[00:17:12] Rewiretrial.com is where you’ll go if you’re feeling yourself in this conversation and want to learn the tools to reshape your nervous system, to feel where you end and another begins. You’ll experience a new way of being in your body and in the world. Please join us at rewiretrial.com for live neuro training onsite with me and Elisabeth. Create sovereign outputs that shift the brain and body into integrated spaces. Rewiretrial.com.[00:17:40] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think both of you as you were talking about that, that there’s this deep inability to process and regulate your own emotions. So then having that need come through the co-regulation. This is really speaking for myself, and also what I see with a lot of clients, a lot of times when that internal world is very chaotic. Just to bring up attachment styles into this, as someone who lived a lot of my life in a disorganized attachment style, there was a lot of chaos with social connection. I did not have the skill to process the big emotions that I had experienced in my life. There was a lot of repressed rage and grief and it was wild. I didn’t understand what was happening inside. [00:18:32] So then absolutely, I found myself many, many times in relationships then only increasing that stress by not having the ability to set appropriate boundaries, distinguish myself from another person, taking on their emotional experience, being responsible for their emotions, all the way to becoming a full-time caregiver for someone that I was in a relationship with. Again, of course it’s a great quality to be able to have Empathy, but there’s something self-serving about that as well. I needed it for my own sense of safety and regulation. And it ultimately wasn’t sustainable in this way. It’s just leading to a life that is really harmful for my health over time because it’s too much stress and there has to come a time where I learn to process my emotions, to regulate my emotions and to self-regulate my nervous system so that I don’t have to always find it externally. [00:19:37] Matt: Yeah. That leads me to a thought that it speaks to what both of you were talking about. It’s kind of another angle on where this insular deficit and Empath type of behavior comes from. So we teach about this thing called sensory mismatch which in the literature you might find terms like sensory integration disorder or sensory processing disorder. [00:20:00] Those two are more clinically recognized disorders where the sensory systems of the brain and nervous system are having difficulty intaking and integrating different sensory systems like vision auditory. Vestibular, which is your sense of gravity and equilibrium, interoception, tactile sensation and touch, smell and taste. So you got about seven different senses that are pulled together. I would say sensory mismatch, we utilize that term as a subclinical descriptor. So it’s not a disorder, but it means that the brain is having a difficult time taking in sensory information just to figure out -where am I, what’s going on around me, and am I safe? [00:20:50] If I had to really narrow down the seven senses to the three that are most prevalent, maybe four. From the external world it would be vision, auditory, and vestibular. Then if we added a fourth, it would be that sense of interoception, what’s going on inside the body. Now a lot of the sensory processing and sensory integration happens in the back bottom part of the brain like the cerebellum, it’s a great integrator area which brings together vision, auditory movement, and sensory feelings. That’s kind of a gross integration that happens there just to make sure that we can move through the world- like walk without falling over and move our arm without losing our balance. [00:21:35] Then as you take that sensory information, like the whole back part of the brain, everything behind the frontal lobe is all involved in processing and integrating those sensory inputs. Then after they’re integrated, that information gets passed in the frontal lobe for us to really assign meaning to it and understand what it is that’s happening around us. [00:21:58] So where this intersects with Empathy is if the back of the brain is having so much trouble, or it’s so challenged to take in sensory information and integrate it together, that the brain is spending most of its time and energy just figuring that stuff out. Then it doesn’t have a lot of energy or resources or time to engage in feeling its own emotions. [00:21:25] So where Jennifer talked about emotional bypassing, I think sensory mismatch is a big component of that. This type of emotional bypassing that Jennifer’s talking about, it’s not a cognitive choice, it’s not on purpose. But the brain is so busy trying to figure out what’s going on? Am I safe? Is this predictable? Am I in a good place- physically, emotionally, socially? That it doesn’t have the time, effort, and resources available to spin up the insular cortex and experience any true depth of emotion. So when all energy is gone, resources are depleted because the brain’s focus is elsewhere, it’s