Thursday, December 21, 2017

Emotional indigestion

When we think of indigestion, do we ever think that it applies to emotions as well as food? What we don’t feel becomes congested and can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and unexplained medical symptoms, the list just goes on and on.

If any health condition becomes chronic, there is a very good chance that undigested emotions have something to do with it.

Just imagine having a piece of food stuck in your throat for years, it would be so uncomfortable and because it’s a more obvious block than stuck emotions, we try to clear it immediately. Not so with our painful emotions. If we can, we try to get away with not feeling them just because they’re so painful and if we’re children who haven’t been co-regulated by our care givers, it becomes even more difficult to learn how to feel difficult emotions.

The solution is simple but not easy, at least at the start: we need to start feeling our feelings. Not feeling your feelings looks like avoidance, addiction, dissociation; anything and everything that will transport you away from feeling what you feel is unbearable.

There are many ways you can learn to be with difficult feelings, you could try focusing, somatic experiencing, emotional freedom techniques (EFT) … Go gently and slowly until you build a bigger capacity, or window of tolerance, for feeling difficult emotions and body sensations.







Friday, December 08, 2017

What is neuroception?

I’m going to give a real life example of how neuroception* actually works from my own life. I was mugged once, I wasn’t hurt physically, but psychologically, it left its marks.

I was walking along the quays in Dublin at about 7.30pm, it was November, so it was dark. An older man asked me for the time; there was also a teenager walking a little bit behind him. Immediately, I sensed very strongly that something wasn’t right. Something (neuroception) was telling me to run, get out of there as fast as I could. But I rationalised it away by calling myself silly/paranoid, there was no need to worry.
The teenager walked passed me and then all of a sudden ran up from behind and ripped my bag off my shoulder. I froze (for which I judged myself later). I didn’t even think of putting up a fight and knowing what I know now, I didn’t have any conscious choice in the matter. My body sensed danger (which I ignored/rationalised away) and then froze to keep me out of more danger (it was very likely that the teenager would have become violent to get my bag/money if I had fought him).

Our bodies are amazing. Even before the brain in our head can react, our oldest brain (our gut, the enteric nervous system), is able to sense danger, or safety, in the environment and lets us know immediately whether we are safe or under threat**. ‘All’ we need to do is listen and trust this ancient source of knowledge. But too often we ignore, deride, override, shame, chastise and berate our own body because it’s not doing what we want it to do, or what we think it should do.

Our body is the repository of every single experience we’ve ever had since conception and even beforehand, taking the studies on intergenerational experience and trauma into account. We put out the rubbish every day/week to be collected, but how often do we empty our body of stuff it no longer needs or wants? How much stuff is your body carrying right now? (Try and answer that and you can tap on your answers).

Just as we might work on various different parts of ourselves, we can work on our body as a part with its own intelligence, feelings and perceptions. This is not segregating the body from us, it is giving its experience its own credence and weight.

I can give you an example of working with the body this way. I woke up at 1a.m. recently with a sense of dread and fear and didn’t know where it was coming from. Rather than play Sherlock Holmes in the middle of the night, it struck me that it might be my body sensing danger/threat. I tapped on my body not feeling safe (in my imagination, very handy for nighttime when you’re tired), acknowledging, not fighting, how my body felt which calmed me/my body down. I was able to go back to sleep after about 10 minutes of tapping and get a few more hours sleep before I had to wake up at 6.30am.

*Another word we could use for neuroception is intuition or gut instinct.

** Fear is a necessary and valuable emotion when there is immediate and present danger that requires us to act now. However, our nervous systems can get permanently 'switched on' after repeated trauma and detect threat where there is none which leaves us exhausted and hyper vigilant.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Allowing

We hear a lot about allowing. And in this post we’re going to talk about allowing things within ourselves, not the outside environment or others. That’s another discussion for another day.

For me, allowing means to allow my internal experiences as much as I possibly can. This essentially means that I’m not resisting them, which keeps me stuck.

It means allowing every single emotion, thought and body sensation I have in response to anything and to feel it as best as I can.


This is a process. It doesn’t happen over night and it’s not always possible because we’ll slip into old patterns and sometimes we’ll just be too tired or upset and that’s ok.

When you develop the habit of allowing yourself to feel, think and sense the way you do, you start to process things. You begin to experience what has been unexperienced. You don’t feel stuck anymore, maybe things still aren’t easy, but you start to notice little changes which give you hope and spur you on and later you see bigger changes, in you.

You really download into your cells that the only person you can control is you, not others and not the outside environment. Funnily enough though, people and circumstances often change in our life for the better when we change!