Pain. Our emotional reactivity frequently causes it to surface as the emotional turmoil we feel. You’ve perhaps heard this clique, and often worn phrase - “We can’t grow without pain; or maybe - it’s discomfort”? But, what if...
Our emotional reactivity frequently causes it to surface as the emotional turmoil we feel. You’ve perhaps heard this clique, and often worn phrase - “We can’t grow without pain; or maybe - it’s discomfort”?
It's not uncommon for us to feel that life, the world, other people, and even ourselves - are getting on our nerves. A very specific nerve located in our autonomic central nervous system - to be exact. We may, or may, not be able to eliminate all existential pain and suffering from our lives - yet some of it can certainly serve a valid and healthy purpose.
In spite of this, when we navigate through our fleeting emotions and conditioned beliefs, we frequently find ourselves emotionally triggered and activated - with a drive to only react.
And it all starts to feel like we are playing a childish game of emotional chutes and ladders….
When John Eli Garay, a second-generation American, discovers Neuroception, our naturally- inherent ability to scan for cues of safety and danger, he must confront the cognitive dissonance between his past trauma and present reality in order to self-regulate and feel secure.
John Eli Garay is a mental health professional and self-awareness coach, specializing in neuroception and autonomic nervous system regulation. He is passionate about helping others understand how to self-regulate, while feeling safe and secure.
"Discover your natural power to self-regulate and feel safe with Neuroception: the foundation of all feeling."
Here's what I cover with John Eli Garay in this episode:
1. What is neuroception, and how does it govern our ability to self-regulate and feel safe and secure?
2. How does the autonomic ladder function in regard to our ability to engage neuroception?
3. What typical actions do we exhibit when we are in an avoidant behavior mode?
The Bottom of the autonomic ladder.
A Theory of How Columns in the Neocortex Enable Learning the Structure of the World
Synchronizing & Balancing Your Left & Right Brain Hemispheres
Unlock Your Full Potential with Whole Brain Synchronization
What is Neuroception
Polyvagal Theory: Neuroception – the Fundament of Feeling
The Decision Lab: Empowering the world to make better decisions.
The Gateway Experience - Monroe Institute
JOIN US ON INSTAGRAM: @thelightinsidepodcast
Featured Guest: John Eli Garay
Credits: Music Score by Epidemic Sound
High on a Ladder by oomie
Bright Smile by Mica Emory
Perpex Dilemmas by Miles Avida
Strangled by Piano Strings by Ludwig Moulin
Tulum by Vendla
Puppy Love by Mica Emory
Executive Producer: Jeffrey Besecker
Mixing, Engineering, Production, and Mastering: Aloft Media Studio
Senior Program Director: Anna Getz
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So John, what is neuroception? And how does this essential role, function or set of processes govern our ability to selfregulate and feel safe and secure? You asked me a loaded question. The first question you have is one that's going to require some explaining. But in the eveningster I'm trying to tell explain to everyone that neuroception serves like a superpower.
It's a superpower that each and every one of us is born with. What our autonomic nervous system does is it stores information regarding every experience that we have been through in our lives and really what it tries to do to help protect us. It helps us to do two things. It helps us either to identify sources of safety or to make ourselves aware of danger. So the autonomic nervous system, through the process of your reception, it scans the environment that you're in and it's always looking for cues of safety and cues of danger.
And all of this is taking place without you even being aware of it. And it's way before your brain is understanding that there is safety or danger in the room or in your environment. Your neuroception has already scanned your environment and it is causing your body to either work in a regulated state or a disregulated state with the whole intention of it is to keep you safe and secure. I like looking at that role of neuroception and how it tends to explain why a baby might COO at a caregiver but cry at a stranger, or why a toddler enjoys a parent's embrace but views a hug from a stranger as an assault or something that challenges their sense of safety. I think it's relevant in the regard that that's the phase when we start to develop a lot of these patterns, habits and tendencies.
I'll frame them that way. In that regard. Might we view these processes being seen as the foundation of all feeling in some regards? Yeah, absolutely they are. I've heard it explain and I love this explanation that we have a tendency to talk about our emotions and it kind of seems to be the buzz of anywhere that there's mental health circles, personal growth circles, people talk about their emotions.
