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Resilience

9 November 2021

When we have a healthy nervous system, we are able to access a process called Response Flexibility.

In full health, this is the function of the prefrontal cortex in the brain that allows us to assess a situation, pause, consider an appropriate response and act calmly and wisely, in our best interests.

Having a calm and balanced response to life’s trials and tribulations helps us to build resilience. But this is often disrupted by the effects of difficult life experiences. Our system rewires itself and we start to respond from a place of fear.

When the nervous system has been severely depleted and affected by trauma and stress, this function becomes very difficult to access. We find ourselves unable to pause, consider and calmly respond, because our highly activated state dictates our response; we are often responding not to the event in front of us in real time, but to historic events that caused this lack of response flexibility in the first place.

Working to regulate our nervous system health can build up resilience again so that we aren’t automatically responding from a place of historic trauma.

It’s often a longer process than we want, because these dysregulated responses have been largely unconscious and served a purpose; usually meaning we haven’t had to face the original trauma or pain, which was the catalyst for a chaotic response mechanism to appear.

But doing this work means that we can start to rewire the prefrontal cortex (neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing!) and slowly rebuild the capacity to pause, consider and respond more appropriately. We become more resilient and have better control over our emotions because we are able to recognise this patterning and start to interrupt it, consciously.

Building back this capacity will allow us to reconnect to our gut feelings – restoring health in this way allows the fragmented aspects of both mind and body to work together to create much needed safety.

This quote from the incredible Victor Frankl, reminds me of how much agency we really have when we can access this space between stimulus and response.

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