A simple, effective way to learn to return to your naturally calm, clear mind
Introduction: Moving from mental disturbance to a quiet mind
The problem to be solved
Everyone has experienced disturbing periods in their life. We get hurt, or scared, or experience serious losses. The feelings these events produce in us are perfectly natural, but if the levels of feeling are too high, or go on too long, we can become incapacitated - dysfunctional. What can we do then - to return to a mental state which simply feels better? We quite naturally want to solve this problem, to live successfully, comfortably, happily.
"Re-grounding" - a proposed solution
When we move from a disturbed, uncomfortable state of mind to a calm, quiet, and comfortable state of mind, we have become emotionally "re-grounded". This undisturbed mental state we can call our Essential Self or Healthy Core Self. The ability to reach this mental state easily and routinely has been given a wide range of names in both professional and popular psychological literature: emotional stability, emotional robustness, adaptive emotional response, emotional intelligence, and so on.
The key feature of this valuable ability is that a person can detect an emotionally unpleasant state of mind and make a shift - automatically, semi-automatically, or deliberately - to a comfortable state of mind. People who have this ability have a solution to life's normal disturbances. Extraordinary disturbances, including those due to "Posttraumatic Stress", usually cannot be adequately dealt with using only re-grounding, but it can still be very helpful in those situations.
While not everyone can move from disturbance to comfort easily and routinely in daily life, it is probably true that everyone would like to! Re-grounding is learned, most usually when we are too young to recall the learning. It can also be learned at later ages. How to achieve that is described here.
Purpose of the Re-Grounding Procedure
The procedure described here has two purposes.
- To provide you with a way to respond deliberately and consciously to mental disturbance - episode by episode.
- To provide you with a way to make this response process automatic and natural, over time, leaving you settled down, and in a peaceful and secure state of mind.
Our brains strive naturally to make adaptive responses automatic, so simply practicing this procedure will tend to create an automatic response, as you use it in your daily life. In the beginning, effort will be required, such as when we learn anything new. But the end point we are striving for here is effortless and automatic. Usually, this end point will emerge quite naturally, a kind of side-effect of our practicing the procedure.
This procedure, in the context of the larger matter of good mental health, is not a fix for all problems, or for bad situations in the environments of your life and or work. You may well need more, and possibly much more, in your mental "toolbox", if you are to move forward in your life toward the goals you really care about. But this single tool is very useful, very powerful, very central to successful living. If you already know how to re-ground without having to employ this procedure, you are fortunate. If you do not, this procedure can very significantly increase the likelihood of your learning and routinely using this essential adaptive response to life's stresses.
Life-success and re-grounding
I think it is accurate to say that all successful people are able to make the shift in state of mind which this procedure trains you to do. They may not be aware of this, may never have thought about it, and may have no awareness or memory of ever consciously having learned what I am here calling re-grounding. But their lives will give clear evidence that they did learn it, if one knows where to look. This procedure is simply a way of practicing an essential life skill, with the goal of teaching the brain how to do it automatically. Mastering this skill may be expected to help make you more successful essentially in all areas of your life.
Re-grounding in its natural setting
If everything goes more or less right in childhood, children learn to make this shift in state of mind in the first stage of life (approximately the first eight years). It happens in the relationship we have with our primary care-giver(s). Our memories for this time of our life are never particularly good. So, for example, none of us can recall learning to speak, but for most of us it clearly happened. So it is for those who have always been able to re-ground themselves emotionally. For those people, the steps in the procedure below will seem essentially familiar, even though they probably will achieve a re-grounded mental state by a slightly different means.
A way of looking at this procedure if you have unusual levels of distress in your life
If you are currently having to deal with disturbing states of mind which are beyond the ordinary, this procedure may usefully be thought of as a "Self-Rescue Procedure". Why rename it? Simply because it helps keep clear to you the present function of this procedure in your life. Later, when rapidly getting out of disturbing states of mind is not a serious challenge for you, you can call it something else - like "Re-Grounding Procedure", if you like. What you call it is far less important than that you do it, and that you do it in a way that works for you. I suggest that you call it whatever you like. But I suggest more strongly that you practice it and use it!
