Two different examples using the same situation so we can see emotional sytems, learned feelings and behaviours in action, how these work in sync to support effective actions and how difficult it can be when our systems are both disregulated and we are using learned ways of coping which block expression of underlying emotional systems.
Activated and Expressed?
“You have learned to feel safe when when you arrive home after work, though the lights are off, the door is locked; you are secure (learned feelings). As you open your front door you generally plan what to make for dinner (learned behaviour), exploring your needs, desire and practical options. Your SEEKING system activation will be dependent on how hungry you are, your imagination and how much food you have in your kitchen: your body and mind enthusiastically preparing for finding out and for food preparation.
One day everything is as usual, until after opening the door and turning a light on, you notice broken glass and see chaos around you. Your FEAR system is activated – you start backing out of the house, checking for external threat as you do so. You find your mobile and call the police and notice how your body has reacted – heart racing, hands shaking – blood rushing to your limbs to prepare you to speed up from a slow to a fast exit if need be. You also decide to call your friend down the road to come to help you, you know you don’t want to deal with this alone (CARE and SEEKING system activated).
When you realise there is no immediate danger, you tell yourself that it seems ok and to breath and take a moment to calm yourself down. Relieved, your shoulders drop a little and you sigh. You start taking stock of the impact of what has happened and you notice a heat energy radiating through your body, down your arms to your hands – your RAGE system is activated – you feel angry as you consider the violation (learned feeling expressing the RAGE activation).
Your emotional systems automatically prepare you to deal with the situation you find yourself in. The challenge we consciously face is:
Regulating them and making use of them at the time – in this case to get help, to calm ourselves when the coast was clear, to face the consequences of the situation we are in.
Using the RAGE energy and the desire to avoid FEAR being activated again, you start a neighbourhood watch scheme, add locks to the windows, set up a light on an evening timer, rather than allowing it to turn to vengeful bitterness and fearful avoidance. Once we feel safe again, we can feel PLAYful again!”
Blocked and Inhibited?
The same situation with a person who has more blocked, overactivated and inhibited emotional systems.
“A tough couple of years have taken their toll. A traumatic car accident and resulting health problems two years ago had caused chronic activation of your FEAR system resulting in constant anxiety (learned feeling).
You have generally avoided talking about the difficulties with your closest friends and family (learned behaviour) because it just makes you anxious and ashamed (learned feelings), but this has contributed to you continuing to feel unsafe; your need for nurturance (CARE system) has been blocked by this as well because you have avoided your loved ones.
After a long day at work you generally find it hard to focus on relaxing, exercising or eating in the evening because with a chronically activated FEAR system, your SEEKING system will naturally focus on safety. This evening is no different, you arrive home from work already in a mild FEAR activated state. After wearily and cautiously opening the front door and turning a light on, you notice broken glass and see chaos around you.
Your FEAR system floods from mild to intense alert – your mind is overwhelmed, unable to take on board the situation,you don’t know what to do. You wander around the house not aware that there might be still be some danger, feeling slightly outside your own body. Twenty minutes later you see your phone and you wonder if you should ring the police. When they ask you questions, you go blank, can’t remember the answers and have to check again.
The police ask if there is someone you can call to help and it is hard for you to think who (anxiety impacting on ability to think). When the police have left, you feel very lonely (SEEKING and CARE system activated) and open a bottle of wine (learned behaviour to dampen emotional pain). As you start tidying the house you feel anxious (learned feeling) and wonder if you will ever feel safe again – maybe you should move away? You also feel ashamed (learned feeling), you tell yourself what an idiot you are for not putting window locks on sooner (RAGE is blocked, instead turned against the self – you take the blame for the thieves), you decide not to tell anyone in case they call you an idiot too (learned behaviour).”