Getting unstuck isn't easy and sometimes it's downright hard. Probably more often than not.
When you're making a change, you're entering new territory. So there's a newness to it and that means you probably don't have the nervous system capacity to handle it. That raw newness can be overwhelming. It can be intimidating. And you know by now that "story follows state," so our thinking mind creates scenarios that reinforce the fear of change. And these "stories" send us right back down the polyvagal ladder and into defensive energy.
Change might require losing some access to our polyvagal state of safety and social engagement. Novelty can be exciting in its newness, but it can also be anxiety-producing. It depends on the strength of someone's vagal brake and how much they can tolerate before losing access to their state of safety and social engagement. Basically, how much defensive energy they can tolerate before losing their capacity to self-regulate. Change and novelty for one can be scary and for another it can be exhilarating.
Here are some thoughts on how to start to get unstuck.
Learn a new paradigm
The Polyvagal Theory is s good one. I highly recommend it! If you didn't know, I'm kinda obsessed with it and based an entire podcast on the foundations of the theory. I've also got a page dedicated to easily understanding it, it's called Polyvagal 101.
Whether it's the Polyvagal Theory or some other paradigm, the benefit here is to get a new and hopefully more comprehensive understanding of yourself and how you fit into the world. Without the foundation of a solid paradigm, navigating the process of getting unstuck might seem a lot more out of control and overwhelming. But with a nice solid foundation under your feet, it will give you something to fall back on during your process.
It doesn't have to be the PVT of course, that's my recommendation for where to start. You might also find the grounding that you need through religion and the paradigm of yourself and the world that it offers. Or if you're already a believer, it might be time to revisit your beliefs and start anew. You could also look deper into the work of Peter Levine or Kathy Kain for a better understanding of somatic psychology and healing. The PVT is one piece of what they go deeper into.
After having a new paradigm, you can then develop it into a new narrative -
Create a new narrative, free of judgment
Yes, it's possible. With a new or refreshed paradigm, you can give yourself a new narrative. Because with that solid foundational knowledge or worldview, it can help to construct the stories that you have about yourself. A new narrative is the application of the new paradigm to the self. I'll again advocate here for the Polyvagal Theory in particular.
Once you understand the biological components of the PVT and the autonomic nervous system, there is simply no judgment involved with applying it to the self. It's just biology. It's a scientific explanation of the bodily processes involved in how we get stuck and how we stay stuck. It applies to every single one of us and is judgment free. I hear from listeners of the podcast or Instagram followers that they felt a deep sense of relief in having the new paradigm of the PVT and then having a new narrative for something that happened in the past. Typically, it's referencing some sort of traumatic event they went through. Or a realization about their upbringing and how that impacts them now.
But instead of the story being around how they're broken or defective, it's a more accurate story about being stuck in a defensive state. This new narrative brings with it a sense of hope and optimism. Because if you're stuck, then that means you can get unstuck. The biological science of the PVT also brings with it a roadmap for making change - the polyvagal ladder.
Notice the moment - you don't exist anywhere or anywhen else.
After creating a new paradigm and a new narrative, anchor yourself firmly in the present moment. The teachings of the PVT and the narrative you have of yourself will do the most good in the present moment. Yes, they apply to the past as well. But if you bring those pieces to the present moment, it can help you to attune to your biology right here and now.
You exist in the literal physical environment in the literal present moment. Not then, not there. But right here and now. If you exist then and there, then you're probably in a defensive state right now. (Was that too convoluted?) Basically, I'm saying that if you are currently feeling those old feelings, there's a good chance that you're in a defensive state and have lost access to your capacity to tolerate the defensiveness. And if that's true, then the paradigm and the narrative aren't going to do a whole lot of good.
You can start to return to the present moment by using your present moment interactions with the environment through your senses. I actually teach more about this in chapter 4 of my Building Safety Anchors course, then lead you through a few days of practicing. Senses might be one of the most obvious ways to feel the present moment. After all, that's how the present moment speaks to us and influences our polyvagal state.
Anchor yourself in safety
So that's all well and good, but really, you want to anchor yourself in the present moment by actually feeling safety. And this really is where the Building Safety Anchors course comes in handy. Because it's all about discovering what works for you and your wonderful nervous system through finding feelings of safety. I teach you six different avenues for doing so, senses being one of the six. There are five more in the course:
Generally, you can feel safety through small changes in your state. As you increase your ventral vagal safety activation, you will unlock your capacity to breathe easily, to smile, to use eye crinkles and to socially connect with others. You might feel more playful or more relaxed. So coming to the present moment and noticing your shifts is great, but coming to the present moment through safety in particular is ideal.
As you continue to exercise your safety pathways, the possibilities for getting unstuck increase. Having a strong ventral safety system is necessary to the process of unstucking. (Unsticking?) Those pathways are going to be vital in tolerating the defensive energy as it discharges or as it returns. Seriously, they're important.
Those are my thoughts on getting started in the process of unstucking! (that sounds right to me) Check out the course or contact me if you have questions about it.