Move With Deb Podcast – Liberation via Understanding Pain
So in coaching we say that we don’t know what’s best for our clients. But I realized that I actually feel like I’ve been lying to you. Because I do think I know what’s best. I think it would be best for you to learn the skill of developing curious awareness of your thoughts.
That’s my confession. It’s my hard sell. I think that it’s the key to unlocking our conditioned survival responses of pain, emotional overwhelm, trauma nervous system reactivity and help you create a nervous system friendly life that will allow you to move away from avoidance and towards the life you want to live.
Welcome to Move With Deb. I’m Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.
[00:00:50] Hello, welcome to Move With Deb. This is episode number 18. So I know I often say in my client sessions that I don’t have an agenda for you, or I don’t know what you should do about your body, your pain or your life. But confession. This is a lie. Here’s the truth. I want you to learn how to have what I’m calling an inner conversation.
[00:01:17] What’s an inner conversation? It is the key to creating a nervous system friendly life. Our nervous system and our brain run the body. I’m going to include a link to an article from very well mind MD that explains a simple overview of the nervous system. So there’s the central nervous system includes the brain and the spinal cord.
[00:01:41] While the peripheral nervous system includes all of the nerves that branch out from the brain and the spinal cord, extend to the other parts of the body, including the muscles and the organs. Each part of the system plays a vital role in how information is communicated through the body. The autonomic nervous system plays an important role in the human body controlling many of the body’s automatic processes.
[00:02:07] This system also helps prepare the body to cope with stress and threats, as well as returning the body to a rested state afterwards. Learning more about this part of the nervous system can give you a better understanding of the processes that underlie many human behaviors and responses.
[00:02:27]One of the most challenging parts of being human is that we have thoughts. Which we believe. Because they are in the inside of our head. So because we believe that they originate inside of our body mind that they must be true. And if it is a thought that causes us particular distress, we take lots of actions to avoid thinking it. Because when we have a thought, we have a corresponding feeling in our body. That feeling in our body is broken down into the following: arousal and valence. And emotion is on a scale from low to high arousal. An emotion is on a scale from unpleasant to pleasant valence.
[00:03:13]A high arousal pleasant emotion might be joy, exuberance, elation, passion. High arousal, unpleasant emotion might be anger, despair, fury, shame. So when we have a thought and then a feeling that creates an unpleasant sensation in our body, we usually do not enjoy that. And we will do anything to avoid that feeling again.
[00:03:44] Our nervous system is designed to protect us from danger. And we’re essentially teaching our protection system that these thoughts are very real. And that they’re dangerous to feel. But they don’t have to be. This is where the hard sell comes in. And it’s not that I want you to believe me. When I tell you that these are optional thoughts. Because you don’t.
[00:04:10] I want you to begin to observe the relationship between a thought and a feeling. If you want to change your nervous system reactivity, you can. By learning to develop a robust but relaxed watcher. When we interrupt the automatic reaction of the nervous system, which is essentially the body. We can change the physiological response to a thought. Having a human brain means we will always have thoughts. Apparently we have 60 to 80,000 of them a day. And you know what, you’re not doing, paying attention to all of them. We are evolutionarily wired, and also we keep wiring ourselves to pay attention to the negative ones.
[00:05:00] A thought told repeatedly becomes a belief. Now beliefs are not good or bad, they can be helpful or unhelpful for you in your life. You get to decide. But if you aren’t allowing yourself to slow it all down and observe your thoughts with a friendly curiosity. You cannot decide if you even want to keep that belief.
[00:05:26]Victor Emil Frankel was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. He wrote a book called Man’s Search For Meaning. He was the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy, which describes the search for life meaning as the central human motivational force. So he said “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
[00:05:59]So this process, I’m not calling mindfulness because it can be about non-reaction, but I find a lot of times people struggle a lot in meditation practices because they spend a lot of time in resistance, overwhelm and suppression. Because they’ve been told that meditation will help get them calm. So they’re seeking the peace of meditation. And instead, what they’re getting is a lot of monkey mind, and that just feels like shit. And then people judge themselves that they’re doing it wrong, and then it reinforces their story that they’re broken and they’re not doing it right. And so on and so on. And for some people that means it’s more painful.
[00:06:36]Curious awareness can track that story and begin to separate the circumstance, meditation. The thought, ” I’m doing this wrong”, which could be in response to a physical sensation or looking at your meditation neighbor. Right? So if you’re sitting and meditating and you have a cramp, you might think the thought “I’m doing this wrong”.
[00:06:57] Or if you’re looking at your neighbor, who’s the meditator and your thought is, Oh my God, they’re doing this so much better than I am, “I’m doing this wrong”. Right? Then the emotion comes up from that thought, shame. With the subsequent physiological sensation of that emotion, a hot face, a sinking sensation into your stomach, the desire to hide or run away.
[00:07:20] And that might lead to the action of leaving the room physically or mentally. It might create the desire to turn your attention away from the meditation and let your mind wander. And so the result is that you are doing meditation wrong. But only because of the thought and feeling that you had, which created those actions. From this place, we see that it is not the meditation that created the thought I’m doing this wrong, and the physiological sensation of that thought. The meditation just is meditation. Because your neighbor is thinking a different thought. Having a different feeling. Having a different physiological experience. So in this example, meditation itself, is a neutral circumstance.
