ELIZABETH HEARN – HOLISTIC PSYCHOTHERAPIST

 

 

CONTACT DETAILS:

MOBILE:+447894084788

Email: ELIZABETHHEARN@ME.COM 

I  love life:  a continuum of  thriving, radiant living. With wisdom and compassion I inspire  others to  live  their  best ever life,  to embrace  personal, social, environmental, and economical challenges.

How about you? What can you do  NOW, today to make tomorrow an even  greater day?

I am a leading experienced holistic  psychotherapist and practitioner with 29  years  experience in mental and addiction healthcare. My approach is compassionate  observation of clients   body/thinking feeling sensations and impulses as they emerge in the present moment.  

Helping clients reclaim lost vitality due to  stress caused by overthinking, sleep deprivation and disconnection from self and others.

Thriving is the ability to directly experience the truth of our lives with a minimum of agitation, distraction, fear  of uncertainty and doubt. The most essential pillar o fnow and zen meditation is conscious awareness —equilibrium is stability of mind. Our essential being/energy no longer balanced, restored and renewed.

The mind-state we cultivate is tranquil, relaxed, open. We are comfortable with uncertainty, we can live and let live, in the flow of experience. Engaged in “what is” no longer needing to “fix” the past or “control” the future. We are the sum total of our experiences.

Former Magazine Editor (Mode, Australia) Film/Video Producer and Author. Elizabeth’s introduction into insight meditation practice includes an initiation with Lama Yeshe, Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Scotland in 1992. Further training in Vipassana Theravada Meditation forms the foundation for Now and zen meditation.  

Meditation  a two prong approach: disciplines and action,  a way of self-transformation through self-observation   on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.

It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. The scientific laws that operate one’s thoughts, feelings, judgements and sensations become clear. Through direct experience, the nature of how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering is understood. Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace.

In the practice  of holistic therapy  we are acknowledging the need to treat the whole person:  realigning  the mind and body connection, reducing  stress caused by anxiety  depression and addiction .

We restore and realign when we rebalance  our breath  for example the same amount of attention and intention on the inhale and exhale. The absence of these qualities creates  suffering.  Learning  to slow down the frequency of over thinking, expectations, negativity and reactivity.   

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” expresses the essence of holism, a term coined by the great South African general and statesman Jan Smuts in 1926.

 

“You are your deepest desire.

As your desire is, so is your intention.
As your intention, so is your will.
As is your will so is your deed.
As you deed is, so is your destiny.”

~ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5

 

Meditative techniques, such as yoga nidra are powerful practices that focus on tracking more linear time in the ‘no-time’ brain state of alpha, and provide opportunities to consciously explore subtler realms of existence.

Meditation can make you less stressed, more focussed, motivated and productive. Meditation  gives your body energy by helping it detach at  a level deeper than sleep and  increases  the strength and thickness of the corpus callosum:  a thick band of nerve fibres, between  the cerebral cortex lobes into left and right hemispheres that connects the left and right sides of the brain hemispheres  engendering  connection, communication and collaboration  between both hemispheres.

The corpus callosum stimulates  motor, sensory, and cognitive information is based between the  right and left hemisphere of the brain.  The Left brain loves the past, and is the executive mind-state (self mastery/emotional intelligence) continuously  informing   our past in the present.  Language, critical thinking, analytical, numerical. The right (now) brain is intuitive and instinctive  in the present moment: inspirational, creative,connectedness, optima problem solving/solution focussed.

Over time meditation increases  consciousness. Meditation equates  a  90 minute power nap.   You become more awake and aware. Consequently  are able to hold more things in your awareness because there is less need to be “constantly on”  as  you are aware that you  now switch off, detach and let go. 

Different types of meditation affect your body and mind differently. Now and zen meditation trains the mind to look within. Learning how to consciously live consciously – moment to moment awareness.   Both spheres  of your brain  realigned to connect in unity.  Now and Zen  meditation  integrates the two brain hemispheres the   brain: present moment awareness to strengthen the prefrontal cortex’s capacity to self regulate.  build resilience, and restorative disciplines that reduce stress, and increase performance.

Stress escalates by  over-thinking – everything!  Awareness of what is happening in the moment  disrupts the negativity emanating from the  inner critic. Pausing, breathing, pacing reduces stress that occurs in the moment.   To relieve escalating stress  I recommend consciously reconnecting to the present moment- pausing and awareness breathing.    When you meditate, your body produces feel-good hormones: Serotonin and Dopamine, that  slow down the ageing process.

Positive perceptions:
Learn how to trust the process: be in flow. Cause and effect  is a defining principle of existence, central to universality. When I  fearful, I  am disconnecting from my essential being and can easily spiral into negativity, isolation and  disconnection. 

With regular now and meditation practice we  learn how to comfortable  in “the space” or “gap”  and thrive from consciously living consciously. 

The stages of shifts in consciousness – aspiring to consciously live consciously is a departure  from auto-pilot body, shame-body thinking, feeling reactivity.  You will come to trust the renewal process when  experience  feelings of confidence, esteem and self compassion signalling  you  are enough.

 By specifically identifying and re-programming  limiting core beliefs, we look to remove self-imposed limitations to our current reality and re-align with self-affirming beliefs that allow for a more fulfilling experience of life. A change in core beliefs causes a paradigm shift in perception of reality.

Now –  Zen  meditation will naturally create awareness, how to consciously create a meaningful life experience,  inspired and motivated.  
Equanimity   is experienced whenever we realign the mind and body in the right now, if you are doing too much, over thinking etc…you are not  present. And you are running on adrenaline false sense of feeling high.

Instruction on Meditation
I automatically  meditate upon awakening, consciously easing into the present moment and set an intentionto for the day –  to thrive, be happy  and love life.

Setting an intention  can be assimple as: i will  do do my best, be my best…this   grounds my  personal integrity.

Meditation for me, is  a way of life that needs constant attending to –   like needing to be aware of when I nned to charge my smartphone.   My energy, hormones etc  fluctuate throughout the day. 

My  awareness exponentially grows more and more as I  progress into a 30 years on… mediation practice.

You will automatically be the  judge of your meditation on how well you are doing during the day (happiness is a byproduct of a healthy mind and body) – one day sometime soon you will suddenly realise that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be.and you will be happy.

 

Beginners Breath-work

Don’t over think your breath. Just let it be. Breathe without thinking about whether you are doing it right or wrong.  This exercise will help you destress your mind and body: Oxygenating  the left and right brain hemispheres. Cover your left nostril with your right ring finger, inhale for a few moments and then reverse: cover your right nostril with your left ring finger do this whenever you feel a rush of stress hormones as it will  relax you, and renew your energy levels. 

When I connect to something painful, I want it to flow, to  be released. I don’t to project this onto others, nor do I wish to suppress strong emotions such as anger, fear and pain because I know feelings pass, when we let them.

 Inhale hope – Exhale fear.  When I breathe in, I am opening my heart. Allowing the pain space to experience what it is, rather than automatically expressing pain which escalates into anger.

 

Thriving is  starting each day full of energy and vitality, and ending each day with a  body scan to de- stress emotional tension, sleep well and awaken feeling energised and aware. Also imagine how amazing it would be to have the power to heal yourself, prevent illness, and feel connected to the universal energy around you. Addiction is characterised as a disconnection from oneself, family, community and work place,  masking  the depth of destructive mental states:  constant cravings, obsession, compulsivity, anger, chaos, shame, insecurity,  pride and jealousy.  

The thoroughness of holistic therapeutic  approach to understanding the mind:  authenticity, autonomy, empathy, and compassion is available  when a person  is willing to transform woundedness to wisdom.  Sadly many suffer in silence because of negative psycho-social stigmas attached to mental and addiction healthcare problems.  Mindfulness Leadership is hoping to further illuminate the neurobiology of emotions and the pathways to mental healthcare. 

 

Change is constant:

The neuroscience of emotions: affect, feelings and emotion are all used interchangeably by psychotherapists, mind/body energy practitioners. , the way holistic therapists usually define and think about emotion.In contrast, the neuroscientific understanding of emotion refers specifically to subcortical, often body- based experiences and not the conscious awareness of a feeling.

Often, though not necessarily, the body-based experience serves as a platform or scaffolding upon which the subsequent consciously experienced feeling or affect is built. Conscious awareness and self healing-responsibility is growing in our society, inspired by training our mind to look within is now an accepted pathway to total health.

That we need more balance in our lives, and more emphasis on our own well-being, as well as the well-being of our families, workplaces, communities – and our planet is a given in conscious living. Part of the solution, for many, involves a look inward- becoming an observer of our daily lives.

Meditation  guide us to determine how to restore our constitution. Providing safe, natural alternatives to conventional medicines and treatments. Practical advice. Easy to- follow instructions, and strategies tailored to your mind/body type.

Stress/relaxation management, meditation breathing exercises, medicinal herbs, cleansing and lifestyle changes to guide you in achieving total physical and spiritual healing.

Learning positive ways to retrain the brain to pause, slow down or switch off begins with learning how breath. Stress = shallow breathing. It takes practice to breath differently. Moreover, withdrawing from seeking intensity, self-destructive instant gratification impacts quality of lifestyle. From disrupted sleep patterns, to poor diet/nutrition this collective stress is enough to cause long term health problems.

The average unwell 21st century professional has adrenal fatigue, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation and mind – gut blockages. High- anxiety triggers fight or flight stress hormones to flood the body, negatively disrupting balance and harmony. This cascade of conflicting thoughts and feelings, hormone surges etc happens in seconds – fuelled by flight or fight stress hormones.

Our sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” system that takes over when we’re stressed, when you see your boss’s name in your inbox late at night, your body reacts like there’s a lion on the loose.Behind the wide range of both physical and mental reactions to stress are a number of hormones that are in charge of adding fuel to the fire.

