Tag Archives: neuroscience

Blog 28: Love & Anxiety, New Associations. Part 1

This past week I got to experience a unique event, a “paddle out” for wonderful Lorton Mitchell. A man in his prime, taken from his family by cancer while he was still so young. For those trapped in the ocean-less midwest, a paddle out is a surfing tradition from Hawaii. When a surfer dies, the community gathers together, jumps on surfboards and paddles out to beyond the breaking waves. There a ceremony is held, one of remembrance and celebration. It’s a solemn ritual and yet some joy leaks in the cracks. Perhaps it’s the magic of ocean water, or the laughter of children, or the safety of being surrounded by loved ones and 100’s of members of the community.

The last blog was about the need to make new associations with old sensations. But making new associations can also occur in conjunction with old belief systems or world views. We can make a new association with the way that we live our lives. Lorton was larger-than-life figure, and the way he lived his life, full of vigor and joy provides an excellent example to emulate as the subject of today’s blog. I want to suggest that those of us who are stuck in busyness, or achievement pandering, or over-scheduled living, need to make a change. We who are stuck in a life dedicated to duty, can make a new choice, a new association. We can to deliberately shift our primary driving force in life from one of Duty to that of JOY.

Imagine with me two large doors in front of you. One is labeled Duty and one is labeled Joy. If I was to offer you a choice of which door’s attitude will most characterize daily life, most of you will pick the Joy door! But if we are really honest about how we live our lives, most of us are unconsciously choosing duty over joy most of the time. One reason why our culture is so full of heart disease, a flood of medications, addictions, obesity and the many other curses of our over-stressed, way too busy modern life.

Ask yourself this question, how much joy to do you experience on a daily basis? Would your family, children, lover, etc., list joyful as one of your predominate traits? Or, are you more focused on what must get done, on checking off lists, keeping ducks in a row, (why ducks, why not cats, they are even harder to control?)

As children, most of us did not struggle through the misery of puberty in order to grow up and turn into a distracted, busy adult who has little or no time for fun. We hoped to grow up and do whatever pleased us, to have fun and to enjoy life. But life’s responsibilities, pressure and stress conspire to turn us into the duty bound creatures that many of us have become. I am not suggesting that life is not challenging, nor that we should throw up our hands and toss responsibility to the wind. There are things that must get done, it is good to be a “high functioning, well-behaved member of society” sometimes, I think? But if our primary focus is on our duty and getting things done, we miss most of the joy that this busy, complicated life has to offer.

Joy is an all body sensation, a vitality affect, and one of the best antidotes to stress and trauma that can be found. If you recall a previous blog where I talked about the two sides of the coin in our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), this blog might make more sense. Joy is the other side of the coin! It is the opposite of stressed and busy, and anxious and traumatized. If you doubt the power and intensity of joy, watch some Youtube videos of babies laughing, or children and puppies (any baby animal really). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L49VXZwfup8 try this one for even just one minute and notice the shift your body experiences inside.Healthy pleasure is a great way to begin to experience more joy in your life. If you have not engaged in self-care or healthy pleasure on a regular basis, it will be hard to live in joy regularly.

While joy and laughter are not the same physiological event, they are related and very connected. The research demonstrates repeatedly that people who laugh often, are happier, and physically healthier and have a more positive outlook on life. Well-parented children laugh much more often than children with lower functioning parents.

This week try to notice your primary outlook on life in terms of duty vs. joy. Which attitude prevails most often in your life? If it is duty, try your best to begin to include choices and situations that bring joy to you. When you feel joy, really notice how it lightens and brightens and enervates your entire body. Let me know how it goes.

Joy, Uganda style.
Joy, Uganda style.

Going deeper:

1;) What is your association with joy? Is it a common experience for you or something you rarely encounter? Who do you know that is often really joyful? If possible, spend more time with them and see how it impacts you. We become most like those with whom we spend the most time.

2.) What is your attitude to duty? If you are one who feels stuck in this place, ask yourself where you learned this? What were your parents’ primary attitudes toward joy and healthy pleasure, another close relative of joy? Are your attitudes similar to your parents or different? Most importantly, are they what you would like them to be?

I invite you to join a 3 week Anxiety Reduction workshop. I provide them in my office as well as at your organization, school, or place of worship. Mention this blog for a 10% discount. Call 619-437-1465 for more information.

Love & Anxiety-Blog 17: Oh that good sensation!

