Have you ever struggled relaxing, even with coping mechanisms such as yoga and meditation?
Reverse engineering is not just for people with intense trauma, but for everyone who requires a macro approach.
So how come our body and the external world do not feel safe, and how can we still learn to quieten down?
Why we cannot sit still with our feelings
In our domesticated world children can be a hassle, or out entire world.
If our primary caregivers did not have the time, mental energy or resources to care for us, we might have learned to either swallow our feelings immediately (if expressing them wasn’t safe), or overly rely on our parents to soothe them.
As a result, our natural co-regulation response to trauma was interrupted; we didn’t get the chance to cry, shake or find our own ways to feel better. Getting our booboo’s kissed if great, but only after we have come out of the fight, flight and freeze response. (Check out this Irene Lyon video for more detailed info)
How the environment feels unsafe
I’m a big fan of the mind-body movement and somatic work to heal CPTSD and childhood abuse.
But instead of working bottom-up and focusing solely on the neurological aspects, we need to incorporate our environment: reverse engineering! Our gut biome, our immediate social circle, the safety of our home and work life: all of these factor in to how well we adapt to stress. If we are caught in an unhappy marriage, yoga won’t effectively help no matter how many classes we sign up to! We might have been taught to cling on to people in our lives unconditionally to receive love, and refuse to change relationships even if that means healing and happiness for us.
But we know so much more with today’s neuroplasticity progress!
What on earth are titration & pendulation (and how they are gamechanges!)
Titration is the ability to stay present with our higher brain when the environment is too stimulating. This is done with little steps to slowly build trauma responses to acute trauma. The process of healing takes time and patience as Irene Lyon explains in this video. Working on our stress responses might feel frightening and frustrating at first as we are building our resilience. Often we have gotten used to disassociate, act out or rely on addictions to cope, but now we are adapting our self-soothing mechanisms!
So if meditation seems too scary and intense, try going for a walk, or just outside to feel the wind, or just journalling about going outside.
If something feels undoable, do the smallest least threatening version of it, but do it!
Pendulation is another tool from Peter Levine (the father of somatic experiencing) that allows us to go from stuck to flow in our nervous system response. When having trouble to move on from strong emotions and coming back to rest, we can train our attention and focus to shift back and forth to avoid being overwhelmed.
Levine said “Pain is trapped sensation”, and with pendulation we become friends with pain, and work on moving our sensations. If you are struggling with emotional flashbacks, chronic illness or anxiety, knowing how to shift focus to a safer place can be life-changing. This is a common practice in EMDR, and can be a body part, a place in nature, or a loved person. This might sound obvious and simple, but is actually an invaluable skill to learn.
Check out this video for more resources.
I hope this post has been useful, I know this knowledge on reverse engineering has made a world of difference to me! Have you ever noticed unhealthy reactions to feelings, and how did you process them?
I am bad at controlling my temper, maybe because growing up in our household, getting angry is a privilege only for the adults. Now that I am grown, it’s hard for me to control it. I used to break things around the house but after maybe two years I now have switched to slapping my arm whenever I feel angry, or irritated. Wish I could learn how to express these negative emotions in a more acceptable and healthy way. Thank you for sharing this ❤️
I feel your pain! I’m the same, especially with rejection and jealousy. It hurts me to hear about you slapping yourself though! I highly recommend somatic experiencing and Irene Lyon’s videos to work on how we process emotions, I know it’s helped me a lot. All the best xx
Thank you, you may not know how I sincerely appreciate this, but I really do. Thank you ❤️