Your body is constantly changing as it mirrors  and exchanges its atoms and molecules with the rest of the universe.   Trillion cells in the mind/ body are constantly “talking to each other”  as they keep your heart beating,   food digesting,  toxins eliminating to protect the body  from infection and or disease, and carry out the countless other functions that keep you thriving. Neuro-scientific studies  show  that nothing holds more power over the body than the mind.

Physical sensations: Body, thinking  feeling behaviours are chemical reactions: neuropeptides that  travel throughout your body and hook onto receptor sites of cells and neurons. Your brain takes in the information, converts it into chemicals, and lets your whole body know if there’s a threat (fight, or flight)  or something to  celebrate.

 

We are living in a state of accelerated change  and stress-related illness is on the rise. Addiction and mental healthcare issues are often embedded with trauma. An addict historically had to “hit rock bottom” before seeking help with their addiction.  That “rock bottom” was raised in the 80’s when cocaine and alcohol addiction resulted in people bottoming out much younger.

Today very young children are showing signs of digital dependency, food addictions, whilst teenagers are choosing not to just experiment with recreational drugs now they are getting addicted.

In may instances of traumatic childhood experiences addiction is more than a coping mechanism, it is a way of surviving trauma which  is  a  stimuli response  to a traumatic experience, event, or an incident that threatens one’s own life or the bodily integrity of another in close proximity or relationship to you. In order to qualify as a traumatic event, the element of threat or harm to life or body must be present. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs diagrams the map for raising healthy children. 

 8stageModel1

 

Absent parenting- divorce  single  parenting, social deprivation are all contributing factors  to children’s vulnerability.  

 Trauma or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:  a life threatening event  to one’s life or physical integrity, such as accidents, surgery, sexual abuse, war, mass violence, police brutality, bullying, domestic violence, being raised in an addictive family. Trauma can have also been determined to be positively correlated to long-term exposure to extreme poverty emotional, and verbal abuse.

Trauma can be grouped into four key components based upon the individual’s response to the traumatic event. The four components include:

  • Hyper-arousal. Individuals experience increased heartbeat and breathing, agitation, interruptions in sleeping or eating patterns, tension, etc.
  • Constriction. Often when we experience and react to a life-threatening situation, hyper-arousal is likely to occur which is usually accompanied by constriction in our body and distorting our perceptions.
  • Dissociation. Dissociation is one of the most common and subtle symptoms of trauma as it allows the sufferer to separate themselves mentally from the painful and traumatic experience.
  • Freezing. When fight and flight responses are thwarted, we instinctively move towards a fixed or immobility response as a last ditch effort to avoid further pain or distress.

Following a traumatic experience, we all respond and react in different ways, at different times. After experiencing trauma, people may go through a wide range of normal responses. Reactions to trauma can extend beyond the person directly experiencing the event to those who have witnessed or heard about the trauma, or been involved with those immediately affected. Many reactions to trauma can be triggered by memories of the event, persons, places, or things associated with the trauma. However, some reactions to trauma may appear completely unrelated to the traumatic event or experience.

 Trauma Triggers:

  • Body aches and pains
  • Extreme feelings of panic or anxiety
  • Interruptions in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Increased drug or alcohol consumption
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of nausea
  • Chronic fear
  • Bursts of anger or rage
  • Hype-rvigilance
  • Flashes and or recurrent visual images of the event that feel real
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities and life itself
  • Grief
  • Nightmares
  • Self-isolation
  • Minimisation or denial of feelings or significance of event
  • Avoidance of people or places that may trigger a memory of the traumatic event
  • Detachment
  • Emotional numbing
  • Shame
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations
  • Cognition issues

Unfortunately, some people will experience a trauma event at some point in their lives, and as a result, some will experience debilitating symptoms that interfere with daily functioning. Many people who have suffered a traumatic event or suffered from long-term exposure may repeatedly re-experience the ordeal in the form of flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when they are exposed to events or objects that remind them of the trauma. Untreated trauma or PTSD can cause psychological distress the sufferer is living in a hyper-aroused state. 

People suffering from the latent effects of Trauma or PTSD may have a co-occurring mental health issue such as one or more of the following:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Substance Abuse
  • Co-occurring Disorders

When considering traumatic events and individual responses to those events, it is important to not only recognise the importance of immediate intervention to mitigate symptoms but also help those suffering from trauma and PTSD develop strategies to manage symptoms, limiting the possibility of symptom re-emergence.

This is possible through the practice of mindfulness  meditation, developing your “mindfulness leadership muscle” will actualise  a life changing  skills-set – everything   you need to know love and happiness in the immediacy of daily life. May you be happy, healthy. love your thoughts and be comfortable with uncertainty. 

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. Mindfulness Leadership addresses anxiety and stress. Feeling overwhelmed? Trying to normalise off-the-scale anxiety and stress is challenging, to manage without support. Stress impacts the immune system and disrupts the bodies nettle healing responses. You may eat organic food, meditate like a monk, believe you are a mystic without a monastery, perform totemic tai chi/yoga such is the power of conditioned thinking.

However, until one learns to train the mind to look with, managing stress-realted burnout will be unsustainable. Evidence based neuroscience (MR.I Scans) informs us of the biofeedback changes within the brains complex circuitry systems that occur when a person is meditating.

Awareness is the conscious knowledge of experience—both physical and mental. This is in contrast to the automatic, subconscious responses discussed above.

Attention is he ability to remain aware of internal and external stimuli occurring in the present moment. Mindful individuals are able to bring their attention back to their original target of focus whenever their mind begins to drift away. Intention is similar to sustained attention, mindful individuals are also able to continue to return to present moment, remembering their daily intention, i.e to focus in the present, rather than the past or the future. Acceptance involves experiencing thoughts, feelings, interactions and other stimulus without judging them as being bad or good, desirable or undesirable, petty or important, etc. Instead, the thoughts and observations are accepted as they are, without distorting or suppressing them.

Mindfulness Leadership rejuvenates the mind/ body ability to self-heal. Reduce stress. Prevent illness from developing. Clients receive training in how to reconnect – addiction manifests as disconnection – be fully engaged in one’s life. Resilient. Compassionate, empowered authentic, connected and in community.

At the heart of addiction is unresolved painful emotional states. Mindfulness Leadership is a holistically integrated whole-person health initiative designed to inspire, and exponentially generate resilience, self-esteem, empathy and compassion.

In essence, mindfulness leadership can over time and practice teach us how to be more resilient. Mindfulness transforms overthinking into reflective order. The natural effect is reducing stress, and engendering self mastery.

Elizabeth’s personal mindfulness practice began in 1990 through an initiation with Lama Yeshe @ Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Scotland.

Faculty member at the Jansen Newman – Transactional Analysis and Gestalt Psychotherapies specific to Addictive Disorders.

She is a former Faculty member @ JNI – Sydney. Former VP National Association Drug & Alcohol Counsellors. (NSW) Clinician. Outpatient Director of Services. Inpatient Primary Therapist Retreat Facilitator.Former Magazine Editor (Mode, Australia) Film/Video Producer (NYC & LA)

The Cosmic Mudra  enhances connection, communication and collaboration. There is no particular time duration needed, you can practice by sitting, standing or lying on bed whenever and wherever you have time to  increases memory power and sharpens the brain, and  enhance concentration. Perfect mudra for awareness.   

 

“When all your desires are distilled
You will cast two votes
To love more and to be happy.” -Hafiz

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Every form of genuine awareness is liberating. Each moment we release entanglement liberates us from cravings and attachment.  selfless. Remember too that every practice of awareness can create a shadow when we mistakenly cling to it. A misuse of space can easily lead us to become spaced-out and unfocused. A misuse of absorption can lead to denial, the ignoring of other experiences, and a misuse of ordinary awareness can create a false sense of “self” as a witness. These shadows are the subtlety of  attachment. See them for what they are and let them go is   accessing the lenses of awareness to serve your wise attention.

The more you experience the power of wise attention, the more your trust in the ground of awareness itself will grow. You will learn to relax and let go. In any moment of being caught, awareness will step in, a presence without judging or resisting. Close-in or vast, near or far, awareness illuminates the ungraspable nature of the universe. It returns the heart and mind to its birthright, naturally luminous and free.

May you be free from worry and indecision.

May you be happy.

NYC 1988, I volunteered @ the Manhattan Centre for Living. A life changing health initiative founded by Marianne Williamson & Louise Hay for AIDS and cancer survivors. Connecting with others in healing communities is wonderfully confronting, challenging and life-changing. Cultivating compassion and fearlessness in the face of uncertainty in the presence of people who personified dignity, grace, and humility in the shadows of death and dying.

When a close, long term recovery friend, Lorna Kelly was diagnosed with breast cancer her smile lit-up the universe when I gifted her a bold red Chanel Lipstick, and a bright pink scarf to wear when she went onto lose her hair, confidence and esteem to the ravages of chemotherapy.

In 1988 I met Louise Hay, author and so much of “You can heal your life.” Feeling negative, promotes a downward spiral into victimisation, Addiction is isolation, disconnection and alienation from our family, peers and community. Recovery is being in community. Surrendering the negativity on a daily basis is rejecting whatever gets in the way of feeling love, happiness and gratitude. So Hum – I am one with the Universe.

Positive mental states…we breathe approximately 20,000 time a day. Learning how to breathe in a way that fully opens up the torso is fabulous for an instant vitality burst. Whenever you observe feeling increasingly stressed you can in the present moment you can change how you feel and think. The technique to cease ruminating on the past, or projecting into the future is by focussing on your breath. Remember it takes time, patience and practice to breathe efficiently.

For those of us who live consciously conscious – our faces reflect our inner calmness, acceptance and happiness. I once shut down a discussion about “what is beauty?” by saying the happiest, most beautiful people I know are deeply spiritual, intelligent, compassionate positive people.

Harvard Medical School (2013) study revealed people who meditate daily are happier, live longer, maintain healthy relationships, and have longer telomeres – shortened telomeres are linked to accelerated ageing.

