What is self-regulation?

 

Self-regulation is often mentioned these days in mindfulness related contexts.

What does it mean?

For me, it means to go off auto-pilot, to intentionally do something different than our habitual response. These habitual responses are often rooted in wounding, trauma, identifications, and painful beliefs, and the outcome of these responses tend to reflect their origin. (Acting on pain and wounding tends to create more pain and wounding.)

How do we self-regulate?

We self-regulate by noticing what’s happening in us, by noticing any reactions, contractions, emotions and so on that come up. Then, by relating to it intentionally. Often with presence, kindness, love, patience, holding/noticing space, and so on. This helps the old habitual responses lose their steam, and it creates a new pattern. It’s the seed of a new habitual response.

Example #1 – hurt & left out. Say a feeling of hurt and being left out comes up. My habitual response may be to eat comfort food, watch a movie, talk with a friend, distract myself in any number of ways. In this case, none of these are terrible, but they also don’t help me shift how I relate to this hurt and feeling of being left out. These parts of me remain unloved, unfelt, unexamined.

When I instead meet them with presence, kindness, love, and curiosity, it not only shifts the habitual response (reducing the charge of the old response and creating a new), these parts of me receive what they really want which is presence, love, patience, and understanding.

Example #2 – TRE. Another example is self-regulation in TRE (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises). Here, the body’s natural trembling/releasing mechanism releases tension, which in turn may trigger old memories and traumas. Self-regulation again means presence, kindness, and curiosity. And this takes the form of noticing and allowing sensations and imaginations, doing TRE for quite short periods so less is released at a time and there is less chance of overwhelm (and re-traumatizing), and taking a break as soon as we notice discomfort and signs of overwhelm (stretch out the legs, walk around, drink some water, talk with someone, squeeze someone’s hand etc.).

Example #3 – anger. Another example is when I get frustrated, worked up, or angry. I notice. Recognize what’s happening. And may do any number of things to help self-regulate: Recognize that behind the anger and frustration is fear. Jump up and down and shake my arms and hands. Breathe deeply and consciously. Go for a walk. Amplify and release. (Amplify the anger and frustration for 10 seconds, release, let go, and breathe for 10 seconds, repeat a few times.) Identify and feel the physical sensations, setting imagination (mental images, words) aside for a while. Do EFT/TFT tapping. After I feel more present again, I can more easily see what the kind and sane response to the (previously triggering) situation is and do that – or do nothing if that seems more appropriate.

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Animation: Tension and Trauma Release Exercises

 

A simple and relatively good introduction to the theory behind Tension and Trauma Release Exercises. (Of course, dinosaurs didn’t live at the same time as humans….!)

I posted this on Facebook and was asked if not physical exercises like dance and cycling would have similar benefits. Here is what I answered:

Dance and cycling reduces stress and tension and can obviously be very beneficial. In my experience, TRE goes much deeper. It uproots chronic tension and bodily contractions which are a component of anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction and more.

Love your enemy

 

Love your enemy.

I don’t see this as a commandment or even primarily morals.
It has more to do with healing my relationship to what I perceive as an enemy, whether it’s a person, a situation, an illness, a state of experience, or something else.
More accurately, it’s my mind healing it’s own relationship to it’s own imaginations.
When my mind perceives an enemy, there is an imagined separate self and an imagined “other” made into an enemy. And this is painful. My mind is in a futile struggle with itself. (I am not saying that “it’s all in the mind”, I am just focusing on how my mind creates its own experience.)
The alternative is for the mind to find love for it’s own imaginations, independent of what these imaginations are. This allows for reduced struggle and suffering, and relating to life in a more intentional, kind, and even more effective way.
So how can I love my enemy? Or rather, how can I remove the obstacles to love? How can I look through the appearance of an enemy?
I have found different forms of inquiry helpful (The Work, Living Inquiries). Along with releasing trauma from the body through therapeutic trembling (trauma can fuel anxiety and enemy images). And heart-centered practices such as ho’oponopono and tonglen.

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Temporary vs thorough relief

 

It’s usually pretty easy to find temporary relief. We all know lots of strategies: distracting ourselves from the stressful thoughts, doing something pleasurable, conscious breathing, going for a walk in nature, listen to music, and so on.

And it is temporary. The underlying beliefs (velcro, identifications) creating the stress is still there, waiting to be triggered again.

