We live in a world that seems to be getting more chaotic by the day; when we add emotional dysregulation, we are in for an even more intense and heightened state. How do we bring ourselves down to that calm and centered space? Even more important, how do we know that we are already experiencing emotional dysregulation? In today’s episode, Ani Anderson and Brian Trzaskos answer these questions and more. They take us deep into the world of emotional dysregulation and how using somatic coaching can help. From its debilitating effects down to how it relates to our nervous system, Ani and Brian bring insights that will have you uncover the blocks that keep you from living the life you want. Tune in and find out the benefits of somatic coaching to overcome emotional dysregulation.
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From Emotional Dysregulation To Regulation With Somatic Coaching
We want to thank everybody for the amazing reviews and emails we’ve been getting about the show. We are so excited that you’re as excited as we are about getting the show rolling. I want to let you know your reviews and emails and sharing it with friends matter so much. You’re the person that helps to develop the community here. You doing those things means not only the world to us, but it matters so much for the community, so thank you very much.
Before we get rolling with this episode, Brian, I want to also mention that it’s cross-mapping season. Cross-mapping is a fantastic way to start your somatic coach training journey. The cross-mapping programs are open for enrollment for January and April 2024. Now is the right time to have a conversation with our team. If you’ve been thinking and wondering, “I wonder if this is for me? I wonder if somatic coaching is for me?” cross-mapping is a fantastic way to get started with us, so have a conversation with our team if you’ve been thinking about that for yourself.
We kick off episode seven, using somatic coaching for emotional dysregulation.
As we talk about emotional dysregulation, we’re going to speak about it through the context of a story. In full transparency, Brian, this is a story that’s a conglomeration of stories because we have so many students and clients in our practice who are working on emotional dysregulation. This is something I’ve worked on myself.
We’re going to talk about Amanda’s story as we talk about this and be able to pull in different aspects. People who are looking at getting help with emotional dysregulation don’t call a somatic coach because they’re like, “I’m emotionally dysregulated most of the time.” What are some signs and symptoms that you might be a person who’s having some stuff with emotional dysregulation? That’d be a great way to start.
The number one sign is that you’re not getting the thing that you want to get in your life. You have an idea. You would like a better relationship. You want to have a better business. It could be more clients coming in or bringing more revenue into the business. The relationship could be a better, more open relationship with your partner, kids, parents, or neighbor. It could also be better health. You could have health goals. The sign that potentially emotional dysregulation is getting in the way is that you’re not getting what you want. It seems like it’s getting farther away and you’re not getting there. It’s not happening.
I love that you talk about that, Brian, because with coaching, we are talking about what we want to achieve. What do we want to grow into? What do we want to have, be and do? There is this idea that I can’t do what I want to do and I can’t have what I want to have. A lot of our clients tell us, “I’m not getting the thing that I want to get. I’m not doing the thing I want to do. I’m also not being the person I want to be in my life.”
They’re stuck. A lot of people say, “I’ve been in therapy for this for a long time.” There’s some shame around it as well because it’s not that they haven’t tried. By the way, it’s not that they haven’t broken through some things. People have done a lot of work a lot of times when they get to the place where they’re seeing us. There can be this idea that I’ve already done so much work. We have to remind people about being in a beginner’s mind. Let’s imagine you’re starting fresh, but there could also be some shame to get through because I’ve been working on this for a long time. I’m a grown-up. Why can’t I do this?
It’s interesting you start to talk about some emotions like shame, guilt, and anger. These are all emotions that people experience that get in the way a lot of times of us again creating the life that we want to create. Our take on this matter at Coaching Academy around, let’s say, goal achievement. A lot of coaches are like, “That’s your goal. We need to achieve that. That’s what we’re going after.” That’s important.
At the same time, what we believe is the journey on and route to that goal is even more important because it’s about who you’re becoming on the way to that goal. Such that when you arrive at the goal, you’re a changed person. It’s not like the goal changes you. You become changed on the way to experiencing that goal.
It’s that idea that brings the goal to us or reveals the goal to us naturally because natural laws would let us know that what we want is already in our lives. We can’t see it. That’s one of the most frustrating things about emotional dysregulation, especially when people are learning the natural laws. They know what they want is there, but somewhere they can’t see it. Anyway, the goal reveals itself as we do the work, and then it feels almost like magic.
I also like to use this analogy of driving cross country. That’s an analogy that a lot of people use in these kinds of things and how does it relate to emotional dysregulation with what you’re talking about too. We live on the East Coast and say we want to go to California, so that’s our goal. Our goal is to get to California.
We point the car in that direction en route to our goal then we’re driving together. Somewhere around Cleveland, we get a lot of traffic and there’s construction. We start to argue and the Google Maps goes down. We both get emotionally dysregulated and I take the wrong exit and then pretty soon, we’re on our way to Florida and not California anymore.
A lot of time, I see that’s how emotional dysregulation shows up. It’s like all of a sudden, it shows up, becomes dysregulated and we make a choice that doesn’t get us closer to California. It puts us on a side track and we’re going in a different direction, then halfway through Louisiana, we’re like, “We’re supposed to be going to California. What are we doing down here?”
