Your internal resources are the skills, practices and abilities that support you to:
• Ground and center your self
• Be aware of your needs
• Take good, consistent care of yourself
• Know when you are triggered into an old imprint.
• Be able to ‘self soothe’ and return your nervous system to neutral when triggered.
In psychological circles self-soothing is sometimes also referred to as self-regulation. A regulated nervous system means that you feel calm, relaxed and in neutral. Ideally, everyone would have the ability to maintain a regulated nervous system, and be able to return to equilibrium fairly quickly after a disturbance, upset, or trigger into an imprint from the past. Your nervous system can give you good information about your levels of relaxation and dysregulation if you are listening. It is an essential resource for you to be able to listen to your body-system in this way. You can receive information from your body about how you are feeling, and being able to act on that information in your best interests. This is good self-care in action. Noticing that you are dysregulated, and being able to choose to return to feeling settled is a necessary life skill for us all, but especially if you have lived your life on the roller coaster of dysregulation.
Self-regulation is a resource that you initially learn in the womb from your mother. If her nervous system was settled and regulated, and she was able to return to neutral, then you will have that positive imprinting in your nervous system. Even though you may not have had the benefits of a mother with a well-regulated nervous system, you can learn to achieve this at any time in your life. It takes some work and somatic awareness practices, and this is a skill I teach in my practice.
As a prenate and newborn the resources you have available to deal with a stressful or traumatic environment, or event, are very different from adult resources. As an adult you may be surprised to discover that you are still using methods to resource yourself that you developed early on in the womb, or during your birth or early infancy. Responses, defenses, and beliefs imprinted from your early environment may not be serving you in a healthy way now, as an adult. Your resources back then were limited to what you could access at that early stage of development. As an adult you have a much wider range of resources and options available to you. You have much more choice, and far healthier options. You are in what I call ‘true choice’ when you can choose not to act out from an early imprint, and you have the skills and resources to be able to return your system to neutral. It takes a certain set of internal resources to be able to do this, resources that can be learned so that you can have true choice.
E.g. if you learned in the womb that to stay alive you had to take care of your mother because she was not able to take very good care of herself at some level, in your post-birth life you may become a compulsive caretaker. Your impulse to care take of others will be driven by an underlying fear that you will not survive if you stop taking care of everyone. At a survival brain level this can feel like “I will die if I stop doing this.” It was necessary to do this in the womb, and back then it was very smart. Now it is no longer serving you. The integrated, updated, and healthier version of this would be taking care of people because you are consciously choosing to do so – out of true choice, and not because you are driven by a prenatal survival response. It’s best to see a trained SPPP practitioner if you want to change a survival imprint as they can be complicated, and can take some careful unraveling. There is a healthy flow when you are able to achieve the following – self care, receiving care, and giving care all from a healthy neutral position. You may need help growing new and more adult level resources to achieve this.
If you were unwanted as a baby you may perceive yourself in relationships, and in the world generally, as not wanted, even though you are wanted now. It is often within a disparity such as this e.g. you can see you are wanted, but you don’t feel wanted – that there’s an earlier imprint at work. You may be living from an old imprint, a mistaken belief that your Little One within formed a long time ago about life and people. Your Little One is stuck in that old mistaken belief of “I am not wanted’, and it feels very real. This kind of imprinting can be very isolating. With some healing and new resources, your younger self and her trauma can be integrated and your mistaken beliefs will no longer run your life. The survival level of the imprinting can be uncoupled, and a new set of skills can be learnt that enable you to take care of your self, and take charge of your life. I call these skills resources.
Everyone can discover what resources them, for you it could be connecting with your body, moving, getting some contact from another, sitting under a tree, breathing, and so on. It is the activity, and the practice of mindfulness about yourself, that brings you back to neutral. When I was healing a core survival trauma I found dance to be a major resource in my healing journey. Movement and tuning in to my body so I could keep track of myself, was a great aid for navigating trauma activations.
There are many mistaken belief’s that arise out of our early development: “I have to do it all alone”, “You will abandon me”, “Life is a struggle”, I’m not safe”, or “I’m not wanted”, etc. These imprints are very powerful and can run your life. Building new resources is an important part of changing and healing these tender places, and might include being able to:
• Have understanding and coherence in your ‘story’ about what happened back then.
• Settle your nervous system.
• Track yourself somatically and emotionally as a part of self-care and choice.
• Make choices and decisions from your adult self, and to know when you are not in your adult self.
• Ground in your body and be more present.
• Know when you are activated into an early memory, and have the skills to stay in it, or come out of it.
• Know what you want and be able to follow through and get your needs met.
• Make conscious choices.
• Have outer resources such as good support networks, and close supportive friends.
• Practice present time parenting skills that arise out of your ability to differentiate ‘back then’ from present time (conscious parenting).
Knowing when you are activated into an old imprint is a resource we all need. To be able to do this practice you must be able to listen to your body, and this is why somatic work is so important for us all. In discovering where and how you are holding old imprints in your body-system you can use that information to make better choices for yourself now, and to choose resourcing and regulation instead. Somatic awareness is necessary to build these kinds of resources effectively. As you heal and integrate your imprints, you become more conscious, build your adult resources, and learn to have a really good connection to yourself, to others, and to your community.
It is possible for your nervous system to become neutral or regulated when you are with another person whose nervous system is regulated, because our nervous systems are social. They are communicating with each other. Likewise, if you are with dysregulated people and you are unable to hold your own nervous system steady, this will be disruptive for you. Once you learn how to self regulate and have practiced it enough, dysregulated people will not throw your nervous system off. You may feel their disturbance in your own nervous system without becoming dysregulated, or you may become momentarily dysregulated, realize it quickly, and return to equilibrium. In this way your nervous system becomes a resource to help you be discerning about who you want to be close to, and spend time with, and who is good for you.
© 2016 Karen Melton