The dawn of self-awareness created a dysregulated nervous system in humans. All of our problems followed, like a chain of cascading dominoes. We have seen the effects it has on our health, our behaviour, our relationships, our personalities, our society and even our planet. And the inevitable question we must all ask ourselves is, how would I be if I was not dysregulated? How would we all be? And how might we get back to the way we were supposed to be?
To achieve freedom from a dysregulated nervous system, we first need to understand what a regulated nervous system actually is. Dysregulation happens when our mammal and reptile brains are in disagreement with our thinking, human brains about the level of threat in our environment and what to do about it. In the face of a threat, our nervous system accelerates to get away from the danger. Our fight or flight response kicks in, to fight for our lives or flee if fighting is not an option. If the threat is overwhelming (too much to handle) we freeze, storing that accelerated energy in our bodies until it is safe to discharge it. Problems arise when we store that energy and fail to discharge it, because it stays in our bodies and affects all future responses to threat. A dysregulated nervous system, then, is one that is out of harmony with the environment.
A regulated nervous system understands the level of threat, or lack thereof, in the environment, and isn’t subject to residual baggage influencing day to day behaviour.
In the diagram above, we can see that the thinking, human brain (the prefrontal cortex) suppresses the mammalian and reptilian impulses in response to threat that the human brain can’t logically see or understand. This creates a conflict between the brains and this conflict affects our nervous system functioning.
The first step towards a regulated nervous system is to train your thinking brain to allow the mammal and reptile part of your brain to take over. Essentially, you need to agree to get out of your own way. I’m afraid there’s no way to skip this step; it’s the foundation of everything that comes after. Until we return control for some things back to the mammal brain, we will remain forever stuck in these loops set up by our self-awareness. The only way to do this is to fully understand what’s happening, and why.
I know this sounds like a lot. But believe me when I say that your greatest enemy in this process is your own thinking human mind. Sadly, it’s not like some distracting app you can delete or shut down when you’re trying to get something else done. You have to make an ally of your mind and persuade it to allow you to do the rest of the work of recovery. And to do that, you only have to show it that this all makes sense. This is what makes us feel more in control. And that’s how your human brain feels safe.
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