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How to Get Emotionally Unstuck During the Pandemic

How to Get Emotionally Unstuck During the Pandemic

One of the hallmarks of trauma are feeling powerless, stuck and unable to change the situation we are in. And that is because when traumatic events occurred we were a victim of our circumstances and had no way of avoiding or changing what has happened.

For example, when we were children, we didn’t have any choice in how our caregivers responded to us. And a real threat as this pandemic brings tied with the feeling of being stuck inside the house and maybe seeing that old soothing tools/things that used to make us feel better are no longer help us may bring us back to those early times when we had no choice and no way to make things better for ourselves.

If you feel this way, this post is to let you know you are not alone.

Feeling like we cannot find relief no matter what we do can be so challenging and you have all the reasons to feel activated and even angry at the situation. Actually, I encourage you to allow the anger to come up and release it in healthy ways – maybe going for a run or shouting into a pillow.

And I also want to let you know that even when things seem as stuck as they used to be, our current adult version has options.

Get unstuck

Here’s a few things that may help us show our nervous system that we are not back in the traumatic event, but in a present where we can do things to get unstuck:

  1. Notice when thoughts like “nothing works, there is no point” pop up and try to look at them like an observer “I am having the thought that nothing works” without arguing with that thought
  2. Get back into your body – get curious about the sensations you are feeling and gently look around and describe the place you are in (out loud or mentally) – this will bring yourself back into the present
  3. Seek evidence when the tools you use do work, or simply when you are feeling more centered. Take out your phone or a piece of paper and write down “I felt anxious and I have tried x or y soothing tool and I actually feel calmer” or “Even though this days I have the thoughts that it does not get better, I now notice my mind is more clear and I am enjoying my cup of coffee”
  4. If you tried soothing tools that did not work, that’s okay. Our job is to simply bring our attention back into the present moment as many times as we can with orientating tools like taking in the surroundings to show our nervous system that we are no longer back when we were stuck and powerless. With practice, this can help us heal the past and disconfirm the beliefs that we are powerless.

You are not alone and whatever you are going through makes so much sense.

Remember – We are navigating these challenging times together.

Sending love,

Sorina

What are the Fight, Flight and Freeze Responses?

What are the Fight, Flight and Freeze Responses?

Our bodies have two complementary nervous systems: 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝘆𝗺𝗽𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗰 (arousing) and 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘀𝘆𝗺𝗽𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗰 (calming). Both are needed not only for psychological balance but for survival. Without a parasympathetic modification, the heart would beat too quickly to sustain life.

In an ideal situation, there is a smooth balance between the two nervous systems. The sympathetic is dominant in action, exercise, emotional and sexual arousal, as well as in stressful situations. The parasympathetic takes over in relaxation, sleep, meditation, massage, gentle touch, connecting deeply with another person etc.

When there is a real or perceived threat, the sympathetic system automatically goes to a fight or flight response. Either fighting or fleeing can resolve the stress. If neither is possible or successful, the sympathetic arousal can get so extreme that it is too much for the body to handle, going into total shutdown mode, sending the person into a state of freeze.

This can be a full collapse, dissociation, or a more partial freeze such as an inability to think clearly or access words or emotions, or to move parts of the body.

We see this intense response in animals as well short term—example: the goat that freezes completely when scared. However, animals get out of the freeze response once the threat is gone. For humans, on the other side, it can continue even after the threat is gone.

Knowing how these states manifest is crucial for understanding how we should self-soothe and show our bodies we are now safe. Trying to convince ourselves to get out of these states is futile since even entering these states is not something we do with awareness – The amygdala perceives the threat even before cognition happens. That’s why we may have panic attacks even though nothing threatening has actually happened.

Photo source: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-stay-calm-in-a-chaotic-stressed-out-world/

 

 

How to Heal Avoidant Attachment Style

How to Heal Avoidant Attachment Style

Background

People with avoidant attachment styles have a tendency to stay away from intimacy or to diminish the importance of relationships. They often were neglected: left alone too much as children, rejected by their caregivers, or their parents weren’t present enough (or only present when teaching them some type of task). Those with avoidant attachment have disconnected from their attachment system, so reconnecting to others in safe and healthy ways is extremely important.

