‘The reason why people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go, instead of how far they have gotten’
In the words of Kid Cudi, “It’s true that pain makes people change.”
There’s a multi-billion dollar self-help industry out there that is designed to shame us when we do give up on something we may have outgrown.
We can often spiral down a rabbit hole across a spectrum of emotions which ultimately beg the question “how did I even get to BE here (in this circumstance that I don’t consent to)?”
The most ubiquitous experience of this can be found when inadvertently fighting with strangers on the internet,
but it shows up in many other pursuits, particularly when our health or things we love — but may not necessarily feel worthy of — end up on the line.
We’ll get into the science of how pain (both physical and psychological can create a state of learned helplessness.
And we want to be very clear, it is the stance of the NeuroTrust to acknowlege that the pain and associated barriers people experience are real.
We all process pain differently, but each individual’s sensitivity to pain is modulated in the same region of the brain, the amygdala and nocireceptors, whether it’s emotional tension or physical trauma generating the source of that pain.
The good news is, that there is also a section of the brain, and we’ll discuss that a bit later, that sends relaxation signals to help ease that tension.
One great exercise that we like to encourage, when working with folks to help them reflect upon the outcomes they would like to see so that we can help them identify when they may have outgrown their goal and/or when to take next steps forward.
Tell us about any progress you’ve made on a goal you’re working toward. What made it worth working toward? What’s driving you now? Inertia? Is it personally meaningful? Have you noticed any signs (or triggers) of fatigue?
Occasionally there are times when even seasoned role-models find themselves in the predicament where
what they really need is someone to help them make sense of their experiences and the fallout of the resulting (often very complex) emotions.
In the primary education system, children receive collective oversight from caretakers who are available to track and monitor their self regulation, social, and emotional literacy skills.
Children who display at-risk behaviors are provided free access to adults who are trained in crisis intervention, how to distinguish between cultural, special needs, emotional literacy indicators, and risk prevention strategies.
These mentors provide individualized education plan (or IEP) to provide students with access to the language to help them make sense of what they feel so that they can then identify which coping skills will help them attain the outcomes they will need to rebound when they encounter adverse experiences.
These interventions make a HUGE difference.
And given that emotional literacy skills are a relatively new concept in education, it’s no wonder that
the same kinds of adults who grew up only to mirror the reactive behaviors they saw modeled by their parents can’t have benign conversations about the color of Starbucks coffee cups during the holidays
— let alone a non threatening discourse over how to manage equitable access to resources for things like healthcare, education, and basic infrastructural needs life food, housing, who gets access to nuclear codes, etc.
So let’s do a little bit of an exercise for a moment:
How are you feeling right now?
Take a little moment to think about it for a moment.
When was the last time you felt that particular emotion?
Is it a feeling you experience often?
What was your earliest memory of that emotion?
Feel free to reflect on those questions a little bit here (the responses are anonymous):
Full Disclosure:It may come as no surprise, but I added that Starbucks piece to gauge whether it triggered a reaction…
But more importantly:
What did you notice about this exercise?
Tell us about your experience in the comments section below:
I attended a very well managed meeting today where a local community organizer attempted to facilitate a conversation to help her constituents make sense of
a) what they were feeling after the election
b) what strategies they had implemented to take care of their physical and psychological health
c) discuss how the election results would impact their advocacy work and funding in the state of Kentucky (which had just lost both Democratic seats).
And she nailed it.
Never underestimate the power of people who are trained to help you make sense of things…
Aside from having the advantage of being registered as a 504c3 organization, in addition to a 501c3, she had a an incredible program management toolbox, which she used to keep the chapter on task and moving forward in a strategic manner.
She did an excellent job of making sure that everyone had the opportunity to get their needs acknowledged, by asking these five things:
How are you feeling?
What have you been doing for self care after the election?
What were some of the contributions and other successes that we should remember to celebrate?
What challenges do we have ahead of us?
Where are some opportunity areas (or action steps) we can work on in which we believe we can move the needle forward?