So why not be more thorough about it? The main reason why we are not more thorough is that most of us don’t know how.

And when we do know how, we may still hesitate. We may not trust that we can find thorough relief. We may be afraid of how to live without our old (painful) patterns. We may sidetrack ourselves by doing something that’s more pleasurable in the short term, and with thoughts we can do the more thorough work in the future. In short, there is a lack of readiness.

With experience and clarity, we will more and more often chose the more thorough approach. We see more clearly and feel more strongly that it’s the most kind thing to do. After a while, it’s more often a no-brainer.

What are some of these more thorough approaches? For me right now, they are different forms of inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries), natural rest, and therapeutic tremoring. There are of course many more.

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Retraining the nervous system

 

People from all cultures and ages have known the benefits of inviting our system to release and relax. It’s built into us to seek various ways of releasing stress and tension, and find a deeper relaxation. What I am writing about in this post is not new in its essence, although the language obvious reflects my own time and culture. (I am sure what I write here will seem hopelessly outdated in a few decades, or perhaps even sooner.)

We have known for a while about the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the nervous system. The sympathetic is the flight, fight, and freeze response. And the parasympathetic is responsible for digesting, restoring, and allow for healing.

Both are essential for our survival. The flight/fight/freeze response is vital for us in situations that threatens our survival or well being. And the “resting and digesting” allows for healing and restoring.

At the same time, if the flight/fight/freeze (FFF) response becomes chronic, it’s not good. If it’s chronically on alert, as if a threat can be around any corner, it adversely impacts our well being and health. It reduces our ability to fight off disease, restore, and heal.

And the FFF response is chronic for many of us today. It becomes chronic through chronic stress, and through trauma – whether from one or a few major traumatic events or built up from many smaller traumatic events.

So what can we do?

There are the usual ways to relax.

Go for a walk. Move. Be in nature. Garden. Walk barefoot in nature.

Eat nourishing food. Drink plenty of water.

Do yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema etc.

Nurture nourishing relationships. (With yourself, your body, your heart, your belly, your mind, friends, family, partner, children, nature, society, past and future generations, the universe, life.)

Create a stable and nurturing life situation. (To the extent possible.)

There is Natural Rest, and various forms of mindfulness and meditation. These typically have relaxation – of body and mind – as a side-effect, and this can become a new habit. There is also the possibility of recognizing what we are, which opens for an even deeper relaxation.

There is also inquiry, which can help us see through (dismantle) stressful beliefs and identifications. Again, this can lead to a deeper mind-body relaxation.

In addition, some of these approaches specifically reprogram the stimuli-response patterns that create stress.

There is a stimuli – in the form of images, words, smells, sounds, movement, and sensations – and a response. When the nervous system is “on edge”, and the sympathetic branch is chronically activated, some or many of the stimuli we experience daily can trigger a FFF response, even they are not really a threat. They are perceived as a threat, at some level in us, so our nervous system respond as if they are an actual threat, even if a more relaxed and calm response would be more appropriate (in a conventional sense) and helpful.

These stimuli are, as mentioned above, images, words, smells, sounds, movement, and sensations. It can be a reaction to sound, which can lead to misophonia. It can be a reaction to smell, for instance chemical sensitivity. It can be a reaction to sight or mental images. It can be a reaction to heard or imagined words. It can be a reaction to sensations, especially when these appear combined with certain images and words.

It can be a reaction to images, words, and sensations making up (apparently) traumatic or stressful stories and identities.

It can even be a reaction to heat or cold (over sensitivity to heat or cold), the sensations of physical exertion (often a part of CFS), or the sensations of fatigue or brain fog (another part of CFS).

Here are a couple of ways to intentionally reprogram how our nervous system responds to various stimuli.

When you notice a stimuli that typically trigger a FFF response (unease, stress, tension, discomfort), intentionally notice and allow the stimuli and response. Feel the sensations, allow them as they are. Find love for them. Rest with them. (This is an intentional and specific use of Natural Rest.)

Explore the situation – the stimuli and response – through inquiry. Look at images and words. Feel sensations. Can you find a threat? A deficient (or inflated) self? A command to X? Through doing this, we get to see how our mind creates a sense of threat, or someone threatened, or a self that needs to be fought or protected, or a command to stay safe etc. This allows the charge to soften or go out of it. We more easily recognize words as words, images as images, and sensations as sensations. The stimuli trigger another response than the old FFF response. It can be met with a deeper relaxation and calmness, and even welcome and kindness. What we thought were there are revealed to not be there, at least not as we initially thought it was there.

