Jul 10, 2021
This week I am chatting about a spin I lovingly pulled myself
out of and how it relates my client's fear/anxiety brain this week.
We chatted about the fact that some thoughts are like cartoon
snowballs. You know that they're like one of those if it's leading
you to completely ignore all the true facts
Please feel free to reach out to me via instagram @movewithdeb or book a curiosity call at https://calendly.com/paincoachdeb
My website is www.debmalkin.com
Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.
[00:00:50] Hi, and welcome to Move With Deb. This is episode number 22. And I am calling this my Meta Moment. So I have been in it. I am starting a coaching gig and there's a lot to learn. And I have been watching myself work myself up. It's kind of amazing. I've been setting off my fight or flight nervous the system for the last two days. Yesterday, because I needed to give a headshot for this new job.
[00:01:27]My first impulse was to look through all the photos that I had already taken and that surely I would find a photo here that is like headshot photo-ey and that I would send that over easy peasy, done and done. And I looked through all my photos. Then I kind of went down that ADHD road where you're like, look at a photo. And then you think about the thing that happened. And then you suddenly end up like looking on Facebook and thinking about the events.
[00:01:58] So there was that derailing experience. Um, and then there were some photos that I found that I liked myself and I was trying to crop them or some photos. I was like thinking really critically about them. Like this one is too casual. This one isn't professional. This one doesn't look like you today because today you have pink hair. Uh, this is a selfie for a dating app.
[00:02:24]My critical brain stole my morning from me. I spent a lot of time. And I spent a lot of time thinking that the answer had to have been in the past. Something that I'd done already. And the more I searched, the more upset and avoidant I got. The more avoidant I got, the more I started to catastrophize and doubt my abilities to even show up for my job.
[00:02:54] Like my brain delivered me these thoughts. If I can't send in this photo and bio, how am I ever going to do this work? Which meant I completely discounted all the work I do and already have been doing. I stopped being able to hear that my voice was desired and sought after for this job. I started to believe those voices in my head that told me that I can't. And then like a little flash of lightning, I realized I was in a spin. And I told myself, self you're in a spin. I love you. Creativity and action are the answer. I popped on some makeup. I took my phone and my selfie stick, and I took a bunch of photos and I came up with a few that I really love. Now, this whole endeavor took me 10 minutes, 15 minutes, maybe. I didn't even need to leave the other side of my front door. I opened up my front door. There's a beautiful tree that's behind me. I attached my phone to the door, somehow, jerry rigging it so that I could just hit the camera button. And I got a whole bunch of awesome photos that I actually really love. Problem solved.
[00:04:14]And maybe in the future, I'll even invest in a professional photo shoot. Then I'll have a whole bunch of photos. I'll have an entire file worth of photos! But it's not really about the outcome. It's about interrupting the spin in a loving, friendly way. And redirecting my mind body to my desired outcome. So while I can't get that time back, I've been able to observe myself with compassion.
[00:04:42]This is Deb when she's in fear and perfectionism brain. That's okay. I see you and I love you. And we got this. We're gonna jump into work and learn as we go because that's neuroplasticity. That's learning. That's how you've done everything in your life. From tying a shoe to riding a bicycle. To creating a coaching practice that successfully helps people change their pain. I told myself I've got the tools. Holding my own hand through doing something new and scary. Taking time to breathe, ground and eat. Turning on curious awareness with self critical thoughts. So that means be aware, but not be-lieve. Taking action anyway, even with a nervous tummy and a fluttery heart.
[00:05:42]My body was giving me lots of messages that this was scary, that there was doom, that something terrible was happening. My head was hurting. I was feeling dizzy. And the more that I was spinning, the more my body was kind of protecting me from these fear thoughts, or at least my body was responding to the fear thoughts. It's not that a photo is inherently scary. There is nothing terrifying about taking a selfie. I have taken many selfies. I have joyfully posted selfies all over the internet and I have taken lots of selfies that I hit delete on. I will live to take a selfie another day.
[00:06:46]So it's not the photo that created fear, but in some ways it was the entire mind body experience. I had a thought that this is difficult and then I couldn't find a photo. And then that triggered a sensation of panic. And then it just kind of tumbled down that way. It's like pushing a snowball down a hill and watching it get bigger and bigger and bigger.
[00:07:14] Okay. a cartoon snowball down a hill. I don't think a real snowball will actually do that. But sometimes it feels like a cartoon in my brain. Because these words pop into my head, they feel like they come from nowhere and then my body responds to them. If that's not a cartoon, I don't really know what it is.
[00:07:39]Once I was able to recognize that I was in a spin, I was able to stop it. And that moment where I was like, we're done doing this activity, what is it that we need? We need a photo. How do we get a photo? We take a photo. And then all of a sudden my brain was like, we know how to take a photo, let's go take a photo. And then I figured it out. It's okay that it took me 10 minutes to figure that out. But it also took me two days of freaking out about sending in a photo and a bio, because this is my meta moment. These are the things that teach me the relationship between the mind and the body. And that's, what's important when we're talking about rewiring pain. We want to begin to observe the relationship between the thoughts in our mind and the sensations in our body.