But I heard this one therapist one time explained that emotions are the outward expression of our feelings. And so we can think of them kind of like being emojis. Whatever we're feeling emotes on our face or our body language and what our feelings are. They're the interpretation of our somatic experiences. So whenever our neuroception has triggered or has detected danger in our surroundings, we may feel fearful or we may feel angry, we may feel agitated and we interpret the feeling, our brain interprets the feeling.
And then we emote either anger, fear or whatever expression. And the same goes with safety. Whenever we feel safe, whenever our autonomic nervous system interprets that there's safety in our environment, we will feel content, we'll feel peaceful. And that will emote in our physical body as well. Thank you for that breakdown.
I feel a lot of times we might be inclined to view those acts together mutually inclusive thinking, feeling and processing all of them into one thing. I think at times that can become that disconnect where we either have internal conflict or external conflict. I feel one way, I'm emoting another. Someone else might be feeling a certain way but perceiving that emotion in a different regard. So I think that's an interesting area to kind of look at and parse out, to maybe discern a little bit.
How do we differentiate the two? Absolutely. Well, I want to jump back just a little bit because something came to my mind whenever we were talking about this and you asked the question. And that's deb. Dana.
She's like my hero whenever it comes to polyvagal theory. But she says that story always follows state.
Our mind is always going to be interpreting our experience based on whatever our autonomic state is. Wherever we find ourselves on the polybagal ladder, if we find ourselves in a state of flight or fight, that's the flavor of the story that is going to influence the flavor of the story that our brain creates. And whenever we find ourselves in a place of safety, in a place of big oven, we're going to find out that the story that our mind creates is a lot different than whenever we're in flight or fight, freeze or shut down. And so what we tell ourselves or what the stories that our brain creates, the interpretation begins within us and it begins with the experience that our body is feeling. And all of this is taking place before without our mind even being aware of it.
So it can create sometimes some cognitive dissonance. That's what I was hearing whenever you were asking this last question. Sometimes our way of coping is to disconnect and to dissociate, to drop down the ladder and to even though we're present be in a state of shutdown. In that regard, it very often surfaces as a form of inference transference where we perceive, yet we respond from a past experience. We project those thoughts and feelings onto the situation and circumstances or people involved in many regards.
Absolutely. So part of your reception is that our autonomic nervous system is neurocepting every experience that we have in the lens of our prior experiences. Let's take for instance, let's say that someone whenever they were a child because usually a lot of where the interpretive lens of our autonomic nervous system, it stems back to childhood. Let's say that somebody had a bad experience with someone who had a specific look to them, had a specific mannerism, specific tone of voice. And that experience created a sense of trauma.
And I want to say little tea trauma because it's not a huge traumatic event, but yet it was something that was significant enough to impact that person I'll give the example of my wife, my poor wife. I use her for examples all the time. But she had a history teacher that badgered her, and it created a sense of shame and a sense of discomfort for her and nervousness. And my wife is a second generation of the United States, so her parents came in from Mexico before she was born. So there was a language barrier.
There was all these different challenges. So her experience with this teacher now triggers her experience with males who look like him and dress like him. And so if there's a specific tone of voice and it wasn't until I began to study polyvagal theory and that we began to talk about what I was learning at dinner table, she's like, oh, my gosh, my autonomic nervous system is remembering these prior experience with this history teacher. And now there's this inference, there's this transference, there's this these poor people are getting the brunt of my experience with this past teacher, and that person is no longer present. It caused an autonomic response based on that little t trauma that she experienced in the classroom.
Many ways throughout our lives were taking these little mini snapshots of our experience, our interactions, how we thought, how we felt, the emotions involved, the people involved, the circumstances involved, storing those in our neocortex for later recall. As we move up and down the autonomic ladder, let's turn, if we can, to the autonomic ladder. What is the autonomic ladder, and how does it function in regard to our ability to engage neuroception? So whenever our autonomic nervous system is neurocepting I don't even know if I'm saying that correctly one of the things about being from a bilingual household is that sometimes we just invent words because it sounds good in both languages.
I wonder about the English language anyway if we haven't done that to a large regard. I've had people make comments on social media before and some of my posts, and they've called me out like, yes, I'm bilingual. I may have merged two languages together with that. I apologize. But basically what our autonomic nervous system does whenever it receives the queues, it sends signals to one of three different pathways, and each one of them has a distinct response.
