The book Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being contains a lot of research, stories and some mental training strategies to be able to get over stressful and traumatic events. This is important because stress has been proven to compromise emotion regulation circuits in such a way that it prevents a person from bouncing back. By having neural pathways that have been habituated to continually surrender prevents a person from getting out of that mindset which also causes a person to have a higher incidence of depression. One convincing study on how bad stress can be for the brain was done by Dr. Richie Davidson. He graduated Harvard in 1976 in psychology and since then he's been studying happiness and the circuits in the brain responsible for resilience. In this study he found out that prolonged marital stress is associated with short-lived responses to positive stimuli. The stress, after time compromises emotion regulation circuitry in such a way that causes bouncing back to be very challenging. So when you're in a relationship and you do something good and your partner says 'hey babe you did a good job' that allows circuits in the brain to be more resilient. In supportive relationships if someone screws up on something the partners might say 'okay we'll get them next time' and this is actually a really good thing. Having more positive states enables greater cultivation for overall well-being. Having more positive states of being for longer periods of time is a lovely way to go through life because you end up seeing things better and you have less stress and a longer, healthier lifespan. Now what happens when the partners or ex partners give each other stress? What the study has shown is that when a person is in a stressful relationship, what ends up happening over time is that a positive event will happen and feel good but only for a brief amount of time and then they'll quickly get back to baseline. When you show them a negative picture, such as car crashes, not only will they see that and feel lousy, but it takes them a long time to get back up to a normal baseline. This is why there's so much depression related to marital stress. Stress compromises the circuits in your brain that would normally have enabled you to be respond with greater resilience. The research by Richie Davidson also references other studies that shows how marital strain is a powerful stressor with serious costs to emotional well-being. So if you have had a breakup and you find yourself having a tough time, such as feeling anxiety and/or perhaps you're replaying things in the past over and over and over, it's really not your fault. It's your brain I call this the X program. The X program runs in the brain and is created from consistent stressful thinking which automatically generates responses that becomes habituated and causes a person to be remain stuck in their lives and increases the likelihood of being less resilient.
One way that people create this dysfunctional program has been outlined step by step by author Linda Graham. The reason to mention the steps is so that you can recognize that if you start doing this, how dangerous it is and what you can do to stop it.
Stress is the number one killer in the world. Stress can come from job pressure, money issues, health crisis, relationships, divorce, death of a spouse, arguments with a friend's, feeling loneliness and more. And again, it's not that things are stressful, it is our own responses to things that creates the stress. It can feel like the stressors of the past have locked away our future in a dismal dungeon of despair.
It's like Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet Act II Scene 2, 'for there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.'
So how do you make it not so?
For this, I have to give a little back story. In your brain is a system called the limbic system. This mammalian part of the brain is responsible mostly for emotions and memories. So if you're going to be getting over your ex or breakup, obviously there's going to be some emotions and memories that would benefit with some updates.
Since this system is related to memories and emotions, some kind of change there has to happen. Now let's go a little deeper here. In our bodies we have this nervous system. And it is going in one of two states.
One is sympathetic response which is like a stress response. So if somebody comes running at you with a knife you're not going to think 'what should I do? I wonder if I should send blood to my arms and legs to fight, run and defend myself?' No, that physiological response will happen automatically. Whenever their is a significant stress response, our body spikes with adrenaline and glucocorticoids so that we have energy to mobilize ourselves and survive. Great 🙂
The flip side is the parasympathetic response. This is mostly a nighttime response and it deals with things like digestion and rebuilding cells and it is associated with the release of oxytocin which gives feelings of cuddling and warmth.
So, the simple way to think of these two responses is red light, green light. Red would be the stress response (sympathetic) and the green light would be the peace response (parasympathetic). So now that we've briefly touched on this bit of backstory now we can understand how this degenerative X program can be created in our mind and bodies.
This comes from Linda Graham who wrote Bouncing Back Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being. In this book she talks about how people can have a negative response to an event such as a breakup or divorce and how those responses can affect the way their nervous system responds. This is important because you can see how an event can go from bad to worse by the way you think about it. So let's begin with how people can wire themselves to have this horrible "X program".
Step one: Criticism. Internal or external. By internal/external what that means is you can just be imagining criticism or remembering a time when that ex was having a fight with you or yelling at you are pointing the finger at you or saying things that made you angry or sad or guilty. So that's internal. External could be criticism that is actually happening in real life. So when we get criticism it shocks the sympathetic nervous system into survival (sympathetic response) mode.