A third approach is to invite tension to release out from the body, even chronic tension stores in muscles and fascia, for instance through therapeutic tremors (TRE). This releases the overall tension/stress level in the nervous system, so it’s less on high alert, less jumpy, less likely to “over react” to stimuli.

So we can find ways to relax, which can be very helpful. We can release chronic tension out of our bodies so it’s less on high alert, and less likely to respond with FFF. (TRE, therapeutic tremors.) We can intentionally reprogram our nervous system to respond differently and in a more relaxed way to stimuli. (Intentional use of Natural Rest, inquiries such as the Living Inquiries.)

I like the stimulus-response way of looking at this. It’s simple. Relatively easy to understand. It ties into science.

And it works for a wide range of different situations – from looking at sights (eyes) or mental images (memories, future, present), hearing or imagining words, hearing or imagining sounds, feeling or imagining sensations.

For instance, one way to understand trauma is to see that it’s created by words, images, and sensations “stuck together” so the images and words seem charged, real and solid. The sensations lend charge, and a sense of reality and solidity to the associated images and words. One example is mages of being bullied at school connected mentally with sensations in throat, belly, and face, and words such as “I am a victim”, “I am unlovable”, “they don’t like me”. The nervous system responds to these images, words, and sensations as if they are a threat, and go into high alert. By looking at the images, recognizing them as images, and seeing that they are not a threat, the nervous system responds with relaxation to the same images. The same goes for the words. And by feeling the sensations, recognizing them as sensations, and seeing that the sensations are not a threat, the nervous system shifts its response to these sensations from FFF to relaxation.

The same happens for fear of the future, any perceived threat, any sense of a deficient self, and even compulsions.

And the same pattern is there for sensitivity to just about anything: Sound, chemicals, food, heat and more.

In the case of chronic fatigue, which I am familiar with, there may be sensitivity and over-reaction to physical exertion, heat, fatigue, and brain fog. Or rather, the sensations, images, and words created by my mind which makes up my experience of physical exertion, heat, fatigue, and brain fog. My nervous system goes into FFF as a response to these stimuli, and this response can be retrained to be a response of relaxation. I am not saying that’s the whole answer to taking care of CFS. At the same time, it may be a significant portion of the answer, along with taking care of any medical issues (in my case, B12 deficiency, epstein-barr virus, two pneumonia viruses, an auto-immune disease, and lyme…!), strengthening the systems through adaptogens (herbs), a good diet, movement, fresh air, nature and more.

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TRE trembling and other types of trembling

 

After starting with Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), I have been curious about various forms of trembling.

There seems to be a few different types:

(a) Trembling from muscle fatigue. After exercise, physical exertion.

(b) Trembling to produce heat. Shivering from cold.

(c) Trembling after orgasm. Some report this.

(d) Trembling to release tension and trauma. Following a traumatic event (hunted by a predator, car accident), childbirth, and also the TRE exercises.

The muscle fatigue trembling seems relatively simple, and localized to the fatigued muscles.

Trembling to produce heat also seems relatively simple, and partly localized (for instance to the jaw) and partly general and involving the whole body.

Trembling after sex and/or orgasm may be a way for the system to release an “overload” from the stimulation of sex and orgasm. In some cases, this could be related to earlier sex related trauma, although that’s just a possibility.

Trembling from TRE seems different. It varies in frequency. It moves to different – and eventually just about all – areas of the body. It sometimes includes rhythmic movements of limbs (butterflying of the legs, shaking of hands etc.). It includes stretching. It seems to be guided by an inherent intelligence of the body, moving to where it’s needed and perhaps also at the frequency most needed. It seems to be much more about restoring the system to health (psychically and mentally).

David Berceli, the originator of TRE, uses the term neurogenic tremors for the TRE tremors. Neurogenic means initiated/guided by the nervous system, but all of these forms for tremblings seem to be initiated and guided by the nervous system. Using the word exclusively for the TRE type trembling doesn’t quite make sense to me. (I have to admit that I have used the word in that way in previous posts, because others do, and I have done so against my better judgment.) Some call it therapeutic trembling, which makes better sense.

It would be very interesting to know more about how these different forms of trembling are initiated, which parts of the nervous system is involved, and perhaps also which parts of the brain are involved in the different forms of trembling.