Caretakers often have a very difficult task, especially during times when others are shell shocked by adversity.
Is this notion that we should hide or reduce negative emotions even a healthy expectation?
Can those kind of beliefs diminish our personal self esteem?
Can this belief be used to diminish the regard we have for others? Are those expectations, in autocratic environments culturally insensitive?
when you believe
that your needs matter
those of the group
that your emotions have little importance
your needs hold less value compared to others
you are more less likely to understand
(at least at an emotional level)
the emotions you are having
and how they’re connected
how they differ
and their associations to previous histories, or faulty narratives in your life…
One important piece to note: is that the idea that you can immediately switch to logic is a bit inconsistent with neurobiology.
What you CAN do, however, is get to a place of (physical and psychological) safety.
This is one of the reasons why communities are so important.
Friends and family may not always share your core values, but if you can build a community around the values that you share, you can turn to those folks during times of adversity.
Encourage one another to look after your health and bringing out the best in each other — it will be MUCH easier to respond to adversity strategically than to react.
So get out there and find your tribe.
When you think of the phrase, ‘safe space’ what images or memories does that evoke for you?
In our previous post, Mechanical Marvels and the Art of Savoring we briefly discussed the advantages of developing a savoring practice, but we haven’t really delved into the importance that having dedicated spaces where you can feel physically and psychologically safe.
The environments and people we interact with can have a critical influence on your state of mental health. If you don’t feel safe or free to process your emotions in an environment that is free and safe from additional stress triggers and judgments it doesn’t just sap you of your own mental energy, it also erodes your capacity for trust, forbearance, and impacts the energy that you bring to your community.
Neuroscientists believe that the brain is the organ that learns, which means that it is designed to be altered by experiences we imprint into our subconscious.
Day after day, our minds are taking in information that is building and shaping our brains and even the fundamental makeup of our DNA.
In a world which we may not always be able to shield ourselves from triggering inputs, the research that supports this scientific insight posits the possibility that we can, at the very least, manage the way we respond to adversity by creating spaces where we can make sense of what we encounter, and deconstruct our options for how to best to approach moving forward with the information we take in.
But there’s one catch!
We can’t accurately process that information when our minds are triggered to shut down our higher order thinking decision making processes. And stress activation in the brain creates an entire physiological network of responses that are designed to stop us in our tracks, quickly detect potential threats, and get us out of the situation creating the inputs that potentially threaten our safety.
Hanson suggests that when you find yourself faced with mental afflictions or triggering stimuli, you have a couple of options:
You could simply observe what you notice, about how your mind responds to the information it takes in, as an observer looks at weeds and flowers without judging or changing anything. The observer simply takes notice and bears witness to the stimuli and how one’s attention to this stimuli changes.
Alternatively, you could take on the laborious task of trying to weed out negative thoughts, to deconstruct and pull aspects of one’s mind apart trying to make sense of each intrusive element, which can leave the observer preoccupied, physiologically drained, and disoriented without the right support system or end goal in mind.
Many researchers have found that the process of weeding negative thoughts, often forces the observer to amplify the triggers, creating more symptoms of physiological and psychological reactivity.
If you keep resting your mind upon self-criticism, worries, grumbling about others, hurts, and stress, then your brain will be shaped into greater reactivity, vulnerability to anxiety and depressed mood, a narrow focus on threats and losses, and inclinations toward anger, sadness, and guilt.
More recently, researchers have begin to advocate for an alternative approach, positive psychology, which leverages the brain’s neuroplasticity and ability to acquire and imprint new information to help clients to improve their personal quality of life.
Or, as Hanson describes, “You could pull weeds by decreasing what’s negative in your mind. Or, you could grow flowers by increasing the positive in your mind.”
Having a dedicated space, whether it be a tangible location, set of transportable artifacts, or personal ritual is essential for repairing the afflicted mind.
That being said, we want to hear from you! What kinds of artifacts, rituals, and physical spaces evoke a sense of comfort and reassurance for you?