Step two: Shock the system. Shock rapidly activates the parasympathetic nervous systems submit and collapse response which cancels the sympathetic branch set in motion so we get stressed or right and then we go into rest and relaxation mode. in the sense so instead of mobilizing for action fight/flight, we demobilize collapse or cave in for protection this is where it gets worse.
Step Three: Collapse into other rejection memories. This collapse can evoke implicit memories conditioned by previous experiences. Just by getting yourself into a negative state of being will cause you to remember other times when you were feeling rejected. You start remembering other failures in the past or the times where things just weren't going all that great. Then it's a slippery slope with feelings created related to times of deficiency, unworthiness, inadequacy and feel like a fraud. Ouch!
Step 4: Repeat and detach. With enough repetition, the brains response to these memories is to dissociate, to go numb, to check out or disappear because if no one can find us no one can hurt us. This is like shame so we undermine ourselves and we close ourselves off and the love and support that would bring us back into connection and action. This is one way how this X program can become wired into our behaviour. This is partly why authors such as Dr. Joe Dispenza write books about breaking the habit of being yourself. It's because we can create these kind of habits of behavior that are against our own betterment. And it's not our fault! Human beings are predisposed to building habits and automaticity in our lives in order to make things easier. However, this is a habitual program where things don't get easier.
Things get worse and worse because we end up only collapsing. Very bad, not a good thing According to the Linda Graham, the best way to crawl out of the swamp of shame is to come into connection with another person who loves and accepts us exactly as we are. Sounds good but what if you don't have someone else? I know that for myself, when I split up with my wife, I felt really embarrassed about it and so I had disconnected from all my friends and all my family. I didn't really have somebody to come into connection with to help me get out of the swamp of shame. If you are in a similar situation, you can do what I did which is to conjure up a person in your imagination and then build on that love to come into your own love and acceptance of yourself exactly as you are. So if you think earlier to the beginning of how this X program is created, you'll recall how it starts with internal or external criticism? Well you can do something better than that by imagining internal love, What it would be like to feel loved? If you don't have anybody don't have family and friends to help you out, you can make it up in your brain and imagine people that are helping you out and loving you unconditionally because the brain really can't tell the difference emotionally between fact and fiction so you might as well give yourself the fiction that gets you out of the swamp of the X program. 'The greatest thing about education is to make the nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.' - William James, -Harvard, known as the Father of Psychology. The easiest and fastest way to stop the X program is to not do step one. Remember how step one of the X program was criticism? So whenever you have that going on, recognize it, be aware of it and stop it. If you're giving yourself that harsh criticism such as by asking yourself bad questions (how could I have been so stupid, why didn't I see it coming, how did I get myself into this catastrophe etc) or by replaying memories of the past, stop it because you know how bad it is and you know where it can lead. If someone offered you a pathway to gloom, depression, despondency, dejection and rejection,, here's the door, would you take step one or would you say 'no thanks, not for me'? Stopping the X Program. If you've got criticism going on, internal or external, yes it's wise to stop it but how? What I suggest doing is using an NLP tactic of changing the submodalities, which is about changing the qualities of the memories such as adjusting the brightness, frame, associated, dissociated, the sound, the focus etc.. So if you are experiencing criticism and imagining all that kind of stuff or even speaking to yourself in that harsh tone, what if you were to change the tone to something much sexier? Doing so will change the experience which will in turn change the meaning of that criticism. This is a good thing because then that old neural pathway that used to head towards doom and gloom can begin to change. By changing what the signal means, you can change your response to it and then that branches out into having better forms behavior while rebuilding the circuits in your brain that allow you to be able to bounce back. Meditation can be used to reprogram your mind and this would be helpful in changing that x program. Here For more about how to reprogram your brain to get over stuff and bounce back, you may want to listen to hypnosis for breakups. The focus in that audio is to relax the listener and give them the opportunity to focus on rebuilding their future instead of dwelling on the past. The video is on youtube and has thousands of views and positive comments. One of the reasons for its effectiveness is by adjusting the submodalities related to the ex while increasing focus on a solution that outframes the problem behaviours. By making the new future without the ex more enticing, the easier it is to let go of something that is considered of less value.