Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast

The Importance of Connection To Your Healing

August 29, 2023 Amanda Armstrong Season 1 Episode 28
Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast
The Importance of Connection To Your Healing
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 28

The minute we are born we start to lay down patterns of protection and connection.  Join me for a reflective conversation on the piece of your healing that might be impacted by early patterns of protection and how vital laying down new patterns of connection are to your healing. I offer some suggestions in this episodes takeaways on how you might be able to do just that. Hit play to learn more!

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Welcome to regulate, and rewire and anxiety and depression podcast where we discuss the things I wish someone would have taught me earlier in my healing journey. I'm your host, Amanda Armstrong. And I'll be sharing my steps, my missteps, client experiences and tangible research based tools to help you regulate your nervous system, rewire your mind and reclaim your life. Thanks for being here. Now let's dive in. 

Today we are going to talk about the importance of connection, connection and CO regulation and why so many of us are stuck with hard wiring that defaults to protection over connection. If you are somebody who is quick to assume offense, again, I'm right here in this camp or have been in various places on my healing journey. So if you are somebody who is quick to assume offense, in a relationship, you get defensive quite easily you become maybe snappy or avoidant. These are all forms of protection. Anxiety is a form of protection, depression is a form of protection. So many of us are stuck in these various default protective patterns. And yet, we each so deeply crave authentic connection. 

 So what gives, where is this disconnect between so deeply needing connection, and yet, so often finding ourselves in these protective patterns. Now, the number one goal of our nervous system is survival, which makes it really prone to picking up protective patterns, and quite quickly, but connection is also biologically imperative. Connection is also essential for our well being. And I would go as far to say, for our survival to some extent, as well. And we'll talk more about that in a little bit. But let's, let's start by talking about what lays down our wiring for connection or protection in certain situations. And depending on your circumstances, you may be listening to this next bit of our conversation from one or two perspectives. 

One, everybody who's listening to this has had a childhood. So you may listen to this part of the conversation more reflectively on what your early upbringing looked like. And the second lens for those of you who are parents, you may be reflecting on some of the things I'm about to say on what patterns of protection or connection that you might be cultivating for your own children. And again, as always, we are not we are not, we are not listening to this. And adding to any guilt, shame or whatever, especially for your parents, every single one of you is listening to a podcast like this, because you care about the way that you're parenting. Parenting is really hard, you're doing the best you can. And with more education with more awareness with more regulation and more healing tools for ourselves, we can do different for our children. So this is my invitation for you to listen with curiosity and compassion, and to reflect gently. It is also as we have conversations where we reflect on our childhood, we reflect on maybe past parenting moments, it's totally natural for some grief, even anger to come up as we realize where there has been Miss attunement or miss connection between us and our parents or us as parents with our kids. And so just a reminder that whatever comes up is okay, and it's welcome. And you're safe to feel that here. 

So before heading into today's chat Let's all take a deep breath. And come into this conversation with an open mind and a really soft heart. 

Our sense of feeling connected begins. At the beginning, it begins in the way that we are welcomed into this world, literally day one. And I would even say that it may even start before there's a lot of research that shows that a mother stress levels and environmental factors and self regulatory ability can play a role in how the baby's autonomic nervous system develops. But today we are starting our conversation from birth from day one. And how much of your story from that point forward is about connection versus how much of your story is about protection? And that depends entirely on whether or not you had regulated and regulating people surrounding you. So from day one, how much of your internal narrative and dialogue, your assumptions about yourself and the world are about connection versus protection depended entirely on whether you had regulated and regulating people surrounding you. Whether there were safe people, and places and circumstances from day one. 

So the second you enter the world, your autonomic nervous system starts building a story around relationships around the world. Now, a personal aside, I have two young boys three and almost four months, both of their births ended in unplanned C sections, and some scary circumstances where they needed to go to the nursery while I took a couple hours to recover. And I remember, it was a handful of months after my first son was born before the realization really hit me that this tiny little baby spent the first two to three hours of his life away from his mom. And for whatever reason, and I'm even feeling some emotion rise in me right now, as I reflect on this, that realization crushed me far more than any other part of my birth story that did not go according to plan. And the good news for me is that, in the past three years, I have done a lot of processing and peacemaking with that circumstance. 