I received lots of comments on the last two blogs, it seems to be new information for many people. So, here is a bit more on this subject to alleviate any confusion people may be experiencing around the concept of the body’s language, sensation.

Many people are so uncomfortable experiencing their sensations, that they try to ignore them. I suggest that many of our emotional problems are rooted in ignoring the body’s messages. A simple analogy may be helpful here. If your infant begins to cry and you pick him up immediately, you can remedy the problem and most infants will calm down quickly. However, if you ignore her for 30 minutes, by the time you pick her up, she is so upset you will have a hard time calming her back down. Our body operates the same way. If you pay attention immediately to your sensations, you can learn to address the “problem” and feel better right away.
Anytime you are learning a new language, you have to start by learning important words. Thankfully, no grammar is needed for the language of sensation, you only need to learn the important words. As you get more familiar with the words of a new language, it is easier to listen and comprehend when someone is speaking them to you. Below is a table with a list of many of the body’s sensations. It is not a comprehensive list, but, if you read all of them, you will get the basic gist. (The table did not copy over to WordPress, so all I can provide is a list)

Airy-Bloated-Blocked-Breathless-Brittle-Bubbly-Buzzy-Calm-Clammy-Cool-Cold-Congested-Contricted-Contracted-Damp-Dark-Deflated-Disconnected-Dry-Dizzy-Dense-Empty-Expanded-Energized-Expansive-Flaccid-Floating-Fluid-Flushed-Fluttery-Fragile-Frantic-Frozen-Full-Fuzzy-Heavy-Hot-Hollow-Inflated-Itchy-Jagged-Jittery-Jumpy-Knotted-light-Luminous-Moist-Numb-Nervious-Paralyzed-Pounding-Pressure-Prickly-Puffy-Pulsing-Queasy-Radiating-Raw-Restricted-Shaky-Smooth-Spacey-Spacious-Spinning-Still-Suffocating-Strong-Tight-Tense-Twitchy-Warm-Wobbly-Wooden

If you read the whole list, your vocabulary of Sensation will be greatly expanded. Now try paying attention to the inside of your body. Particularly from your throat down to your hips. Do you notice any of these sensations, now that you have a better grasp of this language?

As you can see there are sensations mostly experienced as positive – warm, smooth, energized, etc. And, there are many sensations that we experience as negative- jittery, cold, queasy, etc. With each sensation produced, your body is attempting to communicate to you how it experiences the choices you are making. Many of us ignore the sensations we perceive as negative, as long as we are able. Then, we wonder why we have a huge emotional explosion. Paying attention to the beginnings of the sensation, and altering your choices accordingly, will decrease, or even end these big explosions. It is so much easier to just live in our heads, but when you embody your mind and body, your ability to live in joy, freedom, and honesty is greatly expanded.

Try it this week and see how many of these sensations you can notice. Can you even expand this list? Let me know how it goes, and please, if you have any questions, let me know, I love to share this material, it has changed my life.

Going deeper
1.) If this information is new to you, what is your primary response? What is your mind’s response? How does the body respond to the thought of paying better attention to this lovely container of minds, hearts, spirits, and souls?

2.) If it is hard for you to listen to the sensations, try to notice your areas of resistance and be kind to them. This way of living is seeking to integrate different aspects of your personhood, not to cause a civil war.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

Blog #16: Part Two-To Feel or Not to Feel….and how to Deal!

I am curious about what you have have noticed or experienced after reading the contents of last week’s blog? We talked about about Emotion, Sensation, and Living Embodied. I concluded by suggesting that living Embodied helps us better handle our emotional storms. If you did not read (part one) last week’s blog, it will help you understand this one better if you go back and read it first.

Living Embodied is our birthright as a Human Being and something little children do extremely well. If you want to learn more about it, with openness and curiosity, watch a child for long periods of time. You will learn more from watching a child live in her body than from my few words.  

When you do learn how to live Embodied -that is being aware of the sensations and messages from your body, listening to them and responding appropriately-  you begin to notice the emotions you are experiencing when they are small and more manageable. When you first begin listening to your sensations, you might not know how to respond appropriately right away, but if you keep listening, your body will teach you all you need to know. (Every human body has an amazing Organic Intelligence within. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why wounds always heal themselves, as long as the area is kept clean). When we allow our sensation and feelings into our awareness immediately, we can ‘metabolize’ them so much quicker and they do not build up in our bodies. Just like our digestive system metabolizes a big meal, by breaking it down in usable portions.