TRE and fatigue

 

There may be many reasons for chronic fatigue (or not), and many ways through it.

For me, Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) is one.

I assume that chronic tension binds energy that otherwise could be used for healing and living life. And it may also block energy flow, in a more eastern view, with a similar result.

At the very least, it certainly takes a lot of energy to hold tension in the body. (As it does to hold beliefs, identifications, and velcro. This is what creates the mental and physical tension, which is why natural rest and inquiry is apart of this exploration for me. I want to go to the root of what’s happening, and TRE alone doesn’t do that.)

When I do TRE, I feel relaxed, whole, and more myself. And as I do it over time, chunks of tension soften and gradually release, starting from the legs and hips and moving up the body.

For me, now, the main tension sits in my shoulders, and that’s also where – in my throat – I notice a consistent body contraction. My hip area and lower back feels much more soft and open, and it seems that it’s largely due to the TRE.

Chronic fatigue and TRE

 

I have chronic fatigue (whatever that is) and have been doing TRE (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises) for a while.

Many have reported good success in healing from fatigue using TRE, and it’s perhaps not so surprising.

Neurogenic tremors allow the body to release tension and trauma (physically and emotionally), and this – in turn – releases and makes available the energy and resources previously tied up in maintaining the tension and trauma.

I have found other things helpful too:

Inquiry into my thoughts about the symptoms (labels, what they mean) and any stressful stories, including the most basic ones.

Loving kindness. Meeting what’s here – including the symptoms and my reactions to it – with love.

Gratitude. All-inclusive gratitude practice. I am grateful for…… and include anything in your life, what’s easy to feel grateful for and what it’s more challenging to find gratitude for.

Natural rest. Allowing what’s here – this field of experience – as it is. Noticing it’s already allowed as it is. Spending time with this, now and then through the day.

Feeling sensations as sensations, especially any sensations associated with the fatigue. (The sensations interpreted as fatigue, brain fog, resistance, fear, sadness etc.) This can be made easier through inquiry into words and images associated with these sensations.

Following my guidance and my heart. Inquiring into the way my mind stops itself from living this. Following my guidance even if there is fear. (Feeling off track can be draining.)

A good – and not very strict – diet, consisting mainly of simple and ordinary foods, similar to that our ancestors would have eaten. (Not much processed food, or sugar, dairy or wheat.) Drinking plenty of water. (Mostly in the form of herbal and spice teas, enough to keep the urine light colored or clear.)

Spending time in nature. Find your spot. Go for walks. Sit and rest. Soak it in. Allow nature to gently work on you. Walk barefoot.

Strength training, although not in excess.

Herbs. (Eleuthero, rhodiola, chulen, Stangelands Urtete etc.)

Engaging in nourishing activities and relationships. Dropping, as far as possible, draining activities and social engagement.

Stepping stones to what’s more natural

 

Many practices I have explored seem to function as stepping stones to what’s more natural. They take me from a disconnected and fragmented state to what’s simpler and more natural. And that includes meditation, yoga (tai chi, chi gong, Breema), inquiry, prayer, loving kindness, gratitude, precepts and shaking (TRE, spontaneous movement, dance), and a variety of other practices.

The mental body is the newest in our human evolution, so it is perhaps natural that it’s been emphasized during the last few thousand years at least. This has led to a temporary over-emphasizing of role of the mental faculties (they are important, but function best in service to the heart), the appearance of our thoughts as more real and solid than they are, and identification with and as thought. So many or most of the practices developed over this time period are aimed at remedy and balance this. They are medicines for a temporary over-emphasis of the mental body. They are a bridge from this to seeing what’s already here, and a simpler and more natural way of being and living.

Some examples:

Precepts highlight what in us – usually fears, shoulds and beliefs – that prevent us from living with a natural and simple kindness towards ourselves and others. As with the other practices, it can feel a bit artificial at first, and then it shifts into a more natural and free living from kindness.

Natural meditation (Shikantaza) is what’s already here, although attention may be drawn to the complexities and drama of the mental and emotional bodies. It’s also how the mind naturally is when it’s less identified.

Yoga helps us connect more consciously with the body and movement, and allows us to experience ourselves as the body-mind whole. The whole is already here, although it’s not always noticed. And an experience of it can be cultivated through various movement practices.

