Dysregulation & CPTSD ~ Revealing What’s Hidden To Heal - Parts, Triggers & Holistic C.O.R.E. Counseling
In my previous post I brought up the topic of dysregulation and CPTSD. My life long emotional insecurities, regrets, and various physical challenges including bouts with fatigue were big road blocks to living a more free and fruitful life that I so craved. My challenges set me on a course of studying various forms of holistic healing and mind body health. After years of focused efforts ~ trying different diets and therapies, and training in holistic fields including Chinese medicine, hypnotherapy, plant-based nutrition, macrobiotics, yoga and the Holistic C.O.R.E Counseling system discussed below ~ a shift occurred which led to my repentance and becoming born again. I wrote about that amazing experience here.
This summer, I felt like I relapsed. Really old stuff re-surfaced, and I felt unclear about my current direction ~ especially on the heels of such an epic move. I simultaneously came into some new information and resources which have resulted in my greatest breakthrough yet. All in answer to a simple little prayer ~ to reveal what was hidden that still needed healing.
In this post, I dive a bit deeper into the inner workings of the brain ~ or at least mine ~ in hopes of helping others become aware of the transformative power to overcome anxiety, emotional insecurities, regrets, addictions and more through faith and the truth of God’s word.
Praise God for helping me finally break free ~ to be present, to serve God, and to help others. Hence my jubilation and victory dance shared in my last post.
One of my earlier breakthroughs in life was learning how my introverted nature and tendency to withdraw from the world were a result of my brain and nervous system being wired a little differently. I discovered this when I read two books which at the time became my bibles: The Highly Sensitive Person, How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., and The Introvert Advantage, How Quiet People Can Thrive In An Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D. According to Aron, around 23% or so of the population are considered an highly sensitive person, or HSP. Apparently this can be found among certain animal species as well. That was a huge revelation for me at the time!
Growing up in a large city, I observed the cultural preference for more extroverted, outgoing and even aggressive personality types. Perhaps it's a survival strategy, as we unwittingly take on the cultural narratives; memes like needing to get one's slice of the pie, or it's a dog eat dog world crystalize into subconscious beliefs. We adopt personas that harden us to life's increasing demands and hectic pace.
In biblical terms, we receive a heart of flesh to replace our heart of stone when we are born again. That was a revelation to me as well.
While becoming a certified Holistic C.O.R.E. Counselor in 2009, I learned tools to help overcome the automatic emotional reactions that spontaneously arise when triggered. I used these tools on myself, ~ and with clients at our AZ clinic ~ and found them to be very effective at helping people break through blockages, and heal from old traumas.
I summarized these tools and my own methods in The Strong Spirit 10-Step Plan an outline or MAP to help you create a more illuminated life.
I wrote this before being born again, and plan to write a follow up book explaining the two main operating systems we can align with ~ the default, inferior operating system which I refer to as Satan's Operating System (SOS), or a far superior divine operating system (DOS). I'll explain why this makes total sense in upcoming posts. And no, I'm not referring to Hollywood's red horned, pitch fork carrying 'devil.'
The Holistic C.O.R.E. Counseling program laid a good foundation for dealing with these pesky old parts that get triggered ~ unresolved issues that desire our attention in order to heal. Becoming Conscious to what triggers us is the first step to the Holistic C.O.R.E. Counseling process.
Once Conscious, we can Own the triggers (such as getting triggered when not feeling valued or listened to), recognizing them as old, unresolved wounds or slights (often stemming from patterns that initiated during childhood) then mentally call back or Retrieve what was lost (such as one's innocence, spontaneity, joy, childhood, etc.,) as a result of the old traumas &/or Release what is no longer necessary to carry around (such as the emotional pain, wounds, or unforgiveness, etc.) Then we re-Engage, a more unified, healed, uplifted self.
Obviously, as adults, we can not reclaim our childhood. However, we can mentally call back to ourselves a childlike sense of wonder, curiosity, joy, playfulness or sense of adventure. Just to give an idea.
We unwittingly create parts to cope with trauma and challenging experiences, such as neglect, rejection and/or abandonment, especially when young, with less resources. We create beliefs about ourselves and the world at large based on how our young, lesser evolved mind perceives his or her circumstances.