For example, the dorsal part of our vagal nervous system that's like, centered within around our stomach area, whatever that part of the vagus nerve is triggered, it sends us into a state of shutdown. It sends us into a state of immobilization. And usually find people whenever that part of their autonomic nervous system has been triggered, they experience like, collapse, disassociation, they feel empty, they feel dark, they feel a lot of despair. Now, whenever the autonomic nervous system triggers our sympathetic nervous system, that triggers like, our chest area. And that's whenever we feel, it ends up triggering our extremities as well.
So that's whenever we feel like, mobilized, we feel like going into flight or fight. We usually want some kind of action because we feel activated. Maybe uneasy, maybe anxious, maybe angry, distressed, maybe. Our heart begins to pound a lot. And then the third part of the top, what we call the top of the ladder is the ventral vagal.
Whenever our ventral vagal nervous system is activated, that's whenever we feel safe, whenever we feel social, that's whenever we feel connected. And that mostly impacts our facial area. We're able to look at people in the face. We're able to interact. We feel happy, we feel peaceful, we feel regulated, we feel comfortable, we feel engaged, we feel presence.
Why? Because safety is present. So let's break that down a little bit, if we might, into each of the three categories. Let's specifically zero in. What is the dorsal vagal response and how does our ans interact with it?
Yeah, so I just want to start with a clause, and that's the disclaimer. And that's that. We go up and down the ladder all day long.
That's our action biases, John, where we feel we have to constantly be in motion and acting upon everything. Yes. I'm sorry, but your autonomic nervous system is not instagram. It doesn't just produce the happy, fluffy moments that are worthy of a picture.
It's the ron, real you. And the reality is that you have good moments. You can be happy, connected, kiss your wife on the way out of the house or your significant other, your pet, whatever. You just had a great morning, and then you get stuck in traffic and somebody's honking behind you. And then you slip into a sympathetic state where you're activated.
And that doesn't make you a bad person. That state be something that is horrible. It is your nervous system telling you that there is danger in the area. And you mentioned the dorsal state. What I think is important to note before we dive into that is that it's a ladder.
A person will usually go into a state of a sympathetic state first, which usually becomes so activated that there is a state of overwhelm and then they end up slipping into a dorsal state and in a dorsal state. Basically, what the body is doing for us, the nervous system is doing for us is it's saving energy so that way we can make a last minute jump for it if we need to. It detects danger in a way that is overwhelming for our energy levels to maintain a level of activation. So what's causing you to slow down, to be able to save energy in case you need it for a last minute getaway? In the past, we've spoke with guests how that action is kind of like playing maybe a game of emotional shoots and ladders where you're sliding down the shoot when you're moving into that dorsal vagal phase.
Often we slide down there to that bottom run where we stay immobilized. We freeze and we shut down as you mentioned? Yeah. Why we sometimes then view that from your perspective in some regards as some of those more avoidant behaviors we lean into where we avoid engaging those feelings and emotions. What I find more than anything is that people are disengaged with what is taking place within them.
Somatically people are apt to say I'm happy, I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm just content, I'm fearful, I'm feeling shame. People are okay, for the most part communicating emotion. Some aren't.
But for the most part people are aware at least in their mind, they know how they feel. However, what people tend to disassociate with is what is taking place within their body. So whenever somebody's in a dorsal state it's not just the emotion behind it but there's actually physical things that are taking place. Usually the heart rate begins to slow down. Usually the breathing rate begins to slow down.
Usually there's a loss of energy and there might even be a sense of heaviness within the extremities of your body almost feeling like you're too heavy to move. And a lot of it is somatic experiences that most people who are experiencing even like a clinical level of depression might be filling even if it's only for a moment or two. And people usually attempt to try to disengage from that state because they don't know what to do with that. Typically we're not polyvagal theory in elementary school. Typically I don't feel we're maybe not given a full spectrum of emotional regulation that's a very subjective view of at all.
I think some of that might derive from the fact that we're just now in our arc of human growth and evolution starting to have a more expansive understanding of these states. So how do these avoidant behaviors frequently surface in our interactions? Meaning, what typical actions do we exhibit when we're in this mode or can be viewed as some of the standard wasteland vary. They vary to person. So whatever he is exactly what all.
Of these on your life experience?
I give the example of my wife with her history teacher. I had some amazing experiences with some of my history teachers. The way that we experience people are going to be completely different because of our lived experiences. However, for the most part whenever someone is in a state of shutdown usually their behavior is a little reclusive quiet. You're going to see that there's not a lot of movement.