[00:08:41]One of my clients today, we're just starting to work on this So she is in a hundred percent full belief about neuroplastic pain. She has witnessed her own experience of migraines going away and her big concern right now are tension headaches. And she went through what she described as a flare this weekend. But what really was going on when she was telling me the story was that the fear and catastrophizing that arose in her body when she thought the thought maybe I'm missing something, was the snowball down the hill. That was her cartoon snowball thought. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe this pain will never go away.
[00:09:34]So we talked about neuroplasticity being like a road that we drive down over and over again. She and I talked about driving as a skill. I said, when you first started to drive, were you good at it? She said, of course not. I said now when you get in the car to drive to the store, do you ever even think about the mechanism of driving? She's like, no, I just drive to the store. I'm like, of course, because that's learning, that's neuroplasticity. When you first started to drive, you had to think about it. You had to be very deliberate in every action that you were taking because you were building the relationship between all of your senses. And your motor neurons. And it's the same for rewiring pain.
[00:10:28] We have to practice on purpose these things. We want to observe our sensations with loving kindness, with a neutral curiosity, or even a loving, curiosity. Then as we're feeling sensations, we want to notice and create awareness of the thoughts that we're thinking. We want to start to build this habit of observing without reactivity. And that's the part that is going to lower the threat level. It's going to change the physiological response of having a thought or a sensation in your body. Then, what we do is we build some belief thoughts that we're going to practice on purpose.
[00:11:19] So just like learning how to drive a car, you need to practice . Unless you are a cartoon, you don't know how to drive until you learn how to drive. So you're not going to learn how to drive your pain away until you let yourself learn. Which means letting it be hard. Which means watching yourself spin and bringing yourself out of spin with love, with self-compassion, with holding your own hand, while you do something hard while feeling sensations in your body, like a nervous tummy or a fluttery heart. And not thinking they shouldn't be there. Want to build that muscle of curious awareness with the self critical thoughts, with the fear thoughts, with the doom that you might be feeling.
[00:12:17]She and I talked about if neuroplasticity is a road that you travel down and the more you travel down that road, the more myelinated it gets, what are the roads that you're living on? So we decided that she lived at the crossroad of what if I'm missing something and this pain will never go away. That is the literal location of her bodymind if it was a house. At least that's where it was when she was deep in fear. Now we're going to move that house to a new road. And her new road, thoughts like these are just sensations. I've made my pain go away before. I understand what pain is. There is no need to have fear. So she's got to practice. She may not find the right road right off the bat and that's okay. We actually only know what is working when we also know what is not working. It's not about getting it done right away. It's not about having the magic saying. It is literally about the process of witnessing our own mind, create our new felt sense and reality of our body.
[00:13:36]And when I started offering these ideas to her, the fear went away. I reminded her that she had already mastered this. That she has already changed her pain. She told me multiple stories this week about having conversations with her pain about getting on a boat. The last time she was on a boat, she had a lot of pain. It triggered a migraine. This time she got on a boat and she felt great. She held her own hand. She knew that she can deal with anything that came up. And then she had a moment that she forgot. And that's okay. It's okay that they keep showing up.
[00:14:17] This was the main thing I think that really helped her is that it's not that you shouldn't think a thought or that we need to stop thinking a thought. We just need to stop believing that that thought is true. Especially, when we have a mountain of evidence that says the opposite.
[00:14:36]So when we stop reacting to a thought, we create the curious awareness with any thought, and then we actively choose to think a thought that gets us towards the outcome that we want, our embodied experience is going to change. Just like I went from spinning about the photos to taking a photo. Yes the action of taking the photo, completed the task. I also really enjoyed the photos that I took. And then I also got a chance to prove to myself like Hey, this is a thing you can do, you just took a great photo of yourself and you solved this problem.
[00:15:16]And I also showed myself you can spin, and I'm going to love you anyway. You can freak yourself out and waste your own time and it's okay because I still think you're amazing. And I can hold my own hand through the process of being me in my meta moments when I forget the mind body experience. And then when I remember the mind body experience.
[00:15:44] What I'm grateful for is that I had my own back, that I knew that I wanted to show up for this job. I wanted to show up for myself. I knew that that was really important. And even though in that moment, I felt like I was doing everything wrong. I knew that I could figure it out and that I would figure it out. Even if I didn't know how I was going to figure it out.
[00:16:12]It's interesting when we think about neuroplasticity and driving, because when they updated the cars with the push button start. I remember being really annoyed. I was like, what is this button? I don't understand it. It's requiring me to learn something new. I've been driving for decades. I just want a key. Can you see how so much, resistance there was to learning something new? And I don't know what that is about. I think that there is some kind of, there is some kind of biological part about that, or maybe it's just a learned conditioned response. But the brain kind of is like, oh, I have to learn something new, learning new things is hard.
