S3E2 TRNSCPT Neurobiology of Relationships

[00:00:00] Elisabeth: Welcome to Trauma Rewired, the podcast that teaches you about your nervous system, how trauma lives in the body, and what you can do to heal. I’m your co-host, Elisabeth Kristof, founder of Neuro Somatic Intelligence Training, an ICF accredited course for healers, therapists and coaches to help bring behavior change, trauma resolution, and mindset change from the body to the brain.

[00:00:21] Jennifer: I’m your co-host, Jennifer Wallace, and I’m a women’s embodiment guide bridging the worlds of NeuroSomatic Intelligence with psychedelic preparation and integration.

[00:00:32] Jennifer: As we are developing, we are swimming in the subconscious waters of our mother’s wombs. Our nervous systems are beginning to take shape, feeling her feelings, her beliefs, her joys, her fears. All the things she thinks and feels are forming within us. As life continues to unfold after birth, we are shaped by the relationships around us.

[00:00:53] We are shaped by memories even if we don’t remember them cognitively. Our bodies and nervous systems do remember, and trauma impairs the coherence of imprinted narratives. You’ve often heard us say neurons that fire together, wire together. People who touch, talk and connect wire together and survive together.

[00:01:13] Our brains are social organs formed by the relationships and connections around us. We are so excited to open this season up with this conversation in exploring the work of Luis Cozolino in his book, the Neuroscience of Human Relationships Attachment and the Development of the Social Brain. In Season two, we detailed the workings of the nervous systems as an independent structure and how trauma impacts a developing brain.

[00:01:36] And today we’re excited to explore how our brains are social organs, always adapting and working with the nervous systems around us. There’s so much to unpack in this conversation, it’s just the beginning.

[00:01:48] If you’re a coach, a therapist, a practitioner, and you want to bring nervous system work into your own framework for client transformation that brings lasting change at the level of the nervous system. Join us at neurosomaticintelligence.com to learn more about our upcoming training this fall.

[00:02:05] Jennifer: Let’s dive into the neurobiology of human relationships and attachment. We hope you enjoy this conversation.

[00:02:12] Elisabeth: I’m so excited this season to explore all of this! A lot of what we are gonna be talking about, as you mentioned, is influenced by the work of Luis Cozolino, who wrote the book, Neuroscience of Human Relationships. And in this book he talks about a concept that he coined- the social synapse. He says that if we look at nature as a guide, we can see that when She really likes something, find something that is conducive for life or for creation

[00:02:40] She repeats this pattern everywhere. Think about the Fibonacci sequence. We see this in flower petals and pine cones and tree branches, but also in the structure of human faces. And if we zoom way out in the shape of galaxies. You can often take a pattern that you see on a micro level and expand it out to a macro level to better understand these structures.

[00:03:01] So in the same way Cozolino looks at human beings as reflecting how individual neurons, single nerve cells function. Between two neurons, there’s a synapse, there’s a gap, but the neurons still communicate with one another across this gap through chemical and electrical messengers. These chemical and electrical messages get relayed, and then it either activates or it inhibits the neuron.

[00:03:29] And this reaction happens inside the neuron to that signal. So humans are very much the same way, though there’s a gap between us. We are individuals, but there’s a social synapse that we fill, not just with language and signals. We don’t just cognitively bridge the gap between us, but through a physiological signal, through electrical subconscious signals.

[00:03:55] So even though I’m out here operating as an individual, I send signals all the time to the people around me, reflexive facial expressions, eye movement, posture, vocal tone, electrical signals that I’m sending out, my heartbeat, my respiration, chemical signals, pheromones. So our human brains and our nervous systems really evolved for this communication because we’re social animals. Our systems evolved to be able to receive these signals and then integrate them and then to react to whatever comes across the social synapse. So whenever I’m around others, my body’s always sending signals and taking them in. And those signals very much like an individual neuron affect what happens inside of me.

[00:04:36] Whether I become inhibited, shut down, or excited, if I feel safe, if I feel threatened. It changes my physiology. And because we’re neuroplastic beings, our brains and our nervous systems are always adapting, always responding to the people around us. And that really shapes us over time. It shapes our brain function. It shapes our states of health and disease. It shapes how our nervous system interprets the world, and thus the reality that we experience. So when we’re studying nervous system health, homeostasis, neural function, we really have to examine it in a relational context.