For a child who is supposed to be nurtured and soothed by their caregivers, having no one to reach out for having those needs met is terrifying. And, to stay alive, the child learned to repress those needs and pretend like they don’t have any simply because there was no one there to respond to them.

I know that having these survival mechanisms might have contributed to you finding no reasons for building a long-lasting relationship. And by all means, that is a personal choice we all can make.

But my mission here is to share with you the reason why romantic relationships can be nourishing and can actually enhance our good traits, because you probably may be thinking about all the reasons why romantic relationships are actually a distraction and a lot of work. Even the most successful people say they could not be where they are without the secure base provided by their partners. Tony Robbins, the international coach, public speaker and philanthropist who helps millions of couples repair their relationships mentioned in an interview how his wife Sage offers him the safety and security that enabled him to carry on ruthlessly in his professional career. He is one of the millions of examples available that shows us true love replenishes us and creates a safe base for us to thrive and develop our innate strength and capacities.

Blocks

Some of the people with avoidant tendencies are looking for a relationship and might feel like their intention is to find a good partner for them, yet the only problem is that they cannot find that good enough partner. What happens here is that even though the need for a relationship may come up, we subconsciously still find a way to sabotage it. The way we can do this is by looking for reasons why no partner is good enough, finding ourselves ending every relationship at the first small bump in the road. This is because when we look to escape love no matter what, we will find many opportunities to do so. The work is learning to love people despite their flaws, as no human being on this planet is perfect.

Another trait commonly seen with avoidant attachment style might be the fact they may be unaware of their needs. Let’s not forget that they had to repress their basic needs and emotions early on, so they are so used to repressing them that they lost touch with what they want and what their needs are.

If you have this attachment style, it is understandable why you repressed your needs and felt overwhelmed with how much your caregivers sometimes burdened you with their emotional turmoil. And this is why you are so terrified by people who seem to want it all from you. Because it felt terrifying back then.

But I want you to know that staying alive is no longer the only goal. You can thrive and you can enjoy receiving and giving a love that is balanced and nourishing. I know that love seemed draining so far, but that was simply because you had to keep it all together and not let yourself feel. Because, how could your inner child think it’s safe to feel when he or she never had those feelings acknowledged and seen early on?

I promise you that romantic love can be nourishing.

I want you to know that sharing these tendencies is simply for awareness purposes – we cannot change what we are unaware of. We all have some insecure traits on a spectrum so please do not feel like there is something wrong with you.

Here are a few steps to begin healing avoidant attachment:

• Understand and come to terms with the fact that the lack of care you received was unfair. But what you do from here is within your power
• Know there is no perfect partner that is going to be exactly what you need. Everyone will have flaws. You just need to differentiate between flaws and red flags. We all love someone who has flaws, and that is okay. We all have our dark side.
• Know that you are going to feel like wanting to run away when you will get close to someone. Your tendency will be to find flaws in them – that will be your weapon to feel at peace with the fact that you want and may run away
• Look at all the reasons why this attachment style is no longer serving you – we all need deep connection and this attachment style may push people away that actually might have been that special someone for you.

You have been hurt. I see you. I feel your pain. That was not right and a child should never have to go through that. You were just a child and you needed to be allowed to have needs.

If you want to learn more on attachment styles, the attachment course comprises all the tools to heal your attachment trauma, to reprogram your beliefs around love and to heal the pursuer distancer dynamic, there is a container teaching you exactly this here: https://mindfultricks.teachable.com/p/how-to-heal-insecure-attachment-styles

With all the love
Sorina

 

How To Heal Anxious Attachment Style

How To Heal Anxious Attachment Style

People with ambivalent or anxious attachment deal with a lot of anxiety in relationships. Their caregivers showed them love in an inconsistent way, the reason why they never knew when they will get their needs met, and when they will not, leaving them hypervigilant and insecure.

Having suffered actual abandonment or experienced the death of their caregiver, they can be overly aware of any hint of abandonment, which activates their defense mechanisms, sending them into the fight, flight or even freeze response. That means that at the slightest change in their partner’s behavior their defense mechanisms will show up in an attempt to keep them alive, leaving little room for the rational brain to come online (it can be even a slight shift in the way their partner responds or behave).

