This week on Trauma Rewired, hosts Jennifer and Elisabeth welcome back Matt Bush of Next Level Neuro to explore the physiology of stress and the transformative power of Neuro Somatic Intelligence.

We know that connection is crucial to our survival as humans, but for those with complex trauma, even the healthiest relationships can trigger a stress response and lead to maladaptive behaviors. This episode provides a comprehensive look at how stress impacts our relationships and physical health, and highlights the importance of consistent nervous system training to rewire the brain’s response to stress and build resilience.

The conversion starts by examining what happens in the brain when a stress response is activated, and how developmental trauma shapes our nervous system and subconscious reactions as adults. Matt breaks down complex neurological processes, covering the role of the HPA axis, immune dysregulation and increased inflammation. Jennifer also introduces a new concept, called “shameflammation,” as they delve into the connection between chronic stress and disease in the body.

Listen to this episode to learn more about stress response in relationships and how you can retrain it through NSI!

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Understanding the HPA axis and stress response
  • How developmental trauma shapes our stress response
  • General adaptation response and the impact of stress on the body
  • Shame and the inflammatory response
  • The neurological response to stress
  • The connection between social threat, inflammation and stress response
  • Neuro Somatic Intelligence as a tool for change

Learn more about the Neuro-Somatic Intelligence Coaching program and sign up for the spring cohort now! https://neurosomaticintelligence.com

Are you interested in 1:1 private Rewire Neuro-Somatic Coaching? Book your consultation here:

https://brainbased-wellness.com/rewire-private-neuro-somatic-coaching/

Get started training your nervous system with our FREE 2-week offer on the Brain Based Membership site:

https://www.rewiretrial.com

Connect with us on social media: @trauma.rewired

Join the Trauma Rewired Facebook Group! https://www.facebook.com/groups/761101225132846

Connect with Matt Bush:

https://www.nextlevelneuro.com/a/2147666262/2U4AvzLR

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S3 E32

TRANSCRIPT

TR S3 E32 Stress Response in Relationship 

[00:00:00] Matt Bush: But eventually if the stress doesn’t relent, then the body is going to become exhausted. It can only put up that resistance for so long. And I think this ties back to what we were talking about with development, because there’s stress in every relationship, right? Like none of us are perfect at communicating exactly what we need or how we want the boundary set up or anything like this, especially as children and as children that’s not our responsibility, right? So there’s always going to be stress. The question is, does the stress resolve itself?

[00:00:35] Elisabeth Kristof: 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 brainbase.com, an online community where we use evidence-based neurosomatic exercises to create resilience, change behavior, and re-pattern trauma.

[00:00:54] Elisabeth Kristof: I’m also the founder of Neuro Somatic Intelligence Coaching Certification, an ICF accredited course that equips therapists and coaches with a framework and tools to create transformation from the level of the nervous system. 

[00:01:05] Jennifer Wallace: I’m your cohost, Jennifer Wallace. I’m a Neuro Somatic practitioner that leverages the power of healing through two modalities, using your nervous system and plant medicine healing spaces. I’m also an NSI educator and today we’re joined by Matt Bush, another one of our NSI educators, and we are breaking down the stress response as it relates to relationship. 

NSI is currently open for enrollment, and so as you’re moving through this conversation, and it is a little bit more science heavy, one of the questions we’re going to ask today is could life look differently? And yes, friends, I’m here to tell you that it can and it does look differently because you’re listening to our voices, and that means a lot to go from such a high ACE score to a top trauma podcast and showing up here every week is a testament to the power of working with your nervous system. To learn more, go to neurossomaticintelligence.com and please enjoy this exploration.

[00:02:18] Jennifer Wallace: I’m so excited to sit here with the two of you, Matt and Elisabeth.

[00:02:22] jennifer Yeah, me too. I think, you know, this whole season, we’ve been looking so much at relationships and relational stress, and we see why there’s a need for social. Connection for survival and there’s so many studies that evidence loneliness and its outcomes on our health like being socially isolated has an effect on our nervous system and on our health.

[00:02:46] Elisabeth Kristof: People need good social support for all of these important things, but at the same time, when we have complex trauma, there can often be big stress linked to relationship, linked to social connection. And we’ve talked about attachment style being broadly either safe or unsafe, and that that usually happens with early life development.

[00:03:12] Elisabeth Kristof: And then this insecure, unsafe attachment style results in dysregulation. That comes with attachments to other human beings later in life. So as we’re constantly seeking the social support we need, we’re also experiencing an increased threat load by trying to build and maintain those social connections and deepen our relationships.

[00:03:33] Elisabeth Kristof: So I really want to dive in and explore today what’s actually going on in our nervous system, in our brain. Why does this lead to disease and what can we do about it?

[00:03:46] Matt Bush: I’m excited to be back. Thanks for having me back on the podcast. Yeah, there’s a lot we can talk about with the way that our brains develop as young people and individuals that start to create, um, a lens or perspective where stress is naturally and kind of always part of the equation. And then what happens because of that within our stress responses, our physical body and our neurology as well. This will be great.

