Dear Candy Q & A - Over-efforting & Frustration
Updated: Feb 4
Is it possible to be doing too much of the right things? Is our attitude and relationship to all we are doing to rewire just as important as what it is that we are doing? Absolutely!
I am hearing more frequently these days how some people are exhausted from all the efforting that goes into rewiring. That they feel they are in a constant battle with the limbic system and that it is taking way too much out of them to keep on this trajectory, with limited results.
If this is your experience, take heart. There are ways to work with the tools and with rewiring that don't have to cost you everything you have each and every day. And perspective plays a big role in our experience.
Sometimes it's easy to get into a power struggle with the limbic system. We see all the negative thoughts, habits, and emotional states that arise and we fight ferociously to direct the brain in another direction. But it keeps circling back to those original thoughts and habits, and we become frustrated. We feel even more pressure to get rid of those pathways and battle even harder with them. We desperately want to recover so we add more tools and more activities that are supposed to help and our day becomes consumed with different activities centered around getting better. Herein lies the problem: if we are fighting our limbic system we are inadvertently feeding the very pathways we are trying to undo. The neurochemistry of stress and defence against those old pathways actually reinforce them rather than help us to get rid of them. It also leads to exhaustion because the battle feels never ending. We have all these things we have to do and the pace isn't something that we can keep up long term. Sometimes this exhaustion leads to surrender, giving up the battle. Ironically when this happens, people often notice progress. Why is that? Because we are no longer fighting so the maladaptive pathways are not getting fed in the same way and changes can take place.
It is often the underlying personality traits and behaviour characteristics that are so common to people with limbic system impairment that keep us in battle mode with the limbic system. The type A personalities, perfectionistic tendencies, core beliefs of not being good enough or having to do more, feelings of shame and guilt over not being well or not recovering fast enough all drive the way we engage in the rewiring process. When in this state we feel a ton of pressure to rewire and a sense of urgency that drives intense effort. And when we don't make progress, or don't progress as fast as we think we should, it becomes a vicious cycle where we try even harder and push even more. All of this effectively reinforces limbic system dysfunction and nervous system dysregulation. While we have the best of intentions and are doing this to recover, we are actually contributing to the opposite.
The key to getting out of this vicious cycle: Stop fighting with your limbic system! As Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new." Start to address and treat that pressure you feel as part of the dysfunction itself. Put your hand on your heart, take a deep breath, and know that you are doing the best that you can. It's time to put down the weapons, to reorient back to the here and now, and to find one thing in your environment that you can appreciate in this moment. Right here. right now. No matter how small. Surrender the battle. This doesn't mean that you are giving up on rewiring your brain, nor does this means the limbic system wins. Instead, we are recognizing that our way of doing things is not working and it is time to try another way. A gentler way.
More will be written about this next week, but a place to start is with self-compassion. I invite you to check out Kristin Neff's website https://self-compassion.org/ , do the self-compassion test and see where you are at, and try out some of the exercises. Also, recognize that the way you are orienting to the retraining is part of the dysfunction itself, and start to meet the pressure you feel with mindfulness & self compassion.
Until next week!
If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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