April 16, 2020

Turn your Wounds into Resilience: How to Rewire your Nervous System after Trauma.

Yes to more happiness, more love, more joy.

Be honest, from 0 to 100, how much do you believe it’s possible for you?

I see it all the time with my clients. They are one or two thoughts away from the reality they desire. We define more clearly what they want, we use tools to get there, we get there.

And here it is! Resistance, resistance, resistance.

We all think we would resist something painful or somehow unpleasant. Well, sometimes it’s the contrary. It’s when life starts shifting for the best and our self-development work shows us the great results we hoped for that we start to panic.

Why is that?

1. What we know feels safer.

Your nervous system is mainly wired for survival. Even if your old ways don’t serve you now and you are aware of it, at some point they did.

For example, you may have a tendency to hide and make yourself invisible because it was your strategy as a child to escape one caregiver’s anger. You can clearly see it doesn’t serve you now when you have a meeting with your colleagues. Still, when it’s time for you to speak and take up space, it feels challenging.

Your nervous system registered that you survived with this hiding strategy after all. So there can be a tendency in you to hold back, even if the environment is now safe. It will take awareness and courage to act in a counterintuitive way several times for you to overcome that feeling of danger inside.

2. There is a program in you.

In my example, “hide or you are in danger” is the program. It’s not only registered on a psychological level. It’s wired in your brain. It means that your neural pathways connect with each other’s to seal that belief in your system.

You can think about it like a computer.

We have a lot of programs. Some serve us, some don’t. Basically, they shape our belief system and our reality. They generate thoughts and feelings, which have a direct impact on our behaviors.

Neuroscience teaches us about brain plasticity. All those programs can be changed. But most of them are not even conscious. It requires awareness and the repetition of actions not aligned with the initial program to rewire.

3. Resistance.

Here you are, aware of the “hide or you are in danger” program, ready to speak up during your meeting, knowing it’s a safe environment to do so.

At first, you will find all the excuses in the world not to: “This might not be useful,” “What if they find my point of view stupid?” “The meeting will go for too long if I put that on the table,” and so on.

That’s where having a meditation practice is useful. Meditation helps to develop a skill called metacognition. It’s the ability to observe your own mind.

What a tool! What a gift to know not everything your mind says is true, not everything your mind says is serving you.

Resistance can show up in the body as well. You were just about to speak and you had to run to the bathroom. Clever, right?

To be able to shift, you have to track both the sensations in your body and the thoughts running in your mind. They will be precious signals for you to change gears. Paying attention just to the thoughts is not enough.

4. To take another road, you have to first build another road.

This is the most subtle part of the transformation process.

In my example, you can think, “Well, just speak up a bit, do it over and over again, you will get more confidence, and it will be sorted at some point.”

It will be a good start—but it’s a bit more complex than that.

You can finally speak up, be completely overwhelmed by the attention and the approval you are not used to receiving, and collapse.

We often associate training or practicing a new skill with building resilience. Like jumping on the other side of an obstacle. You run, you jump, you are on the other side, you are stronger.

I would say most of my clients have been challenged by life. They already built resilience and willpower.

What they often didn’t build is their capacity to receive, their capacity for pleasure, their capacity for love, and the vulnerability that comes with it—basically everything that creates those feelings of connection and belonging they crave.

That’s why some people deplete themselves overgiving or don’t reach out for help. Their nervous system is not wired to receive.

That’s why some women don’t have orgasms. Their nervous system is not wired to experience pleasure.

That’s why self-sabotage exists.

The capacity for the love, the receiving, the pleasure is built in your nervous system with earlier experiences, as much as the capacity to endure or persist.

5. From pain to pleasure.

Usually, you want to go from point A, a situation where there is pain, to point B, a situation where there is more pleasure, love, joy.

The first part is to work on the pain—and I would say some therapeutic modalities can stay there longer than necessary. You only want to stay there long enough to clear the root causes of the pain in your nervous system.

When that’s done, you have to build or expand this container for the pleasure, the love, the joy. Maybe that’s what your nervous system is the most afraid to experience, just because it’s new for you. You need tools to teach your nervous system those new experiences are safe.

6. The trap of fake positivity.

I am not an expert on the law of attraction, but I understand it in terms of energy and vibration. Roughly, you exude more positivity, so you vibrate at a higher level, and then you attract more good things.

I would suggest the first step would be a “law of allowance.” Because how can you attract the love, pleasure, abundance that was never allowed to flow through you because of your old programming?

A forced smile and some affirmations won’t do the trick. You can’t positive-think your way out the pain. You can’t positive-think your access to love, pleasure, or abundance. It would be like covering your misery with glitter, hoping to feel good.

Creating sustainable changes in your life requires taking actions at a physiological level. This will naturally impact your emotional, mental, and psychological state.

From there, you will be able to feel like the strong energy in the room. As you show up differently, life shifts.

Did you just resist that last statement?

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