How many times have you “known” what is wrong mentally or emotionally with a friend or loved one and when you point it out or ‘name’ it, all you are faced with is resistance? As humans we want a way to work with those we love in the face of unpleasant manifestations. Sometimes it is the other who is dysregulated and acting out and sometimes it is us.
It is all about relationship. When we ‘know’ what is wrong with another, or our own self, the ‘knowing’ alone is not enough to bring the mind/body out of the dysregulated state. We must make connection before the ‘naming’ can render the auto-regulation that is available to the human mind-body.
An observation of a thing, changes that which is observed
The vast majority of what an observation is, in practical terms, has to do with sensation and feeling in the body. The mentalized language of the observation, which we tend to over-emphasize, can only be accurate through sensation and feeling. This is why we must make a connection in order to get anywhere with this. I must attune (sympathetically or empathetically) to the other or myself before I can effectively offer the ‘naming’ of that which is disturbed or disturbing.
The human brain, in very simple terms, has a core and a cortex which wraps around the core. The core brain is the oldest brain. It governs (among other thing) the fight/flight response, emotions and sensory perception. The cortex is where thinking (logical and abstract), analysis, and other higher functions operate. When the core brain gets over stimulated by real or imagined events, it sends out signals to the body to react, for good or ill. The cortex is the part of the brain where the chemicals that soothe the overstimulated core brain come from. If the core brain stimulation gets to a tipping point, it can cut off access to the cortex and regulating becomes increasingly difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible.
What is connection?
Connection is being with…sensing and feeling the shared space between yourself and others. Connection is being in the body without adding my personal story about what is happening. Connection is relaxed, not tense. Connection is open, not certain and defined. Connection is being vulnerable enough to not ‘know’. This goes for connection with both self and others. Once connection is made, ‘naming’ what is has the power to allow the auto-regulating capacity of the human mind/body to activate. The cortex is called upon to release the proper chemicals to soothe and bring the core brain into a regulated state.
When I stub my toe, and I react with a loud “fuck” the pain in the body tends to stay the same, fester, and/or get worse (despite the psyche’s delight in complaining about what is). When I stub my toe and before my negative emotional reaction of internal complaint can assert itself, I say “Yes”, the pain changes much faster to no pain. I have tested this over the last ten years of toe stubbing and can verify with complete confidence, this experience is real.
Why does it work?
When I react by vocalizing and/or thinking strongly my complaint, there is no observation of the event practically speaking. There is no connection to what is happening. In this rejection of what is, the cortex is not accessed and does not release the pain relieving chemicals to the core brain and to the body. Basically, the rejection of ‘what is’ inhibits the body from regulating the painful physical and emotional reactions. The acceptance of what is allows the natural and organic response to auto-regulate the physical and emotional pain. I know a stubbed toe is small potatoes compared to some of the pains we go through as humans, but the principle seems to hold at all levels.
What does this mean for us in relationship?
We must find a way to connect first
- A touch
- A look
- The silent and delightful being with what is
Once connection is made, we can use relational language to assist the other person in regulating.
Relational language tends to be open to possibility and so sounds like:
- “You might be…”
- “Maybe you are…”
- “It sounds like you are feeling…”
It is all the same disturbing things you wanted to point to and work through with a major difference. Where in the beginning it tends to come from judgment and reaction, it now comes from acceptance and connection. Where before you were so certain about what is wrong and the knowledge of how to fix it, now you show the vulnerable truth of not knowing and real concern and willingness to connect. It is no different with the interiors of one’s self. I must make a relaxed and honest connection with my own bodily sensation and feeling, as it is, here and now in order for my own ‘naming’ of the disturbance to calm and regulate me.
Yoga is so good for this because it brings one’s attention to the body and keeps it there long enough to build some stamina in sensing and feeling. Yoga also trains us to relax in very uncomfortable situations, a skill that is absolutely necessary for my own ‘naming’ to produce the results I intend.
When starting to work with this method and principle of relationship, take it easy and start with simple events (like stubbed toes, and broken dishes). Remember that Love is the context of the path of Yoga. It is practice, practice, practice that builds the new habit of connecting and regulating.
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.