They're going to be sedentary and maybe not an understanding as to why and a sense of overwhelming. In short, we could look at that as that lack of purposefulness and adequate meaning that drives us to take effective action or engage in beneficial movement toward our own change, growth and evolution. We feel stuck and unable to act. So whenever somebody is in a state of shutdown and it's very important to help that person to understand and honor where they're at and to understand to normalize why they are. There usually a person I see it common whenever someone is in a state of shutdown, whenever they're in a dorsal legal state, is usually there's a lot of self judgment that takes place, like, why am I here?
I should be experiencing I should be at the top of the letter. I should be happy. Everybody else is wrong. There's comparison that takes place. A lot of negative introspection is what I see taking place for a lot of people that I've worked with that find themselves in that state of shutdown.
So usually what I see, people that are overachievers being more in a state of sympathetic in the sympathetic state, because in that state, they are activated. There's energy that has to take place. That's where the energy and so they end up becoming workaholics. They end up trying to produce to win approval. They feel anxiety.
They feel anxiousness. So it's usually in the sympathetic state where I see people being overachieving. Can I share one of my recent experiences? Sure. I know I share this with you on a personal basis, but I'm currently in a state of transition in my life.
I just finished grad school, and I'm working on my licensing right now, and I was stuck in a soul sucking job. It was just one of those jobs where it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't bringing me life. And my wife graciously asked me to step away and just to wait until my license came into, hey, we have savings. Let's get this give you some time to focus on yourself and just get your license and your practice going with that. The moment she told me to quit my job or asked me to quit my job or give me permission, however you want to take a look at it, I immediately went into a sympathetic state.
I'm like, why am I here? My wife just gave me permission to just relax. I should be grateful. There's a lot of shooting, but the reality is that I grew up on a farm, and I hated the farm work. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
It's just a lot of work. It's hard. It's out in the hot sun, and in the winter, you're doing it in the cold. It's rough. And my father really struggled with me, and I wasn't as excited as he was.
I wasn't as passionate about life on the farm as he was. And so in frustration, he would call me lazy. And sometimes he'd introduce me to his friends. This is my son. He's the laziest of them all.
And he'd see it as a joke, but inside of me, that did something. So since the age of actually, I've been consistently working since I was 15 years old. Up until this point, the biggest break I've ever taken in employment has been a month. So I have never been without working because in my autonomic nervous system stored that memory of my dad calling me lazy. So whenever my wife told me I could take a break, my body, my autonomic nervous system.
When you're such a sensed danger, you're going to be made fun of again. Would you say in many regards then, that triggered a certain state where your self worth is gauged by your value based on your ability to work? Yeah. So whenever my wife told me this, the first thing that I noticed, and I've become really good at, is become a discipline of noticing what takes place in my body. I noticed my heart was beating fast.
I noticed that my breathing was, like, accelerated. And right away I felt like I had to go to the kitchen and cook. I love cooking.
I have to do something. And I had to take a moment just to reflect and say, John, it's okay. Your reception autonomic nervous system. Thank you for trying to protect me. My dad did the best he could.
I love him, God rest his soul. He's no longer with us. But this is nothing to be ashamed of. There again, that programmed action biases. It's a heuristic where we're programmed with that notion that we have to constantly be in motion versus honoring that place of rest, simplify it.
We may go back and touch that up later and give a bigger overview of what the action biases how much have you studied the action biases as a heuristic? Not in the extent that you have. Yes. I've gotten deep in the heuristics. I kept running up into conversations.
We'd mentioned heuristics and brush over them. We do these things. It's heuristics. We all do it. That's a heuristic.
So why do we all do it? Became my question. And I said, I'm going to find out why. I discovered a great group called the Decision Lab that focuses specifically on discovering outlining and describing what heuristics are. Breaks down the key ones.
There's like 188 ways in total we experience it, but I forget how many are on their site as the gateway. It's breaking them down. And I've been, like, experimenting with that. I'm like, yes, they give me all the juice I need right there to explain the core tenets of this. So let's point out this is this heuristic, and this is why we tend to do this.
It's amazing how quick people will move into that shut down phase. So I'm trying to find a way to manage that in my interactions and say, how do you ease people into acknowledging that and give them that bigger picture? So I'm going to start doing that in some of my language in the podcast and pointing out this is a biased response. We don't like to acknowledge that it is a cognitive shortcut. We do it is a heuristic.
