How Dropping Beliefs Has Connected Me More
For many years, I was obsessed with spirituality, and for many years, I was a devoted Buddhist in a Mahayana tradition. This path taught and grew me tremendously, but it was also fully entangled with a belief I had that there was something fundamentally wrong with myself and the world. It was inextricably linked with my developmental trauma and my (anxious) attachment style. Shout out to Buddhism for being perhaps the least fundamentalist religion around, and to the axiom: “Buddhism is a system of methods, not truths.”
I concede that there may be a person or people who grew out of a modern American context and are able to hear the Dharma in a way that is “free from obscurations”, but I am not one of them. I challenged the doctrine of my tradition relentlessly for years (my teacher called my personal holy order a “ministry of doubt”), and over time it became clear to me that there were politics to attend to that required most of the attention and energy I was using to muster up the practices I was assigned. Energy is limited, and the restraint required to withstand chaotic energies that rumble against one’s spiritual practice is… a lot. The joke here is that those “chaotic energies” are essentially good, or at least may be aligned with in their most wholesome aspects (which, believe it or not, they all have [Buddha nature, you hear?]). For those of us who, à la Untamed, only recently figured out how deeply our inner desires and motivations have taken a back seat to harmful social conditioning and people-pleasing (for some, manifesting as spiritual rigor), there are new and exciting possibilities. Secular life is one of them. …
What the Somatic and Trauma Fields are Missing
In the somatic, trauma and nervous system regulation field, practitioners are taught that fight, flight and freeze are the three fundamental, hardwired human stress responses. Fight and flight are sympathetic and movement-oriented, self-protective motor programs designed to do things and get us places. Parasympathetic freeze causes stillness, hiding, waiting, disappearing, contracting, dissociating and collapsing.
A UCLA study by Taylor, et al, published in 2000 by the American Psychological Association, argues for an additional stress response, called “tend-and-befriend.” The authors “propose this theory as a biobehavioral alternative to the fight-or-flight response…which has dominated stress research of the past 5 decades and has been disproportionately based on studies of males.” In reference to tend-and-befriend, the APA dictionary of psychology states, “Neuroendocrinal evidence from research on both human and nonhuman animals suggests an underlying physiological mechanism mediated by oxytocin and moderated by female sex hormones and opioid peptide mechanisms.” …
This is an empowerment note for those stuck in low-to-medium chronic distress.
A nervous system-based boop in a new direction… for the fridge-riding, doom-scrolling, cannabis-smoking, drinking a bit extra-ing, tv-binging, over-exercising, drama-seeking, workaholic, stressing lot of us.
In the OI model, we think of the nervous system as adversely impacted by three mechanisms/tendencies/patterns, that happen autonomically and in the moment:
These refer to physical patterns that maintain a nervous system’s state. They keep us stable, and they help us avoid further traumatization. However, they also maintain the status quo, which can keep us stuck and suffering. So “too much”, “too little” and “incomplete” are not judgements, but ways of describing unconscious physiological processes that take place during sympathetic arousal (more on that another time.) I hope to normalize how the nervous system tends to choose stability even when the conditions offer potential for growth, and one aspect of what we can do about it. Growth can be hard, but we know from experience what is also hard: things staying the same. …
How to Get Going, for Chronic Freezers
Momentum is defined as “the quantity of motion of a moving body.”
Ugh! It’s that whole, “in order to feel better you need to exercise, but in order to will yourself to exercise, you need to feel better” scenario. If you aren’t familiar with the freeze response, you may want to read about it here before moving on. If you have never been depressed and do not relate to the first sentence (“Buck up! I exercise when I don’t feel like it all the time!”), I don’t think this piece will serve you.
I work with folks to support a healing shift from dominant states of fight, flight, freeze, fawn and their symptoms. …
What is the freeze response, and how might we relate to it and ourselves during the highly stressful experience of global pandemic
Just a note: “Somatic” means “of the body”, and in this case refers broadly to study, practice and guidance towards embodiment, trauma resolution, nervous system resiliency, and trauma-safe mindfulness. There are somatically-oriented coaches and counselors, therapists and bodyworkers, and professionals from many fields (medicine, activism, spirituality, midwifery) who train in somatics to add another dimension to their work.
In somatic practice, we track cycles of arousal and “dearousal” in the nervous system. Think of a sine wave! Activation, deactivation. …