Q: When is it appropriate to allow oneself to experience emotion such as anger? I find that there are times it seems genuinely appropriate to feel these emotions based on how non-limbic people involved respond to situations but DNRS seems to teach it is best to treat negative emotion as a pop and redirect. At times, it seems when I allow myself to feel the emotions physiologically in the body, the emotions, added stress, and any its that arise seem to subside quickly. Conversely when I try to just ignore the anger or gloss over it or even just tell myself to treat it as a pop, the its continue and I seem to pop more by replaying the incident. Any tips for dealign with these types of situations?
A: This is where we see a big different between DNRS and the Gupta program. DNRS does instruct people to treat all negative emotions as pops and to redirect, whereas Gupta has several meditations that invite one to be a curious observer of the emotions or sensations, release all resistance & go deeply into them, and then exhale them out to a loving being (either a spiritual being, nature, source energy, or to someone that loves you). There can be tremendous benefit in letting go of resistance to what we are experiencing, and to surrender that feeling or symptom to a loving presence.
This type of interaction is vastly different from acting on the anger and buying into the messages it is telling us (which is what DNRS cautions against, and rightfully so). In this type of meditation, we are not our anger (or other emotions or symptoms), we are the ones observing, noticing, interacting, allowing, and ultimately surrendering what is present. When we act on the anger or buy into the thoughts that come with it, we are not separating ourselves from the emotion and ultimately we are reinforcing the maladaptive pathways in our brains as a result, making it harder to rewire.
We also need to keep in mind that we have what Rick Hanson calls a negativity bias in our brain. We are designed to look for potential problems and be alert to possible dangers as part of our survival mechanisms. When we having limbic system impairment, the negativity bias is even more pronounced, to the point where we often do not see the full picture. The limbic system hones in on what it takes issue with, and like a dog with a bone will not let it go. In this state our brain filters out any information that doesn't fit with this current perspective, and we feel justified in our anger or frustration. The more we entertain the anger, the more we feed those pathways and the more easily we go into anger the next time. We are priming the pump to be angrier and angrier over time, all the while feeling justified in our emotions.
Another way of saying this is, if we entertain the anger, we are only making these pathways even stronger, which ultimately leads to the limbic system being more easily triggered and perceive more events and situations as negative, even when they are really not. We stop seeing any of the good or positives in our interactions or situations, even though those things are present too. We start to perceive neutral situations as threatening and we misread social cues. This is why, when people rewire their limbic systems, they often feel differently about situations and people in their lives. They see the good in their loved ones, the efforts that they are making. They are less triggered by their imperfections and more accepting of others and of self. This is a big part of why it is important not to believe everything you think (or feel) because it could be that your brain is sending you distorted messages. Releasing that energy through a mindfulness practice or meditation is a way to release the pressure that comes with the emotion, without indulging the emotion and strengthening the maladaptive pathways.
There may also be times where it is appropriate to do some writing about your thoughts and feelings regarding the person, situation, or event that is triggering you. In these cases, it is important to keep the exercise brief (10-15 minutes, for three or four days in a row at the most), and to be really honest with yourself, writing about your deepest internal thoughts and emotions rather than only focusing on what the other person did or the details of the events. This is an opportunity to release the energy that you are holding in relation to what occurred or how someone else is behaving. Again, this is a process of self-reflection and being able to separate from or externalize the thoughts and emotions that are coming up.
So in a nutshell, yes there is benefit to releasing emotions that arise, but we want to do it mindfully, from a place of self-awareness & reflection. Getting caught up in the emotion itself is neither helpful nor conducive to recovery.
Q: I know that it is very beneficial to be around others who have well-regulated nervous systems. How do I know what that looks like in others? Are there certain characteristics to look for?
A: You may have had a time in your past where your own nervous system was well-regulated. Think back to that time. How did you feel? How were you engaging in the world? What qualities did you bring to your interactions with others? What was the focus of your conversations and how was your emotional state? That is what you would want to look for in others.
For those who cannot recall a time when they were well regulated, you can spend some time imagining how that would feel physically, what you would focus on in your thoughts and conversations, and how you would feel emotionally. Become the embodiment of a well regulated nervous system in your imagination, and then look for that in others.
Another way to discern whether you are around well-regulated people is to notice how you feel internally. When in the presence of someone like that, you will find a sense of peacefulness, of feeling safe, of relaxation and wellbeing in your own body just by being in their presence. You may feel lighter, calmer, more content. You may notice some of the tension in your body releases and your thoughts slow down. Through the intersubjective field, your nervous system is communicating with theirs and taking cues from their system, which is why you start to feel differently in their presence.
Until next time!
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Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com