Now and Zen: Daily decompress with a 15-minute guided meditation. I have guided meditations or podcasts on all my digital devices. Perfect for longer distance train or bus travel.

I begin each day with breath work insight meditation in my favourite ego-surrendering salutation-yoga posture: Child Pose. The mind graciously bowing down to the heart. Easing into the stillness anchors me in setting my daily intention. The benefits are that throughout the day I can bring my mind back to my intention…helps keep me centred, focussed and present.

Raise awareness, inspire change by regularly checking in with where you are holding onto stress in the body. Frowning. Tightened lips etc are instantly distressed by breathing. good breath practice is regularly checking in with YOU…. breathing in deeper, counting up to 10 and down again…for 10 to 15 minutes to revitalise the mind and body.

Allow your breath to find its own rhythm.. slower, easier, visualise sending your breath to that area on your inhalation. Imagine a knot loosening as you exhale. Repeat this cycle with each inhalation and exhalation. Do a body scan for 10 to 15 minutes. Find a comfortable seat or lie down. Close your eyes and breathe, hold the breath for a few seconds, release, and repeat. First, focus your attention on your feet. Notice any tension, pain, or stress. Take deep, slow breaths helps you you focus your awareness on any area of your body that feels tight, and or stressed. As if you are scanning your body with light, move your attention slowly upward.

Bring your awareness to how each part of your body feels as you continue to slow your breathing, from the top of head, the back and sides of your head, your neck and shoulders – particularly when we are sitting at the computer, or in the car/train or plane for long periods of time…I was taught at a very young age the importance of good posture.

Robust digestion: compassionate nutrition means we have a healthy relationship with food, from planning, prepping to making whatever it is we are eating look gorgeous. I love beauty, grace and elegance. We eat with our eyes, my nature is that whatever I am doing: “Let the beauty we love be what we do.”

There are so many ways too reduce stress. Proven to bring instant relief is a mind/ body realignment technique that returns me to a state of happiness in the moment. Pause. Breathe. Straighten my back. Open my torso and instantly be connected, restored and renewed.

Want to look and feel younger, stronger and have abundant energy. Change your breathing. Stress ages our bodies, as does pollution, too much sun, smoking, sugar processed foods and an absence of insight mediation.

Our breath instantly detoxifies us. Releases any tightness and toxins which left unattended to impacts the quality of sleep, and our bodies natural ability to self-regulate. Breathing increases the flow of energy.

We can go without food for 40 days – and without water for three days. When our breath is impacted by sudden onset illness or an accident we have a few minute window in which to get help and even less if we are flying and the plane loses air pressure. Which is why it is always recommend putting on your oxygen mask first, then help your loved ones…

Meditation and mindfulness breath work focus upon the activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings us into a safe. comfortable calm relaxed state and soothes the overly stimulated sympathetic nervous system fight or flight mechanisms.

Just remember you can do this. You can heal your life. One breath at a time. One day at time. It is a universal truth that when we are happy we attract happiness into our lives. I create my reality. Love life and it loves you back.

 

ADDICTION & AWARENESS

What is Addiction

GABOR MATÉ: Addiction is a complex psychophysiological process, but it has a few key components. I’d say that an addiction manifests in any behavior that a person finds temporary pleasure or relief in and therefore craves, suffers negative consequences from, and has trouble giving up. So there’s craving, relief and pleasure in the short term, and negative outcomes in the long term, along with an inability to give it up.  Addiction could be to anything—to religion, to sex, to gambling, to shopping, to eating, to the internet, to relationships, to work, even to extreme sports. The issue with the addiction is not the external activity, but the internal relationship to it. Thus one person’s passion is another’s addiction.

Cravings cause suffering. Overthinking leads to  obsession and compulsivity. Low self-esteem constantly triggers insecurity, fear and doubt – when we believe  we  are not enough.

We inhabit an instant gratification world and can easily become addicted to overthinking, not letting go and driven by the unbridled pursuit of personal and professional success.

Personal Recovery can  be  learning how to be happy with what is…enjoying the unfolding of life without the stronghold of addiciton   to what others think is essential  to upholding the integrity of personal boundaries. A boundary is  what feels ok versus what does not. When we do have our boundaries we are in flow with life. We trust. We feel safe, empowered and esteemed. We do not have the need  to control others, nor to attach ourselves to anything outside of our reality to feel safe, or  connected.

Breathe. Return to the present. Observe where you are in the present moment. Attune yourself to mindfulness and permit yourself to observe life differently. Gratitude, surrender, self-regulating, boundaries ensure I am safe, I am enough, I am present, I am generous.

The root cause of all suffering is often triggered by  the escalation of stress.  If you think that you can change something simply by wishing and hoping you are denying the voice of truth, your voice of truth, to be heard. Life is series of challenges, a cycle of cycles of change.

I create my reality. Whenever I am in victim consciousness I am abandoning  myself, giving away my personal power and feeling  helpless and hopeless all because I feel entitled to receive the attention, approval or acceptance from something or someone outside of myself to complete me.

Generosity of spirit is extended to all of humanity not just the ones we are closest to. Personal recovery is sustainable when I remember that it’s not about me,  this mantra  holds  a resonance of truth, passion, potency, and  power. The outward expression of personal recovery  is the ability to be congruent. Challenging negative  patterns and themes is a first step towards shifting away from victim consciousness into feeling empowered and victorious.

The inner world is the world of  requirements, energies,  structure, and  possibilities that meets the outer world. In addition, the outer world is the field of your incarnation. That is where you are. You have to keep both going. The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet.

Addiction professionals practitioners have long known of the connection between psychological and physiological  states and immune response, notably between addiction and depression to a wide range of diseases.

Evidence-based  imagery reveals the brain’s dramatic coloration whilst in a meditative state. Now a direct connection between brain activity and immune function has been demonstrated. Neurosciences pinpoint one of the mechanisms underlying the link, revealing it to lie in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This region has long been associated with emotions, thus establishing a direct link between brain activity and immune function.

Carl Jung influence is evident in the correspondence between Bill Wilson the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Jung wrote to the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous Bill Wilson that in his professional capacity he understood that the cure for alcoholism would have to be spirituality: a universal power equal to the potency of spiritus (alcohol).

The Twelve Steps strategies provide a relational foundation for evolving, building resilience and reducing stress.  The Twelve Steps outline spiritual processes. Each step provides structure and is a pillar of recovery management whilst learning how to become successful sober community members.  of

The pillars of recovery management:

• Acceptance: embarking upon the recovery quest is anchored in a daily acceptance of powerlessness over addiction.

• Action: identifying specific issues/unfinished business claiming individual uniqueness and personal power

• Awareness: spirituality-based alchemy: from Victim to Victorious

The above is a description of the integrative process: step work, therapy, and being in community with likeminded other recovery friends. Tackling Step One signifies acknowledging that there is a problem, that there is help available that is outside of oneself, and the willingness to commit to holistic regime.

The very beginning of reciprocity: trust in something beyond oneself (such as a therapist, sponsor, or the programme), and the opening up of a closed family system. Invariably, it takes years to face the problem. I recommend establishing a home group as an essential pillar of the recovery management. Healing happens when we are comfortable with expressing our truth.

A sponsor’s role is take you through the steps.  They are there to encourage you by both listening and sharing their personal experience, strength, and hope. And provide you helpful suggestions. Different fellowships work in a more close-contact type of way i.e. calling your food plan for the day ahead or making outreach calls form integral aspects of a specific fellowships.

For all fellowships Twelve Step-sponsorship is recommended. While an Addiction practitioner views addiction as incongruence between self and experience, this does not minimise the ultimate belief in the autonomy that evolves as a direct result of being in recovery.

You will always have the help of another recovering person to provide support  with whatever problems are causing you suffering. There are two main objects to stopping thought. One is to open up space to clarify thought by distinguishing impulsivity, obsessive thinking compulsive behaviours. Differentiating intensity-fuelled addiction can be measured by loss of control.

Habits offer a choice. Addictive impulses do not. Be prepared to experience to using dreams, and or euphoric recall. The unconscious mind does not switch off. The unconscious remains active when we are asleep. A definition of insanity is repeating exactly the same behaviour and expecting a different outcome. The mantra of active addicts is: “I can control it, and stop anytime I want to.” Addiction cannot be controlled.

The paradox is that letting go of the need to control an addiction is surrendering to win and when recovery starts. As difficult as these sounds: if nothing changes, nothing changes. Intellectualising addiction is rationalising  consequences and abdicating  responsibility. This dynamic of self-justification is denial of reality.  You cannot straddle two worlds; using or non-using. One has to go. By immersing yourself in the universality of the Twelve Steps you are joining in with the global recovery community’s quest for meaning in the immediacy of living life on life’s terms.

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. The journey begins with self-examination: Identify what core beliefs, goals, or values that are currently in conflict with you arresting your addiction. Awakening the process of self-transcendence: the key to you being the change you wish to see in others.

We are hardwired to connect via a continuum of awareness with self, family, friends, community, and colleagues. Strengthening our ego boundaries engenders differentiation and detachment. An Admission of powerlessness in any or all of the following addictions is about beginning to own your impact: alcohol/drugs/love/relationships/sex/gambling and work are a few addictions – your purpose is to identify your primary addiction. Begin with where you are now.

Not where you were – the past is helpful to learn from, nevertheless staying stuck can lead to emotionally relapsing. Powerlessness: Explore the root causes of your addiction. It takes time, there is no rush, just for today you can change your thinking, change your life that keeps the focus upon sobriety.

Change your thinking, change your life. Into-action is taking even the small step away from using on your feelings something that will spiral into a relapse. I recommend daily journaling. First-thing-in-the-morning pages to ease into the connecting to your higher self, creating intention (sankalpa) the habit of writing about how you feel triggers self-honesty. This process engenders emotional honesty and balance.