Others in the field of psychology may refer to these parts as masks. We put on the mask of being the good or dutiful son or daughter, the perfectionist, the nice guy, the bully, the sensitive one, the martyr, the tough girl or boy, and many others.
Beliefs ~ such as not being worthy or good enough ~ are lies, but as Craig Groeschel discusses in his excellent book, Winning The War In Your Mind, we live as if these beliefs are true. Therefore, as adults, a seemingly random, non-related situation can subconsciously trigger these old beliefs. Once triggered we instantaneously regress back in time, playing out the old wounds. It can happen in a nano second, feeling beyond our ability to control. These beliefs can really undermine our joy, peace, confidence, and ability to live a fruitful life.
Jennie Allen, author of Get Out of Your Head, Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts calls this a spiral. To apply her spiral sequence to my own understanding, a thought or belief triggers the spiral, evoking a particular emotion, which leads to more thoughts that cause certain behaviors, which result in particular consequences. A thought or belief is always at the root. Our emotions are a consequence of our beliefs and perceptions about ourselves, our situations, and the world at large. Hence two people can experience the same tragedy, and each may walk away with a totally different perception about it. One may take the experience personally, and the other may take it as a motivation for change.
In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz refers to all these thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves as our 'book of knowledge' that we carry around in our heads. Beliefs that are actually lies, but we believe them and act on them as if they are true.
Once the subconscious mind holds a belief, it will go about creating experiences to match that belief, hence these beliefs can become as Groeschel explains, a negative rut or cross wiring that needs to be rewired.
Or as Allen would say, a negative descending spiral that needs to be interrupted.
Louie Giglio sums it up, right in the title of his excellent book, Don't Let The Enemy Have A Seat At Your Table, It's Time To Win The Battle Of Your Mind.
A Simple Prayer
All these great books and other resources have come to me as an answer to my simple prayer that I had been repeating earlier this summer:
Holy Spirit reveal to me what remains hidden that needs healing.
|Just in awe at the tall prairie grass!|
That prayer was definitely answered!
Despite my progress over the years, I still felt held back in several ways. I was still dealing with random, seemingly uncontrolled triggers. I still found it difficult to state my needs, then ask for help realizing them. I struggled with owning anger, although I could act out angrily. I still had need of feeling valued and appreciated, while my parts fought against it, believing these needs to be a sign of insecurity! Oh the irony! In a nutshell, I discovered I clearly had some layers remaining.
As I mentioned in my previous post, dysregulation, is a package of symptoms referring to the brain and nervous system. It is similar to Complex (or Childhood) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or CPTSD.
I serendipitously was connected to a resource ~ Anna Runkle of the Crappy Childhood Fairy (CCF) YouTube channel and website who coaches people dealing with these conditions to manage the symptoms and live a more free, productive and enjoyable life. After listening to one of her videos, I immediately registered for and completed her free daily practice, and her 20 day boot camp, and have been powering through several of the books mentioned above, and linked below, which have been very helpful and enjoyable to read.
My dysregulation came to a head on Memorial Day, at which time my prayer to reveal what was hidden that still needing healing was answered.
Before I share that, here's a bit more background.
A Jar of Rocks
A good analogy of dealing with our emotions is like having a jar filled with rocks. Each rock represents our negative, limiting beliefs and old unresolved emotional hurts, angers, slights, and wounds. The jar will be pretty full until we become conscious of the past issues contributing to the current triggers. A full jar doesn't make a very loud noise when shaken. However, once you become conscious of and own the old issues and regrets ~ whether through traditional counseling, the Holistic C.O.R.E. Counseling process, &/or repentance and self-reflection ~ the jar begins to empty. Becoming conscious of and owning your triggers helps you to transcend them, rather than be slave to them.
The more the jar empties, the louder the noise when shaken.
The old buried emotions that are harder to face or have long been suppressed can feel raw and primal once finally exposed. As we give ourselves permission to feel into the emotions, the energy of the emotions can work its way through us, in order to be released.
As that jar empties, it may get loud, yet it's definitely worth facing the enemy in our head. You will feel much lighter and more free to be the you the Creator created you to be as you empty that jar! God tells us he has plans for us to prosper. Here's three versions of Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future. ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (KJ)
'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.' (NASB) (1)
God answered my prayer, and delivered me to both what was hidden, and a path through it, and I am very grateful. I'm even grateful for every single challenge I ever endured.
