Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast

How to Repair with Yourself & Others

October 24, 2023 Amanda Armstrong Season 1 Episode 36
Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast
How to Repair with Yourself & Others
Show Notes Transcript

None of us will ever be a perfect friend, parent, partner, or self-healer – so one of the most valuable skills we can learn is how to repair. In the last two episodes I’ve shared pretty openly that my default survival mode is FIGHT, I’m someone who’s nervous system is still pretty primed for quick activation and as a result I’ve often shown up in relationship with other people in way’s I'm less proud of. Join me for a conversation on how to return and repair, first with yourself and then with others. This chat was inspired but Dr. Becky's recent TED talk which you can find HERE.

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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. 

Hey, everyone, welcome back. Last week, I referred to something as return and repair that I want to take a little bit of a deeper dive into today. So for those of you who are maybe just tuning in today, and missed the last couple weeks, in the last two episodes, we talked about default survival modes of ourselves and potentially of our partners or parents or adult others in our life. And I shared pretty openly that my default survival mode is fight. I am somebody whose nervous system is still pretty primed for quick activation. And as a result, I have often and still frequently do show up in relationships with other people in ways that I am less than proud of. 

None of us are ever going to be a perfect friend, partner, parent person, especially when struggling with anxiety or depression, especially when our nervous system is stuck in states of threat over safety. And one of the most valuable skills that we can learn is how to repair to repair with ourselves. And then as a natural extension of that to repair with others. Connection, a sense of community a sense of belonging is a huge piece of this healing equation. And being able to repair effectively helps us to stay in close connection and authentic relationship authentic partnership with people around us in a better way. 

And before I go any further into today's conversation, I want to point out that today's conversation is inspired by and sources significantly from Dr. Becky's recent TED Talk, which I will link in the show notes. She is a clinical psychologist, the founder of good inside and a parent coach, somebody I've been following for a little while and really love as a mom, if you're a parent, even if you're not, I highly recommend her as a resource. And definitely watching this TED talk. And I'll reference it a couple times today. So I just want to again, reiterate that I'm going to reshare some of the things that she mentions in her TED talk and make it really clear that I don't claim any of these ideas as original, just sharing the good word. And we'll link resources back to her in the show notes in this TED talk. 

And in a lot of her content, her book, etc. She claims that repair is the most important parenting strategy that there is. And I would extend that to say that repair is one of the most important self healing strategies that there is as well. The skill of repair holds immense value in our relationships with others, but also in our relationship with ourself. 

Let's start with getting on the same page together for what we understand repair to be in some context around repair what it is and why it matters. So let's think about repair as going back to any moment that didn't feel good. We'll call this a rupture. So with a repair, we go back to a moment that didn't feel good. This is often a moment of disconnection. And in it we take responsibility for our behavior, we acknowledge the impact that we had on another whether that was our intention or not. And for the context of our conversation today, in really focusing on repairing with our self first understanding repair to be this act of going back to a moment in which we were unkind, we were rude, we were jerk to ourselves, a moment where we created disconnection within ourself to take responsibility for that behavior and acknowledge how even that made us feel. And I know that might sound a little bit weird and abstract, and we're gonna get into more of how to have that conversation with yourself. And just a little bit in this conversation. 

And repair is different than an apology in one primary way. Now, some of you may have different definitions of apologies the way that you go about them, but oftentimes for me, I have made an up apology with the attempt to shut down any future conversation. Right. Sorry, I did that sorry, yelled, sorry. Sorry, sorry, let's move on. So the biggest difference, and Dr. Becky talks about this as well between a repair and an apology is that an apology often seeks to shut down a conversation while a repair looks to open one up. And she continues to share that there is no perfect formula for repair. But it often consists of these three things. Number one, name what happened. Number two, take responsibility. Number three, state what you would do differently next time. And in her talk, she offered that in context of a parent and the importance of repairing with our children. And she shares an example of yelling at her son in the kitchen. And I'll let you listen to her personal example in her talk. But again, I want to filter this through the lens of how to repair with yourself on your healing journey. And to also point out that many of you, many of us are on a healing journey in the first place. Because we grew up with parents who didn't know how to properly repair. 

So when a child is yelled at when you were yelled at as a child, or just think about a child in general, understanding that when a child is yelled at or sent away with their big feelings, the only coping strategy that they have, is self blame. It is a adaptive for a child to internalize badness and fault, because at least they can then still hold on to this idea that their parents or the world around them is safe and good. Our brain and our nervous system needs to believe that there is safe and good out there. That that is still a possibility for us to allow us to keep showing up in our life. 