In order to ‘metabolize’ emotions and allow them to pass through us without causing great havoc, use the two E’s, or E2. We first need to Experience our emotion as it surfaces out of our physiology/body. We do this by awareness and attention, we notice and are honest about what we are feeling internally. To further metabolize this emotion, next, we then figure out how we want to Express that emotion. Do we want to write a letter, cry, yell at someone, or talk to a husband, friend, or therapist? When we utilize the two E’s, most emotions will pass right on through our mind and body fairly quickly, like a wave moves through the ocean and then returns to the body of the sea. This may be a challenge when you first begin to try, but like anything else, it gets easier with time and practice.

So this week spend some time re-learning, if you have forgotten, your body’s language of sensation. Notice how your throat/chest/belly reacts to uncomfortable experiences. Or, how that same region reacts when things go really well and you feel deeply loved and cared for by your loved ones. 

One big additional benefit of living Embodied, your emotional range will begin to expand. Instead of just the primary emotions of mad, sad, glad, and afraid, you will begin to experience/feel many nuanced and other subtle emotional experiences. Having a larger emotional range brings more exquisite experiences to your life. As when a painter with access to a greater range of colors, rather than painting with only the primary few, makes his painting much more vibrant and expressive.

Images

Babies are the best example of Embodied living-Africa trip 2011

Going Deeper;

1.) Do you remember how your parents dealt with their emotions when you were a child? This week try to notice, do you handle your emotions in similar ways, or did you take a different path? 

2.) What emotions were you allowed to express in your home growing up? Which one(s) were outlawed? Do you still live by those “old” somatic rules?

3.) Are you able to utilize the two E’s when it comes to emotion? If not, which one causes the most difficulty, Experiencing or Expressing?  This week just practice listening to mind and body and see what is different.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

Love & Anxiety #15: “To feel or not to feel….

At the end of last week’s blog, I mentioned that emotions begin as physiological events and not as emotional contracts and I promised to share more. I am not saying that we don’t experience emotions as mental constructs, but that the physiological change in the body comes first. Our then minds realize, ‘oh I am really angry, or, I am depressed’.  

To clarify this a bit more, let’s talk about language. The mind’s language is of course, words! As noted in the above examples. However, our body has its own language and speaks to us, but we often do not hear or even try to listen. The body’s language is Sensation.  Perhaps you have heard these phrases:feeling things in our guts; that pit in the middle of my stomach; or, the tightness in my chest, etc. Less often, we may be aware of a lightness in our hearts, a warm expansiveness in our chests, etc. This is the language of the body. It buzzes, constricts, contracts, chills, warms, opens, expands, just to name a few of the body’s words.

The reasons we are often unaware of, or completely ignore our body’s messages, is we have forgotten this language. We deem those messages irrelevant to our busy grown up lives. Somewhere between elementary school and high school, most humans cease listening to their bodies and begin to live in their heads. Our culture and our role models (adults) usually reinforce the message that our mind is the master and carrier of the most important information. Often it is our poets; musicians, film directors, artists, creative types, etc., who are the holdouts staying connected to both languages, which is one reason we adore them so.

If a person lives in her mind a majority of the time, she will have trouble really experiencing her emotions because she is not truly inhabiting her body. Until the sensations get soooo big, she can’t ignore them anymore. This is one reason why people who spend lots of time in their heads obsessing and worrying, experience high levels of body anxiety. The body is a lot bigger than the mind, especially when it comes to the “negative” emotions. (Not because they are bad, but because they FEEL so bad.) Anger, fear, sadness, when you have tried to tamp them down and ignore them for too long, eventually they will surge out and blow up. When they do, it’s usually a mess. We rant at someone, or go into a deep depression, or have anxiety and panic attacks, to give a few examples. 

Next week I will publish Part two of this blog, sharing more about embodied, present, living and how to more easily deal with our emotional storms. Stay tuned!

Image

 

my lovely Aussie friends displaying two powerful emotions -joy and anger

Going Deeper;

1.) What emotions are you comfortable experiencing and which emotions are outlawed from your life? Do you resonate with the information that when we stuff and bury emotions for too long, they burst up and make a mess?

2.) Are you comfortable in your body? Can you listen to its language of sensation? What sensations are you currently most aware of?