Why this procedure may be challenging for some individuals
For some people, learning this procedure can be a bit of a difficulty. This can be the case if...
- No one have ever modeled it for you - by letting you watch THEM move from disturbance to calm security, quickly, surely, successfully.
- No one has ever helped YOU make this shift, first by actively working get it to happen in you (as when a mother cuddles a baby and talks to it slowly and softly, filling it's awareness with the comfort of HER state of mind, as an alternative to the disturbed state of the baby).
- No one has ever coached you in making the shift yourself, as a concerned, caring therapist, or parent, or grandparent, or aunt or uncle might do - first suggesting to you that you could calm yourself, and perhaps reminding you of the sequence of steps to go through, and staying with you to help you through the sequence, until you're successful.
- You have not gone through the process of truly learning the steps, so that you can do them correctly, then practicing them slowly and carefully so that your brain learns them right the FIRST time - always the fastest way to learn something.
- You have not practiced the steps repeatedly until you can do them virtually without thinking. This sets your brain up to move the essentials of the procedure into its "automatic mode" of functioning.
Preliminaries (you will need coaching with this)
In its present form, this procedure is not for self-instruction. It is assumed that you will be working with a psychotherapist or life-coach who is familiar with the procedure and who can help you get a quick start with it, and also to do it correctly from the beginning. This is the quickest way to learn it, certainly. So, what follows will not make a lot of sense, quite possibly, unless you are working with your "coach", who can explain some of the concepts involved. (In the near future, I hope to produce an amended version of these instructions which will allow self-instruction.)
The following preliminary skills will prove quite helpful to you, prior to working on Re-grounding. You can learn these skills in a few minutes, if you do them correctly:
- Learn what your Healthy Core Self is, and how it probably came into being.
- Understand the essential value of contact with your HCS.
- Psychologically or experientially, it's an extremely healthy place: there's no threat, no anxiety or fear, no sense of rushing, no racing thoughts. You mind is completely full with "stuff" which is entirely OK - simple awareness.
- From a "spiritual" or philosophical point of view, this place is where you make contact with the larger world of which you're a part, with your higher power, with your essential support system, and get reminded that it's always there, always available to you, always fundamentally supportive.
- Have a formal procedure for re-finding your HCS when you are highly distracted.
- Practice getting there, with a coach, allowing the coach to be less and less supportive over time, so that you begin take over your coach's role - to coach yourself.
- After you can do it with a coach, practice getting to your HCS without a coach - but do this practice when you are not upset. This is a kind of fire-drill, and ought to be fairly easy. If you find it's not, bring the matter to your coach's attention, and get whatever problem you are having fixed.
How to practice getting to your HCS
Repetition is the key. You will start very deliberately, and possibly with real effort. At the end, however, getting to your Healthy Core Self will be automatic or almost automatic, once you start to do it. Here's how to bring about this transition from effort to automatic response:
For two hours a day, for three to five days, set a timer to go off every 15 minutes. When it does, drop everything, and go to your HCS and stay there for about 15 seconds. Probably even more beneficial is to split this up over two one-hour intervals. If you cannot drop what you are doing when the timer goes off, make a date with yourself to do it as soon as you possibly can. You simply need to briefly practice making the transition, over and over. This is brain-training, pure and simple - and if you do the practice, correctly, the training will occur automatically.
Knowing that you are in your HCS: some test questions
- Do you feel comfortable, quiet, and still, internally?
- In your mind, are things happening slowly and calmly?
- Is all sense of urgency gone? Do like this mental state?
- Is all thinking (other than these questions, and occasional odd thoughts) gone? (This means all word-making has stopped.)
- Are you having "simple perceptions" - just seeing what you're seeing, hearing what you're hearing, and so on, without thought, comment, "editorializing", or any other nonsense?