easier to look externally to find out, am I emotionally good? [00:23:12] It does that by sensing the emotions from other people. What I’ve found over the years is that my clients who have the greatest level of sensory mismatch also have developed the greatest sense of Empathy. I can only speak to correlation, technically speaking. I can’t go so far as to say that the sensory mismatch causes it. But what I’m describing in this process is generally understood as how the brain works physiologically, anatomically. The areas of the back of the brain that take in sensory information have to be given resources and fuel and oxygen first before the front of the brain gets its fuel and resources and oxygen. Because the back of the brain is what keeps us alive. [00:24:00] So there is a high correlation between sensory mismatch and high levels of empathy. And I think it is kind of a way to bridge the gap that goes ‘when I can’t feel my own emotions, I’m gonna go look for others as a way to figure out what should be going on.’ [00:24:14] Jennifer: That was a great circling back to that emotional bypassing and putting that into the relative terms of the nervous system and NSI. I enjoyed that. [00:24:25] Elisabeth: Yeah, it makes so much sense to me and with my own lived experience too. As my nervous system has had more capacity and safety, it’s only then that I’ve been able to start using somatic processes and emotional expression processes to feel and express and experience my emotions. And have the capacity and the tools and the bandwidth inside of myself to re regulate after that so that it stays safe for my body. And until I started working with my nervous system and creating that capacity, like you said, it’s not cognitive it was repressed. It was below the level of my consciousness and I just couldn’t feel and express it. [00:25:06] As you were speaking, I was thinking of another example. I have had a lot of issues with body dysmorphia and not being able to feel my body map and sense where I am in space and for a long time, until fairly recently whenever I was out and about, I would look at other bodies and be like, does that look like me? Does that look like me? And trying externally to figure out and gain that sense of who I am and how I’m doing and where I fall in the spectrum by looking at other people and finding that externally. It’s almost like that same thing with the emotional seeking outside of myself when I can’t feel it, when I can’t experience it. It’s like reaching outside of myself for that information that my brain and my nervous system need to understand who I am, where I am. Am I safe? What’s going on and make sense of the world and have predictions. [00:25:58] Matt: Yeah, it’s not just emotional, right? What you’re describing is that the greater disorder is present with those incoming sensory systems and integration, the more that someone will go external to make sure everything is normal. That goes beyond the emotional state, that goes even to the physical body, is my body normal right now? [00:26:22] So the other correlation that I’ve seen with my clients is the more difficulty they have with sensory integration, they go not only on the emotional Empathy, but they also go further outside themselves and they become more, it’s like they’re looking external for internal sensation. Let’s put it that way. They tend to lean more into things like energy work and spiritual practices. I don’t mean to be offensive in the way I say this, but the more disordered their internal sense the farther out- and I mean in terms of distance- the farther out their energetic sensitivity will extend. So they start to feel energy from other people, from other living objects, from the plants and the insects- like we talked about. But they’ll also extend all the way out to cosmic energies. So they’ll start to actually become more sensitized to cosmic energies and start to bring those into their work, into their personal health and self-care, into their coaching, into their practice. And I think a lot of that starts as a disorder of interoception, or at least a deficit of interoception, and integration of these sensory systems. So they look external to try to make sure that everything internal is working as it should be. [00:27:43] Jennifer: When I hear it too, I just hear no boundaries. When I think of no boundaries, I think of the interoceptive system first as far as the personal system goes. I opened this up by saying my most Empathic times were my most dysregulated times because I didn’t understand what my deficits were and how to work with them. As I have moved through this work with NSI for years now, and also cultivated in this time deeper spiritual practices, I have boundaries within that and I can connect and communicate. I’m in the other realms and I love it, but I also have boundaries there. I know where I begin. I know what voice is mine inherently. Because, like you said, I just hear a real lack of boundaries with the self. [00:28:38] Matt: I love that you have developed that and can say that it’s so powerful. When I talk with people who are highly Empathetic like