How we respond to danger (perceived and real, physical and social), and WHO we turn to (including ourselves and others) in the midst of uncertainty and threat is one of the most powerful foundations for future behavior and how we process information.
The level of self-regulating abilities in the people we have around us during times of danger, ambiguity and uncertainty are one of the most critical aspects of how accurately we predict, prepare for and respond to future situations. This is especially true when we are young, but affects us throughout our lives.
Attachment (and our social behaviors) are about information processing: whether we distort, omit data, include erroneous information, or bias feelings over logic, or logic over emotions.
Danger - and how it is dealt with - is the central theme of attachment - and therefore human interaction.
The concept of how we regulate ourselves and with others, and how we deal with social danger, rejection, status, comparison, the need for acceptance, and how we diversify our abilities to navigate our neurochemicals are topics we cover this Episode of the Mindset Neuroscience Podcast, where I interview Loretta Breuning of the Inner Mammal Institute.
In our interview, we explore many intriguing and relevant topics including:
- The neurochemicals associated with how it feels to have social support - and how this differs from social dominance
- The fluctuations of neurochemicals, feelings and behaviors tied to threat, rejection, and constantly seeking external rewards and short-term gratification
- Being more realistic about the ups and downs of all of our neurochemical states, rather than believing we should feel good all the time.
- The biological purposes to the fluctuations and varieties of states we experience and why it’s helpful for us to understand this so we can get better at making choices that are good for our mental and physical health
- The life-threatening feelings people experience when it comes to social rejection, and social comparison
- How our brain and body store information about threats, and how this can significantly influence our current reactions to people
- The idea of ‘dopamine droop’ and our constant urge to seek reward and avoid discomfort
"We have inherited a brain that compares itself to others to promote its survival.
It creates has a sense of urgency about how it measures up. If you don’t know you are creating this feeling yourself, you think the world is doing it to you. You feel bitter, resentful, and victimized.
Instead, you can accept that the people around you are mammals, and you are a mammal too.""
In this episode, I also go over the Dynamic Maturational Model of Protective Strategies.
This model centers around the concept of danger and how the attunement and attachment we have to others during times of danger influence our information processing. Challenges with information processing include distorting and omitting signals and cues from the environment, and biasing our thoughts and behaviors based on protective strategies that emerged in childhood.
This is just one framework of many that are out there. I don't believe one framework explains all human behavior, but I think it's helpful to hear about models that have a lot of depth and long track records of being developed and tested over time, such as this one. The more we hear about nuances and potential ideas of why we think and react the way we do, the more this information has a chance of entering our conscious awareness, our conscious 'workspace'. Once we have conscious access to our own inner workings and externally-observed behaviors, we have a better chance of choosing differently. As Stanislas Dehaene states, in his book Consciousness and the Brain:
"[...] any information that reaches the conscious workspace immediately becomes capable of regulating, in an extremely deep and extensive manner, all our thoughts. [...] As a result, whatever we become aware of becomes available to drive our decision and our intentional actions, giving rise to the feeling that they are "under control".
As we deepen our understanding, we get better at knowing how to prepare and respond to what is going on around us and within us.
We get better at recognizing patterns. Pattern recognition is one of the keys to improving our abilities to achieve our goals. And our goals often consist of improving how we interact with others so that we can regulate our nervous systems and optimize our functioning and wellbeing. I hope some ideas from this podcast can help us with that.
With Love From Me to You
When I started facilitating workshops in 2011, I got my first subscribers by passing around a piece of paper for people to sign up for my newsletter. I still send that newsletter. Many of the people from those workshops are still among the several thousand subscribers I have today. It’s been a long journey. To be honest, I have many moments of feeling like giving up on all of it - on all of the visions I have for my life. Even now as I write this - I honestly don't know how it will happen. Right now it feels like I'm running on fumes. But there also seems to be a part of me that simply doesn't know how to give up. Maybe everything takes a different form than I can currently imagine. I honestly don't know. It seems that the very act of trying and striving for that North Star is what keeps me going.
Whether it's a person or purpose - if it ignites something within your heart, give it your best shot. You won't be able to devote all of your time to it because so many parts of life need our attention. But give it all of your heart in the moments you do have. And strive to make it a part of your life. Life is short and you may never get another chance. The journey will be long, with lots of mistakes, setbacks, ruptures and repairs. Keep taking action to help the journey grow in depth, understanding and patience. Find exciting ways to integrate it into your life that allow for freedom and a sense of belonging and home. Endurance over time gives you stability and fulfillment. Excitement and fascination come from the challenges of venturing into the unknown.
I hope you’ll get a chance to listen to my podcast or read some of my articles.