Why do we do it? Because when we move back to that story that was programmed not to lean into self victimization, learned helplessness, but the reality is that become our autonomy program as we move up and down that ladder. So I think it's a great tie. Moving on.
So let's look now at the sympathetic phase of our response. When are we in sympathetic mode and how do we tend to show up in this response?
Once again, it varies other than the biggest thing that you will see is that there is a desire for movement. That a person is activated and activated can look different for different people. For some people it's literally physical, moving from one place to the next. They want to book it, they don't want to be there. Someone feels anxiety, an example of someone that has had a bad experience in a large arena, a large event.
They may get up and move to a place that is perhaps more quieter and seems to be more safe there's. Other people might want to create intellectual movement. So it's not so much getting up and physically moving, but distracting themselves with perhaps a video game sadduce puzzle. What is that big wordle that everybody is using now? So you'll find people trying to do something to create movement and some people just flat out like to pick a fight.
And that picking and they shouldn't say like to. It's their survival pattern. It's what they've been conditioned to do. Initiating conflict have varying degrees of relationship with that notion of conflict itself. Are we in healthy conflict?
Are we in unhealthy patterns of conflict?
You can see there are some people that it will be a physical conflict where there's hands involved, there's aggression. And there are some people that get on social media and become a social media warrior and fight their cause at any cost and destroy relationships. And I say that with a grain of salt because sometimes there are some healthy conversations that have to take place and boundaries that need to be set whenever it comes to the use of social media. But usually when it comes to sympathetic state, somebody wants to move. That's an interesting one for me.
We have in many regards that need to discern what the motivating factor is. Are we engaging with that hope of being genuinely and authentically, sharing information or what motives might be lying under the surface? I'm going to just frame it that way and maybe preface it for another conversation. I'm going to leave that hanging out for you. How do we discern some of that?
Where are we engaging this as a protective mechanism? Or are we engaging it simply from that point of I see it, I recognize it, I'm now just sharing the knowledge. So I will say it's always an autonomic response and a desire for safety that is the motivator behind everything. Now, the delivery might not be aligned with that.
You might create more danger for yourself in the process. But it's whenever we begin to really take the time to identify what it is that is triggering us and what it is that we're looking to accomplish that we can take a step back and perhaps alter or change our behavior that is causing an undesirable effect. That's interesting from a certain angle. To look at me especially, I'm going to reference this back to myself looking at whether it's that need to be right, simply knowing and sharing or moving into another stage where you just simply have nothing you feel you have to prove. So it's just not said.
One of the things that I have found this polybagle theory super helpful for is helping people really to identify in each state where they're at in the ladder is to identify what that experience looks like for them. Once again, it varies from person to person. What does it look like? What does it sound like for you? What emotions are present?
What changes in your world whenever you're in each state? Is there a headline? Is there a familiar theme? Is there words that you hear that take you there? And what are your needs in each state?
I help people to identify the things that take them to that state. What are the triggers that take you there? But also I want to help them identify what are the glimmers that help them shift from a lower rung of the ladder to a higher rung of the ladder because it's not just identifying all the junk, but also what is it. That brings me back to feeling safe. It's interesting to look at being able to acknowledge when you are in that triggered state of emotional reactivity versus just that neutral state of authentically sharing.
Fine line we dance between bring us back to, from my perspective, those notions of inference and transference. What we intend sometimes becomes distorted, cognitively distorted in how we present it, how we're receiving it, and then also how that interaction comes from the other end, acts in the same manner where there are other individuals, other situations, other circumstances, start to reflect, start to be pulled forward into that interaction. It's super important to develop awareness. And I know that it's not what we're the topic of today, but just what you just shared right now just reminds me of the tenets of emotional intelligence. We as human beings, we desire to be in a relationship, appropriate, healthy relationship with others and to have good relationship management.
But emotional intelligence begins with self awareness. Whenever you're self aware, then you can self regulate. Whenever you have those two in place, then you can begin to have an awareness of the experience of others. You begin to understand others. That's the third tenet of emotional intelligence.
And whenever you understand others, you're finally able to have relationship management. But you can have none of those without self awareness. It all boils down to self awareness from that regard. When we're sliding through those various phases, we lack that awareness per se. Sometimes we're easily drawn into hypervigilance confrontational, easily drawn into conflict, emotional, reactive states.