this and we start talking about the nervous system, if I get pushback it’s usually because they think if I start to work on my interoception and I make my nervous system more healthy, I’m gonna lose my superpower. That’s actually not true. What will happen is you’ll retain your sensitivity, but you’ll be able to tap into it or tune into it when you want to and still maintain a strong sense of self, just like Jennifer was just talking about. [00:29:16] Jennifer: I am much more highly attuned to my environment, to others and I have my own self-awareness. I have my own emotional self-regulation. I understand myself very well. And I can understand, usually, where the voices are coming from whether that’s even my own ego and narratives and patterns and stories. But yes, that does extend into cosmic places. [00:29:47] Matt: That’s okay. That’s totally fine. And it’s beautiful that you can still know what’s your voice. You have a stronger sense of being pushed and pulled in all these directions. I have clients that I work with who are so sensitive and don’t have boundaries that they’re pushed and pulled by any kind of energy, whether it’s cosmic or another person or an animal, or the house plants. I don’t mean that sarcastically. (laughing) They get pulled off of their own kind of grounded self base. So I just love what you shared there, Jennifer, that you are regulating your nervous system, learning it, training it. You’re able to maintain all of your superpowers and you still have this very strong sense of self. I think that’s the goal for someone who has this kind of Empathetic side. That’s great, use it for good, but don’t lose track of yourself in the process. [00:30:43] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think it’s incredibly important so that we can hone in on our gifts and express our gifts in a way that is not damaging to our own health and nervous system. We don’t get lost out there in the world. [00:30:59] I wanted to touch on too, I think sometimes there’s a little bit of overlap or a blurring between being an Empath and having social anxiety and hypervigilance in a social setting. A lot of empaths talk about not being able to be in large crowds or being overwhelmed by gatherings. And I do think that some of that is taking on the emotions of others around you and being very affected by that external system. Whether it’s a person or an animal or a plant. [00:31:29] Then also I think when we’re talking especially about cPTSD and having this real learned need to predict the behavior of others for your own safety and survival, to really be attuned to reading people’s facial expressions and paying attention to their vocal tone and their posture to know if you’re gonna be okay and safe. Because maybe you had a very threatening caregiver and you had to always be aware of their emotional state and try to regulate them or regulate around it. Or at least know when you needed to get out of the way and stay safe. Then that can carry into adulthood and when we’re in social situations, that’s a lot of stuff to try to be taking in all of the time; to be reading everybody’s faces, hearing what everyone is talking about, all of these things. Then you combine that with sensory mismatch it can just lead to a real big overflow of stress in the bucket that then leads to burnout and protective outputs of the nervous system: pain, migraine shut down after these kinds of events. [00:32:31] Matt: I don’t have a great follow. [00:32:32] Jennifer: I really don’t have a great follow either. One thing that did kind of get triggered in me though as a response is self abandonment. This extreme Empathy, this Empathic person that we’re talking about ,is consistently self abandoning in a way that could end up to be pretty harmful in the end, honestly. And for people who like to escape to other altered states of consciousness and are also Empaths in the way that we are speaking of there’s a massive escapism I see too. I think it comes back to really knowing ourselves and creating ourselves as the internal sense of safety and the vessel, right? The thing that we trust the most is ourselves. And to always be working to cultivate that relationship of deep awareness and intimacy within ourselves so that we can go into wherever we’re studying or healing or training or whatever relationships that we’re going into or that we’re in, that we can go into that with autonomy and self-awareness and self understanding. I think are really important for whatever. [00:33:49] Matt: Jumping off of what Elisabeth and Jen said, when you start to think about ‘how can this change’ or ‘what can be done’ if you’re looking to change this behavior or these feelings. With clients I’ve always come back to, let’s check on the sensory mismatch first. This sense of Empathy in this insular cortex that’s affected is one of the areas that’s very difficult to address directly. It’s very difficult to tune down the insula in this way or to inhibit this particular part of it. Practicing good boundaries is certainly helpful, but that’s still kind of a cognitive to insular interaction, which we know from all of