The ability to self-regulate enables us to become more resilient. Negative emotions such as anger arises from an unmet need, an expectation or projecting onto others what we can do for ourselves but don’t! Ask yourself what do you need in this moment to take care of yourself? What would love do? What would compassion do?

Often people are unaware of their feelings and react with anger  from being challenged. Anger is a reaction to something external threatening thinking, and self esteem. Reacting arises when we do not get what we want. Anger from not being valued, regarded or esteemed can trigger intense reactions. Fear is a future based projection.

Confidence is an absence of fear and doubt, feeling comfortable with uncertainty. It is often accompanied by a mental picture of an individual’s success, and is closely related to hope and even faith. A feeling of security can be born of self-confidence, as if the state of being confident can literally push fears and their causes away.

Shame is a potent emotion that sabotages self-esteem and self worth and silences us. Powerful emotions are suppressed because of feeling shame, unworthy, not good enough and dependent upon others for safety, protection, and security.

Trauma bonded is  recycling pain. Jealousy is triggered by feelings of insecurity. The child-ego-state causes us to withdraw in any angry silence. The mantra of trauma-bonded relationships is “what about me? “

This how the steps can change our lives. By the time we are halfway through at Step Six we have sufficient insights into our character defects and are slowly addressing these in our shared step-work processes with our sponsor.

Self-enquiry. Answer the following questions with honesty as your primary purpose to discover how powerlessness is showing up in your life and ways to establish healing strategies.

Daily self-enquiry:

1. Do you eat/drink balanced/nutritional food three times a day?

2. Do you begin and complete your day with awareness of creating in the moment positive intentions i.e inclusiveness of mindfulness strategy/disciplines?

3. Do you positively regard your needs and wants i.e love your thoughts, feelings, and connection with yourself and others?

4. Do you make sure you look well presented on a daily basis?

5. How dependent are you on others for approval/ to provide for your needs and wants?

6.How balanced is your self-esteem in your relationships with others?

7. Do you strive and thrive at balancing work/family life/personal life on a daily basis?

Harnessing healing: regenerating the body’s natural healing responses. An emerging awareness of how to stay in the moment  happens as we harness increasingly emotional balance. The six sense organs, (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) and the six sense objects (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought) begin to regenerate within 24 hours of cessation of active addiction.

On a cellular level the bodies natural healing responses promptly respond. Sustaining ongoing healing requires a daily commitment to self-care, esteem, and nurture ones brain/body connection. Addiction to Recovery. Vigilance is essential in the beginning of Stage one recovery: arresting addiction.

Until now, our lives have been largely devoted to avoiding conflict, emotional dishonesty, rejection of self and others, and emotional pain. Escape via active addiction is a reaction-based solution. Self-fulfilling prophecy is a repetition compulsion ergo ritualized patterns, themes, and behaviors. Fail fast. Own your impact.

The brain is hardwired over the years – it is never too late in life to re-program the brain /body connection. Ego reduction is paradoxical – if you are in therapy it is about building ego strengths. Living life as a spiritual aspirant it is about conscious connection with the oneness of existence.

Both pathways suggest harnessing evolving emotional/spiritual/physical intelligence hence the awareness model of working through unfinished aspects of your narrative (Steps One -Six ) social contracts to re-engage with life.

Your are then halfway through the process of learning ways in which life very differently to sustain long-term recovery which actualises slowly when you undertake all Twelve Steps. It was in doing Step Six that I saw why I had become so exhausted. I had been trying to control everything, and everyone. In the programme I was told that my part was “being entirely ready,” being ready to let God be the controller and life-changer of others and myself.

When I did that, my sponsor said, I would experience  abundant opportunities  to heal negative thinking.  when we stop control others. Moving onto  Step Seven. This attitude of readiness to change and remove the things that makes us spiritually and emotionally sick is paradoxically the doorway to active and effective change of specific lifelong habits.

Over time all the work you do to change begins to live through you, makes for emotional balance and happiness because when we know we are enough life, there is no longer a need to compare, compete or spiral down into feeling less than. This is life in recovery: a series of life changing strategies.

There comes a time when the bubble of ego is popped and you can’t get the ground back for an extended period of time. Those times, when you absolutely cannot get it back together, are the most rich and powerful times in our lives.

Life in recovery is about transforming negative perceptions into life-affirming beliefs about one-self and others. To do this on a daily basis engenders the neural pathways to regenerate positive thoughts into actions.  Learning how to “listen” to your higher self requires not acting out on your impulsivity – the difference between reacting and not reacting.

I recommend breathing, a few deep breaths to reconnect you to yourself will bring your mind/body connection back to the present moment to restore  equanimity and heal suffering in the present moment.

It is a deepening awareness of life on life’s terms i.e. reality checking about what is going on that helps halt and change the behaviour.  It is about truly nourishing ourselves. The view that is presented in the Buddhist teachings is not one of becoming a better person, or finally getting it right, but is a view based on trusting what we already have, of starting and staying where we already are.

So with letting go of an addiction, the instruction is  to connect  with our basic nature,  the basic energy of the moment.  Identifying your defence mechanism: projecting, deflecting, reacting are three psychological blocks to unpack in therapy. Owning your personal power helps heal trauma bonds/ betrayal and abandonment.

. The imprinting of patterns and themes, family genetics, psychosocial patterning are retained in our DNA. Addiction is the cause and effect of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Finding the correct medication/meditation is recommended for sustaining recovery and preventing relapse-in tandem with the existential quest  for meaning.

The importance of modifying impulsive/obsessive compulsive triggers is essential in re-programming the brain. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. Insanity is repeating the same behaviour expecting a different outcome. Restoration of sanity is in arresting your addiction.

Core beliefs drive our ego states of mind. Instinctual patterns and themes that are driven by poor impulse control.  Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, and craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.

Life in recovery is a daily commitment to abstinence-based way of life. Without arresting addiction, undergoing treatment along with participation in recovery disciplines the addict will suffer from obsessive thinking, poor impulse control, constant craving, and compulsive behaviours. Faith is success. Fear is failure.

Change is a constant, life organismically (is in a state of flux) nothing is static, ergo you can never step into a river in the same place you did yesterday. Neuroscience demonstrates this at a subatomic level: everything is a form of vibrational energy.

Our worldview veils us from our truth. We lie to ourselves. This is precisely why we need faith. We need to trust in the unseen, the Mystery. Building ego strengths and relapse prevention techniques along with using a Mantra and daily breathe-work meditation engenders preparing the foundation for psycho-spiritual foundation.

Learning how to meditate like a monk requires sessions with spiritual teacher to familiarise your self with the process of personalise your spiritual practice. The daily ritual of chanting a mantra stimulates the chakras (energy hubs) which rejuvenates wellbeing. With growing understanding of the problem, denial breakdown, loses it stronghold and a change in thinking occurs.

Many addicts found themselves frequent visitors in psychiatric institutions (rehabs) prisons or A & E. Crime, domestic violence, and car- accidents are drug and or alcohol related. I have sat and listened in the rooms of A.A. to stores of serious life-threatening events, sometimes shocking that occur whilst they in drug or alcohol induced blackouts. Lost time, lives, and loss of one’s sanity.

The acknowledgment of powerlessness manifests as a loss of all that was associated with active addiction: secrecy, rituals, helplessness, and hopelessness. An all-consuming intensity fuelled focus filled with high-risk activities to control and manipulate others characterizes the desperation and suffering in the human condition: same stuff different day stance of hell on earth.

How to fill the existential void of living with the additional burden of negative feelings? Taming the demons: loneliness, fear, emptiness, boredom, and depression arise often. Developing the awareness that left to ones devices relapse will happen, instead taking action to change negative thinking can be helped by calling another recovering person or go to a meeting.

Being connected is essential. Existing in a “rut ” can lead to decorating it! The existential wounded-ness (the shadow) of the addictive personality is uncomfortable with change, being challenged, and or losing control.

However, if love is fostering another person’s spiritual growth then continuing to block this will result in relationships failing to thrive.  The restoration of sanity is an essential part of recovery management. Within the texts of Step 2 is the insanity that characterises the addictive personality: would you let anyone do to you what you have done to yourself?

When you begin to acknowledge that you have a potentially life-threatening addiction over which you are powerless, subject to a daily reprieve from relapsing this reality clarifies the urgency of asking for help in find solutions.

Reality itself becomes a teacher, as one is asked to continually “turn over” (to that Power) an addiction, people, and frustrating situations. The ego gradually relinquishes control, as one begins to trust that Power, the growth process, and life as well. Self-Awareness: What has been happening up until now is an increasing awareness and observation of one’s dysfunctional behavior and addiction(s) – what is referred to as “insanity” in the Second Step.

This crucial development signifies the genesis of an observing ego. Now one begins to exercise some restraint over addictive and undesirable habits, words, and deeds.  Living in the solution  is being in flow.  Abstinence and forbearance from old behavior are accompanied by anxiety, anger, and a sense of loss of control. New, preferable attitudes and behavior (often called “contrary action”) feel uncomfortable, and arouse other emotions, including fear and guilt. Group support is important in reinforcing new behavior, because the emotions triggered by these changes are very powerful, can, and even arrest recovery.

Additionally, resistance is experienced from self, family, and friends for the very same reasons. The anxiety and resistance may be so great that it triggers a relapse. There is help in Step 3: “We turn our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.” This is the practice of “letting go” and “turning it over.” As faith builds, so does the willingness to let go and move toward more functional behavior. Inventory and Building Self-Esteem Now with a bit more ego awareness, self-discipline, and faith, one is ready to review one’s past in Step Four.

It requires a thorough examination/inventory of the past, experiences, and relationships with a view toward uncovering patterns of victimhood. Ideally with a group leader if it is in a residential setting or with a trusted 12-step sponsor, disclosure of this inventory formulates Step Five – emerging development of self-esteem and an observing ego.

