I recently took a workshop at Colorado Free University called “Take Control of Your Life: Set Healthy Boundaries.” To be honest, I thought it would only be a surface look at the issue of setting healthy boundaries, but the instructor, Sarabeth Bjorndahl, LPC, presented one of the best workshops I’ve ever taken.
She has an extensive background in the subject, having studied, taught, and counseled on the subject for over two decades. Although I was not completely new to the idea of childhood trauma being imprinted in the limbic system, or what is sometimes called the “lizard brain,” it helped to have it explained in such a concise yet thorough way. It was like a big “ah ha… now I understand.” I think everyone in the room was having the same “ah ha” experience.
It’s that part of the brain that senses danger, where instincts and gut feelings originate, primal thoughts, and subconscious or involuntary processes. It’s sometimes called the “lizard brain” because its structure is similar to that of less sentient animals, such as lizards. Our larger “human” brain is built on top of, or around, that part of the brain, also known as the brain stem.
As adults, we may ask ourselves, “How can I explain the never-ending irrationality of my behavior? I say I want one thing, then I do another. I say I want to be successfully self-employed, I want to save money, I want to be married, yet I forever create the opposite in my life. (This is a topic I’ve been wrapping my mind around for at least a decade, both as a student and teacher of the “Law of Attraction” and manifestation.)
To sum up the Law of Attraction in one sentence: “Your thoughts create your reality.” So just have positive thoughts and create a positive life, right? If it were that simple, why aren’t more people creating the life they love, especially when it comes to the things they long for most?
It’s because there is a contradictory “thought” deep in the subconscious. Basically it’s that precognitive imprinting. If one (or both) of your parents/caretakers were absent, either physically or emotionally, if they were neglectful, abusive, critical, judgmental, using shame, blame, or guilt-tripping to control behavior, or if they sought to get their own needs met vicariously through their child, the child learns that his/her survival depends on pleasing the parent. But it’s not the kind of learning we do as adults because the higher cognitive functions haven’t developed until the age of 14. Rather it’s “precognitive”. It’s imprinted in the limbic system. It’s emotional rather than verbal. So we can’t just “think” our way out of it.
As adults we have to bring a great deal of consciousness and awareness to the ways we get “triggered.” That’s the evidence of precognitive imprinting.
I asked Sarabeth, “If we are missing a feeling of being lovable because we didn’t receive that feeling in childhood, how do we give ourselves what we’re missing?”
She said it’s not so much about giving yourself what you’re missing as it is about learning to “tolerate” the discomfort, and suggested I study the teachings of Pema Chodron.
I totally got it. It helped that I am thoroughly versed in Chodron’s teachings, but also that I have been meditating regularly for nearly two years and studying non-violent communication (NVC) for over two years. These forms of spiritual discipline have helped tremendously to create a “gap” in which I am able to “tolerate” the intense thoughts and feelings that arise when I get “triggered.” I recognize now that every time I get triggered, it relates back to some pain or trauma I experienced as a child. The pain and trauma are still “trapped” in my body. Each time I am triggered and am able to “tolerate” the discomfort or “sit with it,” without needing to act on those thoughts and feelings as if they were true, I release the blocked energy that has been stored up in my body for decades.
In the two years I’ve been using meditation and NVC, I have seen a dramatic reduction in the intensity of emotion that comes up when I’m triggered. It’s less intense and it passes more quickly. I feel much freer, happier, and more empowered.
For anyone who feels they may be blocked by some childhood precognitive imprinting, I highly recommend taking Sarabeth’s workshop to learn more about it (and get this information from an expert, since this post is just my layman’s interpretation). I also recommend David Steele’s introduction to NVC in his workshop “The Key to Intimacy: Compassionate Communication”. And of course, my own workshops in which we learn about manifestation, “The Law of Attraction” and “Treasure Mapping”.
Blessings to you all, fellow travelers on this Earth School.