket guide to interpersonal neurobiology: An integrative handbook of the mind. New York, NY: WW Norton & Company, Inc.

CONTACT ME FOR A FREE NO OBLIGATION 15-MINUTE PHONE CONVERSATION TO DETERMINE IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BOOK YOUR FIRST APPOINTMENT