I’m not on social media too often, but I put up a sort of 'about page' on my instagram with these images (@stefanieffaye). For the past couple of weeks, I've been using a website called Freedom to block myself from social media for certain time periods... It can actually get frustrating to lock myself out lol. But I'm letting that discomfort be another thing I use my mind to perceive differently. The reactivity of people, attempts to 'one-up' each other or virtue signal on there is still something I find challenging. I'm getting better at learning to ignore that, express myself and know that what I share is honorable in my intentions - even if I mess up or do too much sometimes.
"No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress,
you are still way ahead of everyone who isn't trying."
On a side note...
The vulnerability of admitting we need people....
I’ll be headed to Calgary soon for a couple of months. My possessions are down to a couple suitcases and boxes of books (and my favorite coffee mugs 🙂 A nice surprise is that my brother - who lives in Mexico - will be flying here to help me drive through Idaho up to Calgary. Maybe it’s the winter weather, or maybe it’s the phase of life I’m in right now where I’m recognizing how much I don’t want to do this journey alone anymore - but I didn’t realize how nervous I was about moving and traveling by myself in winter road conditions. When we arranged for my brother to help, I felt a huge feeling of relief - it made me see that sometimes we don't even know we are carrying heavy feelings until they are lifted by the support and helping hands of someone. My heart hurts just to say that... I imagine so many people hold back asking for help. I have such a hard time asking for it, that I simply don't - and it's something I am trying to get better at. My brother will only be here for a week, so I know there will be future occasions where I’ll need to ask for help. This period of life I'm in right now is really letting me see how much we need people. And particularly a core group of people who we know we can turn to. Moving somewhere for a job where I had no contacts and did not really have an in-person team, and then switching to fully remote has really been a challenge for me and has given me clarity about how much I need to be a part of a team, a family, a partnership that is mission-driven and like-minded. It’s something I am trying to build for myself now.
This also has made me realize that moving again after my stay in Calgary without being a part of a mission or team will put me in another disconnected position. I need to move back to the US for residency reasons, and honestly - I want to live in the US. There's something about it that magnetically attracts me. Although there are a lot of issues, there is an energy here that is unlike anywhere I've ever been. It's indescribable. And very difficult for people to understand if they've never lived here or lived anywhere else. There's a fiery, fierce spirit here that aligns with what I feel I am here to do. There is a complacency and dulling of spirit that I feel in all other countries I've lived in. My main challenge at this moment is that I’m realizing that in order to re-locate after Calgary, I need to be part of a mission. I don't want to do this alone anymore. I've been an introvert, wanderer and lone wolf my whole life. I don't want to wander alone anymore. I need to feel like I am part of a mission, a joint-task-force - even if it's only serving a tiny number of people. And I need to feel like I am with other souls who feel the same sense of action-oriented urgency of mission as I do. Urgency doesn't only look like high-speed.. it can also look like healing, acceptance, safety and nurturance. Those are things urgently needed in the world.
The specifics of what I do doesn’t even really matter to me as much… I've worked in so many domains, and my talents are cross-disciplinary, so I know I can contribute in my own unique ways. I want to stay open to what Life requests and needs of me. I do know I want to be outside more, be more in nature, seeing a variety of landscapes, fresh air and time with children in some capacity. But besides that, the details - location (traveling or stationary), specific tasks, subject matter, demographics, logistics, etc., none of that really matters as much to me. Joining forces and not doing this alone. Co-creating a sense of family, community and helping humans feel better, be better, do better as part of a joint effort. That's what matters to me. There is something so strong about this clarity that I've never experienced before.
I don’t care if the online world ever knows about it as long as we’re helping the world somehow and feeling that deep connection. I’m grateful that I’m slowly learning this.. I’m also grateful for a person who continually gives me inspiration and support in the form of their own content and words and voice… He is helping me and many others with understanding what matters. Sometimes even if I can’t be physically near someone, just hearing their voice can be a source of tremendous help.
At this time, all I can do is keep shining my light and engaging with life as best I can - I don't know any particular concrete action to take just yet. Getting rid of belongings feels good. Cutting ties with an expensive place to live feels good. Right now, it feels like I need to not try so hard to make anything particular happen. Taking care of my friends' little kids in Calgary, helping my mom, joining a martial arts gym and outdoor education classes. Having some time to do these things will help me get new brain activity firing that I think will help me a lot. Focusing on my personal growth to learn how to show my vulnerability more often (.. lots of work to do still in that department). In terms of other concrete actions, there is just not enough information to know what direction to go or move to make other than that. It feels currently like I'm bracing myself a lot and holding back from feeling and expressing certain things - I think part of this is due to not having a lot of support around me to be able to let my guard down. All of this ties in so much to the importance of human connection. If I'm going through this - I imagine many other people are too. I'll be integrating much of this into my content.
Writing and putting stuff out there is a way for me to keep getting clarity...
"The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.'
One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity."
#mindset #neuroscience #resilience #mission #purpose #team #community #familyunit #partnership #bettertogether #longhaul #endurance #vulnerability #dontgiveup