[00:05:15] Jennifer: As I’m reflecting on the social synapse and the messages that are being unconsciously communicated and how that’s actually shaping us- very physically shaping us as we are developing in our brains and in our bodies. 

[00:05:31] And we get to explore today, how we are wired for sending and receiving these signals that we’re constantly unconsciously communicating. I also think about those signals coming from primaries with unresolved trauma and dysregulation, because we are also shaped by that unresolved trauma. With any primary or caregiver that comes into our lives, our little bodies feel their nervous systems. 

[00:05:54] And we begin to observe, to shape, to learn it affects what we perceive as our personalities, our thoughts, our behaviors, our belief systems. Our brain is literally forming to the social information that we’re gathering and different brain structures will develop depending on how we are related to. 

[00:06:15] I think by viewing connection and attachment through the lens of complex trauma, we can see, and we’re going to lay it out this season, how complex trauma is the attachment wound. The development of the brain and nervous system are going to be affected by love and care and nurturing just as much on the other end of the spectrum, they’re going to be affected by abuse, by neglect, by abandonment. 

[00:06:41] This is what shapes ACE scores. And we know that we are affected in our adulthood through illnesses and chronic diseases with our ACE scores, but also the chances of depression go up with ACE scores. You mentioned depression along with apoptosis of the cells, but we all see this play out in our lives as adults. 

[00:07:02] Elisabeth: Yeah, I have an example of this from something that happened very recently- how we really experienced this stuff in our body, and also how as someone who has experienced a lot of developmental trauma, how my reactions to that can be really intense. Actually just this last weekend, I went to a wedding with my partner.

[00:07:24] One of his good friends was getting married and we’re sitting at the hotel getting some coffee early in the morning. He had a lot of work to do before the wedding day and I was just kind of waking up. The coffee there was mediocre at best. So he says to me, out loud as he’s working, ‘let’s get out of here and go get a coffee at another coffee shop that’s better and stronger.

[00:07:48] Let’s go take a walk and get some other coffee.’ And then he goes back into work and then four or five minutes later he stands up, walks over to the counter and orders another cup of coffee at that restaurant that we were already in. And immediately inside of myself, I feel my heart start to race, my palms start sweating, my jaw clenches because he wasn’t even present to know what he had just said to me.

[00:08:13] And then he just went ahead and took an action when we were supposed to go together to get another cup of coffee. And I felt very ignored and kind of abandoned. And I know myself so I was like, I’m this five year old again. Not really being present, not having someone that’s attuned to me or with me.

[00:08:32] So the reaction is really disproportionate and quickly it turns to racing thoughts of ;why am I even here this weekend? I should go out by myself and not even go to this stupid wedding’. You know, just the racing thoughts, the Flight kicks in. He comes back to the table and immediately, because of this unspoken communication between one another, he can read my facial expression, he can read my body posture and he knows I’m upset.

[00:09:02] I haven’t said anything. I start to see him reacting to that. He’s bracing, he’s asked me what’s wrong, but there’s a tinge of anger underneath there cuz he goes quickly into a Fight response when he feels anxious about our attachment bond. And so, because I’ve done a lot of work, and especially leading up to this trip, a lot of frontal lobe inhibition, I stop, I take a breath in, I take a nice long, slow exhale.

[00:09:29] I relax my shoulders for a second and I say I’m triggered. I don’t feel like you are really present with me and it’s causing me to react inside. It’s not really a big deal, but I’m just feeling some stuff inside and then he sees me calm down and my vocal tone relaxes, and so he is able to take my hand.

[00:09:46] He gives me a big hug. He holds me and he says, ‘I’m sorry. You’re right. I wasn’t present. I just need to get this work done before this. I just need to do this.’ And so we deescalate this through co-regulation with one another, but it has taken a lot of practice, a lot of understanding our own relational patterns because we are two kiddos with high ACE scores.

[00:10:12] It could easily go the other way, right? As I start to feel that sense inside of myself, then I react to it and then his nervous system reacts to mine and it’s disproportionate because of our development. Then it spirals out into a  really activated situation or we can have the tools to co-regulate and communicate and come back by working with the nervous system.

[00:10:37] Jennifer: And that reaction is a direct reflection of your childhood development. Like you said, you were a five-year-old in that moment, and his ability to read your facial cues, that starts that facial processing, that awareness that starts to activate within a developing system at two to four months old.