The tendency for those anxiously attached is to reach out to their partner to get comforted. Growing up with caregivers that were meeting their needs at times (maybe when they were crying louder or when they threw a tantrum), they learned that their needs can and should be met by others. As infants, they did not feel safe enough to explore the surroundings because they were afraid that if they are not hypervigilant and instead will go exploring, their parents will not be there when they will return.

This healthy exploration creates the idea that the world is safe enough for us to explore it. Without this foundation, we grow up hypervigilant and wary of people’s intentions.

A secure child not only has the foundation to go out and explore the world but is also taught how to self-soothe and process their own emotions by having a parent who is attuned with them (not one that takes over their emotional turbulence). In other words, an anxious parent will be distressed when the child is distressed, while a secure parent will hold space for the child’s emotions and bring them to a sense of calm instead of borrowing their emotional state.

The fact that people with an anxious tendency did not receive healthy modeling of how to deal with their emotions yet had their needs met at times, left them craving outside safety and soothing without allowing them to learn how to comfort and self-soothe themselves.

As I always say, these are simply adaptations. It’s the way we’ve learned to survive and it takes time and conscious effort to teach our nervous system that we are safe now.

Since for us, those with anxious attachment, rejection, and abandonment meant that our lives were in danger, the healing occurs when we teach our nervous system that losing a partner is no longer a threat to our survival. We are adults and we now have the tools to not only stay alive, but create a life where love is nourishing and stable. Where we are comfortable with knowing that even if our partner will leave, we will be more than okay.

“Yes, But . . .”

I loved the adaptation Diane Poole Heller talks about in The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships book. She talks about the “Yes, but” response that we develop as a survival response. As a child with unreliable parents, if you take in those rare moments of love and support, you open yourself up to a lot of additional pain when the abandonment happens later. So you learn to overlook the good things that feel too threatening. This continues in love relationships where even if the situation has drastically changed, your attachment system doesn’t know this. Our job is to be aware of this tendency and know that we have to be intentional in observing what our partner does good. I suggest starting a gratitude journal or keeping a notebook close to write down whenever your partner does something you appreciate. This way, whenever you feel like you tend to think that they never do something good or that they don’t love you, you have all the proof that says otherwise.

How to start healing this attachment style?

Our inner child needs the soothing they never had from the caregiver. To show up as our adult, healthy and loving self, we have to learn to provide that soothing to them when we feel triggered. To remember it’s not our partner’s responsibility to soothe us, but ours.

The moment we feel the abandonment and rejection kicking in – we have to pause. The stories about how we will end up alone and abandoned will keep on going. But the adult inside of us can take control.

Your mission is to show your inner child that YOU won’t abandon him/her. That’s all they want to know. And no one besides you will ever be able to provide them the love and comfort that they expect from you, the now adult.

After you feel calm again, take a piece of paper and write down similar affirmations, while holding the image of your inner child in mind:

You are safe now with me
I will always be here to hold you when you are scared
I won’t ever turn my back to you when you feel alone
I will always have your back when you need me
My partner’s rejection is not a direct reflection of my worth

In time, you will learn that self-love is not outsourced. No one can give us self love and validation, and that’s what we need the most. You’ll learn to be rejected and not feel abandoned.

I’ll say that again – We can all be rejected without feeling abandoned. Actually, we can be rejected and know it has nothing to do with our worth.

Don’t forget – the more we detach ourselves from our attachment tendencies and we can see them as the child within us who just wants love and protection, the more we are able to work with, not against our attachment style.

If you want to learn more on attachment styles, the attachment course comprises all the tools to heal your attachment trauma, to reprogram your beliefs around love and to heal the pursuer distancer dynamic, there is a container teaching you exactly this here: https://mindfultricks.teachable.com/p/how-to-heal-insecure-attachment-styles

How to Challenge Automatic Thoughts: Our Mental Enemies

How to Challenge Automatic Thoughts: Our Mental Enemies

How many times didn’t we get all caught up in negative thoughts that put us in a down spiral that can last for hours, days or even weeks? We tend to identify so much with that inner voice that criticizes and punishes and end up acting and think in negative and self-punitive ways. Be it a colleague that made a mean comment or a spouse that hurt our feelings, we tend to ruminate on those events thinking it would make our life easier, when it just makes everything worse. The first step in making our life easier is realizing we are not our thoughts, which is a huge realization in the process of deidentifying with thoughts and engaging with them.