our discussion about the nervous system is very challenging if you’re already in threat, already in survival mode. [00:34:36] Your prefrontal cortex and your cognitive brain kind of shuts down. So instead of starting from the front of the brain and working back to the insula, it’s usually more helpful in this case, to start in the back of the brain with helping the back of the brain, like the amygdala, the cerebellum, the brainstem to have a better sense of sensory inputs and how to integrate those inputs first. [00:35:02] Because if they can do that more appropriately, then already the whole environment becomes safer and more predictable. The brain spends less time and energy just spinning in loops, in that back non-cognitive part of the brain that serves survival mode. And it frees up a lot more resources and a lot more energy for us to be Present in the moment, to establish mindfulness, to stay grounded and to stay regulated. So this one is not about ‘I wanna try to be less Empathetic.’ It’s more ‘I want to go back and make sure that my survival brain is taken care of, that I actually train my brain on how to take in these sensory systems and how to integrate them together.’ And that’s what NSI tools can help with. [00:35:50] Then start to establish the boundaries after I feel safe. That’s not only someone who has sensory mismatch, but also going back to what Elisabeth said, someone who’s experienced this because of interactions with cPTSD. In cPTSD, we know we have to get the survival brain to feel safe. We’re gonna spend a lot of time on inputs, a lot of time on feeling the physical body, connecting body and brain together. And then integrating sensory inputs from the external environment. So in both cases, or both causes, of Empathy that we’ve been talking about, to me that still is the key. That the more we can get the survival brain calm down and senses integrated well, then we have the capacity to set the boundaries that we want and to disengage from that external energy field. And be able to feel our own energy and our own emotions and establish that identity of who we really are. [00:36:50] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think what you were just talking about is so critical. Because for so much of my life I understood boundaries cognitively. I would try to do work on that direction, but I think what we’re talking about is much more reflexive. It’s much more below the level of our consciousness. I’m around someone and my body responds. I’m around someone and I am dysregulated. Changed by whatever you want to say by their state. That’s not a cognitive decision that I’m making. [00:37:24] So how do I tell my body to enforce that boundary? That really is by working directly with the nervous system to have greater capacity for self-regulation, greater ability to process emotions. And to know that I’m okay, create that sense of safety internally, like we’ve talked about on here quite a bit, rather than reaching for it externally. I can’t figure that out. It just has to come from a different state of being of my nervous system. [00:37:58] I know that for myself, and in many of the people I work with, it really wasn’t until I started working with my survival mind and healing those deficits and getting rid of some of the really big visual deficits and sensory mismatch issues that I could bring into my life in a real way. Like, ‘this is my body. This is where I end and you begin’. That just wasn’t possible in a state of survival and dysregulation. [00:38:30] Jennifer: It’s true. And also, I agree it’s just the nervous system. All of it can change. We change ours with intention every day, all the time with purpose. Everything that we talk about in this podcast, these protective behaviors that are learned in childhood are maladaptive in adulthood. So we have to go back to the operating system. We have to reshape it, we have to train it. We have to teach it another way of being and show it the safety. The best we can do is to know and understand our nervous systems so that we can experience the peace that we want, the calm and the safety. And that that is container of ourselves first, we learn about our bodies and find new ways to respond that are healthy and safe. And regulate our emotional body so that we can have healthy, safe relationships. And allow others with a really foundational belief that you can have your own emotional experience, it has nothing to do with me and it has no effect on me whatsoever. You have your own sovereignty. [00:39:32] Elisabeth: Absolutely. And the best place, just like you were saying, just to get started is by creating some safety inside of yourself, getting to know your own nervous system. So if you want to join us on the site for 2 free weeks of neuro training to begin to learn the tools that we have used to start to create that safety inside ourselves. You can work with us live and in community, it’s at RewireTrial.com. This is the foundation that we truly have used to create change in all of these patterns in our lives. So join us at RewireTrial.com.
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