You’re going around. Do you remember that trip? We were in Canada and we couldn’t read the signs. We were going around, but emotional dysregulation can feel like that, too. This person we’re talking about, Amanda, comes for somatic coaching and there are some hallmark signs that she’s probably dealing with emotional dysregulation. Anger is one of them, Brian. By the way, she probably doesn’t want to feel angry.
I’m getting angry with my team, my family and that’s not how I want to be, but they’re driving me crazy. There’s that not getting what we want. There’s also this shutdown that can happen where we get confused or we get frozen, depleted, blank or I don’t know what to do kind of thing that happens. What are the other kinds of emotions that show up? Sometimes, it’s rage or grief. Sometimes, it’s like a massive amount of grief that comes up, but a lot of times, it’s that anger that shuts down.
It’s that in combination. It’s like the angry outburst is then followed by intense personal shame around having the angry outburst. We have this huge explosion of anger and then we shut down because we feel ashamed about what we did or our behavior around that.
Projection is another large one.
One of the interesting things about projection is we think that we are, I’m going to say, justified. We think that the reality that we see about what’s going on is the reality and the other person. It disallows us from having any opportunity to do something because it’s very disempowering. It’s in somebody else’s hands. Amanda comes for somatic coaching. She’s leading a team and jammed up. She’s not getting what she wants in her business and in her personal life. She is angry with her team all the time. She doesn’t want to be reactive, but she is. Brian, what’s going on in the nervous system? What is dysregulation?
Let’s talk about emotional dysregulation and nervous system deregulation. What’s happening when someone has an emotion is that if you want to deconstruct that a little bit, they’re in sensory overload. We talk about nervous system dysregulation. We’re talking about sensory dysregulation. A lot of this work comes from the window of tolerance model, where there’s an optimal window of regulation or what we call nervous system arousal in the middle and then there’s hyperarousal above that window where we feel activated.
In other words, there’s a lot of like foot on the gas. Fight or flight’s happening. Lots of cognitive disorganization but also a lot of hypervigilance and activation. Below the optimal window of arousal is what we call hypo-arousal. This is that shutdown response or, for some people, the immobility response, where we’re experiencing more like cognitive shutdown, like slow movements, confusion, and lethargy.
On either side of this optimal window of regulation, we have dysregulation above or below that window. We could certainly throw some emotions into those things. I would say anger is a hyper dysregulation or hyperarousal, whereas depression and shame would be hypoarousal. They’re going to be below. If you think about it, there are no sensors in your body that pick up emotions from the environment. They pick up interoceptive senses.
What’s interoceptive senses? It’s things like sharp-dull or light-heavy. It picks up senses and then those sensations are brought into the brain from either the internal body or from the external world. Anger doesn’t come into the body. Shame doesn’t come into the body. Emotions are produced in our physiology by raw materials of sensory input.
At the Somatic Coaching Academy, we like to say that emotions are two things. Their thoughts plus sensations. This helps us identify how we can practically work with emotions in terms of nervous system dysregulation because otherwise, where do emotions fit and how do you work with them? By the way, they’re a little bit tangible, maybe, but not. They are completely wrapped up in the narrative.
The story that we have about our lives, what it seems like life is, all of that is based on how we grew up, to learn how to think and feel. It is an incredibly messy ball of yarn. If you see emotions as two things, the narrative or the thoughts, the stories and the sensations, all of a sudden, we have something very practical to work with.
There are a lot of people doing a lot of great work around emotions out there. I want to say that. There are a lot of people doing workaround anger, resolution, shame and guilt. Hats off to all of you and all of us that are doing that work. More of that is needed, certainly.
It’s amazing because it allows us to come at the unraveling of our emotions from intellectually based, top-down approaches and from the body-based bottom-up approaches so that we can unravel and entangle these things.
There’s no one thing for everybody. We’re all going to be mad. I can just only speak from my personal experience. From my personal experience, when I spent a lot of time trying to unravel anger, resentment and depression, trying to unravel it from that standpoint, as soon as I say, “I’m trying to unravel anger,” what’s automatically included is the context in which the anger happened. That’s what we’re talking about with the story, the other people involved or the other things involved. The past traumas around it and all those kind of things.
That unraveling gets, all of a sudden, huge. It’s like a big mess. It’s almost impossible to wade through all of it. That’s why, in our experience, if we say, “Let’s take that context and narrative and not throw it away, but put it to the side for a moment. Let’s go to the raw data of what you are labeling anger, shame, and depression or work with the nervous system directly itself in terms of that sensation, we have found that is a powerful and efficient way to help people come back into nervous system regulation.Labeling anger, shame, or depression is a really powerful and efficient way to help people get back into regulation. Click To Tweet
Before we talk about that, can we talk about Amanda and a little bit of healing work? What you said is the arrow that goes right to the target of what we’re trying to do with emotional work and why so many people tell us, “I’ve been to therapy for several years, but this one session was so much more helpful.” Therapy is awesome and needed to, don’t get me wrong.
