MODULE 1: Mapping Our Nervous Systems

Goal of Module 1:

Get on the same page as a group about nervous system, stress and anxiety

Map our own experiences

Feel more fluent in interpreting the language of the nervous system

Landing together- become present to your space

feet, seat, spine

-breathing- box breathing

-face rub

-wiggle fingers and toes

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress, it’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come.

The trouble is chronic stressors that are outside our locus of control.

In Somatic work, we see anxiety as something authentic from the bottom of the body that wants to rise up, and something conditioned or learned from the top of the body that wants to keep the authentic response down.  Where they meet in the middle is a pressure cooker.

Thoughts-

Moods

Behaviours

Physical Markers

Anxiety through the Polyvagal Theory Autonomic Nervous System

-Story in the thoughts follows the state of the ANS

Whereas most anxiety therapies focus on thoughts and behaviour and moods, (top or brain down approaches), somatic therapy focusses on shifting the nervous system state, and therefore the physical markers of anxiety FIRST so that the message the body is sending to the brain is one of more safety. -The Central nervous system  is body centric system that spans from lower skull to the base of the torso.  It starts down at your instinctive, primitive brain, which governs body instincts, runs down your brainstem, which is where your brain remembers sensations, winds through your nect and has many satellite survey centres sprinkled throughout your chest, belly, gut and reproductive organs where it culminates in the bowl of your pelvis.  

-80 percent of the messages your brain has about your well-being come from these satellite centres- your gut nervous system, your heart nervous system and the nervous system tissue that is woven throughout the organs of your body.

-The vagus nerve is one of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves within the sensory-somatic nervous system. The 10th cranial nerves called vagus are the main nerves of the parasympathetic nervous system originating at the brainstem in the medulla oblongata. It travels down the sides of your neck, across the chest, and down through the abdomen.

This nerve is the sensory network that tells the brain what’s going on in our organs, most specially the digestive tract (stomach and intestines), lungs and heart, spleen, liver and kidneys, not to mention a range of other nerves that are involved in everything from talking to eye contact to facial expressions and even your ability to tune in to other people’s voices. It is made of thousands upon thousands of fibers, operating far below the level of our conscious mind. It plays a vital role in sustaining overall wellness. It is an essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming organs after the stressed “fight-or-flight” adrenaline response to danger.

-We were wired for fleeting reactivity, like running from predators or protecting our harvest from storms and then to be done with it. Short lived stressors.

Since most of us deal with longer term stressors these days, we need new tools to help our nervous system rest and relax

When we work from the body up, we address that 80 percent of messages that your body is sending your brain. So it’s like there are 4 lanes of sensory info from the body to the brain and 1 lane from the brain to the body. We see that working exclusively with thoughts is not the more efficient way to deal with anxiety.

We are perceiving events through the lens of our body-state.  We all have the experience of feeling sick and tired and having very different moods, thoughts and perceptions than when we are well.

“perception is more important than reality.  Personal perception, not the actual facts of an experience creates consequences.  Understanding the nervous system, we have noticed that before the brain makes meaning of an incident, the autonomic nervous system has assessed the environment and intiated an adaptive survival response.  Body knowing preceeds perception.

The story our brains tell us depends upon which branch of the nervous system is firing.

KIND OBSERVATION – is the most important

Learning about the Polyvagal Theory of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

Ventral Vagus- Safe and Social

CAN I HAVE SAFE CONNECTION TO OTHERS?

-slows heart rate, lots of variability- able to adapt to life’s changes

-regular breath

-organs function optimally

-face alive and engaged

-coherant speech, brain alert but calm

-relaxed yet alert,

-able to be present, open, curious

-available for connection

-capacity to read interpersonal and environmental cues clearly

-ability for shared focus

-empathy for self-others

-eyes soft, face alive

-here is where we feel more like ourselves,

-present moment awareness

-perceive,

-see choices

-integrate life’s experiences

Story here: Let’s consider this from all the angles, I can get support if I need it, I can breathe for a moment

Sympathetic Arousal- low tone- Mobilized

Blood flow to regulating areas of the brain reduced

Play

Laughter

Challenge

“negative” life stress

Curiousity and learning

Exercise

Orgasm

Sympathetic Arousal- High Tone

Physical markers:

-faster heart rate

-dilated pupils

-dry mouth

-inhibits organ function-

-temperature hot

-narrows vision

-heightened alertness, focus

-body rigidity or tension

-talking faster, more

-lack of coherence in speech

-fidgety

-irritation/anger

-explode out

-pull in and up

-too much energy in the system to take in new information

-thoughts race around in circles

Flight – (avoidance)- emotion here is HIGH anxiety

CAN I PROTECT MYSELF BY RUNNING AWAY FROM THE THREAT?

Fight- (sarcasm, criticism, judgement, violence)- emotion here is rage

CAN I PROTECT MYSELF BY BEING ASSERTIVE AND ADDRESSING THE THREAT HEAD-ON?

Story here: “I am afraid and the world/others are dangerous. Move, take action, escape, The world is a dangerous place and only I can protect myself from harm”

Dorsal Vagus- High Tone -

Physical Characteristics:

-lower heart rate and breathing- almost not perceptible

-digestive issues- slow

-temperature- cold

-loss of motor control, skills

-shutting down

-helplessness, hopelessness

-fuzzy, foggy vision

-difficulty hearing clearly

-collapsed posture

-spacey

-sense of giving up

-isolation

-little eye contact

-too little energy in the nervous system to take in new info – but lots of charge underneath

-want to disappear, hide

Fawn- emotion here is shame- self loathing

CAN I PROTECT MYSELF BY RUNNING AWAY FROM THE THREAT?

Freeze/collapse- emotion here is shame- helplessness

CAN I PROTECT MYSELF BY SHUTTING DOWN, DISCONNECTING OR COLLAPSING?

Story here: “I can’t, I am far away in a dark and forbidding place.  I make no sound or movement, small, silent and barely breathing”.

15 Mins: MAPPING EXERCISE:

Map #1-

Personal profile map

-what does it feel like?

-What does it look like?

-what does it sound like?

-what do you feel in your body?

-what do you do? – behaviours- coping strategies

-how do you eat?

-what do you think and say?

-what are your emotions?

I am…

The world is…


Links, Books, Teachers.

Mariah Moser: Relational Somatic Therapy Certificate

www.openingtograce.com

Deb Dana- Anchored

Deb Dana - Polyvagal Theory in Therapy

Stephen Porges - Polyvagal Theory

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