Podcast: Your Life in Process
I continue to explore more ways to reset and heal our nervous system and enjoyed this conversation with someone whose work I deeply respect, Dr. Stephen Porges. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from this conversation:
“Our physiological state influences our behavior.”
Put another way, Brene Brown in a Forbes interview stated:
“We like to think we are rational beings who occasionally have an emotion and flick it away,” But rather, she says: “We are emotional, feeling beings; who, on rare occasions, think.”
When our physiological state changes, it happens often outside our conscious awareness. When we are perceiving any kind of threat, our muscles involuntarily constrict, heart rate quickens, we may sweat and breathing becomes shallow and fast. This is okay if we are faced with an actual threat, but many of us are in a state of constant fight/flight/freeze. When our body is in this physiological state, our rational part of our brain is severely compromised. Our judgement, decision-making, problem-solving and creativity are nearly inaccessible. You cannot think your way out fight/flight/freeze.
It’s important for us to be aware of what is happening at that physiological level. Notice how often your muscles are tense (you may find it’s more often than not), when you have a strong emotion, intrusive thought or behavior that feels out of character, pause and notice what you are experiencing in your body. Can you slow rapid breathing through deep intentional breaths? Can you release the tension in your muscles? Can you cool your body with a glass of cold water?
The conversation goes on to explore how being in fight/flight impacts our relationships with others.
“We are human and when our physiological state shifts from this calm, engaging, sensible state to a state of threat at any level, our behavior with others is biased toward protecting ourselves at the expense of everything around us.”
Our mood and physiological state are influenced by the physiological states of those around us. If we are around someone who is angry or aggressive, we may go into a protective stance, if we are around someone who is feeling anxious or fearful, we may start experiencing that same restless energy in our bodies. Others can also be a source of safety and security. It was especially interesting Dr. Porges’ perspective on the pandemic and how this ‘retuned’ our nervous system, especially as we perceive others.
When we are perceiving threat, many of us will go to others for a sense of comfort and security. We turn to friends or family, perhaps even our colleagues for what is known as co-regulation. During the pandemic, these very sources of safety and support suddenly became threats themselves. Our view of socialization was completely transformed and many of us are still recovering our past views of socialization as being ‘nourishing’ and not threatening.
There are a few strategies that are shared at the end for resetting and healing our nervous system. They also explore the concept of safety and this question, who would you be if you felt safe enough?
It’s a conversation packed with a lot of great wisdom and insight. I hope you enjoy it!