'Enough, with the theories, give us some practical applications,' wrote a facebook friend.
So this post is the first of a series describing how I use the insights gained from the last five years of reading, to carry on a daily re-conditioning of my autonomic (animal) nervous system. I chose the picture of a baby to convey my belief, that my Bipolar Disorder is in fact a dis-order of autonomic nervous system function, caused primarily by birth trauma.
|Alarm! the innate 'affect' - Distress?|
For most of us this sensation of alarm (innate distress) is our first reaction to life, an evolved, instinctual response that is one of nine such hard wired responses we are born with to maximize our chances of survival. Unfortunately in my case this alarm was also mixed with another innate affect, namely fear! After a three day struggle in the birth canal I was forcefully dragged into the world with metal forceps that left me so badly scared and distressed I was whisked away and had no contact with my mother for a week.
nervous system response to life, of habitual avoidance with a sense of threat remaining insidiously active deep within my nervous system. Distress/Fear has been the unconscious background 'vagal tone' that energized, firstly my autonomic motor movements with a hesitation, a reluctance, an inexplicable avoidance and secondly a negative tone of worry & concern in my overactive thinking patterns.
Imagine distress/fear combining as a 'tone', a frequency of neural oscillation & heart beats. A tone that also manifests as 'tensions' within the heart, lungs and skeletal musculature.
HEART TONE EXERCISES:
Now feel the area of your heart, feel the muscular tension there in your chest. As you make contact with body sensations notice any tingling in your toes & finger tips. Try to feel and not think, let go & sink deeper into your body, falling down, way down. As you let go of tensions in this area of your chest relax any tensions in your face.
Focus awareness on your chest, the area around your heart, let go and sink down, letting go any tension around your mouth, your jaw and in your tongue. If you can focus on sensing your heart and the muscles in your chest, you should notice an involuntary deepening of your breath. Notice the increased awareness of feedback sensations from your limbs, your fingers and toes.
As you continue to feel your heart, letting go of muscular tensions, notice any slowing & deepening of your breath. Notice any further relaxing of regions of your body where contact has been outside your awareness. You should notice an increased awareness of your limbs and your posterior, with the sphincter muscle of your anus letting go of autonomic constriction there.
Notice the temptation to escape body sensations and return to a thought based energy discharge, while you're trying to feel your body. Practice for a few minutes the sensations of coming into relaxed body states, and the habitual flight into mind of an unconscious, autonomic response, your comfort zone. This gradual experiencing of unconscious defense, the tensions, the habitual thinking, will bring you into contact with your autonomic nervous system's response, caused by innate affect stimulating the vagal tone of your heart.
On first introduction to this approach, try for a few minutes each day to get a feel for the difference between your habitual autonomic nervous system tensions, and the more relaxed heart tones possible through thoughtless relaxation? As you go about your daily routine try to spend a few seconds now and then, relaxing every muscle you can feel within your face. Relax any tension in your jaw, around your eyes and let your tongue lie relaxed in your mouth, your lips allowed to part as you inhale with relaxed chest muscles. Feel the feedback signals from your muscles that have maintained this autonomic activity below your conscious awareness.
The sympathetic & parasympathateic nervous systems are like two rivers of neurochemical activity, the sympathetic flowing UP & OUT while the counteracting parasympathetic flows DOWN & IN. These are the mediators of manic excitement and depressive collapse.
These heart tone and muscle tension awareness exercises will bring you an awareness of the systems of your brain/body with its instantaneous interactions and reduce the confusion of 'objective,' linear cause and effect thinking.
Neuroception?-An Unconscious Perception?