Building objectivity and self-acceptance, tackle residual guilt, resentments, and trauma-based shame begins to slowly dissolve. With it go the false pride, hubris, arrogance, self-loathing, and depression. For some, this process may also involve recalling childhood trauma, which is the beginning of healing empathy for oneself, compassion, and forgiveness for others. Self-Acceptance and Transformation: Acknowledgment of one’s behaviour patterns is a beginning and insufficient to remove them.

This will not happen until they can be replaced with healthier ego boundaries/ skills, and the secondary gain derived from the negative behaviour is removed. Old habits become increasingly painful, no longer working because the outcome is misery. This process is described in Step Six: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” It underscores the psychological process of personal transformation that evolves throughout recovery, and represents a further development of self-acceptance, the key to change.

As long as one tries to change, and blames oneself in the process, no movement occurs – not until one gives up. Then one is “entirely ready.” Step Six asks that one give up control and ego clinging, and look for a source beyond oneself. Then, it is suggested to take Step Seven : “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.” Compassion for Others: The review of one’s shortcomings reveals one’s effect on others, and awakens empathy for those harmed. Steps 8 and 9 suggest that one make direct amends to them – a further step in building a more solid self, humility, compassion, and self-esteem.

Step 10 – when we are in the wrong, forgive ourselves in the moment, be gracious, patient and kind. Step 11, daily rituals:  prayer and mediation,  craving  a conscious connection to all that is…living consciously conscious. This  increases confidence, improves mood, promotes new behaviour, and reduces the anxiety accompanying change. Building tolerance for the experience of emptiness supports surrendering, letting go of  negative controlling behaviours.   Step Twelve recommends selfless  service.  working with others, and practicing these principles in all our affairs.

Communicating to others what we have learned is self-reinforcing. It also reminds us that spirituality cannot be practiced in only one segment of our lives, without contamination from other areas. For example, dishonesty in any area undermines serenity and self-esteem, affecting all of one’s relationships.

The steps are designed to ignite  spiritual growth, may you find this is how it works for you. Each day is a new beginning. As we grow in recovery we become increasingly accountable. Self- care exponentially increases. Emotional balance is the bedrock of sustaining long-term recovery. May you be happy. May you be love, may you be free from self-seeking and enjoy the journey of al lifetime!

WELLBEING

 

Masterclass in self compassion:

Surrender can be considered as counterintuitive to success, wrongly associated with losing face, weakness, and defeat. Surrender is success.   Surrender  encourages  us to become more patient, poised and present. Disrupting   a “hurry-up – life script/agenda”   enables us to change self-sabotaging  habits.

“When you are in the state of surrender, you will reject anything that comes  between you and your relationship  with God. ” Tommy Rosen founder of 2.0 Recovery.  Addiction recovery is sustainable when we continue to practice the art of insight meditation,  training the mind to go  within. We are social beings, hardwired to  connect.  In order to thrive we need  contact, communication and  connection for optimal brain development.

Dr. Gabor Maté observes an extremely high rate of childhood trauma, abuse and neglect  in the addicts he works with. The absence of consistent love, compassion, encouragement, instilled in children that the world is an unsafe place.  He asserts that it is extremely common for people with addictions to have a reduced capacity for dealing with emotional distress, hence an increased risk of drug-dependence.

Disconnection triggers addictive behaviours: obsession, compulsivity, acting out, dark-net digital dependency, substance/alcohol  abuse, eroticised rage, manifest  disconnection from reality.

Digital addiction can  affect the quality of sleep,  too little sleep disrupts the body’s ability to digest, renew and restore itself.  When we sit in front of our computers, without taking a break to eat,  we are not only not digesting our food,  habitually needing the quick-fix preference of processed (carbs) food:  sugar, fat and salt. Stress-eating occurs  as a  result of feeling vulnerable, reaching impulsively for food is a coping mechanism for people who process emotion through their gut and not their mind.

Resetting the brain, rebalancing the emotional, physical and spiritual  mind and body connection.  Bridging the gap between cause  and affect.When we are aware, our perception of the present moment isn’t automatically distorted and or  disconnected from reality. I think we can all agree that  agree that an emotionally intelligent mindset  consisting of awareness,  attention and engagement in the present moment is challenging in the beginning to access and over time the awareness muscle is more readily available  when  relationship ruptures   occur in the immediacy of daily life that have the potency to derail us, cause stress and fearful projections of failing.

Self-awareness  is a potent. Like a muscle – if you do not use it,  you lose it. Become curious. Become present.Self-acceptance  is learning to love divergent existence. An engaged mind, body soul  is connected to all that is with detachment, and discernment.   Focussing on one task  at a time –  being our best is  doing our best.

Mindfulness is a skill-set that time and practice to develop. Mindfulness is being focussed, continuously creating intentionality. Mindfulness is  being compassionate. Mindfulness is participating fully. Mindfulness is being non-judgemental.

I recommend do what I do to destress distress: as well as intermittent fasting, eating 80% plant based food, meditation, yoga and walking – I love my family, and friend because I have the opportunity to be the best me throughout the day.

Highly stressed people are over stimulated,  “have too many windows open” and no mechanisms to ‘switch-off. ” Stimulus saturation impacts mental  health-wellbeing. Seeking intensity  disconnection from our essential being and from others. The space between reacting and responding: being in the gap exponentially grows through regular meditation. Committing to daily a restorative meditation practice transform stress into strength of mind and body. experience emotional balance.

Hope.  Healthy coping skills. Balancing stressors. Shift in focus and purpose from self-limiting fear-based thinking to creating intentions in the immediacy of daily life.

  • Autonomy
  • Boundaries
  • Awareness
  • Focus
  • Accountability

Awareness of shifting attention between the conscious and unconscious minds and the outer world.The easiest way to understand mindfulness experimentally is the  focus all of your attention on your thoughts, feelings, and actions as they occur.

Self-awareness can be practiced by actively observing yourself when communicating with others. This includes your reactions to verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, and the way those reactions influence your responses. This type of awareness also contributes to being able to  self-regulate our thoughts feeling and actions.

Lets talk about the impact of work related addiction and mental health problems:  Anxiety, Sleep Deprivation, Adrenal Fatigue, Addiction,  Compromised Nutrition Syndrome, Anxiety and Depression.

Work related stress is proving to  be highly detrimental: personally, professionally  and productively. Mindfulness stress reduction retrain the mind/body connection,   enhances congruence,  cognitive performance, and  interpersonal relationships.

 

 

Considering how much time we spend on tasks – learning how to be energy efficient with our body, thinking, feeling behaviours is what is available  when we commit to a mindfulness meditation practice. You can’t have one without the other. Both mind states strive for unity – this is a way of life that has numerous benefits.  Breath-work (pranayama) is the centre piece of meditation and mindfulness. Learning how to breathe differently requires conscious commitment to bring the breath back to centre, realign  the physical body.  Every time you bring the mind back from drifting , you’re building the muscle of concentration and commitment.  The mind wanders off and you bring it back to the breath, again and again. Through repetition you build  concentration.

Anxiety triggers shallow breathing. Mindfulness Stress management tools: Breathe. Pause. reflect. Respond helps destress the mind/body connection when unresolved trauma is triggered in the present moment. Renowned trauma expert Dr. Besel vand Der Kolk  author The  Body  Keeps   Score –  Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma  states trauma is a fact of life. He  has spent over three decades studying trauma. and transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specially areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust.

He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments:  breath-work, holistic therapies, mindfulness techniques, meditation, yoga, and nutrition. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The  Body Keeps the Score offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy—and a way to reclaim lives.

Stress impacts  conditioned thinking: i.e.  when a person experiences a threat to their survival. The limbic brain demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilise.” In other words, stress is something we experience when we face a situation and our ability to cope is challenged. We feel we’ve lost control of events.

To find out how mindful you are think about your journey to work today. If you were driving were you “mindful”  of distractions from the past…and not focussed on the traffic, pedestrians, etc..  on auto-pilot.

Self-regulating  attributes:

Awareness

Involves being the observer of your experiences and encounters. Connected. For people with stress, depression, addiction and anxiety it is challenging to NOT be habitually constantly over thinking.  Obsessive thinking is seeking certainty.

Participating fully

Is pausing to reflect…then respond. When we reject our thoughts, suppress our needs and wants we are sending others the same message. Often others needs to be seen and heard…however autopilot functioning  is waiting to interrupt, talk over etc..realy listening and responding.

Nonjudgmental

Silencing the inner critic – people pickup on being judged, and will disconnect, withdraw and assume a defensive stance. Our mirror neurons are reflecting back to one another how we feel, and what we home others will not detect …so identify fear in your language with others – we choose to personify healthy ways of interacting with others:  fear or love?

 

 

THRIVING

 

By conquering your mind, you can conquer the world. The mind is given to you to serve you, not to control you. You breathe 22,000 times every day. How many are you really aware of?

The mind is  powerful. It determines actions, not just what you do, how you interpret what you do. The mind determines how you make decisions, what you chose to remember, and how you plan for the future. Your mind is responsible for all of your experiences, positive, negative, pain and pleasure.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”

The space between reacting and responding: being in the gap exponentially grows through regular meditation. Committing to daily  a restorative meditation practice  transform stress into strength of mind and body. experience emotional balance.

Why bring Mindfulness Leadership into the workplace and what are the benefits to business productivity? Implementing a mindfulness training program into the workplace has been road-tested with long-term positive outcomes by Aetna, Apple, Google, Amazon, Nike, Saatchi etc are well known for their mindfulness community-at-work ethos with designated quiet-zones to practice mindfulness, meditate, and have a session with an onsite holistic practitioner.

What is Mindfulness? Mindfulness as a way of life means paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind/body/soul and in our external environment. A real-world guide to mind/ body balance, inner healing and self-discovery.

Helping create a life of inner peace, balance and clarity. The aim of Mindfulness is to build awareness and inspire change. The intention is to develop our capacity to learn how to live life with greater resilience, compassion and happiness.