We're acting upon anxiousness, fearful, anxiety, chronic stress, and then ultimately, sometimes we find ourselves when we're drawn way down into that in those depressed states, they're all essentially, from my perspective, rooted in those insecure states of being or those incondition patterns of insecurity we often engage. Absolutely. And so a lot of times well, actually, not all times. It's all the times our autonomic nervous system is going to react before our brain is even aware of all of that. So understanding that we have autonomic responses and becoming aware of them is huge.
So how do we start to spot some of those from that perspective? Reference again, the work of deb dana, she's pretty powerful, and she has created, like, worksheets on her website. And really, the whole gist behind it is really just to give people an opportunity to describe what takes place in each state. What does it feel like whenever you're in a ventral state? What does it feel like whenever you're you're in a sympathetic or dorsal?
And so it really I think it's I believe it is super empowering and important to be able to develop an awareness of how each state shows up in our life. Like, what is our experience in each one of those states? Because we go up and down the ladder each and every day, but what does it look like specifically for us? Because the experience will be different depending on who you are. So as we look at those two states, that leaves us that top run of the latter known as the ventral vagal response.
Share with us a little bit, John, about how that ventral vagal response plays out. Yeah. So you started off talking about a child and a caregiver and the connection of a child with their caretaker that they trust. And I think that's a beautiful picture of what a ventral safety experience is like. Whenever you're in a ventral bagel state, what takes place is that you are able to assume feeling safe in the presence of a safe person.
I always equate it back to a mother holding their child, and the child perhaps doesn't get well. They obviously don't understand language yet, but what they do understand is the sounds, the movement of the parent, the caretaker of the mother, and they regulate to that voice, to the sounds, to the voice, to the appearance, to the sites, to the smells, to the environment. Whenever you are in a state, ventral bagel state, you will feel attuned to where you are at, and it usually involves the presence of safe people. And if it's not the presence of a person, perhaps it could be of a pet. I will tell you what.
I have two dogs. I have an australian shepherd and a pug. And if I'm having a dysregulated day, one of the very first things I want to do is spend time with them, because their presence and. Their love, their way of being, even though there's no language communicated, automatically draws me into a Ventral Bagel state. We've discussed our mutual pet love in our past conversations.
John. I watched a great program a couple of days ago studying our pets behaviors in response to our actions. Our pets being able to sense our pheromones, what we're giving off, hormonally in our sweat, watching our gestures, our energy, our body postures, and being able to read. That probably on a much larger degree than what we are aware of as human beings, although on a human level. Might we be on equal ground with our abilities, but just not fully attuned?
I'm going to leave that hang out there. I don't have the direct circumstantial evidence to substantiate it. I'll frame it that way from research. But I know that we do have a lot of similar abilities. We mirror absolutely as many people.
You know, 2020 through 2022 is just rough, rough. It was a rough couple of years and had a lot of losses, and being stuck in quarantine, there's not a lot of hugs you can get. But it seemed like I was at the right moment. My Zoe and my little peanut, they were they were always there, you know, and it seemed to always be present in the right moment. So, yeah, very grateful for that in that regard.
Then it draws us back into the overall theme of this conversation. Might we intuitively know when something is getting on that last nerve? Might we intuitively be attuned a lot of times as we draw into that awareness, when we're sliding up and down that ladder? Once again, I want to point out the importance of identifying what it is that takes you there. What is it that takes you to sympathetic states, a dorsal vagal state, a central vagal state?
What is it that draws you into filling a certain way? Because whenever we understand our triggers and our glimmers, that is what's going to help us to develop an awareness and help us to create a plan of action. This is going to sound kind of cold hearted and perhaps shallow of me, but one of the things that I've done in my life is I've really taken the time to identify whose presence makes me feel in a Ventral bagel state and whose presence makes me drop down the ladder. And inevitably, there's people there's coworkers, family members that make you drop down the ladder. It's just part of life.
And there's people that just bring out the best in you and that make you consistently feel safe. And I've developed that awareness so that way I'm aware if I'm going to be around a specific person, I may feel triggered, and there may be things that I have to do. One of the things that polyvagal theory also teaches us is the need to create safety anchors and things that can help us, that we can hold onto so that way we don't drop down the ladder so quickly. We want to ask ourselves the questions of who, what, where and when so is there, who makes us feel safe? Whose presence can we be drawn into?