So really quick Nervous System Review. Think back to that polyvagal theory, nervous system ladder. I've mentioned many times in different episodes. There are those three primary states that green zone of regulation, yellow zone of activation and red zone of shutdown. Your nervous system is always scanning internally, externally and relationally and evaluating for safety or threat. When your nervous system gets more safety cues, from the world around you, your relationships inside of you, more safety cues in danger, you're in that green zone of regulation, more danger cues than safety cues, usually, first, that yellow zone of activation. And when our nervous system reads life threat, so many danger cues, barely any safety cues, if any at all, we go into that red shutdown state. 

So for a child for any of us, really orienting to the world, as being unsafe and bad, no matter what reads as a life threat to our nervous system, leaving us constantly shut down. And when that happens more often than not, that can lead to what we often call depression, the sense of helplessness, a sense of hopelessness. So all of this is to illustrate that self blame is actually adaptive, especially for children. It serves you as a child to help you stay in connection with your parents, aka the primary source of getting your needs met. But as an adult, it can create spiraling dysregulation in your relationships with yourself, with others, with life in general. And all of this is to point out that often when that self blaming voice comes out, it's coming from a much younger version of you who lacked an adult who modeled repair. It is a skill that many many of us were not taught as a child so of course we lack the skill as an adult. 

Pausing for a moment to just reflect in your daily life. How often do you spiral out when you make a mistake? Or even how often do you take on self blame for somebody else's mistake? Oh my partner only yelled because I my boss was disappointed because I So how often do you spiral out when you make a mistake? Or do you take on self blame for somebody else's mistake? They only drink because I whatever it is. How often have you or do you drop into self loathing sessions thinking what's wrong with me? What is wrong with me. And for me personally, this, this has come more frequently than I'd like to admit. But definitely happens significantly less frequently now that I understand and have befriended my nervous system. 

And I'll reshare story that I have shared with you on the podcast before. Because it was just such a hinge point for me. I remember one night in my 20s, where I was looking at a very, very lengthy to do list. And there were apparently fewer crossed off items, and I thought there should be. And I remember saying to myself, like somebody busier than you is doing better than you. Like, why are you like this? What's wrong with me. And there was another day a few years later, I remember just really struggling to focus I had been tasked bouncing or at least that's what I call it. You know, when you load like three dishes into the dishwasher, do two emails back to the sink to the bedroom fold half the laundry and like two hours go by and there's not a single task that's done to completion. And again, I turned against myself like what is wrong with you know, other adult finds it so hard to do the simple things. I've learned now that that's not necessarily true, or fast forward into motherhood. I have yelled at my toddler who was having a hard time Oh, self loathing session. Oh my gosh, what's wrong with me? I'm such a bad mom. Or, you know, just last week, when I wasn't that kind of my husband. Got what's wrong with me. So many of us have been led to view moments of imperfection, moments that didn't feel good as personal failure. And we will continue to do so reinforcing this narrative and belief that we suck that we're less than we should be unless we can learn how to repair. 

And again, Dr. Becky shares more eloquently than I ever could what it looks like to return and repair in a parent child relationship. And many of you are going to be able to go hit play, listen to what she says and be able to reflect that on repairing with partners or friends. But I want to continue to elaborate on what she talks about as being the first step to repairing with others. Which is to be able to repair with yourself. You cannot offer compassion, groundedness or connection to somebody else before you can access those qualities within yourself first. So again, the three elements she gives to consider in repair our name, what happened, take responsibility, state what you would do differently next time. And again, because I come from an athletic and a sports background, I think about this, like athletes watching film, right, the athlete does not sit in front of that screen to find the play that they messed up and berate themselves. Another field I almost went into was sports psychology, I considered being a sports psychologist was often the person in that room to help them visualize what comes next. No, that athlete sits in front of that screen to be able to name what happened. Oh, can I see the moment we're in that play? I went left and I it would have been more adaptive for me to go right. I'm going to take responsibility that Yeah, I did go left instead of right. State would you would do differently. And this is oftentimes where we come in and we provide a visualization. Okay, come back to the moments just before you went left and center right. Now imagine yourself coming up to that play? What does it look like to go right? What does it feel like to go right? What comes next? What comes after that. 