[00:04:17] Elisabeth Kristof: I think when we’re talking about stress response, one of the first things I think about is the HPA axis and how our HPA axis functions, but I think it was something maybe people hear about some on social media, but maybe having a deeper understanding of what that is, how it functions, how it drives the response in the body would be a good place to start just setting a foundational understanding of some of the stuff we’re going to talk about today.

[00:04:43] Matt Bush: Sure. I can jump in with that. The HPA axis is kind of code for our hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, like this connection between these three parts of the body. Um, and it really controls our stress response, kind of emotionally and physically how our body responds to stress, um, at a hormonal level, chemical level.

[00:05:08] Matt Bush: So the hypothalamus is a part of the brain that lives just above the brainstem. So it’s not a conscious part or cognitive area, but it lives on a non cognitive level. And it’s taking stress or emotions, really any kind of stress, and turning it into a physical reaction. So it works in conjunction, like with the amygdala, with the thalamus, um, as well as our preconceived beliefs and bias about any kind of situation as to what we believe is safe or unsafe.

[00:05:43] Matt Bush: But anytime we start to pinging stress or threat on our radar, the hypothalamus is gonna start to wind up and gear up. It then sends a signal to the pituitary gland, right? And just for super basic definitions, a gland is an organ that produces hormones. So the pituitary gland lives in our brain, but we don’t really think of it as an area of the brain as much as it is its own little organ itself.

[00:06:12] Matt Bush: So it produces our hormones. And then the hypothalamus says, hey, I need you to activate some of those hormones. And the pituitary gland is going to send one of its hormones down to our adrenal glands, which live just on top of the kidneys in the trunk of the body, and they produce cortisol. And so they start to activate and release cortisol into our system, which is like our long term stress survival hormone that can keep us in a state of hypervigilance, high alert, ongoing threat adaptation. And that stress response is what over time starts to create really some problems in the human body, um, everything from the degradation of physical tissue, um, with high levels of cortisol, it’s easy to lose muscle mass because our body burns through muscle for energy, and we don’t have as good, uh, what’s called protein synthesis to rebuild muscle.

[00:07:11] Matt Bush: We also store more fat on our body rather than burning fat for energy. When we have high cortisol levels, it also degrades our lymphatic system and it increases immune activity. So we get more inflammation. All of this stuff starts to happen as a response and then over time, it can easily snowball into not only an ongoing stressed nervous system, but physical disease and illness as well.

[00:07:39] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah, when you talk about that and everything that is happening in the body and the things that we talk about on here quite a bit, it really links in my mind why high ACE scores and developmental trauma lead to such a high stress state in the body and then why those physical outcomes or maladaptive behaviors are the result of that.

[00:08:04] Elisabeth Kristof: So much of this can be shaped during our development,we know there are a lot of studies looking at like PTSD and CPTSD as being associated with abnormalities in the function of the HPA axis but I was looking at one particular meta analysis, um that was talking about emerging evidence suggesting that failures in social regulation of the HPA axis in young children that could be manifested either from neglect or abuse, so either not getting the care that you need or having abusive care, um, could play a role in how it shapes their corticolimbic circuits, right?

[00:08:42] Elisabeth Kristof: These connections between the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala and hippocampus that integrates our emotion with cognition produces a lot of these behavioral outputs, um, and our responses to our environment modulates pain and really is involved in processing and experiencing threat that then we encounter later in life.

[00:09:06] Elisabeth Kristof: So it’s really shaping how we respond to stress later in life because of our development, because of the way our HPA axis becomes easily activated or responds in a really activating to the nervous system producing all of those hormones. And so now as I’m moving through the world because of that development Especially in this season and looking at it in terms of relationship, I’m primed to have a higher stress response in situations so I’m less resilient, I’m experiencing more of that in my body, and it’s because of how all of that was formed during development.

[00:09:48] Matt Bush: It’s the developmental stages and environment and circumstances that play a huge role in this in applied neurology. We have the saying that everything is a skill and kind of pause and break that down for a second. The way we define skill is we say that it’s something that can be trained. Some of some skills you’re born with, but that you can still train breathing with conscious practice and repetition, right? Some skills you weren’t born with, like handwriting or speaking, or participating in an athletic sport, they can train those two. So when we say everything is a skill, what we mean is that everything can be trained.

[00:10:32] Matt Bush: And as we go through developmental stages, as a young child, or as an adolescent, what we’re doing is basically training our nervous system of how it’s going to survive, not only physically, but also socially, out in the big wide world. And the period of childhood and adolescence is supposed to be for lack of a better term, like a training grounds to allow us to teach, to learn or refine the skills, to train the skills of social connection, of self regulation, of behavior. 

[00:11:06] Matt Bush: Stress and response, like these are things that we’re training along the way without even sometimes without being aware that we’re training them. And so when someone’s in a neglected or abusive situation like you were talking about, what it can do is imagine there was a straight path of trajectory that their life was headed in one direction. And neglect might knock them off to a path that’s a little bit shifted to the left or abuse might knock them off to a little bit shifted to the right. The directions are arbitrary, But it moves them off of their path one way or another.

[00:11:43] Matt Bush: And then they’re, you know, as the metaphor might go, they’re shot out of the cannon to traverse through their adolescence into adulthood. And they’re land into their adult life in a very different place. Because of that shifted trajectory that started as a young child. So development plays a huge role.

[00:12:05] Matt Bush: We get into a situation where, okay, something happens as a child, trajectory shifted, now I develop for another 15 to 20 years on top of that, just progressing down those pathways and predictive natures and then at the end of it, I look up as an adult and they go, how did I even get here? Like, why are things so the way they are like, there’s so much stress in relationships and connection. There’s so much threat in intimacy. I don’t know how to communicate in a way that’s able to meet my needs and maintain my boundaries and it would be an easy way, although maybe an oversimplification to go, well, let’s understand first it’s not your fault, but based on that initial shift, things began to develop in a different way. Right. 

[00:12:59] Matt Bush: So I think one of the things that we’ll talk about on this episode that I’m excited about is now that we’re in an adult life situation, but what can we do about it? Can we actually retrain the HPA axis and the brain’s response to emotional and connective stress? And can we have a happier, more fulfilled life because of that?

[00:13:19] Jennifer Wallace: Well, like I said in the intro, I’m so happy to report as basically a full case study and testament to this work that yes, life doesn’t just get better, but it gets easier. It gets so much more enjoyable and NSI is. that had such a powerful impact in my journey to get here. 

[00:13:40] Jennifer Wallace: When I hear you talk about the HPA access, I can’t help but to reflect on an NSI module that you use the phrase tired, but wired. And that just basically says it all for me. Like that’s how I was living my life. So tired from all the, the chronic stress, chronic fatigue as an output, but not only that, just the system being so hypervigilant and never feeling safe enough to rest and to calm down and really everything the two of you have said tracks so well.

[00:14:13] Jennifer Wallace: And the wake up call I got was stage three. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37, and as far as being shot out of the cannon, I grew up really fast in some ways, and then lacked development in really crucial ways, which we know from complex trauma impacts brain development, which we just re released. Why I’m saying why this tracks so well is that, you know, as a child with developmental child for any child with a high chronic stress load, attachment is unsafe and an insecure attachment develops as we’d like to say here due to this chronic nature of environmental stress.

[00:14:54] Jennifer Wallace: And that becomes. It’s hardwired in our physical bodies and the job of, one of the jobs of the HPA axis is to turn the stress and emotions into physical sensations, releasing the hormones, the chemical baths that over time, these high states, which are actually ongoing threat adaptations are problematic and could lead to disease states in the body, i.e. stage three breast cancer. And what really sticks out for me is this idea that you’re referring to as our developmental stages as a training ground, like what I was training for was not a nervous system that was primed for connection, but I was surviving. I was training for survival. And the nervous system of anyone with ACE scores is that the training is never over.

[00:15:55] Jennifer Wallace: That hardwired survival, it isn’t over until we come to the place where we say- this is it. I am going to make the intentional. conscious changes and be a conscious part of the path that I’m on and get very intentional about things. Um, yeah, Matt, I know you’ve got some more cool information to share.

[00:16:24] Matt: So one more piece that I want to bring to this is to talk just a little bit about Hans Selye, who’s like the grandfather examining stress. And he was famous for creating what’s called the general adaptation response, or general adaptation syndrome, which is essentially a non-specific adaptation to stress. So he worked in a medical clinic and as a researcher, and as the story goes, when he’s making his rounds through the medical clinic, you know, the lead physician is asking about different symptoms and diagnoses and trying to ascertain what each patient is suffering from, but he starts to notice that in addition to the distinct symptoms of diseases that all of these patients seem to have another set of very similar symptoms and responses to the stress that’s going on within their body. 

So immune dysregulation, decreased lymphatics, increased cortisol levels. They don’t have a good mood. They have poor energy, they’re not sleeping well. And so this is kind of where his ideas start to form. And then over the next 10 years or so, he creates this idea of general adaptation, where when our body is exposed to non specific stressors. There’s a common group of symptoms and responses that we tend to have, as we could use the word as outputs, where our body is trying to either resist the stress or adapt to it and eventually it will even just become exhausted by it.

[00:18:00] Matt Bush: Then in more modern terms, that’s where we fall into things like adrenal sensitivity or adrenal fatigue, right? Because there’s the acute onset of stress. Then there’s a period of resistance where we try to just stand strong and move through it and maybe even force our way through it.

[00:18:20] Matt Bush: But eventually if the stress doesn’t relent. Then the body is going to become exhausted. It can only put up that resistance for so long. And I think this ties back to what we were talking about with development, because there’s stress in every relationship, right? Healthy and unhealthy, whatever labels you want to put on them. There’s always going to be stress because there’s always a different of opinions or expectations. Like none of us are perfect at communicating exactly what we need or how we want the boundary set up or anything like this, especially as children and as children that’s not our responsibility, right? So there’s always going to be stress.

[00:19:01] Matt Bush: The question is, does the stress resolve itself or are we continuously subjected to the stress in an ongoing manner? Because even with two adults who have differing opinions about where they’re going to go to dinner, right? It’s like two forces that are acting on each other. One person saying, I want to go have pizza. And the other thing, I want to go have a hamburger. They’re gonna butt heads a little bit. There’s a little bit of conflict where those forces meet, but then they’re going to compromise or one person is going to agree with the other. And the stress will resolve and then it can like leave the situation, leave the body.

[00:19:40] Matt Bush: There doesn’t need to be any kind of adaptive or protective response because the stress wasn’t, it wasn’t great enough to need any kind of protection because it wasn’t going to break down anything. The problem, especially in a developmental kind of perspective, is when the stress doesn’t go away, like we, we stand up to it, we resist it in whatever way we know how as a child by adapting to the situation in order to survive.

[00:20:08] Matt Bush: But if the stress remains, day after day, and month after month, that’s when it starts to have this profound effect on our neurotags and on the physical body because of its activation of this HPA axis. Because we’re being put into a kind of a, an ongoing survival threat over and over and over and over and our body is going to try to protect us.

[00:20:35] Matt Bush: It’s going to try to resist, but then eventually it’s going to become fatigued and be exhausted by the situation. And then we get into like a maladaptive coping mechanisms at that point.

[00:20:50] Jennifer Wallace: Oh, Matt, that dating piece, that’s so relatable. Dating for me used to cause so much internal conflict because of that insecure attachment style and relational trauma, complex trauma, and there’s also an emotional component to this stress that Matt, you touched on and answers. you know, you started to answer so much of the question, like, what does it feel like to want connection and to be activated by it?

[00:21:17] Jennifer Wallace: And that even takes me back to the tired but wired, that’s also what connection felt like to me, like hypervigilant to the person’s need, fawning, displaying codependent neuro tags, like just really overall general dysregulation. And you know, it’s interesting in love and friendship as a younger person, I would have related more to the anxious attachment style, but in relational attachment, more to avoidant. So I think that I’m sort of going back to that training ground for social connection and that nervous system not being primed for connection.

[00:21:59] Jennifer Wallace: I really wanted to be loved. I mean, who doesn’t right? Like that seems like a pretty basic need and wanted to be seen. but the truth was I couldn’t have shown up honestly. I never really did because I thought I was too much and so if anyone if you think you’re too much then you’re not gonna be seen. You can’t. That’s just way too threatening. And so there was this desperation for love that really led to massive self abandoning. And then of course, naturally, thankfully now in retrospect, those attachments fell apart and when they did, it was the real end of the world for a younger version for me to want something so badly, but seeking externally.

[00:22:51] Jennifer Wallace: Love, validation, and so many times I neglected my intuition. And that’s, you know, another thing that is strengthened through NSI, but really I lacked interdependency. You know, so thankful once again for these tools which is also strengthened through NSI my security, and whether that was my relationship to myself, my body, my family, loved ones.

[00:23:21] Jennifer Wallace: It was all riddled in shame. And it was what made them, relationships, what made relationships so hard to bear was the level of shame that was so protective in all of the ways. Um, and then the protective ways that I would behave. I also hid from people like the disordered eating, the chronic fatigue, the anxiety, the full shutdown. And I really had hardwired freeze and fight responses. So back to that emotional impact back to the stress that emotions can have on the body. And I know that’s another part of stress relationship, another part of what we’re going to explore today and relationships and stress. 

[00:24:10] Elisabeth: Yeah, as you were talking, Jen and Matt, I was kind of just replaying that sentence, there’s always relational stress. Like relationships are always, there’s going to be stress because it’s two different people coming together. And then thinking back about that HPA development and our neurotag development and so where such a big difference comes in for me is when we have complex trauma or developmental trauma, our response to that stress in relationships.

[00:24:47] Elisabeth Kristof: It’s different, right? Everybody’s going to face the stress. Some people are more resilient to it, and it can be processed through, and you can continue on about your life. And for other people, it’s so difficult to not get stuck in like the rumination around the conflict in the relationship or to have this really big disproportionate response to whatever’s going on in the relationship, even at a physiological level, there’s a bigger activation that’s occurring inside.

[00:25:22] Elisabeth Kristof: And then also maybe not having the skills. To re regulate, to process those emotions and to come out of that stress state, which is why it’s so important, I think, to talk about to the tools that we use that Jen was talking about that makes life different. But for me, it’s really easy to see how avoidance then comes into the picture because that stress load is so high.

[00:25:51] Elisabeth Kristof: Even now, I do a lot with my nervous system. But sometimes. I know relationships are big and activating, and so I’ll find myself moving into pulling back from something at this almost subconscious level, because my system is just like, it’s too much, it’s too much stress. And so instead of having the conversation, I’m gonna go lay down and turn off the lights and block out all the, you know, pull the windows down and numb out on social media for a while.

[00:26:21] Elisabeth Kristof: And then when I’m in a good place, I can use my tools, I can regulate, and I can move out of that pattern. But so much of avoidant attachment style comes from a nervous system that has learned these relationships are too big and too much. And so it can really lead us to a lot of isolation when we don’t have the ways to start to repattern that stress response and then also to process the stress and the emotions that come from those interactions.

[00:26:55] Elisabeth Kristo): Okay. One of the big responses that we’ve spent quite a bit of time this season talking about is the inflammatory response that comes with some of this threat reaction. We talked a lot in a previous episode on shame about the inflammation that comes when our body experiences shame. And I want to see if we can start to connect some of the dots for people here between. Because I still think it’s a far reach to wrap your mind around sometimes, like I experience social threat and then I get inflamed in my body. My joints swell up, I feel heavy, I feel bloated, I feel puffy. And yes, we can tie it to the emotion of shame, but big picture, this is part of our immune response when we’re in a threat situation and if we perceive that threat is coming from social, we can have that physical response in our body. And so I’d like to circle back a little bit on how that, why that happens and help people understand this reaction inside of themselves a little better.

[00:28:06] Matt Bush: Yeah, so I want to kind of give a personal example that ties together what you two were just talking about in your own examples, but also then leads us into this shameful shameflammation. What happens in the immune system? So, my wife and I have been married for a few years now, but we had very different upbringings around it. Fighting, not just verbally, not physically fighting, but getting into kind of a verbal spat within a family unit. She was raised to fight verbally, kind of state your opinion very loudly. But there in her house, the way she tells this is that there was a sense of you could raise your voice and you could get into a verbal spat with someone, but it was still clearly understood and not questioned that you really loved each other and you supported one another in the decisions that you came to at the end of that argument. So some might call that, you know, high level arguing. Her family just called it fighting. In my family, totally different upbringing. Fighting or arguing like that was perceived as shameful. Especially if it was with a parental figure or a caregiver, someone who had a sense of authority within the family. Like as a kid, that was not ever allowed or permissible in my home. And so any type of argumentative response or kind of a fighting back type of response was immediately shamed.

[00:29:42] Matt Bush: And so when we got married, we had to figure out this communication of we get into a conflict and she would escalate to that higher level of argumentation. And I would shut down and avoid, kind of like Elisabeth was describing. So in the acute moment, I would avoid, run away, shut down, kind of have a freeze response. I would have to pull myself back out of that once things had calmed down a little bit. But over a longer period of time, it created a level of anxiety of, I don’t know that I want to engage in something that could even potentially result in an argument. And so it became this nervous energy and I would say things like, I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.

[00:30:26] Matt Bush: She’s like, why are you saying that? Well, cause if we argue it’s bad, she’s like, no, it’s not, it’s fine. I love you. I’m like, in my head, in my emotion, like, no, it’s not fine. Like avoid, avoid, avoid, you know? But so I kind of resonated with both of your examples because in that relationship I’ve experienced both and we’ve kind of worked through that, but. Sometimes it still comes up just to be honest and vulnerable. It still happens, but I realized a few years into that that it did create an inflammatory response in me that even though we had talked about it and kind of set some expectations and set some boundaries and we knew it’s not going to be anything explosive or dangerous to the relationship, there were still those times where it would escalate.

[00:31:25] Matt Bush: I would fall into a shame spiral of kind of freezing and dissociating and then inflammation would happen next. So that inflammation, and I love that term shame inflammation, but it’s like our immune system goes into overdrive. So what happens to talk on it? Neurologically is that first our HPA axis activates and if it’s a strong enough acute stressor, not only do we get the cortisol in the body, but we also would have adrenaline dumped into the body first, right? Adrenaline is your short term immediate survival hormone that can be dumped in much more quickly than cortisol. And so it’s that spike of energy,life or death, survival is driven by adrenaline.

[00:32:18] Matt Bush: Then we get the cortisol response. And when that cortisol response happens, the immune system starts producing the inflammatory proteins that will, you know, circulate through the body and try to find and take out any kind of invaders or pathogens or unhealthy cell growth. So normally inflammation is a way the immune system uses to heal the body. Like inflammation, technically speaking, inflammation is a good thing. It’s part of a healing response. But when we have chronic inflammation and it’s our immune system is overproducing it or over activating an inflammatory response, those inflammatory proteins start to become damaging to our own body tissues, right?

[00:33:05] Matt Bush: Which is where we get the term autoimmune disease. They start to attack our own bodily tissues as if they were pathogens or invaders, when they’re really healthy tissues. And that, this may sound weird to some people, but that’s also a thing that can be trained. We don’t often think of it that way because it’s not something that’s trained through conscious effort, but it’s trained through exposure and conditioning. So the more that our body is exposed to this heightened inflammatory state, the more essentially that our immune system is conditioned to go look for bad guys. Like go look for pathogens, go look for invaders, go look for unhealthy tissue. Like cancerous tissue or tumor cancer or tumor cellular growth or something like that.

[00:34:00] Matt Bush: And as it adapts and it gets triggered again and again and again to send out these scouting parties of inflammation, it’s like, I’m not finding anything. And then it gets the signal, go, go again. I’m not finding anything. Go again. I still can’t find anything to attack. Well, go again. And eventually it’s like, well, I got to attack something. Okay. And that may be a little silly of a way to say it, but metaphorically, like if you send out this scouting party of inflammatory proteins enough times, eventually it’s going to find something to fight against. And in down the road, if that happens in a chronic way, ongoing recurring, it’s eventually going to become our own body tissues that it attacks, right?

[00:34:46] Matt Bush: So the presence of inflammation can create that autoimmune issue. It can also lead to a situation where when we activate the immune system enough times, the immune system itself becomes exhausted. Right? So not only does the adrenal adrenals become exhausted, but the immune system goes through exhaustion and that’s when you’re more likely to have disease states or cancerous growth.

[00:35:17] Matt Bush: Because on the one hand, we’ve been holding on to all of this type of emotional distress within our body and then we’ve depleted the immune system that’s supposed to be able to fight against it. And so when a cancerous growth or a disease does begin, there’s no more immune system to take care of it. We’ve lost our internal line of defense against that kind of stuff. So it’s like this self perpetuating self fulfilling prophecy of something bad is happening. I better go find it. Well, eventually you’re going to find it, either because it finds healthy tissue to attack or because it becomes so exhausted that now the immune system is more vulnerable, the body is more vulnerable to having some kind of disease or cancer or tumor begin to form.

[00:36:11] Jennifer: Fascinating. I thought that was a really good example. Um, though it was a great visual, what you just described with the immune response. And I mean, chronic inflammation is an essential ponic to chronic disease. And there are stress hormones that are released that have immunosuppressive and anti inflammatory qualities to them acute stressors have been shown. to actually boost immune function, but it’s the chronic stressors that suppress the immune system. And these intense stressors over activate the immune system, leading to the imbalance of inflammation and anti inflammation.

[00:36:48] Jennifer Wallace: What we know now, like you were saying, Matt, is that the brain plays a critical role in appraising social stressors, as well as in modulating the immune system’s response to stressors that involve either social or physical threat. And that there are particular neural regions that process social threat related information systems like the DACC, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and the anterior insula. The exposure with these two brain areas, exposure to an acute episode of social rejection or rejection related cues is shown to activate these areas, these brain areas, and then that furthers greater feelings of distress.

[00:37:30] Jennifer Wallace: And these regions are activating a stress response and an inflammatory response. And the question people might be asking is, why are we so neurally sensitive to social rejection or social rejection related? And there’s really possible several reasons for this. One is that physical threat is more likely to happen in situations that involve social threat or rejection.

[00:37:56] Jennifer Wallace: So that can trigger the stress response in a proactive, protective way to just prepare itself, that we might be sustaining physical injury. And a second reason is that there could literally be wires crossed that The neural circuitry that underlines physical and social pain start to overlap with each other and that the neural process of social threat and rejection utilizes some of the same pain related neural systems.

[00:38:27] Jennifer Wallace: So this just carries on to continue into affecting your daily social interactions and have considerable. considerable impact on how relatively stable your stress response system is over time. Like you were saying, it could be completely depleted by the time we actually really need it. And so how are these brain areas affecting stress is likely due to their connection.

[00:38:52] Jennifer Wallace: These two particular areas to high visceral states, their connection to the periphery and their extensive F afferent connections to the hypothalamus, which we know is the place that turns emotions into physical sensations and that by enabling them to influence inflammatory activities, does it, they are enabled to influence inflammatory activities via endocrine pathways.

[00:39:23] Elisabeth Kristof: I want to circle back for just a second to Matt’s example of the shame formation in the conflict with hs wife and then to how Jennifer was talking about that social threat automatically bringing some of these responses in. Because Last weekend in a site we were talking about shame, in our Neuro Somatic Intelligence course, and it was coming up for a lot of people that there are so many constructs in society that can lead to shame big systemic stuff trying to fit in to the herd. Being a different race, having a different level of physical ability, being in a different body size, all of these things, having neurodivergence that can put pressure on you.

[00:40:14] Elisabeth Kristof: And a lot of the participants in the cohort were saying like, I don’t want to experience shame around this. Shame is, I believe deeply that shame is a bad emotion all of the time. And. I really believe that that’s true. Of course, we don’t cognitively, we understand that I don’t want to try to conform. I’m not bad for being the way that I am. But there’s also, I think, a recognition that needs to happen that this is a protective threat response in the body and that it is going to happen, even though we might know better, right? Like we have the conflict with a partner or, my partner is also moves into conflict and I’m back away from it. So I can really relate to that example and I can know cognitively, like, it’s okay. But the reaction in the body is so far below the conscious mind, these processes, these areas of the brain that Jen was talking about, the way that our body responds. And so it’s really important, I think, to understand that this is happening physically inside of our body, this inflammation, this activated cortisol level. And so we do need to have ways to work with the body and work with the nervous system to just like you were saying to repattern to create to train intentionally to not have that same reaction, not just cognitively, not just thinking, I don’t want to respond this way. I actually feel fine expressing myself or whatever it is.

[00:41:53] Elisabeth Kristof: I have self worth and my affirmations, but I also need to really make my body and my nervous system understand that it can react differently by training it with intentional stimulus over and over and over again to do that repatterning that then eventually creates a different result in time.

[00:42:13] Matt Bush: I think that is absolutely key. What you just said in that last sentence of recognizing that something different is possible. There’s so many examples and just within our culture of adopting the ideas of this is just the way I am, or this is the way that it has to be, or it always has been, always will be kind of a final or defeatist type of mentality about a situation.

[00:42:45] Matt Bush: And it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s one of the coolest things about neurology is that it can always change. Like, your neuroplastic brain is always changing until you die, until you pass away. So it’s never stuck in place, but coming back to the brain areas that Jen was talking about, the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula or the anterior insula, those are trainable as well. Like what we’re really talking about is how does my brain perceive the situation or the behavior or the words of others? It’s all a perception because it’s running through our own filter of our previous experiences, our interpretation of what’s safe and what’s not safe, our beliefs and our understanding and knowledge and our level of whatever logical or emotional we’re reading into it, right?

[00:43:46] Matt Bush: It’s all interpreted in order to come up with a perception, but all of those variables that I just listed are individual and unique to each person. And the thing is when you’re anterior cingulate cortex and your anterior insula are trying to read the room or read the situation or read what’s ha what’s going to happen based on what I’m hearing in the news, whether that has to do with international politics and warfare or domestic politics, or economics or social structures. Every time where we get an input and let’s bring it, sorry, let’s bring it back down. Even in relationships, we’re talking about connection today. Every time we get an input, it goes through an interpretive and a perspective process in our brain. And then that’s how our brain decides. Should I activate that hypothalamus to induce a stress response, or should I not?

[00:44:53] Matt Bush: And all of the interpretation and perception that I’m talking about, the point is that it’s all informed by all of our previous experiences, our social connections, our, the social structures that Elisabeth was talking about a moment ago and the whole, there’s so many variables, so many factors, that it becomes unique to each person. So, what I take away from that part of the conversation is two things specifically. One is that neurology is like the science of hope. That things can always change. But two, when we start to understand the neurological variables for each person to come to their present moment. That phrase of, don’t criticize someone unless you’ve walked a couple miles in their shoes.

[00:45:41] Matt Bush: You have no idea what’s in someone’s past that has informed not only their worldview, but also their neurology of how their brain and body are responding. So we need to come to relationships with compassion. With curiosity and and with a way to meet and communicate rather than, you know, butting heads and exploding when we can’t.

[00:46:10] Jennifer Wallace: And I think that requires trust, there’s a certain capacity for self trust, what you just said, like there, I have to be able to trust myself to show up to you vulnerable in a conversation so that I know regardless of how you respond, I still have me. I still have my truth in my self expression and that’s really what gets suppressed when we have complex trauma is trusting ourselves and understanding that we’re inherently worthy and valuable to be in relationships, right?

[00:46:43] Jennifer Wallace: So it’s just so deeply layered. Like I was talking about that internal conflict before, and part of that internal conflict for me was that I knew when I was honest with myself that I was not showing up authentically. And I knew there was more. I was watching people have more, have less stress and move through life with ease and without chronic disease states like had I had already experienced. And I think the self abandonment, right? Cause what I’m talking about is a little bit of self abandonment. I think that added shameflammation to the shameflammation that was already occurring through all these other things. So it’s like, we’re really talking about a lot and I am just here to say we can rewire, particularly with shame.

[00:47:36] Jennifer Wallace: Like we’ve recorded, we just released a conversation on shame. We’ve talked about toxic shame. And just recently did a situation where I was very stressed and on the back end I did experience shame, but it wasn’t toxic. It was just normal old shame. And you know what? It came and it went. It didn’t affect me poorly. I didn’t binge. I didn’t have a breakdown. I didn’t deny or curse my body. It was just kind of what it was. And that does speak to the work. That speaks to neuro somatic intelligence.

[00:48:09] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah, what you’re talking about there and I can see so much is just that interruption of the loop, right? and what I can see so clearly in that example of like, now you have shame, but it’s just normal shame. It’s just this like, regular thing that you can process through, is that when we have ways to work with the nervous system, we have ways to interrupt that loop, whether it’s the stress loop or the shame loop, it’s being able, because it compounds on itself, right, we, we react out of this stressful state, the stress is disproportionate, it creates this huge reaction inside of our body, then we experience more stress, because of the maladaptive behaviors or we experience shame around our behavior and then that creates more of a response.

[00:48:52] Elisabeth Kristof: And it just can cycle on until we have some place where we can create a new input, create a new experience in the body through sensory input to start creating real change in that. in that loop. And I think at the foundation of that for me has just been general nervous system training when I started to not really even in regards to all of this, like I wasn’t doing it to breakthrough my shame. I wasn’t doing it because I was trying to reverse my CPTSD loops, I was just training my nervous system and then I started to have more capacity To handle the stress and when I did then I could have a different response. I could it go into the same situation And still keep a little bit of altitude see my behavior differently. Understand myself better and then I had the option to try something different, to have a different experience inside of my body.

[00:49:55] Elisabeth Kristof: And just like, with Jen’s example, like the other day, yeah, I still moved into an avoidance. I still had some conflict. I even texted Jen and was like, I cannot make myself go face this conflict. I’m literally laying in the bedroom with the lights out for like an hour. And then I was like, okay, enough of that. I could see it for what it was. I could recognize it was my avoidance pattern. I got up, I did a few neuro drills, I shook around a little bit, and then I walked back upstairs and I had the conversation. And I didn’t also spiral into that place afterwards of what all it means about me, feeling all of the shame, getting stuck in that response and not being able to get out of it.

[00:50:39] Elisabeth Kristof: And so I think just very foundationally, it just came from making my nervous system healthier. And then, and then I could start to learn when to use the tools and create different responses. But first I just had to have the capacity to even be able to see it for what it was.

[00:51:00] Jennifer Wallace: So true. What you just said, it wasn’t about, Oh, let me combat my freeze or this or that specifically. It was like, just start regulating your nervous system and understanding how your nervous system gets triggered in response to other people, right? Because it was one thing to just get triggered by something online or something, you know, but when you are with people, when you’re in relationship and you’re working alongside people, that’s when we experience so much in our nervous systems. And for me, the nervous system regulation allowed me to really cultivate a very intimate connection to what is happening in my body and who and why, and then just allow me to regulate even around the exploration of this particular relationship that I might’ve been triggered in. And the regulation supported the honesty with myself of how I was showing up and contributing to the relationship, not just something or someone doing something to me or at me, it was really also allowed for my own truth.

[00:52:10] Matt Bush: Yeah, I think one of the important things you’re both alluding to and talking about is like daily training of the nervous system, not just trying to rescue it or triage when things go badly. Uh, not just running around putting out fires, but once you start to do daily training, it gives you another level of awareness and introspection where you start to learn your own responses, your own behaviors, especially you identify where that trigger comes from and you can, Almost pre, uh, build up your resilience in advance by doing the daily training of the nervous system rather than trying to fix everything on the back end when you’re already dysregulated.

[00:52:57] Matt Bush: And I just think that’s one of the most powerful practices that people can undertake. And truth be told, a lot of people are looking and seeking for this anyway. There’s a reason that over the last ten years the whole world of wellness and self driven health practices has just exploded.

[00:53:17] Matt Bush: People are doing breathing, yoga, movement, plant medicine, meditation, like all of these things are becoming more part of our normal everyday culture across, across the world. They’re just exploding. I think people are really seeking and really searching for how do I make life a little smoother? And how do I have better connections and better relationships and all of those things hit some part of the nervous system, like there’s value in all of them. But when you  can go, I really just want to focus in on how is my brain dealing with threat and stress and regulating itself. You could use those tools or our neuro somatic intelligence tools. And really focus in on that. And it creates this massive shift in your perspective and in your, and eventually in your reality, it just makes life different.

[00:54:13] Jennifer: Thankfully.

[00:54:13] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah, I do think the conversation generally has become so much more amplified, elevated, and in the world now of looking at the nervous system and nervous system health as a, as a driver and a root cause in our, in our health outcomes, in our relationships, in our behaviors and behavior change. And it’s really cool to see it and to be a part of that conversation. I think it’s also really important that as people are working with their nervous system to understand how unique and individual we all are and how to really be able to develop a framework and a nervous system practice that works for them for their unique nervous system because we see a lot of that information out there.

[00:55:05] Elisabeth Kristof: And it’s also true that we’re all very unique and different and understanding how to assess and reassess what’s right for our nervous system to create that positive change to really reduce stress to really make relational experience different is is really key to continuing to move forward in a positive direction.

[00:55:25] Elisabeth Kristof: So for those of our listeners that are practitioners, therapists, coaches, and you want to learn a framework to help understand not only how your client’s nervous system is responding to this work, but also to really learn the practical, actionable tools that we’re talking about to start to create more resilience in the nervous system, to allow their to be capacity for change. We are enrolling now in the next cohort of Neuro Somatic Intelligence, and you can find the link in the show notes. We have a couple of free workshops coming up and we would love to have a talk with you. If you think that you’re interested in bringing this information, these tools and this framework into your practice.

[00:56:12] Matt Bush: Final thoughts.

[00:56:15] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah. Final thoughts.

[00:56:16] Matt Bush: Okay. So one final thought to share is that if the information in this particular episode was kind of deep on the neurology stuff, I would recommend listeners go back to our earlier podcast episodes on attachment styles and on development and start to get some of those principles because we talked about some of the same things in those particular episodes.

[00:56:46] Matt Bush: But eventually remembering the one big takeaway here is that your stress response is a skill that your nervous system has learned and you have the ability to train it to be something different. You can train that through intentional work and nervous system regulation tools. So that you can have a different reaction, different response and eventually to create the connections and relationships that you want in your life, rather than feeling like you’re always catching a very reactive side of that part of your life, you can turn it into something that edifies and grows your relationships by working on your nervous system. So I’m excited for you to experience that.

[00:57:36] Jennifer Wallace: I’m very excited for you too. I would hope all of you take us up on either your two free week membership on brain based wellness on the brain based membership site, or joining us if you’re a practitioner through NSI, because if the phrases and some of the things that we said related to you and to your experience, like the phrase tired, but wired, I mean, that kind of says a lot right there and speaks volumes and your experience that you’re having today and right now it doesn’t have to be like this and maybe you’re like me and you just knew really deep down that you were going against yourself and you knew that there was another way to be and there is, so I hope to see you either on site or through NSI. 

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