It is possible live a life without stress, anxiety, worry and fear. Mindfulness educates us in how to master our emotions to create a more fulfilling life. Mindfulness cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day living.

This ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of the mind. It includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. The term mindful is to be intentional in what we think and feel. Spontaneously open. Creative to unfolding opportunities possibilities.

The most common reason for work dissatisfaction is power struggles —feeling unappreciated, depleted of energy, identity insecurity outside of the workplace, endless rumination, and tunnel vision stuck-ness.

Addressing mental health issues in the workplace is vital. Knowing what type of intervention to engage in is of paramount importance. The escalating expense and legal complications of replacing higher-revenue generating employees is daunting.

A glance at the loss in productivity statistics: • £9billion and climbing a year due to stress, addiction, depression, and anxiety related health problems. • 14-20million working days are lost each year from mental and or addiction healthcare issues. • 60% of workplace deaths are linked to addiction • 40% of accidents are linked to addiction • £30,614 is the average cost to recruit a single staff member, according to Oxford Economics.

There is also lost productivity from those around the person with the substance-abuse problem: for example, 14% of employees in one survey said they had to re-do work due to a co-worker’s active addiction. We now have conclusive neuro-scientific evidence that validates the ancient wisdom that is mindfulness moreover about the importance of renewal and regeneration if we are going to be our most productive, creative, and healthiest. Teaching professionals centuries old mindfulness disciplines fosters a resilient workforce and healthy, happier work environment.

People learn how to self-regulate which improves the quality of their communications, interactions, and relationships, in addition to building trust, they become more than willing to be empathic and compassionate. By learning to pay attention more to our thoughts, feelings and experiences at work, we allow ourselves to connect more fully to each moment. How stress hijacks the brain: Mindfulness stress reduction is experienced in the prefrontal cortex.

The complex circuitry system responsible for conscious thinking and planning decreases, when stressed, while activity in the amygdala, hypothalamus, and anterior cingulate cortex regions that quickly activates the bodies stress response increases. Studies have suggested that mindfulness reverses these patterns during stress; it increases prefrontal activity, which can regulate and turn down amplified stress responses. By reducing individuals’ experiences and impact of long-term stress, mindfulness may help regulate the physical stress response and ultimately reduce the risk and severity of stress-related diseases.

The most common reason for work dissatisfaction is burnout—feeling unappreciated, depleted of energy, loss of an identity outside of our job titles/description, ruminating, and tunnel vision stuck-ness. The aim of Mindfulness is to build awareness and inspire change. The intention is to develop our capacity to learn how to live life with greater resilience, compassion and happiness. It is possible live a life without stress, anxiety, worry and fear.

Mindfulness educates us in how to master our emotions to create a more fulfilling life. Mindfulness cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day living. This ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of the mind. It includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. The term mindful is to be intentional in what we think and feel. Spontaneously open. Creative to unfolding opportunities possibilities.

Mindfulness is being authentic. Conditioned mind tells us untruths. Peeling away the layers of conditioned thinking is mindfully to engage in life with authenticity and autonomy. Insights gained through the practice of Mindfulness are restorative and affirming. A typical introduction to the art of mindfulness meditation practice begins with awareness of the breath/breathing. This can be done standing, sitting or lying down.

The intention is to interrupt our mental disconnection from reality when we are projecting into the future or ruminating on the past. As thoughts continue to come and go the intention is to raise awareness of the physical sensations taking place during the process and not attaching any meaning to passing thoughts. Mindfulness practice evolves over time into including a body-scan, mantra, a mudra and restorative yoga postures.

Mindfulness taps into the constant dynamic interplay between our interior and exterior worlds. A cause and effect relationship that ripples through our essential being. Mindfulness holistic therapies have a unique role to play in addressing addiction and mental health challenges when there is a greater focus on early interventions and relapse prevention.

Mindfulness stress-management is proving to be one of the most promising wellbeing/mental health strategies, and is non-stigmatizing. Awareness of self is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Cultivating a mindfulness meditation practice provides a “safe place’ and a personal sense of fulfilment when challenges arise. Managing time is a benefit of mindfulness training. Learning the value in being able to “switch-off” slows down the brain’s autopilot set point. Just as we neuro-biologically hard-wired to connect, conditioned mind becomes “stuck” in reactionary life position.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology.

This study and many others from Harvard Medical School demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing. There are many ways to cultivate the efficacy of mindfulness through repetition and regular practice until it becomes a natural everyday occurrence. Being in a mindfulness community in the immediacy of daily life is the hallmark of wellbeing.

BE the OBSERVER

Complex trauma, addiction, depression chronic stress and anxiety are treatable addiction and mental healthcare concerns. I recommend joining a recovery online and or on site community. Profound, and life changing  healing happens when we connect with  like-minded people can symbolise  the beginning of trusting the ebb and flow process, how we learn to become the observer. Become curious. Asking  yourself the following  questions is connecting the dots…

What would love do?
Who am I?
What do I want?
What is my purpose?
What am I grateful for?

I became over time comfortable asking soul questions – with peers at first led to seeking professional help, as id joins a recovery community a 12 step-group became my conduit to change and this encounter with recovering  addicts – like me-   spawned an unstoppable  interest in seeking out the plethora of  pathways to wellbeing.

A music therapist friend took me to the Vedanta Centre in NYC, 1988. A  wonderful morning puja, part musical part Hindi poetry, followed by a meeting with remarkable people was an invitation to  an emergent  awareness.

An informal introduction with the Swami Bhuteshananda inspired me to begin attending meditation retreats to learn more about the mind and body. Initially it was Upstate New York to the Vedanta Societies retreat centre. Then gloriously enriching  India,  where I eventually settled for a wildly transformative year. Culturally unstoppable, chaotic, with many totemic and embodiments of humanity,  God-like archetypes that tick the wish-list  for all of life’s wants, needs, cravings and aspirations.

We continue to travel to sacred sites all over the planet: Australia,  Scotland,  Europe, Egypt and Istanbul, because there  are many pathways to healing, and meditation continues to be my bedrock that helps me realign, reclaim peace of mind and body, happiness and love,  and so much more. in 1988.   The journey continues.

Peter Levine – Polyvagal Theory

 

 

 

Peter A. Levine draws on his broad experience as a clinician, a student of comparative brain research, a stress scientist and a keen observer of the naturalistic animal world to explain the nature and transformation of trauma in the body, brain and psyche.

 The Polyvagal Theory

If animals were physically restrained and frightened, they would go into a profoundly altered state of consciousness where they were frozen and immobilized, unable to move. And it turns out that this is one of the key survival features that animals use to protect themselves from threat—in this case from extreme threat. Actually there are three basic neural energy subsystems. These three systems underpin the overall state of the nervous system as well as the correlative behaviors and emotions, leading to three defensive strategies to threat.
MY: That’s the polyvagal theory developed by Stephen Porges?
PL: Yes. These systems are orchestrated by the primitive structures in our brainstem—the upper part of the brainstem. They’re instinctive and they’re almost reflexive. The tonic immobility is the most primitive system, and it spans probably over 500 million years. It is a combination of freezing and collapsing—the muscles go limp, the person is left without any energy. The next in evolutionary development is the sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight response. And this system evolved from the reptilian period which was about 300 million years ago. And its function is enhanced action, and, as I said, fight-or-flight. Finally the third and most recent system is the social engagement system, and this occurs only in mammals. Its purpose is to drive social engagement—making friends—in order to defuse the aggression or tension.
VY: So this is when we’re feeling threatened or stressed we want to talk to our friends and family?
PL: Yeah, exactly. Or if somebody’s really angry at us, we want to explain what happened so they don’t strike out at us. Obviously most people won’t strike out, but we’re still hardwired for those kinds of expectations.
VY: Most people have a general sense of the fight-or-flight, but would you just say a few words on it?
PL: Basically, in the fight-or-flight response, the objective is to get away from the source of threat. All of our muscles prepare for this escape by increasing their tension level, our heart rate and respiration increase, and our whole basic metabolic system is flooded with adrenaline. Blood is diverted to the muscles, away from the viscera.

The goal is to run away, or if we feel that we can’t escape or if we perceive that the individual that’s trying to attack us is less strong than we are, to attack them. Or if we’re cornered by a predator—in other words, if there’s no way to escape—then we’ll fight back. Now, if none of those procedures are effective, and it looks like we’re going to be killed, we go into the shock state, the tonic immobility.

Now the key is that when people get into this immobility state, they do it in a state of fear. And as they come out of the immobility state, they also enter a state of fear, and actually a state in which they are prepared for what sometimes is called rage counterattack.
MY: Can you say more about that?
PL: For example, you see a cat chasing a mouse. The cat catches the mouse and has it in its paws, and the mouse goes into this immobility response. And sometimes you’ll actually see the cat bat the mouse around a little bit until it comes out of the immobility, because it wants the chase to go on. Now, what can happen is that the mouse, when it comes out of the immobility state, goes into what is called nondirective flight. It doesn’t even look for where it can run. It just runs as fast as it can in any direction. Sometimes that’s right into the cat. Other times, it will actually attack, in a counterattack of rage.

 

I’ve actually seen a mouse who was captured by a cat come out of the immobility and attack the cat’s nose. The cat was so startled it remained there in that state while the mouse scurried away. When people come out of this immobility response, their potential for rage is so strong and the associated sensations are so intense that they are afraid of their own impulse to strike out and to defend themselves by killing the predator. Again, this all goes back to our animal heritage.

So the key I found was in helping people come out of this immobility response without fear. Now, with Nancy, I was lucky. If it were not for that image, I could just as easily have retraumatized her. As a matter of fact, some of the therapies that were being developed around that time frequently retraumatized people.

