Blog entry 3: Our exposed nerves.
There are many options in deciding what to write about for my third entry. As I survey the many messages being sent out by others, I am overwhelmed by the vastness of great suggestions for things to do to make life more tolerable on a daily basis while in stay at home mode. Since there are already so many creative suggestions, I have decided to continue my messages on personal psychological growth. With excerpts from my manuscript from 45 years of clinical practice, I would like to present the concept I used called exposed nerves.
As I have previously written, given the available time on our hands, it would be a good time to take stock of ourselves. Coping in this difficult time will require clarity of mind to persevere. In my first blog entry I focused on the choice to be either a white blood cell or virus type of person. Entry two directed us to try and forgive and let go of the burden of carrying anger from grudges and even abuses. This third entry will look at additional factors which continue to interfere with clarity of mind and soul.
We all have what I call are exposed nerves. We have this sensitivity/alarm that we or others can set off as a signal of danger. Others may not be aware of this exposed nerve and will inadvertently trip over it, while some can deliberately attack it. When the alarm or exposed nerve is set off there is a corresponding biological bodily reaction such as tightness in your stomach, chest or head. It can be an increase in heart rate, muscle tension, as well as even becoming sweaty or dizzy. This happens way before awareness.
Keep in mind that information comes into our senses and travels to the brain to be interpreted all in microseconds by gatekeepers. We are programmed like a computer, whether inborn or learned, to be sensitive to some information we deem to be a message or signal of danger. A baby crying when startled is an inborn pre-programmed reaction to signal danger. A person suddenly becoming angry or sad can be an acquired or learned program.
It is particularly important to become more sensitive or aware of the biological messages that tell us that our exposed nerve has gone off. I stress this throughout my sessions. We need to know that special feeling which means your guard or defenses have become activated.
I examine what fears, anxieties and insecurities that my clients picked up during their childhood. Accepting that they may have been carrying self-defeating attitudes, that are causing them to have coping problems, is better than blaming everyone for their problems. It is paramount to accept that we make our own feelings. Information is picked up and quickly interpreted by our brain and we decided how to respond. We can stop punishing ourselves or others for not being perfect.
There are common themes that are reflective of our exposed nerves. They are the unresolved conflicts left over from childhood. They are still actively controlling our lives. The two most common childhood themes I have found reflect: success or failure and acceptance or rejection. I must not fail, and I must be liked or loved by everyone.
Most of us have some aspects of these themes that come into play daily. When I trip over my exposed nerves, I feel tightness in my stomach and an uncomfortable feeling in my face. Others feel the nerves in different parts of the body. Using my body reaction has become a signal to me that oops I am doing it again. I have tripped over my exposed nerve. I messed up or they are angry at me its all my fault. I am reacting from my childhood. I calm my inner child down and then use the signal to examine where is the real danger and switch to the Experience Road with Adult thinking. It is ok just a false alarm, lets see what I have learned and what can I do about it.
Knowing your exposed nerve can lead to learning how to help your inner child feel safe and secure. When it goes off, we can use the feeling to check our thinking and work at changing the program. It is okay it’s not horrible awful or terrible (HAT) it is just frustrating annoying or disappointing (FAD)!
How can we become more aware of our exposed nerves? Find a calm place to settle into and just let go into slow calming breathing. Tell yourself you are safe now and in control. Now take a moment to recall a time when you suddenly became angry, anxious or sad. Try to focus on what your body was feeling at that time. Get to know what are the places in your body that react when your exposed nerve alarm goes off. Now take some time to notice if you were in any real dangerous or threatening situation. As you become aware of the false alarm revisit the event and make a more reasonable interpretation. Ok, it's alright if someone disagrees with me. It is only an opinion not a rejection. If I made a mistake it doesn’t mean I am stupid or worthless.
Over the course of weeks take some time to repeat that exercise. When you are aware that you are having an exposed nerve reaction, step back, breathe and rethink. Keeping a journal or log of these events can also help to gain control over your exposed nerves.
Keep in mind that immediate alarm reactions could be a signal of real danger. The task is to learn how to tell the difference between false exposed nerve reactions and legitimate danger.
Know your exposed nerves learn to put them away!
As we are living in close quarters with our families it is easy for exposed nerves to be activated. We can over react and create greater tension in all our lives. Calming your mind and soul involves emotional growth. Gaining control over exposed nerves can be a great place to begin.