[00:10:56] Elisabeth: Yep. We’ll talk more about attachment styles later, but he leans towards anxious and I lean very disorganized. And so right then I was very avoidant. I just wanted to get out of there. I felt really charged, but I needed to escape and that makes him very anxious and he’s always trying to make sure that in our attachment we’re staying connected. And so it’s really activating for him when he can tell I want a bolt. And that hypervigilance of  reading facial expressions comes from early childhood development stuff where you have to be extremely aware of the internal state of your caregivers to make sure that you’re safe. You can interpret a lot of threat to me being slightly upset.

[00:11:43] So it’s really activating to him if I’m frustrated or shutting down or wanting to run away. And so navigating all that is complex.

[00:11:53] Jennifer: It is. And we are always identifying others, monitoring their movements, and we’re trying to make those predictions. And the old brain, the subconscious brain that’s holding all of those other narratives, is always asking the question, am I safe or unsafe? Then the lens of the viewpoint of the brain starts to change.

[00:12:14] And that threat that you were starting to experience would’ve shown up everywhere throughout your entire day and gotten progressively much worse had the situation not been deescalated. Those who have grown up in failed abusive environments, maybe you were conditioned to avoid eye contact so that you remained invisible so that you had to stay on alert like you’re missing the chemical experience of the calming neurochemicals of bonding and attachment to be seen is to be in danger. 

[00:12:48] Elisabeth: Totally. I’ve had to do so much work on my own nervous system for it to be safe for me. Then when he takes my hand and looks me in the eye, because he very deliberately held my gaze, and when he was apologizing, I think he even held my face and looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t present.’

[00:13:07] And I’ll tell you that that sounds beautiful and it is, but it took me work to feel safe enough in a relationship to be comfortable and okay with that level of intimacy and connection. That was a process too.

[00:13:25] Jennifer: Yeah, gaze stabilization is a really fascinating development within our visual system that we’re gonna get to a little bit later in this conversation. 

[00:13:34] I think it’s a great, really simple example of how early development comes up to affect our daily life now. And just a really easy way that just kind of crept in out of nowhere. That presence you weren’t feeling from your partner, you started to experience Flight,  for me I would have been Fight I’m sure. Definitely. It’s a great story also, but you mentioned co-regulation. Why don’t we take a moment to define co-regulation from an NSI perspective before we move on. 

[00:14:18] Elisabeth: From a neuro somatic perspective, co-regulation is really the way that my nervous system communicates with yours and how yours reacts to mine, and then how mine then responds to yours.

[00:14:30] It’s those signals across the social synapse and how they are interpreted by our nervous system. And then the changes that occur inside of our body, inside of our heart rate, our respiration, our digestion as a response of those signals, our posture, our facial expression, all the things. This idea that’s always having an impact on one another. We can be forces of regulation and calm for one another, or we can be forces of dysregulation for one another as well.

[00:15:06] I think like a big picture, it’s important to just understand first and foremost that we are all connected, right? That our nervous system develops and functions in relationship to other nervous systems. So it never exists in a vacuum, right? We talk here a lot about how like N = 1, and that’s true.

[00:15:23] We are unique individual nervous systems with our own unique neuromatrix. But that unique individual nervous system exists within a bunch of other nervous systems. So there’s always interplay. Our past experiences, our injuries, our compensations, our adaptations are coming in contact with other peoples, and they’re being reshaped within that web of other nervous systems.

[00:15:51] Cozolino says that despite the fact that our brains are social organs, Western science studies us as individuals as these isolated organisms rather than one embedded within a human community. And so then this leads us to come up with really technical and abstract answers to problems instead of looking at the real truth of our day-to-day human interactions.

[00:16:15] And that in nature, there is no such thing as a single human brain.  Without mutually stimulating interactions, people and neurons wither and die. So in a nerve cell, this would be called apoptosis. And humans, it’s grief, depression, and suicide. So all of our life, from the time that we’re in the womb till the time that we die, we are being shaped by interaction with one another in a community of other brains and nervous systems.

[00:16:44] Jennifer: Yeah, I look at it too as I’m trying to be the best cell in a large organism. And I do believe that we’re all connected and connected to nature. And what you’re saying- yes, it can seem quite abstract. I think for some people to take in how we are connected on this very deep level and that we are shaped by the daily interactions, particularly in our early development, as we’re speaking about attachment. But we are shaped even today by our daily interactions. This really makes sense when we look at studies of loneliness and isolation and how dangerous that is. I think it’s completely possible to reshape our patterning, our relational patterning, our ability to be present and to connect, which in turn, serves our most optimal health. 

[00:17:33] So let’s talk more about how we are intelligently designed as social organisms evolved for social connection and how we can work with different parts of our nervous system to be embodied, attuned, and the parts that are responsible for maintaining our feelings of safety or threat in social connection. 

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[00:17:54] Elisabeth: So when we’re looking at the human being, it’s really clear that our brains are social organs. They are layered with all of these different neural networks dedicated to communicating and receiving messages between one another. So not only just the way that our brains evolved for language or signals or communication that way, but the non-verbal stuff, the subconscious stuff, our bodily processes, our reactions, the brain chemistry. All of these that happen to convey messages across that social synapse that I talked about.

[00:18:30] And so when we’re talking about the structure of the brain, really the entire brain is social from our brainstem, reflectively responding to our mother’s voice, to orient us toward our mother’s voice, to the way that we’re affected by our mother’s HPA axis, but also to really broad, complex reactions inside the brain, like moral judgment or community evolution.

[00:18:53] So, I wanna look a little bit at some of the ways that we can see in our body and in our nervous system, how we developed for connection. You wanna talk about some of the ways that our body responds to keep us connected socially?

[00:19:12] Jennifer: Yeah, this is neat. Let’s talk about blushing and pupil dilation. Blushing and pupil dilation are internal and they’re involuntary just like our reflexive trauma responses- they are reflexive, social connection. These two reflexes are real physiological aspects of social connection that we don’t really think about on a day to day basis. 

[00:19:36] Blushing is really an incredible social signal. Totally unique to humans. It can trigger sympathetic arousal, like there’s real physiological aspects. 

[00:20:25] These two reflexes are real physiological aspects of social connection that we don’t really think about on a day to day basis. This is unconscious facial information that we’re always taking in and we build, attune, gather and receive all of these social signals from others. So blushing- it demonstrates that we are aware of other people being aware of us and because we can’t control it voluntarily, we also cannot use it for conscious deception. For example, embarrassment, let’s say, might call someone to blush. And that’s a central aspect of the regulation of social behavior because when our identity is threatened, when we’re being scrutinized, maybe even being overpraised, it draws attention to that signals for us to begin to blush and maybe we’re being judged in a social situation. Something that happens in the space of other people, we may begin to experience that sympathetic arousal, that increased heart rate, maybe a little bit of sweaty palms, a little bit of muscle tension, getting ready for maybe wanting to run away. I didn’t know this about pupil dilation, but our pupils are always changing- constantly fluctuating along with the activity in our brain. And they’re constantly changing size during social interactions. We continuously and unconsciously monitor the changes of people dilation and others, which I find completely fascinating because like I said, just learned this. 

[00:22:06] The faces of others- they’re really the most important information that we can take in. And that pupil dilation, it can trigger our amygdala activation, adrenaline activation. It’s this unconscious appraisal system of the other person. So blushing and people dilation, subliminal communication, really set for tribal norms, rules, and laws that help us understand that we share values with another person. 

[00:22:34] Elisabeth: Yeah, super interesting. 

[00:22:36] And then we also have to think about our, our vagus nerve, right? Our vagus nerve is our big connector nerve and positive social cues, like the exact kind that you were talking about. The pupil dilation or eye contact or kind vocal tones or body posture actually activate brain structures that stimulate the myelinated vagus, and then that cues the parasympathetic nervous system to bring us into more of a relaxed way of being.

[00:23:05] So our body really responds to those signals from somebody else. And our vagus nerve also allows us to maintain continued social engagement by modulating and fine tuning that sympathetic arousal during an emotional or an interpersonal exchange. 

[00:23:21] And then it also provides social connections by giving information to our brain from what’s going on inside our internal organs.

[00:23:31] And then our facial muscles respond to that so that our face is expressing how we’re feeling inside. And this lets other people know and be aware of our internal state. So if I’m experiencing pain reflexively, I don’t have to think about making my face express that pain to you, but my vagus nerve sends a signal to my brain about what’s going on inside of my body.

[00:23:52] And my facial muscles respond. And now I can convey to you what’s going on inside of me. It’s that unconscious communication and you know just by looking at my face, Elisabeth was not okay. She’s in pain and now I can get some help.

[00:24:08] Jennifer: And as I was saying earlier, these are really early developmental cues that this is the way that we form. I mean, this all starts happening at two, three, and four months old. Our brains are oriented to receive and gather visual information. Our visual system is incredibly important. 

[00:24:29] Over time, over millions of years, you know it used to be our smell that was our primary sense, but now it is our vision. And that visual information bridges the social synapse. We’re always looking, we’re always watching other people. Their visual information gives us cues about behavior, danger, connection, safety, acceptance, love, fear. That visual engagement, 

[00:24:55] getting back to gaze stabilization, that long eye gaze between a mother and a newborn and the child time of life is very important to brain development. That is vital social information that comes from that prolonged engagement of mutual increased openness, and it stimulates networks to enhance bonding.

[00:25:17] That’s a reciprocal flow of attachment that develops when we’re very small. And so getting back to the failed environment, the complex trauma, and if you have been brought up conditioned to avoid that eye contact and you’re missing the bonding and attachment 

[00:25:37] And gaze stabilization is one of the 24 visual functions that we address through NSI training, through functional neurology because eye gaze and social relationships are so important. I mean, it’s also intimacy. That eye to eye contact that you described earlier between you and your partner.

[00:25:56] It triggers neural systems in the brain. It’s a rapid response because the visual cortex is directly linked to the brainstem and you will feel these shifts in your nervous system.

[00:26:09] That’s getting back to the importance of knowing and understanding your nervous system, how it responds, and then how you can regulate. 

[00:26:17] We are both people that have been working to heal a visual deficit and that visual deficit constantly triggers threat on a second by second basis. So we need to train that system. It’s not just about the retraining of that eye, it’s about the overall lowering of overwhelm. The training my visual system supports social connection. It supports the ability to read the cues, to be able to process what’s in front of me without going into high states of protective threat. 

[00:26:55] And so actually by training my systems, even beyond the visual systems, it nurtures deeper connections and the ability to be and stay present in social connection and in social situations- in this podcast. Honestly. Training my visual system allows me to be here and record with you. 

[00:27:18] Elisabeth: Yeah, I see so much change for people when they train their visual system and have experienced so much change in myself by training my visual system. It functions better, I have better accuracy of processing the visual information that’s coming in. And as I process it better, I’m interpreting the information with accuracy so I’m not misinterpreting too much threat, like you were saying- It speaks directly to my brainstem, which can either really make me activated or keep me calm and okay.

[00:27:47] There are a lot of studies showing problems with interpretation in the visual information coming in with different mental health disorders, borderline personality disorders, body dysmorphia, panic disorders, and so it can have a really, really big impact.

[00:28:07] If you’re a coach, therapist or a practitioner who’s really hearing a lot of useful information in these podcasts, but you wanna take the work to a deeper level and understand what’s going on in the brain and the nervous system, learn a practical, actionable framework and tools that you can implement into your practice to create lasting change for your clients from the body to the brain.

[00:28:36] Then join us on July 27th. We’re doing a free workshop with me, Matt Bush and Melanie Weller to teach you all about NeuroSomatic Intelligence and how to create connected leaders with brain body science. You can register for that through the link in the show notes or go to NeurosSomaticIntelligence.com to learn more.

[00:28:55] The world really needs coaches and therapists who can attune, co-regulate and practice trauma-informed teaching at this deep level. This workshop is the best place to begin to explore this work with us or sign up for the email list@neurossomaticintelligence.com to get all the information about the course that’s coming this fall.

[00:29:17] Elisabeth: Also on here, we talk a lot about emotional expression and why emotional expression is really important. There are components of that that also have to do with our relational health and our ability to communicate our needs to other people.

[00:29:33] So for example, crying is a bodily function. It’s a mechanism that happens in our body. So it is there to help us relieve stress and to reregulate, right? The onset of crying is associated with the sympathetic activation of the nervous system. And then as we cry, that’s associated with an increase in parasympathetic activity coming into more of a calm and respond state.

[00:29:56] So we receive that catharsis, Even more than that, crying is a signal starting at an early age to our caregivers and to the people around us that we need help. And scientists have also found some evidence that emotional tears are actually chemically different from the ones that people shed while they’re chopping onions.

[00:30:17] So, this helps explain why crying sends such a strong emotional signal to others. In addition, there are enzymes and lipids- the makeup of the tears- that make them more viscous, more sticky, so they actually stay longer on our face. That gives people more time to see the tears and to know that we’re in distress. 

[00:30:40] So this higher protein content means that we’re more likely to be helped by others when we need it. And if we learn at an early age that that’s not true- if we get ignored when we’re crying and we don’t get the help that we need, or we learn that it’s not safe to express emotions that will be punished or ridiculed or abused in some way that also has an impact on our ability to experience and express our emotions and to have these physiological releases that we need to come down out of an activated, heightened state.

[00:31:20] Jennifer: We are so intelligently designed on all ends of the spectrum- from safe, emotional expression to severe outputs from experiencing emotions. All of this lives on a spectrum and those spectrums exists within a multitude of relationships likely.

[00:31:39] Jennifer: Isolation is not just dangerous for  the development of the social organ, the brain, it’s incredibly detrimental to our health.

[00:31:50] Elisabeth: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a great book on this Lost Connections, that really examines the impact of loneliness on many different health outcomes- depression to heart attacks and disease states. Acute loneliness actually makes your cortisol levels soar and can cause as much stress as a punch from a stranger.

[00:32:16] And as we are kind of moving into talking about attachment styles here,  I think it’s important to understand why attachment really is a survival need.

[00:32:27] This is as important for a little developing nervous system for a child as getting food or shelter, because when we’re babies, human babies, survival does not depend on how fast you can run or climb or fight. It depends on the ability of a caregiver to detect your needs and the intentions of the ability of your caregiver to understand your needs and your intentions.

[00:32:56] So for human children, people are our primary environment. And if we’re in a successful relationship, we have secure attachment, then we have food, we have shelter, we’re taken care of-we can express our emotions. We learn to co-regulate and regulate our nervous system. It becomes very important to our survival mind that we keep those social connections intact not only because it means we are going to get food and shelter, but because it also means that as we’re young and developing, we do not have the skill to regulate our own nervous system. Our brains and our nervous systems are not done developing when we come out at birth. So we have to have other people that can help us regulate that can help us safely express emotion.

[00:33:52] And that can be a safe environment for healthy development.

[00:34:01] Jennifer: Yeah. And back to the unresolved trauma of our primaries that is being communicated to us. 

[00:34:06] Our attachment styles are a direct reflection of our primaries. Its focus in attachment schema is the mother. We are talking about in primaries in general, but it’s really, how are we nurtured or not? We’re going to get into attunement and co-regulation and all of that. I had always thought I was healing a mostly anxious style. 

[00:34:31] But I learned more about attachment and then I also started deeply diving into my healing- like what lived in my body, the stories. I actually was leaning into a more disorganized attachment.  I don’t know all of my story, but the threads that I can follow do have a big T (for trauma) at the end. I can see how that was a great sever to the healthy attachment that I likely had before this all happened. 

[00:35:07] Then to reflect on how that all cultivated, who I was showing up in later in my relationships. And it was quite codependent, pretty emotionally unstable. I was pretty emotionally unstable most of my early life, but in showing up in relationships, a real giving of my energy away, very anxious, very scared, not at all in my body. 

[00:35:31] Well, it’s showing up everywhere is a different person like pleasing, whoever you needed me to show up to be. And that’s how I, I think I was really receiving love. And then I would show up in other ways, very angry in places and being scared to receive the love. Like not being able to trust it. [00:35:55] It’s been interesting and powerful to learn, to work with my nervous system. How I have changed it into a secure attachment by doing my own work of my nervous system by being the safe space within myself, having sovereignty. I don’t need to show up as who you expect me to be, or whoever I’m showing up in front of whatever the expectation is on me.

[00:36:19] And that has been an incredibly liberating experience to even have real honest conversations, to know when a relationship isn’t good for me anymore. And to just pull out of it, to understand that I’m kind of pushing some boundaries right now, my own boundaries. And when I start to break my own boundaries, I know that I’m not acting securely.

[00:36:50] Elisabeth: Yeah, absolutely. To give folks a high level overview of what we’re talking about with attachment: Attachment schemas are these reflexive memories that are known without being thought, because they’re stored in the architecture of our brain and of our nervous system as predictions about the behaviors of others.

[00:37:14] And they’re shaped during our early development. And so they can guide what’s happening inside of our body when we’re around other people, but they can also kind of shape our interactions with those other people and form the relationships that we develop. The types of relationships. The relationship patterns.

[00:37:36] Early attachment schemas develop in our childhood, but they persist into adulthood and they impact our choice of partners, the quality of our relationships, and it even goes beyond that. Beyond the ability to shape our relationships, because they influence our emotional life, our ability to express our emotions, our immunological function, our experience of ourself.

[00:38:01] And so there are these broad categories that I’m sure people have heard of. You can have secure attachment which is when you feel pretty safe in relationship and as a child that looks like feeling safe with your mother and then being able to go and explore the environment, being able to separate yourself from your mother and not feel anxious about it because there’s just this very safe relationship.

[00:38:23] A lot of it has to do with how comfortable children feel exploring and developing themselves. And then there can be anxious attachment where you are constantly afraid of severing the connection with the caregiver, anxious or ambivalent, like wanting some space, but then being really scared of it, and also really afraid of that connection going away.

[00:38:49] And then there is avoidant, which is when you don’t feel comfortable being too closely connected to people, and you’re always kind of looking for that escape route in the relationship. And then there’s disorganized, which is where you are oscillating back and forth between really needing the social connection, really needing the co-regulation and the deep relationships in your life, but also being very scared of them and very dysregulated by them and wanting to flee, wanting to fight it, wanting to run away from it.

[00:39:32] Jennifer: It’s a really incredible foundation of understanding yourself as through these attachment schemas, through this broad outline. And like I said, we are gonna get into it much deeper in further episodes. 

[00:39:46] Elisabeth: So I think it’s also really important here to know that as we’re going through the season and we’re talking about attachment, we’ll be talking about the history of it and how it plays out in our lives.

[00:39:59] But there’s one thing that the current attachment model doesn’t often look at that I think from an NSI perspective, from a NeuroSomatic Intelligence perspective, we wanna really consider and that’s there is a fluctuation of attachment styles over time. So you can think of it as an attachment style.

[00:40:21] In the same way that we talk about a personality. We don’t have one fixed personality, we have frequently occurring reactions. So I’m never entirely disorganized or entirely avoidant, or entirely anxious or entirely secure. It just doesn’t happen that way. I’m always reacting and responding based on my common nervous system reactions, doing what my nervous system thinks is best for my safety.

[00:40:49] And that will change over time and that will change across relationships. So I think people are always looking for this straightforward explanation of how we are in an intimate relationship. And it’s not really like that. There’s instability and attachment style, and in our relationships and there’s complexity to human experience.

[00:41:09] We are always changing, we’re always evolving. Our attachment styles will change. It will depend on who I’m with. It will depend on the state of my nervous system that day. It will depend on how much other stress I have going on in my life. And there are things I can do to make myself more resilient and to move more toward secure attachment in more instances in my life by working directly with the nervous system.

[00:41:38] Jennifer: Absolutely. We mentioned vision training earlier, like vision training, vestibular training, proprioceptive training, feeling into my body and cultivating presence and embodiment, which is the exact opposite of dissociation. A lot of us with complex trauma are chronic dissociations. And so the intentional nervous system training is going to change the landscape of your nervous system, the way that you show up into the world and the way that you attune and read other people’s nervous systems, the way they attune to you as well, and you being able to hold the space of any container.

[00:42:17] The experience of each other is determined upon our nervous system regulation or the dysregulation that we might feel because our bodies, our brains, our systems can pick up on dysregulation. It’s going to pick up on uncertainty, on anxiety, tension, anything in between those responses from another system. But it’s also going to pick up on presence, openness, resonance, and regulations. So it always starts with us. Whatever change we want to see in the world, in our relationships, in our jobs, it all starts with ourselves.

[00:43:01] Elisabeth: Absolutely. And we’re not just talking about romantic partnerships here when we’re talking about the many types of relationships that affect our nervous system. Like you said, how we are anywhere is how we are everywhere. It’s how our nervous system is anywhere is how our nervous system is everywhere.

[00:43:18] And so the ways that my attachment schema shapes my nervous system reaction show up, definitely it shows up in a very dramatic and clearly noticeable way in my romantic relationships. But it shows up in my friendship with you. It shows up in leading my team. It shows up in the relationship I have with my clients.

[00:43:40] It shows up in all kinds of different relational scenarios to varying degrees. 

[00:43:46] Jennifer: And for our practitioners out there, it’s just so important that your nervous system is regulated so that you can be the safe container for healing. One of the conversations we’re gonna have later is about the client call and the client trauma bond, because when you have an unhealed pattern and you work with other people, you are just attracting or calling in the wrong person.

[00:44:10] Elisabeth: Yeah, it’s so important to look at that and to be able to resolve those patterns because over time, if we continue to fill our life with relational patterns like that, where we’re continuing to activate one another and we are drawn to people that activate us and we’re calling them into us, and we’re also drawn to them, then we are really pushing ourselves into long-term stress, chronic stress over time, dysregulation over time.

[00:44:41] We’re building a life of relationships that is very harmful to our long-term health. In the world of psycho neuroimmunology, one of the things that’s found to have the greatest impact on your health is positive social relationships. More than physical exercise, more than how you eat, more than almost any other factor.

[00:45:08] More than hours of sleep a night is the quality and amount of positive social relationships you have. But on the flip side of the coin, some of the most harmful things to our health can be being in a very highly dysregulating, highly stressful social situation and continuing to cultivate those in our life and it does really lead to disease.

[00:45:36] Jennifer: Well, you and I are both people who have experienced disease and illness directly related to our adverse childhood experience. We have high ACE scores, I had breast cancer, you have celiac. So we have experienced the stress in our bodies that dysregulating stress, that overwhelming stress becoming the creator of the illness that our body experiences internally.

[00:46:04] There is real science that back up your ACE score and your health across a lifetime, which we’ve recorded on that as well in both seasons prior to this. It’s worth it. It’s worth it! That’s why, you know, www.rewiretrial.com.

[00:46:23] Elisabeth: Absolutely. It really is. And then too, you can start to have the tools of making a practice of allowing your nervous system to feel safe in safe relationships. Because a lot of times safe relationships that are really positive for your health, intimate relationships, relationships where you can be self-expressed, where you can express your emotions, do not feel inherently safe in the nervous system.

[00:46:44] But by working with the nervous system, you can change that over time so that you have the capability to stay present in those types of relationships that are so positive for your long-term health. And in the neuroscience of human relationships, Cozolino terms this sociostatus, like the reciprocal influence that individuals have is they regulate each other’s biology, psychology, and state of mind across the social synapse.

[00:47:13] And so, like our body likes homeostasis all of the time. We tend to have a sociostatus too. The types of relationships that we feel comfortable in and gravitate toward and relational patterns that we find ourselves replaying. So again, interrupting those patterns with new stimulus, with new training for your nervous system makes it possible to have different relationships.

[00:47:41] Jennifer: It’s life changing.

[00:47:43] And when you have a language that you can convey clearly to your partner, to your friend, to your parent, to anyone that you have a relationship with, you are going to experience a new freedom within that relationship that is gonna be a relationship that’s built on trust and honesty in the way that you show up and are able to communicate versus dipping out the door or in fight or like you running out of the building.

[00:48:14] So it’s, so many scenarios could be saved by having an open line of communication. And I love hearing my clients who are doing this work, bringing that into their experiences and just saying, you know, I got triggered by this- I told my partner the story that you told earlier.

[00:48:34] You know, it’s all about that open communication where you are safe and have the tools for your nervous system.

[00:48:41] Elisabeth: Yeah, absolutely. Like social neuroplasticity is real. It’s a real thing. 

[00:48:47] But I need the practice. I need the reps so that I can have the positive adaptation, the positive plasticity, because we are always changing and adapting, but neuroplasticity is neither good nor bad. And so the experiences that I’m giving my nervous system are going to shape my relational development.

[00:49:07] And so this season, that’s really the trajectory that we’re taking. We’re starting with a lot of the deeper, a little bit more individual though, relational concepts, complex ptsd, attachment styles, relationship to parts of the self, presence. And then we will branch out to look at community and culture and how different societal structures impact our nervous system and how our nervous systems impact that.

[00:49:36] And really we’ll take it from the micro to the macro and back again, probably.

[00:49:41] Jennifer: Yeah, it’s gonna be great. You also hit subscribe. Join us on this journey. The links to join us on site are in the show notes.

[00:49:53] Elisabeth: We would love to see you all live on the website. So rewiretrial.com, two free weeks of neuro training with me and Jennifer, and just get started on this journey today.

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