Prayer is a giving of ourselves to God, an offering of our human self to Spirit. Again, it’s already that way, and this helps us notice it. It’s also how we naturally live when mind is less identified.

Loving kindness is again what’s here when mind is less identified. There is a natural and simple love and kindness for whatever is here in myself, others and the world. It’s what I am and life is.

Gratitude is similar. It’s what’s naturally here when mind is less identified. This may be a gratitude for what it’s easy to find gratitude for (friends, family, health, shelter, good food), and also for life itself as it shows up, with warts and calamities and all.

Inquiry is an examination of our thoughts and how it relates to emotions, sensations and our lives. Again, when mind is less identified it is naturally curious and attentive of these dynamics.

Shaking is what any mammal does to relieve stress and tension. It allows the body and mind to restore itself to a more healthy state.

With all of these, it can feel a bit artificial at first. We learn a form and a method, apply it, and it can feel clumsy. It also brings up what’s in us that prevents us from living it in a natural and simple form, it brings us face to face with identifications, wounds, fears, shoulds and more. And over time, as these soften, are held in love, and are seen through, the natural way of living this is gradually revealed. Form gives way to a very natural and simple way of living. These practices is a bridge from a temporary over-emphasizing of the mental body, with accompanying identifications, to a more simple and less identified way of being and living. (more…)

Neurogenic tremors during inquiry

 

Since I have some familiarity with inquiry and TRE (neurogenic tremors), it’s natural that neurogenic tremors come up during inquiry. It helps release tension, and it also helps thaw frozen patterns, it bring what’s frozen and numb come alive.

Yesterday, I did a Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet (The Work) on my mother not coming when was in a crib and cried as a baby. I was wrapped in a blanket and on the floor while doing the inquiry, and – under question 3, what happens when you believe that thought? – I noticed I became physically very still, my breath was held, and I felt frozen, numb and paralyzed. And under question 4, who would you be without that belief, I started trembling, and it helped thaw the frozenness I created from the belief. The trembling showed me the answer to question 4. I felt alive, free, was able to enjoy what’s here – the warm blanket, the movements and aliveness of this warm body, a deeper and fuller breath.

Breath and tension as the doorway

 

There are certain things that happens when mind identifies with images and thoughts, and creates beliefs. This is the doorway out of paradise, leaving a natural clarity.

And the reverse of these is the doorway back into paradise, into our natural clarity.

For instance, tension of certain muscle groups seems needed to support identification and the creation and maintenance of a belief. And release of this tension, for instance through neurogenic tremors, invites the identification to soften or release.

Likewise, shallow or held breath supports identification and beliefs, and a more free breathing – perhaps even an intentionally more full breathing – softens or invites the identification to release.

Releasing tension and opening the breath may support entering through the door again. And yet, something else is vital, and that’s examining the identification itself.

Mind identifies with an image or thought to protect the (image of a) me. By doing so, mind perceive, feel and act as if the identified with image or thought is true. It can only do so by not examining the image or thought very carefully for its validity. So the way back through this doorway is to examine the image and thought thoroughly. Is it true? Can I be sure it’s true? What happens when I believe it’s true? Who would I be without the belief? What’s the validity in the turnarounds of the initial thought – turning it around to myself, the opposite, the other.

This is why the simple process Barry and Karen shows people can be so effective. It includes sensations, breath, a natural relaxation, and noticing and taking a closer look at beliefs.

(1) Notice identification or contraction. (2) Bring attention to where it is in the body, to the densest and darkest parts. (3) Stay with the sensations, and breathe. Make the breath a little fuller. Notice if/how the sensations change over time. (4) Notice any images and thoughts behind the contraction. What does the fear say? Write it down, stream of consciousness style. (5) Look at these images and thoughts. Can you be sure it’s true? What would the divine/Christ (your higher self) say? Notice what happens when you believe it. Stay with the sensations and the belief in the knowing that the belief is not true. (6) Repeat. Find the place in your body that asks for your attention. Find the place that appears most contracted and dense.

 

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Invoking subpersonalities

 

This is a quite common way of doing it, and one I find useful too:

I bring a stressful situation to mind. This brings up stress, fear and beliefs.

And I then explore it using neurogenic tremors (TRE). By holding satsang with the part of me triggered by it. By writing a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet (The Work). Or by bringing attention to the most dense and dark part of my body, breathe, and invite it to move and notice what images and thoughts lay behind the contraction and stress (from Barry & Karen).