So when I found myself just a handful of months ago, in a similar situation with my second son, where he also was not with me, for the first couple hours of his life, it didn't weigh as heavily on me. But the fact remains that that's a very unnatural experience, right to be separated from your mom just hours after birth. Absolutely, I believe, lay down at least some level of a defensive pattern for both my boys. And one thing I'll for ever, forever, forever, forever be grateful for is my non judgmental understanding of the nervous system, and how it works and how unbelievably malleable it is. And because of this knowledge, I'm able to partner with my nervous system, as well as the nervous system of my children, to help reshape their system and rewrite their stories. And it's never too late for each of you to do the same with yourselves or with your children, assuming they're still young and in your home. 

So So what does this matter? Right? What does this matter? It matters because for me in this story, for the next few days and few weeks, I took extra measure to be as near and as responsive to my new baby as possible, so that any patterns of protection that might have been laid in those formidable few hours, could be quickly replaced with a sense of attunement and security with a sense of connection, versus a need to biologically self protect. And this is also why skin to skin with mom or dad is such a common and beneficial practice, especially in neonatal intensive care units, right with preemie babies, or when things aren't, as you would hope them to be at birth. Research has shown that the skin to skin contact has positive outcomes for new babies, including heart breathing, and temperature stabilization. 

Again, all functions regulated and mediated by our nervous system. This contact the sense of physical security also helps them to organize their sleep and their autonomic states. And in this, right, it's not just parent to baby but it's also baby to parent parents report being more sensitive and attuned to their baby's needs, they had greater ability to adapt to their signals. All of this lays a foundation of safety and connection for a new tiny human. So it is in these early interactions, and into the first few years few years of a baby and a young child's life, where they are completely dependent on their caregivers to bring regulation to their nervous system. Young children do not have an ability to self regulate. And it is in these shared experiences of safety from parent to child that forms the foundation of how that child navigates interpersonal relationships. So it was in your early experiences of safety or not, that have formed the foundation of how you navigate interpersonal relationships. 

And so now for a moment I'm talking to parents, too. Deep breath because you don't have to get it right all the time. In fact, you only have to get it right about a third of the time. In attuned what they call attuned parent child relationships, parents are able to recognize their child's changing needs a change in their nervous system, state and respond appropriately. So an attuned parent child relationship just basically says, Oh, I can see that you need something from me. And I know how to respond appropriately to that. So you have a sense of when your child is escalating or becoming overwhelmed, and so on, and you are able to meet their dysregulation with your own regulation to meet their need appropriately. And the research shows that you only have to appropriately meet your child's needs a third of the time, not even half of the time. And that's really comforting to me, because I don't know that I get it right very often. 

But the other ingredient here that is essential, is what happens after mismatch. What happens when there has been a rupture. So a researcher and author, Deb Danna, she's also a leader in the world of polyvagal theory. And she's just incredible, in my opinion, in every way, she shares that, quote, a regulated, flexible and resilient system is built when ruptures are recognized and repairs are made. The ability to self regulate is built on ongoing experiences of CO regulation. 

So inside my rise membership, we recently hosted a workshop on regulated parenting, where we talked about one of the things we talked about, we talked about a lot of things was the importance of connecting with your child before correcting, and what a difference that can make not only in their relationship with us as parents, but also in the result that you're hoping for with the correction, right, which has changed behavior. And I will plant again, just a little teaser for the parents who are listeners here, I'm actually currently outlining a couple of future miniseries for this podcast, and one of which will be on regulated parenting, and it is going to be so so so good. So stay tuned, where I will go into so much more detail about all of those topics. But the bottom line here for today is that connection is essential. And we depend on people around us for CO regulation as children and as adults. 

So I want to hit just pause in this conversation for a moment to invite you to reflect maybe to reflect on your own upbringing. Was there a felt sense of safety? Was there acceptance? Or were there often moments of Miss attunement? When ruptures occurred, or they recognized and repaired? Did you ever have a parent apologize to you as their child and parents listening? Maybe take a moment to reflect Do you ever sincerely apologize to your kids? 

I had to twice today. I have given my three year old he knows. I really don't like when I yell. And so he has permission to tell me not to, to yell at him. And there's some of your parents who were like, Oh, but I want to teach him that he gets to judge how people do or don't speak to him. And so today he goes, Mom, you yelled. And actually, I'm downplaying that a little bit. I did yell it was in a moment where there was a safety concern. He was crossing a street and wasn't as aware. But I yelled for his name. And tears immediately. Well, tup and he turned to me and he was like, Mom, you yelled. And I said, You're right. You're right. I don't like when I yell either. And then I proceeded to give him some context. You know, I yelled, because I was scared, etcetera. And again, there was a rupture. It was recognized and it was repaired. 

