Updated: Feb 10, 2022
Today I am continuing the series Patterns Hindering Progress! Last time we talked about how your tone may be slowing down your limbic system retraining. If you missed it, you can check it out here!
This week we’re going to talk about one of the biggest offenders that keeps people stuck in the stress response! Oftentimes, when clients have been diligently retraining and are not seeing the results that they are desiring, this pattern is often to blame.
The pattern that I am talking about is FEAR!
More specifically, feeding a fear of triggers and a fear of symptoms.
Does this sound like you? Maybe you have been experiencing uncomfortable sensations when exposed to certain foods, chemicals, environmental substances, or movement/exercise. And now when exposed to that thing, you instantly start to feel anxious. You wonder how it is going to affect you. You feel angry at the person or thing that caused this exposure. You engage in behaviors to remove the trigger from your body or environment.
Or maybe fear arises in you when you experience uncomfortable sensations in your body. You notice a new or intensified sensation and you start wondering what caused this? How long is it going to last? How is it going to affect my day? What if it is here to stay?
Sound familiar? If so, you are practicing fear.
The problem with fear is that it tells our limbic system that there is danger and that it should continue sending warning signals (aka symptoms) and stay hypervigilant. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what you are working towards with your brain retraining practice. It is reinforcing the limbic impairment, not healing it.
Now before you start feeling frustrated or hard on yourself, let me say that experiencing fear in the midst of chronic illness is 100% natural and normal! If a certain trigger has produced a certain uncomfortable (or debilitating) sensation over and over in the past, it’s only logical that you would develop some amount of fear around it! That fear is trying to protect you!
But there is a difference between an automatic fear reaction and choosing to feed the fear through unhelpful behaviors like avoidance, overthinking, future predicting, overplanning/control, etc.
I love Maya Angelou's quote that says,
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
There’s no shame in the fear game. But now that you know the science, you can make a different choice.
Now you know that that fear was based on incorrect information. It wasn’t the trigger itself that caused the uncomfortable sensation but rather your limbic system’s perception of the situation and the resulting false messages, right?!
Next time you notice yourself practicing fear behaviors (avoidance, overthinking, future predicting, overplanning/control, etc) don’t run from it- that’s just more fear behavior. Soften to yourself and to the fear.
You can validate yourself kindly and gently by placing your hand on your heart and saying something like,
“Self, I get why you’d be a little scared or anxious right now! That totally makes sense given your past experiences. But the truth is….this isn’t mold/chemical/exercise/food’s fault. This is just my brain. These sensations aren’t harmful. They are temporary and harmless. All is well.”
And then take a deep breath and direct your attention elsewhere.
(***Side Note: Many people come to the brain retraining world after seeing many wonderful holistic or functional medicine practitioners that taught them to avoid and fear certain foods, toxins, and substances. It can be challenging to untangle these beliefs but it is helpful to remember that these practitioners, while they are thoroughly trained and genuinely wanting to help their patients, lacked a critical piece of the puzzle without the information about limbic system impairment. If you don’t have brain retraining tools, then avoidance does seem like the best option. But when you understand what’s happening in the brain, it changes everything.)
There are lots of other tips and tricks that can help to decrease fear around triggers and symptoms! Some quick tips:
Give the trigger a silly name! Laughter and silliness decrease fear! (I experienced fear around mold and so started calling it “Silly Moldiepoo.”
Look at pictures of the trigger and admire it as if it were a magnificent piece of artwork.
Imagine the symptom or trigger in the palm of your hand. See how teeny tiny it is. Give it a laugh and then toss it over your shoulder.
Use your imagination to personify the trigger or symptom as a harmless or silly or magical substance.
I know that it can feel challenging and scary to let go of fear, but you can do it! It’s not serving you anymore so let that mother go! I promise it will be worth it!
And if you need help with this, reach out to me or another coach to set up a session to find a strategy that works for you!
Until next time!
Katie is a brain retraining coach who helps men and women access their innate healing wisdom to rewire their brains and thrive in life. Her approach focuses on embodiment, practical wisdom, and intuitive insights.
For more information, find her on IG at @katienickersonhealth.
She can also be reached at email@example.com.
Or sign up for a free consult here!