[00:17:04] So could have been that. And then whatever our orientation towards learning. Towards not knowing something is often the thing that colors our experience of learning with a mood. So maybe because I'm often self-critical or I believe that I should know things that I don't know. Then when I go to learn something, if I have the belief that I should know this already, well, of course, I'm going to feel and act defensive. But now that I'm rewiring my whole relationship to knowing and not knowing, that's changing. Now, I'm like one, I don't assume that I should know something.
[00:17:49] And two, when I lean into the curiosity, I find a lot of joy and pleasure and excitement in that. So maybe next time they update the car, actually I had this happen. I am now driving a hybrid and there's a lot of new things about it. And I can feel my brain being like, what's this button do what's this button do, what does this do? What does this mean? Oh, I can look at the battery, watch it go up and down. And. I have a sense of curiosity and delight that I didn't have when I had to learn how to transition to the push button start. It required learning a new motor pattern.
[00:18:30] Right. I was used to the old motor pattern, the old motor pattern programmed in my brain. Learning how to do the push button ignition. That's a new motor pattern, but I did not like it. I was super grumpy. Now that I'm learning about curiosity, finding joy and pleasure in it, developing this curious awareness, this lazy detective who like follows me around and lets me know when I'm like being reactive. I am changing my embodied experience with learning.
[00:19:09]If you listened to my podcast about urgency, urgency and reactivity are very similar. The felt sense of reactivity often creates very high arousal. When we experience very high arousal, depending on our load on our nervous system might push us out of our window of tolerance. Our body is going to respond to that reactivity, to that sensation, to that thought. We might feel anger. We might feel that in our bodies, we might sweat, our head might get hot. It might hurt, our heart might beat really fast. We might feel an arousal, of adrenaline cortisol.
[00:19:56] Every thought that we have creates an embodied experience. A thought is another kind of sense. You have thoughts and we have feelings. We've kind of let them be separate. But when we talk about the mind and the body's relationship together, it's very helpful to think physiologically as well as psychologically. Because with my client who was overwhelming herself with this thought, I asked her when you think the thought this pain will never go away. What's your feeling. She said, I feel doom. And then she went on to describe a whole bunch of sensations in her body that her chest tightened that her head started to feel tight. And I said, so that's, that's the whole thing. That's all there is. We have a thought. We have a feeling, we have a sensation in our body.
[00:20:59]Before our conversation, what would happen was she would ask herself why all the time, why is this happening? Why is this happening? Why is this happening? What's going on? What am I doing wrong? I'm doing it wrong. These other people got out of pain faster than I did. She wound herself up thinking psychologically, what is wrong with me? Why am I not getting it? What is happening to me?
[00:21:26] Those thoughts are recreating a feeling, and that feeling created a sense of panic. So when you put all of those thoughts coming at you together without a break, without any space in between them, that feeling can become a panic attack. Now, what a panic attack is, is basically just an overwhelming series of sensations in your body that are unpleasant.
[00:21:53]So when I explained the felt sense of a thought to her, I said, what we're going to do is make some space. We're going to start observing the thoughts that you're thinking. We're gonna celebrate having observed them because we want to reward ourselves. And then we can just start seeing if there are themes, if there are trends that arise. But mainly the main skill is to just notice that you're having a thought without reacting. She immediately calmed down. She immediately moved out of fear. The fear left in that moment. Fear is not fixed. There's no emotion that is fixed. We don't need to fear having an emotion because in the next moment we could have a different emotion.
[00:22:45]So she had fear. She had some thoughts. She had some sensations, she didn't enjoy that experience, but that experience is teaching her how to not have that in the future. How to get herself out of a spin. How to interpret the thoughts and sensations that come into her body with neutrality, without setting off her alarm system. She's building a skill. She's learning to drive this car. She's learning to move her mind body home to the different neuro-plasticity streets that she's going to be driving on. But you only get those roads as you drive to them. They don't just show up. And then you move there like moving to a new house. You have to build them. Building them, takes repetition. And then eventually you find out that this is where you live.
[00:23:42]So I'm in that process. This is my Meta-Moment. I'm so glad that I got to share it with you and glad I got to share it with my client today. Always learning. That's Move With Deb.
[00:23:56]If any of this is interesting to you, if you would like to learn more about the mind, body connection about the relationship between thoughts and feelings, the relationship between sensations, past injuries, neuroplastic pain, how to rewire pain and emotional overwhelm. Please check my website. debmalkin.com. You can book a 45 minute curiosity call with me, and I will explain my eight week pain recovery program. And we can see if that's a process that might be really beneficial for you. If you it sign up on my email list, there is a long list of resources. There's a lot of people out here teaching similar work. There's a lot of ways to start to rewire your neuroplastic pain. Looking forward to sharing more with you. And if you want to see some of my real life adventures, please follow me on Instagram at@movewithdeb. I'll talk to you next week. Thanks.