And then later on, at the end of our walk, we were in a store picking up something and I was trying to work something out with the cashier and my son was in the background, like, undo my helmet, undo my helmet, undo my helmet, undo my home, and I finally snapped to him and I was like, You need to wait. I'm talking to somebody. And there was also a moment of Miss attunement. His helmet was pulling his hair, he's sweaty, he's uncomfortable, right? He had a need, he couldn't meet himself. And I completely snapped at him. I think I even said something like, Oh, you're driving me crazy right now. To which I saw him kind of like, make a hitting motion in the air and stomp his foot. And so as we exited the store, I got down on his level, I took a deep breath. And I said, I'm sorry, I'm sorry that I snapped at you. I know you just wanted your helmet off. There were a lot of things going on for mom. Again, we don't have to get it right all the time. We don't even have to repair every time. But can we as parents notice when there's rupture, seek to connect and repair. 

So as you just take some time to reflect on your own upbringing, that felt sense of safety and acceptance, or maybe not moments of Miss attunement and rupture that were never repaired. If that's the case, that likely is a huge piece of your patterns of protection today. And again, the good news is that you can absolutely lay down new patterns, it is never too late. We have worked with clients in our practice these brave incredible souls who stepped into their healing at 25 and 75. So when there is ongoing, Miss attunement, when ruptures aren't recognized the nervous system experiences this persistent threat of danger. And that shapes the system away from connection and into patterns of protection. So just trying to give you some context for why you may find yourself in patterns of protection that you may or may not understand. So these patterns of protection are what plays out in our relationships in everyday life now. And again, the good news is you can change these patterns. 

Now, I heard something today that I think applies here. And it went something like this. And this person was speaking and they said, if you take an orange and you squeeze it, and you ask yourself, what will come out? The answer is orange juice. Never ever will apple juice come out of an orange. So the next question can be well, why? Well, because that's what's inside. Orange juice is what is inside of an orange forever. And always. Now, if you extend the metaphor to someone squeezes you, let's say someone says something about you that you don't like an outcomes anger, and immediately want to say, Well, the reason the anger came out of me is because how they said it. But the truth is, what comes out is what's inside. And if you don't like what's inside, you can change it. 

So if you find yourself in patterns that often lead to outbursts of anger, avoidance. It's likely because you have these deeply hardwired patterns for protection that override your desire for connection. And as humans, we are wired for connection. belonging to a group or being part of a tribe has been a survival strategy throughout evolutionary history. There are also a lot of really interesting pieces of research on social rejection and perceive loneliness. And when you experience long states of loneliness or feeling rejected, it compromises your ability to regulate your nervous system. And this has impacts not just on your emotional well being but your physical well being as well. And so the bottom line is when we feel alone, when we feel disconnected, we suffer. When we feel alone or disconnected for long, long periods of time, mental health and medical risks increase. We know that loneliness or perceived sense of loneliness, increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, even death. You have an exaggerated inflammatory response in your body cognition, and cognitive functioning decline, their sleep disturbances, depression, these are just some of the consequences of being stuck in a loneliness loop. 

Now, this episode today is less solution focused, and more of a kind of reflection and awareness episode, awareness of how your early experiences may be contributing to the way that you show up relationally. Now, the story you walk around with about the world being predominantly safe or unsafe, whether you default to assuming positive or negative intent in others actions.

And also, a huge focus of today's conversation is just to drive home how important connection is especially on you Your healing journey. And in those early developmental years, and this is another place where this ongoing or an ongoing coaching or therapeutic relationship can be such a vital and valuable part of healing. When you have a weekly therapy appointment or a weekly session with your coach, these can become predictably regulating relationships that can help to strengthen your pathways for connection versus protection. So as a practitioner, myself, part of my role and the role of the other coaches in my practice, are to be a reliable, regulating other person for our clients in their lives. Many, many, many of our clients, the experience of being safe, with a person in a safe place early on in their lives was missing. And so having these weekly or whatever consistent and predictably scheduled sessions with someone who helps you to feel a sense of safety, who you're able to co regulate to, is a profoundly vital piece of healing. 

There's a lot of research that shows that the relationship you have, most of this research is done on like a therapeutic relationship. So the relationship between a client and a therapist, and how safe and how seen you feel by your therapist actually is more impactful than the modality of therapy itself. So this is again, just another indicator of how important connection is. 