I now consider these challenges to be the fire for which we are refined:
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. ~Job 23:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. ~1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through the fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. ~Psalm 66:10-12
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. ~Proverbs 17:3 (ESV) (2)
The Bible instructs us to hold all thoughts captive. If we don't, the enemy gains a seat at our table. Each of the above authors agree that life is won or lost in our mind. The battle for our mind is real, and it is critical to learn how to win that battle now, to avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering.
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; ~2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJ) (3)
We can't live a fruitful life stuck in the past, or anxiously worried about the future.
In fact, I believe that our ability to hold all thoughts captive and win the battle for our mind is so critical, it’s what motivated me to return to writing this blog.
Consider how useful this one important step could be to eliminating all the hate and blame that runneth amuck in our culture right now!
My Jar of Rocks
|Royalty Free Photo courtesy of Kira Schwarz, Pexels.com|
That was the backdrop which caused other episodes or triggers to become so magnified ~ a symptom of dysregulation and CPTSD.
A couple examples:
One embarrassing example happened well before the summer. One evening after a long day spent emptying out Don’s parent’s condo, Don mentioned to me that my jeans were coming down pretty low when I was bent over cleaning. The top of my butt crack was exposed. One or both of the others present may have also seen it.
At first, I was stunned, as I was expecting a different conversation. Like, wow, that was a lot of work. Thanks for the help! After being taken off guard, I became defensive. Then came the embarrassment, humiliation and shame.
I know you are thinking, Who cares? It's just a little wardrobe malfunction. Or, it's just a little flesh...”
I get it. Except I’m a fairly modest person. If I had thicker skin, I could have thought I hope they enjoyed the view, and moved on, but instead, I couldn’t sleep that night. And we worked hard. I needed the rest!
Shame reared up (pun sort of intended) its heavy, dark, ugly head.
My life flashed before me like a movie. My brain literally hurt as it got stuck in an obsessive, myopic, hyper-focused altered reality, or shame rut. I was up through the night processing all that caused me to experience shame in my life.
Shame sucks. Jesus hated it too. He endured it all on the cross, likely naked as the Roman soldiers fought over his garment. He felt the pain of separation from the Father that I believe we experience when stuck in shame, and feelings of low self-worth. In fact, I believe it's the root of many of our problems.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lea sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" ~Matthew 27:46 (5)
I spent the night processing memories, crying out all that pain as I let all the shame work it's way through me. It was loud, raw and primal. My jar was making a lot of noise. Then, after who knows how long, I took in a deep breath, and sighed in relief. Just as I experienced during my divine healing/ awakening, shame came, it shouted, and it left.
Dysregulation effects the brain and nervous system. Essentially, the brain and nervous system get off track; the limbic center (emotions) gets excessively excited while higher brain (logic and reasoning) shuts down.
It’s a lot like fight, flight or freeze ~ the physiological changes that occur when under threat of survival. Who's going to wane philosophical when being chased by a big black bear?
Other episodes occurred throughout the summer.
Another example was during a dinner gathering. A few of us were enjoying discussing current events. It’s refreshing to meet others on a similar wavelength ~ with a similar awareness of the ongoing world shenanigans. Introverts enjoy having deeper discussions about topics of interest. I get excited to be able to discuss crazy world events with others!
Unfortunately a person next to me didn’t consider our discussion appropriate dinner conversation. I know because I over heard her say so to the person she was with. It wasn’t said publicly but I was right there, and as soon as I heard, I froze. I was stymied and went into a brief sort of paralysis, like the freeze part of fight, flight or freeze.
This person had the prerogative to like or dislike the conversation. That’s not the problem, no matter what my own opinion of that person's opinion may have been.
What mattered was my response. I was bothered by it for the rest of the evening. My entire countenance changed, and I couldn’t understand why? Why do these things bother me so much? And why do these triggers feel so out of my control?
After weeks, if not months of pondering that event, it finally hit me. I connected the dots that caused me to shut down upon overhearing someone's remark about the inappropriate dinner conversation.
I had a big issue with feeling dismissed.