I think particularly of Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy, where people would be yelling and screaming out, supposedly getting out all of their locked-in emotions, but a lot of times they were actually terrorizing themselves with the rage and then they would go back into a shutdown, and then be encouraged to “relive” another memory, and then this cycle would continue.
MY: It becomes addictive sometimes, right?
PL: That’s correct. It literally becomes addictive. And one of the reasons is that when you do these kinds of relivings, there’s a tremendous release of adrenaline. There’s also a release of endorphins, which is the brain’s internal opiate system. In animals, these endorphins allow the prey to go into a state of shock-analgesia and not feel the pain of being torn apart.

When people relive the trauma, they recreate a similar neurochemical system that occurred at the time of the trauma, the release of adrenaline and endorphins. Now, adrenaline is addictive, it is like getting a speed high. [section;And they get addicted not only to the adrenaline but to the endorphins; it’s like having a drug cocktail of amphetamines and morphine.

So when I was at Esalen I actually noticed that people would come to these groups, they would yell and scream, tear a pillow apart that was their mother or their father, and they would feel high. They would feel really great. But then when they would come back a few weeks later, they would go through exactly the same thing again. And that’s what gave me a clue to the fact that this might be addictive.

Releasing Trauma from the Body

VY: So getting back to Nancy, from what you observed and what you learned from the animals’ various responses, what was your understanding of what happened with Nancy and what you did that was actually helpful?
PL: What was helpful is that her body learned that in that time of overwhelming threat she could not defend herself. She lost all of her power. Her muscles were all tight. She was struggling to get away—this was the flight response—to get out of that, to get away from those people who were holding her down and to run out of the room and back to her parents. I mean, that’s what her body wanted to do, her body needed to do—to get out of there and get back to where she could be protected.

So what happened is all of this activation, this “energy” that was locked into her body when she was trying to escape and then was overwhelmed, was still there in a latent form. When we’re overwhelmed like that, the energy just doesn’t go away—it gets locked very deeply in the body. That’s the key. It gets locked in the muscles.
MY: And that’s the foundation of your understanding of trauma—this locking of energy?
PL: That’s right, exactly. How the energy, how this activation gets locked in the body and in the nervous system.
MY: And so your objective is to help the person release that energy?
PL: Yes, to release that energy, but also to re-channel that energy into an active response, so then the body has a response of power, of its own capacity to regulate, and the person comes out of this shutdown state into a process in which they re-own their own vital energy—we use the term “life energy.”

It’s not generally used in psychology but I think it’s a term that is profound in people’s health, that people feel that they have the energy to live their life fully, and that they have the capacity to direct this energy in powerful and productive ways.
VY: Now obviously you’re just giving a snapshot of the case and we can’t capture the depth and the nuances of it. But someone who doesn’t know about this could think it sounds a little simplistic.

This woman had a tonsillectomy decades ago, and you’re having this one session with her and somehow you’re freeing up some energy that was trapped back then. How would you respond to that?
PL: Well, it was simplistic, and of course I was to learn that one-time cures were not always the case. However, over the years I started to develop a systematic approach where the person could gradually access these energies and these body sensations—not all at once, but one little bit at a time. It’s a process that I call titration. I borrowed that term from chemistry.

The image that I use is that of mixing an acid and a base together. If you put them together, there can be an explosion. But if you take it one drop at a time, there is a little fizzle and eventually the system neutralizes. Not only does it neutralize but after you do this titration a certain number of times, you get an end result of salt and water. So instead of having these toxic substances, you have the basic building blocks of life,

I use this analogy to describe one of the techniques I use in my work with trauma patients.You’re not actually exposing the person to a trauma—you’re restoring the responses that were overwhelmed, which is what led to the trauma in the first place.You’re not actually exposing the person to a trauma—you’re restoring the responses that were overwhelmed, which is what led to the trauma in the first place.

 

 

Healthy vagal tone is noticed  by a slight increase of heart rate when you inhale, and a decrease of heart rate when you exhale. Deep diaphragmatic breathing—with a long, slow exhale—is key to stimulating the vagus nerve and slowing heart rate and blood pressure, especially in times of performance anxiety. A higher vagal tone index is linked to physical and psychological well-being. A low vagal tone index is linked to inflammation, negative moods, isolation,and heart attacks. 

Heart disease is the number one killer according to World Health studies. There are a few ways  to improve your heart-health: Yoga, meditation, breath-work,  and  meditation. 

Well conditioned athletes have higher vagal tone because aerobic breathing creates healthy vagal tone, which results in a lower resting heart rate. Healthy cardiac function is directly linked to stimulating the vagus nerve. 

The  German physiologist  Otto Loewi  (1921) discovered that by stimulating the vagus nerve caused a reduction in heart rate thereby  triggering the release of a substance  he coinedVagusstoff (German: “Vagus Substance”). The “vagus substance” was later identified as acetylcholine and became the first neurotransmitter identified by scientists.  

Vagusstuff  is literally a tranquilizer that you can self-administer simply by taking a few deep breaths with long exhales. You can consciously tap the power of your vagus nerve to create inner-calm on demand. This knowledge alone should be enough to reduce the fear -of-fear-itself and give you grace under pressure next time you need it.

What exactly is the vagus nerve?

The word vagus means “wandering” in Latin. The words vagabond, vague, and vagrant come from the same root. The vagus nerve is known as the wandering nerve because it has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the lowest viscera of your abdomen touching your heart and most major organs along the way. 

The vagus nerve is constantly sending sensory information about the state of the body’s organs “upstream”  to your brain. In fact, 80-90% of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve are dedicated to communicating the state of your viscera up to your brain. When people say “trust your gut” they are in many ways saying, “trust your vagus nerve.” Visceral feelings and gut-instincts are literally emotional intuitions transferred up to your brain via the vagus nerve.

As with any mind-body feedback loop, messages also travel “downstream” from your conscious mind through the vagus nerve signaling your organs to create an inner-calm so you can “rest-and-digest” during times of safety or to prepare your body for “fight-or-flight” in dangerous situations.

Your vagus nerve is the commander-in-chief when it comes to having grace under pressure. The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two polar opposite systems that create a complementary tug-of-war which allows your body to maintain homeostasis (inner-stability).

The sympathetic nervous system is geared to rev you up like the gas pedal in an automobile – it thrives on adrenaline and cortisol and is part of the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system is the polar opposite. The vagus nerve is command central for the function of your parasympathetic nervous system. It is geared to slow you down like the brakes on your car and uses neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and GABA to literally lower heart rate, blood pressure, and help your heart and organs slow down. 

Unfortunately, the vagus nerve’s reflexive responses can backfire and turn it from comrade into saboteur. Anytime you psyche yourself out before an important event, feel intimidated, or insecure your vagus nerve interprets that you are in real danger which exacerbates these negative responses.

All of the physical symptoms of performance anxiety—racing heart, sweaty palms, dry mouth, upset stomach, shakiness—are the result of your vagus nerve disengaging. Luckily, you have the power to harness your vagus nerve and keep it engaged to create grace under pressure. By understanding  the incredible power of your vagus nerve you can begin practicing ways to flex its inhibitory strength to keep you mellow in times of distress.

When you do body scan see if you can connect deeper into the energy of each of the following organs: 

Heart. Abdomen, stomach, upper intestines, liver, gallbladder, kidney, pancreas, adrenal glands, spleen, middle spine behind the solar plexus.

You may  have in the past experienced health problems i.e. Arthritis, gastric or duodenal ulcers, colon/intestinal problems, pancreatitis/diabetes, chronic or acute indigestion, anorexia, bulemia, liver dysfunction, hepatitis, adrenal dysfunction.

Your relation map may have been disrupted by : 
Trust, fear, intimidation, low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, loss self-respect, low-ambition,  lack of courage, in ability to handle crisis, inconsistent  self care, of yourself, sensitivity to criticism, fear of rejection and looking inadequate , physical appearance anxieties, an absence of strength of character.

Questions for Self-Examination
1.Do you like yourself?

2.What don’t you like and why.Are you actively working to change the things about yourself you don’t like?

3.Are you honest? Do you sometimes misrepresent the truth? Why?

4.Are you critical of others? Do you blame others as a way of protecting yourself?

5.Are you able to admit when you are wrong? Are you open to feedback from other people about yourself?

6.Do you need the approval of others? If so, why?Do you consider yourself strong or weak?

7.Are you afraid of taking care of yourself?

8.Have you been in a relationship with a person you didn’t really love, but it seemed better than being alone?

9.Do you respect yourself? Can you decide to make changes in your life and then stick to your commitment?

10.Are you afraid of responsibility? Or, do you feel responsible for everything and everyone? Are you continually wishing your life were different? If so, are you doing anything to change it, or have you resigned yourself to the situation?

1st Step is Commitment

The first step is commitment. In every life you are meant to commit. That is why the word is commit-meant. Commitment gives you CHARACTER.

2nd Step is Character

Character is when all your characteristics-all facets, flaws, and facts-are under your control. Yin and yang meet there, totally balanced. Character gives you DIGNITY.

3rd Step is Dignity

People start trusting you, liking you, respecting you. Dignity will give you DIVINITY.

4th Step is Divinity

What is Divinity? Divinity is when people have no duality about you. They trust you right away. They have no fear about you. Divinity gives you GRACE.

5th Step is Grace

Where there is grace, there is no interference, no gap between two people, no hidden agenda. Grace gives you the power to SACRIFICE.

6th Step is Power to Sacrifice

You can stand any pain for that person. That sacrifice gives you HAPPINESS.

7th Step is Happiness

Meditation is one of the most crucial aspects to cultivating  equanimity. Meditation changed my life  30 years ago.

A balanced  way to  be present, congruent, boost self care, esteem and intuition.

Re- connect to  your truth, make wise, skillful choices, improve communication, increase creativity, productivity and let go.