Amanda comes in. She’s talking about all this frustration and emotional dysregulation. We do a session with her where we identify where she’s feeling that anger and projection. Where she’s feeling it and what it feels like, then we help a man to understand that sensation is happening in her subconscious mind, which includes his and her body.
The subconscious mind doesn’t know how old you are. The subconscious mind doesn’t know what year it is. It doesn’t tell time. It doesn’t know how old you are. We have her tap into and feel that sensory aspect. I remember a time that I had one of these healing kinds of sessions with somebody where we tapped into the subconscious, not knowing how old they were. It was like, “I’m two years old and I’m throwing a tantrum.”
That’s awesome because we tapped into something with the sensory system that nobody had gotten for years from an intellectual standpoint, but because we’re identifying in the subconscious directly through a sensation where you feel it, what it feels like, and I feel like I’m two. We were able to help this person have their temper tantrum and they can start to integrate the work, but it was like a skipping record.
It was skipping. Do you remember that? Lift up the thing, the arm on the record. That’s all we had to do. It was like, “The record skipping,” and lift up the record. Very often, in terms of emotional dysregulation, there is a component of healing work that can be done easily and completely with somatic coaching that allows you to continue moving forward.Very often, in terms of emotional dysregulation, there is a component of healing work that can be done really easily and completely with somatic coaching that then allows you to continue to move forward. Click To Tweet
A little more framework here, there are four steps to our somatic coaching process. Become aware of, decode, modify, and reframe. What Ani is talking about are the first two steps that become aware of and decoding. What core functioning or root cause of that emotional district or sensory dysregulation is. Until we understand that and can sense clarity around it, we can’t clear it out to move on to remodifying how the nervous system works.
We have to understand where that dysregulation come from. Address that skipping record thing. Once we’ve freed that arm off the record, now we can make a conscious choice to enlist it and employ some tools and strategies to come back into that emotional window of regulation. Once someone’s in that sensory regulation, moving their sensory system back into that optimal window arousal, they’re now sensory regulated. They have to then name a different emotion because it’s a different state.
You’re reminding me that Amanda is a person who goes to yoga. She meditates, goes on silent retreats, and eats good food. This is the thing that is her lifestyle, Brian. We’re trying to regulate the nervous system or even decode it. That’s not therapy, by the way. We decode what’s happening in the subconscious and then we can move forward.
The person will experience a different state in a very different way. From that place, when you work on helping somebody to regulate their nervous system and start to work that as a muscle with a way of life, exercise as you can use and somatic practices, then it can be a sustainable regulated way of being.
The idea is when someone’experiences that emotional dysregulation, we’re not trying to change the emotion. We’re trying to shift from dysregulation into regulation. Once someone is in that regulated state, they will experience a different emotion. We’re not trying to change the emotion. We’re going underneath it, going deeper than the emotion.
That’s what happens to Amanda. She has this session where she realizes it’s her inner two-year-old. She starts to work on the nervous system regulation things in her own life. The problems that she thought were the problems aren’t even problems anymore. The way that she sees reality, what she sees out of her eyes and sensing with her ears and all of her senses, is different.
She’s experiencing life differently. That’s part of the magic and beauty of what can happen. When we’re trying to fix the problem that we think is the problem when we’re emotionally dysregulated the problem is emotional dysregulation. I was having a conversation with a client that’s a couple and leadership team.
They were talking about some challenges they were having during meetings. We very quickly came to realize that the actual problem wasn’t the people and the goals. It wasn’t the strategy. The problem was their nervous system dysregulation. They started to get a check on that, their meeting started to improve. They started to have very different experiences.
When I was say, emotional regulation often times has to do with the relationships that were a part of. I always have to say I’m so grateful for you in my life, Ani, because you’re a blessing for us to be able to do that work together. I know not everyone has the same support and experience in their life to be able to work on that with their partner.Regulation oftentimes has to do with the relationships that we are a part of. Click To Tweet
Thank you, Brian. When you said that, the first thing I thought of was what a gift because I have experienced intense and a lot of emotional dysregulation for myself. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve tested out all of these strategies and tools.
I’ll test it in our own kitchen.
They’re tested. It’s true. We’re not coming to this information because we do it right all the time. We’re coming to this information because we use the tools because we’re human beings who experience things and use the tools to help figure out life and we all need help with that. I have to tell you, that’s one thing that Amanda discovers on the other side of her emotional dysregulation. Once she regulates her nervous system, she finds out that everybody’s living a human experience. We need to help each other to be better human beings. What’s on the other side of that is a lot of awesome human connection.
If you find that you struggle with emotional dysregulation from time to time, what I’ve loved to leave you with from this episode is to become aware of it at first step, Brian. Pay attention and notice what emotions you feel like you’re having and say to yourself, “Where do I feel that in my body? What does it feel like?” You’ve already started something powerful. Thanks for joining us for this episode and we’ll see you next time.