- Are you "absorbed" by what's happening"?
You should be able to answer "YES" to most or all of the questions above, if you are in contact with your Essential Self - your Healthy Core.
A helpful trick for quick movement to your Healthy Core Self
Set up trigger words for your HCS - words like: "Calm", "still", "Peace". Use these words to talk to yourself when you are moving your focus to your Core Self. You will like find that these words are particularly useful when you are trying to get to your Core Self under conditions of emotional disturbance, so set them up as triggers NOW, before you need them!
Re-grounding procedure: Goal, procedure instructions, and troubleshooting
Goal - training the brain to respond "mindlessly"
"Mind" means consciousness. So a "mindless" response would be one in which you have no awareness of what you are doing. Learning to make a "mindless" shift from a dysfunctional mental state to a quiet, calm, emotionally centered mental state is the goal of this training with this procedure. Just imagine how very nice it would be to have such a functional, automatic response built into your brain! THAT is the goal, here.
You will get to that goal simply by practicing the procedure, just like a musician practices a tune until it is "in" their brain, and can be played without effort. It's exactly the same kind of thing, but more valuable by far.
These instructions are very carefully thought out and expressed. It is recommended that, at least in the beginning, you follow them very deliberately and slowly, one by one, making sure you're doing exactly what is written. Learn the skill before you start getting creative. Then - individualize this process to your heart's content. It's wonderful to be an individual, once you have things working!
- Make sure you are sitting in a quiet place, where you can focus and know that you won't be disturbed for a few moments.
- Sit comfortably, and lay your hands on your thighs, palms up and open, as if you were holding an apple in each palm.
- Make contact with your Healthy Core Self (HCS). Once there, pause briefly and become as fully aware of it as possible.
- Visualize or "sense" your HCS as physically placed - "anchored" - in your dominant hand, palm up. Allow all of your mind/consciousness to be FILLED with your HCS. It may help to visualize this filling up, and to make sure that all parts of you, all that you are, is in touch with your HCS. You may find it helpful to say to yourself, internally, "All parts of me can touch this quiet, calm, peaceful, safe, and secure place." (This is NOT a directive. It's simply pointing out a possibility. For most people, merely doing this will allow it to happen.) You may find it helpful to repeat this phrase several times. When you experience yourself as being completely free from disturbance, for the moment, (and NOT before), then go on to the next step.
- Imagine placing your disturbed part of mind in your non-dominant hand. Just notice it briefly - so that you can feel the disturbance. Then, immediately go back to your other hand, and once again become completely filled with your Core Self. Linger just a bit. There is no rush. You're home. You're where you need to be. It's actually quite important that you take time to allow all sense of disturbance to go away, after you return your awareness to your HCS..
- Repeat these cycles of "touching disturbance", and 'returning home", over and over. Typically, 3 to 6 cycles will result in complete quieting of the state of mind in your non-dominant hand. If not, keep doing it. Make sure that nothing else is going on in your mind while you're doing the procedure, as this sort of "multiprocessing" (usually seen more in women than men) can defeat the re-grounding procedure. It is important to be doing only one thing during this procedure.
What to do if you have trouble with the procedure
First, know that this is common, especially when you're learning the procedure. You're a beginner, after all! All beginners stumble. It's normal, and it's part of the process of becoming an expert. Remember the saying - "If only the fool would persist in his foolishness, he would become wise." Persist. Or, as someone put it to me recently, "We often just need to persist further!" Adults can be quite good at this, but not children. So...be an adult!
Second, make good use of your resources. Re-read this whole document to see if you can find what your problem is. Consult your coach. Persist!
Third, if you an encountering internal obstacles, learn from this. What is the lesson? I find that a great many people have inner wisdom enough to make reasonable sense of what is in front of them. You probably do as well. What is your difficulty telling you about how your brain/mind works at present? What do you need to do about it? Be experimental - that's the best way to become an expert learner.
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