The benefits of meditation are:

Energize and balance the brain
Strengthen the  immune system
Tune the  nervous system
Resonate our DNA and cellular structure
Enhance relaxation
Reduce stress
Heighten  consciousness

Daily recovery management regimes  requires  “spiritual-muscle” maintenance in the form of regular  meditation to sustain the necessary motivation to change maladaptive behaviours  fuelled by intensity, insecurity, diminished confidence and low/no-self-esteem.Stilling the mind requires practice,practice, practice. Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself.”Yogananda

Pay attention  if your “chattering monkey-mind” tells you to  stop meditating/you are doing it wrong etc –  in meditation there is no right or wrong – simply bring your mind back to your breath – think only about breathing.  It helps to meditate in the same place each day.  Be comfortable;  sit, or  lie down and always  do what feels appropriate  for you as long as it is somewhere quiet at first -later as you become more adept, push yourself to drop into a meditative state without the need to control the environment in which you are in.

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“The sound of silence is accurate”

Mark Rothko

Silence is superb for de-stressing the mind/body connection from stimulation overload.Non-doing is undoing the intellectual constrains that keep us disconnected from all that is. Meditative traditions teach us to rest, to slow down and this distresses our thinking, auto-piolot stance. Awareness is boundless and infinitely available.

Jon Kabat-Zinn  is an extraordinary mindfulness teacher.  Through science and experience, mindfulness is a way of life. This is wisdom with immediate relevance to the ordinary and extreme stresses of our time — from economic peril, to parenting, to life in a digital age.

 

 

During breathing for Pranayama inhalation stimulates the system and fills the lungs with fresh air; retention raises the internal temperature and plays an important part in increasing the absorption of oxygen; exhalation causes the diaphragm to return to the original position and any toxins and impurities is forced out by the contraction of inter-costal muscles.

 

These are the main components leading to Pranayama which massage the abdominal muscles and tone up the working of various organs of the body. Due to the proper functions of these organs , vital energy flows to all the systems. The success of Pranayama depends on proper ratios being maintained between inhalation, exhalation and retention.

Life is beautiful when we choose health and happiness.

Breath of Life Conference. Panel Discussion.

Wearing Your Heart on Your Face: The PolyVagal circuit in the consulting room

By Ryan Howes

We have two options in the face of perceived danger: fight or flight. But that was before neuroscientist Stephen Porges, author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation, undertook his research into the relationship between human physiology and social engagement.

Porges’s work—which noted researcher Paul Ekman called “a truly revolutionary perspective on human nature”—dramatically broadens our understanding of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, and explains how our bodies and brains interact with one another to regulate our physiological states.

However, what may be more pertinent to therapists is the extent to which our autonomic nervous systems influence long-term issues with intimacy and trust. In the interview that follows, Porges offers some research-based insights into how therapists can more effectively convey safety to clients and clarifies the evolutionary roots of anxiety, depression, and trauma.

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RH: Can you explain your Polyvagal Theory in simple terms?

Porges: It’s hard to make it simple, but let’s try by starting with what we’ve all learned about the autonomic nervous system. It’s a pair of antagonistic systems: the sympathetic supports mobilization, and the parasympathetic supports immobilization, usually associated with relaxation, growth, and restoration. In the past, we tended to believe that stress responses were, in general, vested within the sympathetic nervous system’s capacity to support fight-or-flight behaviors.

But there’s another defense system, unrelated to the sympathetic nervous system and dependent on the parasympathetic nervous system. The mechanisms and adaptive function of this defense system are impossible to understand from the paired antagonism model. The parasympathetic defense response is mediated through a vagal circuit producing a behavioral shutdown such as fainting or, from a clinical perspective, dissociation. This defense system doesn’t fit within the fight-or-flight model. Nor does it fit within the view that the vagus, the major nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system, mediates calmness and induces resilience and health.

RH: Your work suggests that our autonomic systems are better thought of as hierarchical, rather than competing.

Porges: Right. The vertebrate autonomic nervous system has changed through stages of evolution, and the human autonomic nervous system shares several of these autonomic circuits with more ancient vertebrates. Functionally, our autonomic nervous system is composed of three phylogenetically organized subsystems. We utilize our newest systems first, and when they don’t work, we recruit older ones. In terms of evolution, the newest autonomic circuit is a uniquely mammalian vagal circuit, which inhibits the heart rate by placing a tonic inhibition on the heart’s pacemaker.

This circuit also inhibits sympathetic activity. The brainstem areas controlling this neural pathway coordinate the nerves controlling the muscles in the face and head. So people are literally showing their heart on their face. That’s because humans are social beings who have to convey to one another that we’re safe to come close to, to hug, and in some cases, to have sex with. To convey this message of safety, we utilize the newest vagal circuit to down-regulate our sympathetic defenses and present cues of safety when it’s appropriate. While the face is a crucial vehicle for this, the voice also plays an important role in conveying a physiological state of calm. If the voice has a higher-pitched frequency, it’s saying, “Don’t come near me.”

The thing to bear in mind is that the vagal circuit is both expressive and receptive. That’s why you feel calmer when I use a soothing, prosodic voice. When the vagal circuit is working, our middle-ear muscles change our capacity to hear predators or low-frequency sounds. Middle-ear muscles, similar to the muscles of the face, are regulated by the brainstem area that controls the mammalian vagal circuit. Typically, when there’s something in the environment that threatens us, we turn off the vagal circuit, because it inhibits our ability to mobilize: it gets in the way of moving to fight or to flee.

RH: That’s because it’s the vagal system that makes us freeze, right?

Porges: Yes, but there are two vagal systems. The root of the Polyvagal Theory is the recognition that in the absence of the ability to fight or flee, the body’s only effective defense is to immobilize and shut down. This can be observed as fainting or nausea, both features of an ancient vagal circuit that reptiles use for defense. However, unlike the uniquely mammalian vagal pathway, these vagal pathways are unmyelinated, and are only effective as a defense system when the newer circuits, including the sympathetic nervous system, are no longer available for interaction and defense.

Our reptilian ancestor was similar to a turtle, and the primary defense for a turtle is to immobilize, inhibit breathing, and lower metabolic demands. Although immobilization may be effective for reptiles, it can be life-threatening for mammals, and for humans it can lead to states of dissociation. The Polyvagal Theory provides a way of seeing how the organization of our nervous system can shape our understanding of clinical disorders and issues, enabling us to see symptoms like dissociation not as bad behaviors, but as adaptive reactions to cues in the environment that trigger our physiological responses to perceived dangers.

Think about it this way. When you want to calm a person down, you smile and talk to them in a soothing way. The nervous system detects these cues and down-regulates or inhibits the sympathetic nervous system. But when the sympathetic nervous system is activated as a defense system, it turns off all those social-engagement behaviors.

Clinicians are aware of that. But what they often don’t understand is the role of the vagal system in shutting down as a defensive strategy in response to a life threat. When someone is immobilized, held down, or abused, the vagal system is triggered, and they may disassociate or pass out—or perhaps drop dead or defecate. It’s an adaptive response.

I often talk about immobilization with fear and contrast it to immobilization without fear. The mouse in the jaws of a cat is immobilized with fear. The mouse isn’t voluntarily playing dead; it’s fainted. But someone in the embrace of a lover, parent, child, or friend is immobilized without fear.

RH: We might call that stillness, or peace.
Porges: Right, you’re still, but you’re being present. For reptiles and more primitive vertebrates, the primary defense system was to disappear—to immobilize, stop breathing, and look like you’re dead. For mammals, immobilization is a risky business. We have to be selective about whom we can feel still, calm, and comfortable with.
Many clients have difficulty feeling comfortable in the arms of another. They can’t immobilize without fear.

If you go through their clinical histories, you’ll find that many were severely abused and had experiences of being forcedly held down. These experiences of forced immobilization trigger fear responses and shutting down. Those who survive these experiences don’t want to be immobilized and find it difficult to be held and calmed, even by people who are trying to be helpful. This response is often expressed as anxiety and a need to keep moving, which is a functional defense to a fear of immobilization. Often individuals with a history of immobilization with fear will adaptively become anxious and go into panic states to avoid this immobilization state. This is a problem many therapists see in their practices.

RH: What are the practical implications of Polyvagal Theory for clinical work?

Porges: It heightens our appreciation of the role of creating safety in therapy. For example, our bodies, physiologically, are extraordinarily sensitive to low-frequency sounds. We, like other mammals, interpret these low-frequency sounds as predatory. If your clinical office is bombarded with sounds from ventilation systems, elevators, or traffic sounds, your client’s physiology is going to be in this more hypervigilant defense mode. Likewise, if you sit some people in the middle of the room away from a wall, they may become hypervigilant and concerned with what’s going on behind them. If we’re not safe, we’re going to assume that neutral faces are angry faces.

We’re going to assume the worst because that’s what our nervous system tells us to do. As vertebrates evolved into mammals, they had to interact with other mammals for survival. They needed to detect the social cues and identify when it was safe to be with another mammal. Thus, vocalizations in social contexts are less about syntax and language and more about the intonation conveying emotional state. Again, this is critical in therapy because the intonation of voice conveys more information about the physiology of the client than the syntax.

RH: In other words, how you’re saying something means more than what you’re saying.

 

Porges: Absolutely. When you were an undergraduate, what were the lectures that put you to sleep? Was it the college professor who was off in space, who basically read from notes and had no prosodic features and no engagement? Social communication has little to do with syntax and a lot to do with intonation, gestures, and a cluster of behaviors we would call biological movement.

The face is moving along with the voice and hand gestures. The behavioral features trigger areas of our brain outside the realm of consciousness and change our physiology, enabling us to feel closer and safer with another. Good therapy and good social relations, good parenting, good teaching, it’s all about the same thing—how do you turn off defensiveness? When you turn defense systems off, you have accessibility to different cortical areas for more profound understanding, learning, and skill development.

Ryan Howes, PhD, is a psychologist, writer, musician, and clinical professor at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology in Pasadena, California. website: www.ryanhowes.net.