And like I said, it could be your pet. It could be even holding a picture. Right above. Over here, I have a picture, my favorite picture of my mother. I lost my mom this past year and I miss her greatly.
But her picture, her presence reminds me of her connection to me. So there are some days that I'm extremely dysregulated working away and I look up and I have that connection. Who is it that keeps you safe? That's going to be super important. The number two is what can you do?
Like what are some things, some actions that you can take if there's something in your environment that's hurting you? Can you go for a walk? Can you breathe? Do some breathing exercises. I'm all about different types of grounding exercises.
One of the things that I want to point out is that whenever you're feeling dysregulated always scale it on a scale from zero to ten. If you're feeling emotionally disregarded, if you're feeling like from a five to a ten like a high level of being disregulated, you want to incorporate some kind of movement because you got to discharge that energy. If you're from a zero to four, then do something like meditative, something that's relaxing. Back to Steven Porges. The body keeps the score as we're storing it.
That energetic outlet has helped alone to diffuse as we move back into those states of productive movement rather than some of that disregulated energy and motion of anxiety that we often engage. Absolutely. This past year, I didn't go to the gym at all because I was working 14 hours days of my internship. But I've been going back since the start of December and that movement in my life hasn't been easy. Working out in your forty s is a lot different than whenever I was working on my Jesse.
But it has brought such emotional relief in the midst of everything but the holiday stressors that take place and just everyday stressors because I love the holidays. But there are some stressors that come along with that with the planning and everything and being committed and going to the gym. That movement has brought a sense of relaxation and normalcy to my life. That brings an interesting aside to mind for me when we witness somebody who might be an emotional cleaner when they're feeling that activated energy and that urge to clean household chores overtakes them as that outlet. I feel and this is an aside and purely speculative that sometimes we've leveraged guilt and shame in some regards towards that action labeling people as nervous or however we might term that.
I think it's interesting to look at how we've kind of culturally remained stuck in that in some regards. It's interesting that you bring that up, because there's how can I send it a stigma? Although they go cleaning again, my stepson, whenever he's emotionally disregulated, he cleans. Like, that was one of the things he lived with us. That guy could clean.
I love whenever he was emotionally disregulated, because my health I think we might. Be able to observe when others might inherently, consciously, unconsciously trigger those kinds of things as a form of passive aggression, maybe form of maybe even looking at narcissism. I'm just venturing out on a limb and speculating today how those might be connected. It's curious, I think, that we have a tendency to label and instead of just honoring the fact that that's the way that they obtain emotional regulation. Categorization can be a slippery slope, but directions up and down the ladder, going.
For a walk and going to the gym seem to be super normalized. Someone that is cleaning, you'll find people like placing labels like OCD and using that as, like an insult or to demean somebody without even honoring the fact that OCD is a real disorder. If we remove some of that stigma, we may also observe some of those patterns and realize that there are instances where that is the pattern that's being engaged. We look at whether it's obsessive compulsive. We look at whether it's some form of neurodivergence potentially surfacing.
So it's also not to shove those aside and discount them, but just be aware of what the pattern is and what the bigger story might be sometimes, or if we're just creating a sense of a bigger inflated story. Cognitively distorting. Absolutely. And here's the thing. Whenever people label other people's behavior, I always go back to dead data saying, story follows state.
And the reality is that person who's labeling, the person who's cleaning or doing whatever they're doing, they have an autonomic nervous system. And sometimes seeing and witnessing the behavior of someone cleaning or doing something that may not be their sense of normal, it may be triggering a memory from the past, such as something that's very common in Mexican households is saturday morning music is turned full blast at 06:00 a.m. And everybody's cleaning first day. So it may trigger I was forced to clean. Yes.
And I didn't like that growing up. I wanted to be watching cartoons on. Saturday mornings, which I'm then sure further triggers that response that mirrors back to the trauma of your father relationship. So there's something about me and being out in the sun, and it's not I don't enjoy swimming in the hot sun. I don't enjoy gardening in the hot sun.
I usually wait till the evening. I like to go for walks in the morning or at dusk, but it's because it reminds me of working in the fields, cutting weeds, and getting sunburned, picking chili, harvesting chili. So for our listeners, you grew up in New Mexico, John, correct? Yes. Very hot, very real threat.
Of overheating. Over, exertion. Yes. So subjectively, very honestly poses a threat to your health and well being. Absolutely.
