Increasing Emotional Resilience

Increasing Emotional Resilience

Unresolved past difficult experiences may leave us with internal stress, a physiological imprint, even though the event or relationship is long gone. The stress of the resulting physiological response may leave us feeling insecure or out of control.

Right now, in regards to this trauma-based stress, you have a lot more control than you think you do. Increasing our stress resilience is available in this moment by orienting to our surroundings in the here-and-now. If we can actively acknowledge that the environment is safe, collaborating with our physiology, there may be a sense of settling just a little bit more into our chair. This orienting response is the beginning to increasing our stress resilience, a proactive differentiation from the original physiological event.

Orienting is the Key to Increasing Resilience

As we look around and notice our environment, making room for our experience in the present moment, we gain a small sense of control. This simple realization that we are in control enough to look around the room and orient ourselves to safety is the foundation of resolving stress, grounding the traumatic stress into the safety of the here-and-now.

This present moment realization resolves stress by separating us from the past; differentiating past from present through awareness. Orienting toward the safety available right now will resolve the stress-limiting internal bracing patterns causing inhibition.

Unaddressed memory of a traumatic event leaves behind stress patterns (incomplete action plans) in the tissue, viscera, and muscles of the body. The drive to complete the thwarted survival reflex coupled with a fear-based inhibition of the reflex, taxes the system, like having a foot on the gas and brake at the same time. Chronic stress results. Adding more complexity, awareness of this double-bind gets lost in the normalized rush of a fast-paced, individualistic society addicted to progress that praises working until collapsing out of sheer exhaustion.

The body resolves stressful experience through its own innate healing rhythms, and when this rhythm has become overwhelmed by traumatic experience, it is left in a disharmonious state. It is the nature of this disharmony that leads us to believe things are spinning far more out of control than they really are. When we are out of control our survival physiology is engaged. Using this more cortisol oriented function of the body is like struggling to keep ourselves above water. It doesn’t do much for our sense of efficacy, agency, or confidence. We can even misinterpret this survival management as a focus of self-esteem. In actuality it actually weakens stress resilience and our most confident stance in the world.

The body is immensely self-regulating in its nature, not needing a great intervention in order to get back into balance. It is always moving towards balance, and needs only simple interventions to rekindle the body’s ever increasing capacity for self-regulation. It is this non-cognitive allowance of stress regulation that increases stress resilience.

Through resourcing and supporting the internal organic intelligence of the body to orient, we can resolve stress and tension.

No matter where we are along the trauma spectrum, our greatest tool in healing is in collaborating with our physiology’s inherent skill to orient to the here-and-now. Simply allowing our eyes to go wherever they want, to look around and orient ourselves in the actual safety of this moment, gives our orienting physiology time to breathe and differentiate past from present.

Returning to homeostasis

The somatic regulation of stress occurs autonomically. It is inherent in our physiology, as in breathing, blood circulation, and digestive peristalsis. Animals in the wild, moving through perhaps extreme survival stress, have two main autonomic physiological phases important to our evolutionary inheritance as animals; charge and discharge, also known as sympathetic and parasympathetic, or activation and deactivation. When animals are faced with stress, the sympathetic charge is fired, and if they get away or if there is no threat, is followed by a parasympathetic discharge. Active orientation to the immediate environment, assuring the absence of threat and return to safety, completes the initiated mobilization of survival energy. The body physiology returns to homeostasis. Rest and relaxation is reestablished. The anxiety is resolved, gone, and the body is at ease.

Anxiety and Stress and Survival Energies

However, if this somatic response to extreme survival stress, to fight or flee, is inhibited from achieving it’s goal, such as in fighting back, than the sympathetic charge is not followed by parasympathetic discharge or orientation to safety. The activation against threat remains bound up inside the core nervous system functions of the body as accumulative stress—anxiety. Without rebound of the parasympathetic to balance out the activated processes to the specific threat, stress remains in active constellation around the incomplete survival response, hindering potency in other biological functions. Sensitivity to associative elements of the original stress creates triggers, further stressing and obscuring the original past event from the present event. Accumulative stress producing associations sensitize the nervous system to the stress of ordinary daily life, further taxing an already taxed system.

Anxiety and stress sensitize us to memories of trauma, and easily triggered subtle states of dissociation. Somatic Experiencing fine tunes our awareness to attune with and carefully discharge the stuck survival energies at the source of somatic flashbacks.

Returning carefully to the original desires of the subtle body responses to survival stress, we are able to slow down the desire and fill in the gaps of the missing survival based resources, re-experiencing the trauma related sensations and affects with new tools, and integrate conscious awareness with dissociated memory states, discharging the trapped survival energies. The resulting safety frees up availability for emotional aliveness.

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