And so when you think about applying this concept to yourself, the skill you're looking to cultivate is the ability to return and repair. Eventually, it would be really nice if you talk to yourself in a way that didn't need repair. If you were able to yell at your kid or have that panic attack at the party and not spiral out into the like, guy, you're such a bad mom or you suck you knew about or you shouldn't even gone in the first place, etc. Eventually, we want to learn to meet ourselves with a little bit more regulation and compassion in the moment. But until we get there, and none of us will ever fully be there. I think that because this is so innate to children to turn to self blame as an adaptive behavior. There's almost always going to be a little bit of that for all of us into adulthood. And so the skill we're looking to cultivate in this conversation Today is the ability to notice the rupture that you have with yourself to notice that you did turn to self blame that you did turn to yourself in a less than kind way into a berating or belittling way. And to say, oh, yeah, okay. The yelling is a problem we'll get to later. But I am actually going to replay the moment after the yelling into the moment where you turned towards yourself and created that rupture with yourself through self blame, self criticism. And if we think about that as the play that's playing out on that, that TV, Oh, okay. That's where I went left instead of right. We oftentimes think that we need to fix the behavior, so that the self criticism then just goes away by itself. But what if instead, the next time I yell at my kid, and I start to go down that path of I'm the worst I sack, I can pause. Notice that I've ruptured from myself and say, Oh, hey, you're not a bad mom. You're dysregulated mom, and it doesn't feel good when you think those thoughts doesn't feel good. When you talk to yourself like that. I immediately reclaim capacity to be able to turn back towards my child and repair with them. 

What if the next time you get back from a friend's birthday party, that you weren't sure if you wanted to go to or not, because there's a lot of social anxiety for you, you get to that party, you go into the bathroom, you have a panic attack, you come home and you catch yourself like guy, you're an idiot, you shouldn't have gone, you know, you shouldn't have gone. What if we recognize the moment of rupture as that in the way that you are speaking to yourself the way that you are disconnecting from a loving relationship with yourself. And again, we look at this not as I shouldn't have gone, or I wouldn't talk to myself like this, if I didn't have the anxiety attack, okay, those those things are already written into the chapter. But you can change what those things mean, you can change how the story ends, the lessons learned the takeaways from it when you can take that moment to pause and say, Oh, hey, we're doing it again. I don't have to be this way with myself. That happened. And it really sucked. And I want to stay in relationship with myself. So sorry, self, that was really hard. And it didn't help. Or it doesn't help when I add insult to injury by being pretty crappy to myself with myself. Let's pause let's reflect let's see if we can restore, reconnect reground and then tackle this as a team. And I think it's sometimes feel silly to think about like you and yourself as a team. Or it might feel a little strange to turn towards yourself and talk to yourself in this way. 

Now, an approach that we use in our coaching practice is something called parts work or ifs integrated family systems, alongside all of the nervous system regulation work that we support our clients in. And I want to give you just a brief glimpse into this because I think understanding or looking at self through this lens might make having a conversation with yourself a little bit easier. So in short, this modality presents each of us as a collection of parts. A part of you wants a promotion, but part of you is scared part of you feels hurt by your friend and another part of you is angry. Part of you wants intimacy and closeness in a relationship while the other part of you feels really unsafe with that. And we all understand that this dichotomy shows up in our life in different relationships, different circumstances. And with this approach, there are three primary ways of understanding ourselves. 

Number one is authentic self regulate itself, adult self, this is called a number of different things. This is when you feel the most you calm and grounded. When you're authentic, when you're regulated, when you think about you as kind of a mature adult. 

Then we have our wounded parts or our inner children. These are the much younger parts of you. And you've heard me say on this podcast before that none of us had the luxury of waiting until we were adults with life experience and context, to write the rules on how to stay safe, feel loved, get our needs met, etc. A much younger you did that based on circumstances that you were presented with. And many of us still today operate with the rules written by that inner child of how to stay safe how to get our needs met, even if the circumstances we're presented with today vary greatly from the ones we grew up in. 

And then we have our protector parts. So these are the parts of us that protect Back to inner child from from feeling that level of hurt again, that rejection. Again, these are often our adaptive behaviors, one of them being self blame. And so I give you this context, because for me thinking about it this way makes it feel a little bit less weird to repair with myself or talk to myself in this way. 

And when I think about this conversation as being my regulated, authentic adult self, having a conversation with my inner child, or my protector parts, the part of me that showed up really reactive that yelled, the shutdown, what does it look like to return and repair with them, and coming back and using my previous example of task bouncing, thinking about task bouncing as some adaptive behavior that that part of me was engaging in, because for whatever reason, not felt safest. 