When young, one particular occasion had a big impact on me. I was excitedly sharing with my dad what I was learning from a book I was reading for a class project. The book was Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, by Alexander Sutherland Neill & Erich Fromm. My father flipped out. I mean, he lost it. To him, the notion of a 'borderless' school, without rules was antithetical to running a safe, cohesive society. He responded with such unexpected anger, that I shut down. I froze.
There were other times when I felt dismissed by parents or peers, but that first time set the pattern of freezing as a response, which in time became a pattern.
Ironically, while I rebelled against my father a lot when young, I owe him so much. I better understand his perspectives now than I did back then.
The New Testament is filled with scriptures teaching us how to cultivate patience, kindness, and all the fruit of the Spirit. My triggers were causing me to question myself and my progress as a born again Christian, which is precisely what the enemy in the battle for our minds want.
Illogical, hyper-emotional reactions, and freezing or feeling paralyzed are two common symptoms of dysregulation and CPTSD, which can also get triggered from things as benign as:
- running late
- getting lost while driving, especially in a scary part of town!
- doing something while being watched.
- while multitasking
According to Elaine Aron, highly sensitive persons (HSPs) can have really poor performance doing things they may normally be good at if doing the activity while being watched. HSPs just have highly wired nervous systems, and get easily over stimulated in various settings which varies from person to person. When over stimulated, the tendency is to withdraw.
Withdrawing has definitely been a coping strategy for me. And, perhaps, just maybe, it's time to spread my wings a little ~ get rid of those remaining rocks, and break free from all that has kept me caged.
So what happened on Memorial Day?
While at a family gathering, I had another episode. This time, anger ~ the fire breathing dragon emerged. It was at the most inappropriate moment. I had no idea why ~ I mean whatever was the trigger didn't make logical sense at that moment~ and as a result, I spent much of my remaining summer trying to understand, what happened? How do I rectify this?
Upon reflection, I was 'sensing' things that my mind, or parts interpreted since arriving, which probably sparked the spiral of thoughts > beliefs > emotion > reaction. I have found that HSPs, or empaths who sense/feel energy can rightfully pick up on things in their environment, but potentially wrongly interpret what they are sensing. Our highly wired nervous systems pick things up that others may not, however, it's easy to jump to conclusions, especially when underlying beliefs can distort our interpretations.
My guess is that this can trigger dysregulation episodes.
Another symptom of dysregulation and CPTSD is a sense of urgency to try to explain oneself after a trigger. Yep, I do that too, and it usually makes things worse. Much worse, especially via texting! (Which is now a complete no-no for me!!)
After more sleepless nights, and hyper-focused self reflection attempting to understand what happened, I realized that I have a difficult time owning that I have the anger, and speaking about it (peacefully) and directly to the person. I avoid conflict. Now that I have an awareness about it, I will work on addressing things in a more timely manner, rather than letting it fester.
The trigger brought up the anger, even if the trigger itself was completely non-related or inappropriate. As embarrassing as it was, I knew it was the answer to my prayer ~ to reveal what was hidden that still needed healing.
I know many others are dealing with anxiety, or heightened stress for a variety of reasons, and I hope sharing about my experiences, or my jar of rocks in this somewhat lengthy post is helpful, to somebody out there.
Stress and fear are on the rise. It's the real silent pandemic!
Yet as Christians, we have a path we can take to maintain peace and joy, no matter what. We can hold all thoughts captive, and rewire our neuro-circuitry with truth, the word of God, and the realization that our God loves us so much, He sent His son to die for us!
I have been crucified with Christ, It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me. ~Galations 2:20 (ESV) (4)
As a born again (regenerated) Christian, I finally have a real ability to transcend those old, limiting beliefs by accepting the love and power of God and his unfailing truths ~ and it's really awesome. Nothing else has come close to helping me generate lasting change. (And I put a LOT of time and resources into trying over the years!)
I am shedding who I was, and becoming the person God created me to be, and it's amazing!
Stay tuned for more!
In my next post, I'll continue to share how God's word has helped me break free from the lies in my head, and how I believe it can help others as well, maybe even you!
Here are the highly recommended books mentioned here, and a few others. Any purchases made through my links provide a small commission and is greatly appreciated!