Think about a moment when an uncomfortable symptom either first pops up or increases in intensity.
How do you react in that moment?
It’s very common (and natural) to have an automatic reaction of fear or frustration! You may become anxious and wonder how long it will last and how intense it will become. You may feel frustrated that it’s happening again and that you’re not seeing the results from your retraining that you’d like to be seeing! You may begin wondering if this cycle will ever end!
That fear or frustration can also easily turn into fixing or fighting the symptom. Maybe you begin looping on what you can do to make the symptom stop. Or perhaps you start to practice avoidance or isolation to “flee” from what you believe is causing the symptom.
All of these mindsets and behaviors are resisting our symptoms or sensations. And practicing resistance will hinder your progress! What we persist resists, right?!
The reason that resistance causes our symptoms to persist is because resistance communicates to our limbic system that danger is present. When our limbic system believes that danger is present, it will stay hypervigilant, reinforce the maladapted stress response, and continue to send false warning signals.
(Ugh. I know. So annoying, right?!) (There is a solution though!)
While resistance to symptoms is often the natural instinct, we can cultivate another mindset that communicates safety to the limbic system and thus weakens the old, maladapted pathways.
This other mindset is a mindset of indifference!
The mindset of indifference cultivates a loving acceptance of what is. It allows us to be present with our symptoms without fear or frustration.
Danielle Laporte says, “Transformation begins with the radical acceptance of what is.”
To be in an attitude of indifference doesn’t require that you enjoy the symptoms or accept that they will always be there! The symptoms are usually VERY unpleasant and uncomfortable, but practicing indifference allows you to maintain a sense of safety even amidst the presence of symptoms.
The truth is that symptoms don’t really tell us much about the state of our health or our progress in the brain retraining journey. They simply tell us whether our limbic system is sensing safety and danger. Therefore, their presence, while uncomfortable, doesn't have to be scary or discouraging!
Lean into the symptoms and sensations with curiosity and compassion.
Next time you notice a symptom pop up, try this:
Notice your initial reaction without judgment.
Pause, take a deep breath, and relax your body (shoulders, hips, glutes, etc).
Then say, “I see you, pain (or other symptom). That’s totally fine that you’re here. This is temporary and no big deal.” Smile and redirect.
This is sending feedback to your limbic system that there actually isn’t any danger and it is safe to move out of a survival state and into the healing and relaxation state!
Repetition is key here! The more feedback we send, the more we weaken the old pathways that activate the stress response and strengthen the new healthy healing pathways! Yay!
On a personal note, I had lots and lots of symptoms when I started retraining. My most stubborn symptom that stuck around wayyyyyy longer than I would have liked was chronic pain. I believe that there were several reasons for this, but one of the biggest was because of this concept of resisting my symptoms. Once I was able to move into an attitude of indifference towards the pain, I started to see major shifts!
No matter how long you have had a symptom nor how long you’ve been retraining, change and healing are always possible!
Katie is a brain retraining coach who helps women and men access their innate healing wisdom to rewire their brains and thrive in life. Her approach focuses on neuroscience and nervous system education, embodiment, practical strategy, and intuitive insights.
For more information, find her on IG at @katienickersonhealth.
Or sign up for a free consult here!
She can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.