So using that previous example, and those three elements of name, what happened, take responsibility and state what you do differently. I imagine I'm sitting next to that part of me turning to them, and maybe I'm doing this just in my mind or journaling or actually talking out loud. And it might sound something like, Hey, I keep thinking about earlier, when we were tasked bouncing, that felt really frustrating. And I blamed you again, or I blamed me again. And that doesn't feel good. And it's not our fault. I am learning how to pause and regulate, instead of braid, even when I'm feeling frustrated. And now there might even be some of you thinking like, well, obviously, it was your fault, like Who else's fault, was it that you had an inability to do the freaking dishes. And this, my friends is the power and understanding your nervous system. Because you can blame it, you can blame your nervous system. And I'm only half getting old me who didn't understand how her mind body system worked more often than not spiraled out when I made any kind of a mistake or didn't operate at the level of perfection or productivity that I thought that I should new me that today me who understands my nervous system, who understands that some of the childhood beliefs and the wounding that I carry around now operates with so much more context and openness and compassion. 

And truthfully, I haven't fixed task jumping, this is still something that I often find myself doing. But because of all of the deep self repair work that I have done, instead of falling into the like, dude, what's your problem? 

That's my inner voice, Southern California, born and raised dude as part of my normal rhetoric, right? 

Instead of turning to myself in those moments and saying, like, dude, what's your problem? It often sounds more like, 

"Dude, you're doing it again. And I know it feels frustrating. And this usually means when you do this thing, when you do this task damping thing. This usually means that you're stressed out, you need a minute to unwind or discharge or reset, and figure out which task is a priority. Why don't we go do that?" 

Because I have ruptured with myself so often. Right rupture, being that moment that didn't feel good, that moment that created a disconnection within myself or with somebody else. Because I've ruptured so often and intentionally come back to repair, I am able to meet myself so much more softly in these moments with so much more context and self energy. But even still, sometimes it doesn't sound like that. Sometimes, I am still a jerk to myself spiraling out into self blame, not as often with something like tasks jumping more often and things related to being a wife or a mom, when I've yelled at my kid or been rude to my partner, and I still indulge in an occasional self loathing session about how I'm not patient enough how I should play with my kid more or work less or, or, or, or. And when I'm able to pause the lashing enough to see what I am doing. I can remember that my goal is to get really, really good at repair. 

And Dr. Becky mentions this and I laughed when she said that inner talk. When you set the goal as getting good at repair. There's so much baked in realism and hope to that because repair assumes that there has been a rupture. So in order to get good at repair, you have to fall short of your own or somebody else's expectations. Which means the next time I snap at my kid or my husband or my sister or myself, instead of berating myself like I have so often done, I can remember that step one to getting good at repair is rupture. Well, check that off, crushed, creating the rupture. The next step is repair instead of falling short. Now I'm right on track for practicing repair, 

friends, healing, and living and being human is messy and hard. It can also be soft and joyful. We have all been programmed with identities, beliefs and expectations that are not our own. Healing is about unlearning what's not actually ours, and discovering what is being able to return and repair when there has been a rupture in any relationship in your life starts with being able to repair within the relationship you have with yourself. 

And I am going to intentionally keep today's episode a little shorter than normal, so that you really can head over and watch Dr. Becky's TED talk because it was amazing. And there is a beautiful visualization exercise at the end that I had an interestingly emotional reaction to. And that was the healing balm I didn't know that I needed last week. And I would love that for each of you as well. But before you head over there and hit play, I want to bring today together with our three tangible takeaways. 

Number one, repair is the act of going back to a moment that didn't feel good to a moment of disconnection, taking responsibility for that behavior and acknowledging the impact that it had on another or more specifically to our conversation today, the impact it had on yourself from yourself. 

Number two, none of us will ever be a perfect friend, parent partner, or self healer, especially when struggling with anxiety and depression. This means that your nervous system is stuck in states of threat over safety. So one of the most valuable skills that you can learn is how to repair and to repair with yourself first. And remember that repair implies there needs to be a rupture. So no longer is rupture a personal failure, but instead just part of the process. 

And number three, I mentioned parts work or ifs, this work can often be quite challenging and triggering to do on your own. So as I often always do, I want to encourage you to seek out support from a trauma informed practitioner. Working with us, at Rise As We is just one of the many, many ways for you to get support in this work. 

And I just want to remind each and every single one of you how grateful I am for you to be here, for you to be tuning in for you to be listening in, whether it is on your own healing journey, or in efforts to gain perspective to gain awareness to gain education to support other people in your life. 

And for those of you who have taken the extra few minutes to rate or review the show, I want to especially thank you, I read each and every single one of those, it keeps me showing up week after week excited to share this in the world. And for those of you who have not taken an extra minute to do that, if you are learning things enjoying listening, getting something out of being here. My ask is to please take that extra couple of minutes to leave a five star rating and a quick written review because that's what helps get these messages and these conversations and these tools out to so many more people who need them. Thanks again for being here. And I'll see you next week. 

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 rise 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.

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