That's an interesting thing to consider, that interactions with ourselves and especially as we interact with others, what lies beyond that, we don't know. Guilty of that. This past week I stepped into a circumstance where I was making some broad assumptions, thinking I'm going to work through this as a thought processes, started making some assumptions, started conveying, well, maybe it's this, maybe it's that, had an individual say yes, but I did not tell you this aspect. What is below the surface that remains unseen? You have to stop and check yourself and say yes.
We do project a lot of times. Thank you for that lesson. Pointing back to me where our assumptions lead us astray. Absolutely. And acknowledging it, owning it, sometimes even apologizing for your mistaken projection, discernment and judgment.
Absolutely. I have really tried hard to develop the practice of asking and this is the story that I'm telling myself about the situation. And I became a Renee Brown junkie for a while too, and I can't remember much of her books, but she talks about a conversation that she had with her husband regarding an incident that they had and it really inspired me to ask that. The story I'm telling myself is that you are thinking such and such. It's really helped my wife and I open up communication.
My brother, culturally, there's not a lot of communication of feelings coming from men expression of emotion. So I've kind of been like a bridge builder whenever it comes to that within my family and within some of my friends because we are taught from a young age to not disclose self disclose thoughts, emotions. It's not the macho thing to do. But it's helped significantly in developing more intimate and fulfilling relationships with family and friends. John, in that regard, you mentioned in our earlier conversations how our ans or autonomic nervous system does not define our experience and instead it serves to inform us as a messaging system.
In that regard, what role do you feel both our emotional responses and our ego filters play in guiding these patterns of action? Yeah. So once again, going back I go back to that Dana story follow state.
We will interpret what is taking place within us automatically according to our experience as well. We have information stored in our brain as well. Our first thing that we're going to do is we're going to react. The second thing is we're going to create a story about it. And I think that's like, the big difference between cognitive behavioral theory and polyvagal theory is cognitive behavioral theory focuses specifically on the processes of the brain, the event, the thought, the behavior, the outcome.
And with polyvagal theory, it is focusing on what takes place in the body and the immediate response and then the brain catching up a few seconds later or however long later. It takes whatever length of time it takes to catch up. But, yeah, we have a lot of information stored in our brain as well regarding all the experiences we've had in our life and the knowledge that we've obtained and the skills. So we're complex creatures, aren't we? Yes, we are.
I think ultimately that leads us toward our quote unquote, ideal or integrated state of neuroception and ultimately landing us perhaps in that state of somatic coherence that okay and comfortable state of being to simply feel safe and secure irregardless of any uncertainties or as we manage and cope with any uncertainties. I will frame it that way. So it doesn't sound so definitive when. It comes to that. I think, once again, it's super important for us to identify what okay looks like for us.
And just going back to the extrovert introvert, this one blank on the word I'm going to say, but personality types, being okay is going to look differently for an extrovert as it would for an introvert. An extrovert may be okay being in large crowds and an introvert may have, like, a more they feel okay if it's like a more intimate or perhaps spending time in solitude and being okay with it, but really defining what that looks like for you and what your experience is whenever you're feeling okay and giving yourself permission. Whenever you are experiencing a state of disregulation, you're in a sympathetic or dorsal state. To reach out and to experience those things, even though you may be disregulated, is giving yourself permission to get a taste of what regulation looks like. What does it look like to be in a ventral state?
Ultimately, that comes down to story. Are you writing and creating the story you truly desire, or is that story writing and creating the meaning for you? Absolutely. I want to thank you. This has truly been an awesome conversation.
Is there anything you feel we've missed today? There's been an awesome conversation. I always enjoy speaking with you, Jeffrey. I feel like I learned from you, and you bring out the best for me, too. So thanks.
Thank you for this opportunity, my friend. Namaste. The lightning me acknowledges the light in you. You truly have brought out the best in me today. I thank you for that.
Thank you. Bye.
Transformational life coach
I am a transformational life coach (coach for humans), life strategist, blogger and speaker. I’ve spent over 21 years mentoring individuals in life skills, career transitions, relationships, and life recovery. My resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher education. From an early age, I realized that God created me to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. I am currently living out my purpose by creating a space where people can rediscover and become all that they were created to be. I currently live in the beautiful state of Arizona with my wife, three dogs, and an antique piano whom I call, “Betty.”