Just before recording this episode, actually, I just hosted my monthly attunement class. So this is a monthly guided nervous system regulation and trauma release class that I host. And when I invited participants to share at the end, anything that impacted them from tonight's class one, one woman wrote into the chat, just how much of a difference it makes doing these sessions in a group of other people. And I just loved that I believe wholeheartedly in the research would also concur that this felt sense of safe connection, being able to be seen inside a safe container provides as much healing and regulation as the actual somatic practices that we did tonight. And I'll also put just a quick plug in for this offering, because it is one of the few offerings that is open to anyone to join. So this is one of the monthly calls, it is included for everyone inside my rise membership. But anybody outside can also join. And I'll add a link to next month's class in the show notes. And if this is your first class, if you use the code, attune at checkout, you can get 40% off and joining for this month in class is actually a great way to get some guided experience with a lot of the nervous system regulating tools and trauma release practices that I talked about here on the podcast. So I'd love to see some of you join us next month. 

But circling back to the importance of connection, especially in our healing. Another question I often get asked is if someone can regulate their nervous system on their own, if they need something like coaching or therapy, and my response is usually something like you know you can do, you really can, you can do a lot of this on your own. Many of you I hear from a lot of you every week saying you're putting into practice the things that you're learning on this podcast, and it's making a difference. But no one can completely regulate alone. So do you need coaching or therapy? Maybe not. But you absolutely do need other humans in your inner circle in your life who you feel deeply safe and seen by unconditionally accepted by and with whom you can co regulate to. Because really, the goal of all of this work is to become self regulating, to be able to notice moments of dysregulation as they come and to have the capacity and the ability to re anchor yourself into a place of regulation a felt sense of safety. Now self regulation, the ability to self regulate. It is built on the ongoing experience of CO regulation, which is something that can predictably be created in that practitioner coach therapeutic setting. You may also have it in other places in your life. But co regulation as implied by the word Co Co regulation is simply not something that we can do or create on our own and it is a vital ingredient to our healing. 

All right. I know I said that this was more of a reflective conversation than a solution oriented episode. But here are three tangible takeaways from today's conversation. Number one, awareness, asking yourself these questions. Is this a piece of my healing puzzle? This lack of connection? Were there early patterns of protection? Do I have predictably regulating relationships in my life now? Reflect on some of those questions and see if there's any Aha, or any new piece to your healing puzzle that comes into light for you. 

Number two, is this reassurance that you absolutely can change patterns of protection that no longer serve you. And when we can change these patterns of protection, it allows us to more authentically and openly step into the connection that we so deeply desire. And like you've heard me say, a few times before on this podcast, none of us had the luxury of waiting until we were adults, with context and life experience to write the rules on how to stay safe and get our needs met. A tiny version of you did. And you are still living by their rulebook, we all have patterns of protection that no longer apply to our current day reality. And in our practice, we help our clients to repattern these through a mixed approach of nervous system regulation as well as somatic parts work, also called ifs or integrated family systems. Now we would obviously love love, love to work with you inside our races we practice. But if you're somebody who's already in the therapy world or prefers to stay in the therapy world, a modality that I love, love, love, love, love, to recommend to work with childhood patterns is ifs. So looking for a therapist who is trained in integrated family systems to work with may be wonderfully beneficial for you. 

Now, number three is this understanding that loneliness is a major aspect of depression, loneliness, being synonymous for disconnection, we find purpose in our social connections. And when our belonging needs are not met, we feel less meaning in our everyday lives. Loneliness can read as a life threat to your nervous system, putting it into that shutdown state of depression. And if this is part of what you're experiencing, asking yourself, How can I cultivate a deeper sense of connection? Is there somebody organically in my life that I can lean into? And if there's not, where can I seek out connection? Because connection is a non negotiable part of healing? From anxiety and depression? Is there a therapist is there a coach and may rise community might be a great place to start if you're looking for something that has a low upfront commitment, we have a sliding pricing scale, it's month to month, you can cancel at any time. But the bottom line is that you need safe humans to support your healing. And, as always, I would be honored to be invited as a safe, safe person on your journey. All right, friends, that's all we have for today's conversation. And until next time, I am sending you so much hope and healing. 

Thanks for listening to another episode of The regulate and rewire podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a five star review to help us get these powerful tools out to even more people who need them. And if you yourself are looking for more personalized support and applying what you've learned today, consider joining me inside Rhys, my monthly mental health membership and nervous system healing space or apply for our one on one anxiety and depression coaching program restore. I've shared a link for more information to both in the show notes. Again, thanks so much for being here. And I'll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai