Tuesday, 16 January 2024

Linda-maree Conyard

Momentum is a force that propels us forward, and it plays a pivotal role in trauma recovery and inner work. Our minds, much like the laws of physics, tend to follow the path of least resistance. In the intricate landscape of our brains, neural pathways are etched with each experience and response. These pathways become the highways through which our thoughts and behaviours travel, forming the basis of momentum in our inner worlds.

When we are doing our trauma recovery or any kind of inner work, momentum is a critical part of the process. Frequency and commitment to regular contact with whoever or whatever you are using to support your change process is what creates momentum. Once we have momentum, it makes it easier for us to deepen our healing.

In this edition of Trauma Bytes, we'll explore:

  • ​Neural Pathways and Momentum;
  • The Dilemma of Repetition; and
  • Mindfulness Practice to Create Momentum.

What we need to remember is that, like any of those New Year resolutions that fade away in a week or two after making them, if we don't find the support to stay with it, then momentum will wither up and become non-existent. Then nothing changes, and we keep doing what we've always done.

1. Neural Pathways and Momentum
Neural pathways in our brain are the result of our repeated thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. In trauma recovery, particularly, these pathways can be deeply entrenched and shaped by past experiences and survival mechanisms. The brain, in its remarkable adaptability, forms connections that serve to protect us during difficult times. However, these very pathways can become a double-edged sword, leading us to unintentionally repeat patterns even when they no longer serve our well-being.

These intricate networks within our brains dictate our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Think of them as well-worn trails in a forest, shaped by the frequency of our experiences and responses. In trauma recovery, these pathways often carry the imprints of past survival strategies. While they serve as shields during challenging times, they can inadvertently lead to the repetition of patterns that may no longer be beneficial. Recognising this, it's crucial to approach the process of unravelling neural pathways with compassion and curiosity.

2. The Dilemma of Repetition
The dilemma of repetition arises from the conflict between our conscious intentions and the momentum of established neural pathways.

This is not a reflection of personal failure but a manifestation of the brain's natural inclination to follow familiar routes. The brain tends to choose efficiency over novelty, opting for pathways already forged.

Breaking free from this cycle requires a deliberate and conscious effort to disrupt these automatic responses. This involves challenging the comfort of familiar patterns and actively engaging in practices that create alternative neural connections.

3. Mindfulness Practices to Create Momentum
To help create momentum when engaging in your inner healing, try out these practices:

Mindful Self-Observation Practice: The truth is that awareness is key to any kind of healing work you do. Once you can see something, you can take conscious action with it. Until then you are operating at a subconscious level and allowing the automatic ways of functioning to run your life. It's a bit like you have your own stunt woman/man in the movie of your life, and you are on the set watching it all happen.

Awareness is the first step in interrupting the momentum of ingrained neural pathways, and like anything new; it requires effort to change. This practice is to help you begin to see, without judgement, the patterns that repeat in your life.

In the beginning, because we are so used to operating in absentia (while or although not present; in absence), it is really challenging to start noticing how we operate. It may also be helpful if you start with reflecting rather than trying to catch the automatic pilot ways of being in the moment. My invitation here is to be patient and compassionate with yourself.

Set aside 10-15 minutes each day to engage in a conscious, mindful check-in with the intention of seeing what is out of sight - for example: your repeating patterns. You can write your observations and insights and see how they change over time.

Create a quiet space, sit or lie down comfortably, and close your eyes. Connect with your breath and just notice that you are breathing, notice the body breathing itself — nothing to do or change. You are simply observing.

Call to mind any situation that you find yourself in over and over again. Without judgment bring your awareness to any thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations or reactions that arise in you or have been expressed by you in that situation. There is no need to try to change anything. Simply be the observer of your experience and acknowledge with gratitude that you can now see it.

The hardest pill to swallow is that any reaction that arises within you is yours and it's calling for you to go within and work with it (*whale). What we most often tend to do is to go outward (*jellyfish) and project our own stuff onto those in our environment.

This mindful self-observation lays the foundation for freeing yourself from automatic responses by replacing the old neural pathway in your brain with conscious choice. It takes dedication and preparedness for repetition (sometimes a lot of repetition) to make this change.

Body and Breath Awareness Practice: Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Direct your attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale. Notice the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation of air passing through your nostrils. Then, shift your awareness to different parts of your body, starting from your toes and moving up to the top of your head. Notice any tension or sensations without judgment, allowing your breath to bring a sense of relaxation to each area.

Conscious breathing and grounding techniques serve as powerful tools to interrupt the automatic responses associated with established neural pathways, providing space for conscious, intentional, mindful choices. Breath and body awareness techniques anchor you in the present moment.

These exercises allow you to ground yourself in the present moment, fostering a deep sense of connection and understanding. Additionally, they provide practical ways to implement mindful self-observation and cultivate body and breath awareness. Consistent practice of these activities fosters a deeper connection with your inner experiences and contributes to the creation of new, conscious neural pathways.

By comprehending the nuances of neural pathways and the importance of conscious repetition, we empower ourselves to consciously redirect the flow of our inner currents so we can resolve our trauma or make any kind of change we desire. This intentional process of reshaping neural pathways is not only about breaking free from the shackles of the past but also about creating a future aligned with our conscious choices and aspirations.

May this Trauma Bytes, while challenging, hold the promise of profound transformative exploration and offer deep insights and practical tools for your transformative journey in trauma recovery and inner work.

I love hearing from you and receiving your updates, so please keep them coming.

May you be well, may you be happy, and may you have inner peace.

Linda ♡

If you try out any offered practices, I’d love to hear how you found them and what you now understand that you didn’t before. I love, love, love hearing from you guys.

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