[00:08:10]Becoming the curious aware watcher helps you break this down. Curious awareness does not care if you’re doing meditation right or wrong, because any judgment can be witnessed. When we can witness our shame with relaxation , self love and compassion our nervous system will not react to that feeling like a threat triggering the individual self protection system to kick on. Whether that’s falling in a dorsal freeze or in a fight flight overwhelm.
[00:08:41]So the inner conversation asks, what am I making this mean? And then we listen. And it doesn’t get swept away into, is this true? Is this not true? The inner conversation asks, what do I need right now? But it doesn’t make having a feeling a problem that needs to be solved regardless of whether it’s a pleasant or an unpleasant emotion, because all life is 50 50. All emotions are welcome, transitory and normal.
[00:09:10]I want to highlight that this work is a brain training exercise. We are adapting your nervous system to allow more and more of the thoughts in your head and the sensations in your body to fly under the radar of your threat detector, expanding your window of tolerance, expanding your nervous system resiliency and helping your body move through its vagal states with more ease, allowing you to find and return home to ventral vagal more quickly.
[00:09:39]Learning to listen to our body and tend to our feeling selves can allow us to also tend to our physical selves better when we learn to rest, when we are tired without any resistance or reactivity. We can nourish ourselves with food without making eating mean we are good or bad or right or wrong. We can learn that we do not need to agree with others when they share with us beliefs that we don’t agree with, but we don’t have to fight or flee and have the subsequent nervous system responses when we disagree.
[00:10:12]We can develop this inner conversation directly with our pain. Ask our hurt knee. What’s up? What do you need right now? See what it has to say back. If you remember my pain recovery story, my knee told me that it didn’t trust that I could take care of myself because I was always judging and evaluating and failing myself. What it most wanted for me was to tell it that it was safe and that I could take care of me.
[00:10:40]One way to build this habit of curious awareness or the rock star practice I call noticing, is to celebrate it. Because when we celebrate something, we build a joyful neurochemical conditioned response, which when practiced signals to the brain to keep doing it. And then we get better at it. In my coaching sessions with my clients, I do what I call holding up the Mirror of Wins. When I went to therapy, my therapist worked really hard to try to get me to like myself. And it was a frustrating experience because I didn’t know how, and I thought my therapists were great, but I just couldn’t do what they were asking me to do. In my work, I never not show you how your change in thinking or perception changes your physical sensations and emotional allowance.
[00:11:30]So just this week alone, I had to don my Captain Obvious Cape with my clients and hold up the Mirror of Wins because their self-narrative glossed over the massive embodied learning successes that they had, which is totally normal. Right. Our brain is only, looking for danger. It just kind of misses a lot of stuff. Our brains, miss lots of things all the time. That’s a good thing. Because we can’t possibly process all of the information that comes into our perception. So we have to choose. We have to look for what we’re not looking for.
[00:12:05] So while I like a moment for my clients to like themselves more, that’s not the point. So the point is to highlight the tiniest shifts in neuroplasticity. The smallest wins in the decrease of nervous system, trauma response activation. The win of practicing an overwhelm neutralizing thought in real time, as one is doing something physically challenging and reporting back that your body was relaxed and that you didn’t have difficulty breathing.
[00:12:37] So the other day, I had a client who had to take a month break in our working together due to an unexpected move. They had completely changed their self-concept and back pain after first two sessions. So they went from I’m in so much pain, I can’t imagine walking to the 7/11 down the street to I’ve just handled an intense move, house hunting, visiting multiple houses, climbing all of the stairs and dealing with a missing pet.
[00:13:04]We figured out that they probably walked that distance to the 7/11 at least eight times over under considerable stress. And they’re sore, as anybody would be. And they’re not believing that their body is broken and unfixable, which was their fear when we first met. And we didn’t do any workouts. We didn’t do any medical treatment.
[00:13:27]All they did was learn new ideas about, pain, the body’s interpretation of sensation, what it means for our physiological experience. And they applied these new ideas. So in our coaching call, I held up the mirror and reflected back to them why it worked, how they created that new prediction of no pain for the brain.
[00:13:49]And then we celebrate. Because celebrating cements neuroplasticity. And neuroplasticity is a fun word for learning. So learning is a thing that all brains do when we create the conditions for learning, which means welcoming discomfort, or at least cultivating the willingness rather than reinforcing avoidance patterns.
[00:14:10] Creating the feeling of safety comes when we create this relaxed watcher. Our lazy detective honing the skill of noticing without judging. What thoughts and feelings are coming up for you when you hear me say these words? That is the inner conversation. Keep practicing.
[00:14:28]If anything I say here, sparks your curiosity and you’d like to know more about working with me about how you can rewire your pain experience please check out my website at debmalkin.com. Or my Instagram, @movewithdeb where I shared lots of tips and tricks and insights and experiences. And you can see how you can book a curiosity call with me.
[00:14:51] And I will happily explain to you what my current offering of an eight week pain recovery program looks like and how you can sign up with me. Thanks so much. I’ll talk to you soon.