Thoughts influence our emotions, feelings and behaviors. Irrational thoughts lead to dysfunctional negative emotions that can be toxic and can affect the wat we live. Thoughts can lead to anxiety, anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness, and influence our overall well-being and the way we interpret everything that happens in our lives. As soon as we realize we are not our thoughts, we have the option to take a step back and choose to think about the thoughts that are helpful, and turn away from those who are not helpful.

Automatic thoughts can be positive (realistic, goal oriented) or negative (distorted, unproductive and work against us achieving our goals) that can really turn any sort of situation into a negative one.

Negative automatic thoughts can hide under different truths we are telling ourselves, such as:

All or nothing thinking

People tend to see things in black and white, and this usually turns out wrong. When it comes to reality, everything comes in different shades and being realistic of the good and bad sides of a situation can be a real help of not overgeneralizing the events (if something bad happens, you won’t jump to the conclusion that everything is wrong).

Overlooking the positives

Rejecting positive experiences and maintaining a negative belief even though it is contradicted by your everyday experience, or not enjoy a positive experience due to the belief that something bad will happen right away.

Jumping to conclusion

Whenever a stimulant similar to one that triggered a negative experience appears in the anxious persons’ reality, they will jump to conclusion that it’s a never-ending cycle and something bad will happen without checking all the facts. It’s important to always take a step back and check all the facts before feeling that you are a slave of this never-ending cycle.

Should Statements

Having unrealistic expectations of yourself and others and being rigid in your thinking. This often results in feeling guilty because you haven’t achieved what you “should” have. Language also includes “must” and “ought”.

Personalization

Taking responsibility for something that is not your fault, or seeing yourself as the cause of a negative event that has nothing to do with you.

How to challenge the never-ending cycle of automatic thoughts:

Develop awareness of your thoughts

Develop the skill of identifying and listening to the negative messages you give to yourself. Writing a journal of your automatic negative thoughts may be an effective way to do this.

Evaluate your thoughts

Once you become aware of the ANT evaluate and challenge it. Ask yourself: “is it helpful to think this way /does it serve me?” or “am I being realistic?” This is really important as you will form a new habit of not feeling threatened by the thoughts and asking this as soon as you identify a new unhealthy thought will make you feel you are more in control.

Look for evidence

Is there any evidence to back up or discount your thoughts? Are you focusing on the negatives and ignoring other information?

Search for alternative explanations

Is there another way of looking at the situation, or are there other explanations? Are you seeing things from only one perspective? When you are so intensely caught up in your thoughts, it’s important to take a step back and see if you are seeing things from more perspectives or if you are trapped in one. Ask yourself what the other perspective is you could see the things from and make that perspective as objective as possible, as if a friend was speaking.

Put thoughts into perspective

Is it as bad as you are making out? How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will happen? We like to think about all the scenarios to feel as if we have it covered if that will happen, but truth is life never happens as we think it will. How many times didn’t you think about all the things that could go wrong and all the things you considered actually went right, but the one thing you didn’t even consider went wrong? This is just to prove that you have no control on all the circumstances, and trust that if anything happens, your wise self will be there to guide you find the best solution in that future moment.

Focus on what you do want.

Your conscious mind can only hold one thought at a time, so shift your thinking to what you do want. Are you feeling jealous and think of all the scenarios this could actually be true? If that’s the case, focus on how you would like things to be and what is the evidence the best case scenario could be a possibility too.

Be persistent as with any skill, interrupting ANT’s may take time and practice to master.

Even though it requires hard work and discipline to replace old negative patterns with more adaptive ones, patience and self-compassion will be your main guides throughout this journey. Praise yourself for all the efforts you are making and don’t put yourself down if sometimes you will still get caught up in thinking and ruminating. In order to make the process easier, you can use different distractions techniques. Whenever you feel as if you are ruminating, it seems that only two minutes of distracting yourself will help you forget about your overthinking. You need an activity that requires your full attention –  might be a puzzle or writing an important email, so you can focus on something else and resist the urge to ruminate on a certain thought for hours.

According to research, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. So you’ll need to practice this until it becomes automatic. Don’t worry if you fail sometimes, and don’t let that discourage you. Two months of practice mean more than a lifetime of pain and hopelessness. And don’t forget, do not believe everything you think.

 

 

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