When Being With My Family Feels Like Being In A Tank Of Piranhas…

by | Dec 31, 2021

When being with my family feels like being in a tank of piranhas, there’s a fair chance I’m perceiving threat.

We talk about self-regulation as a means of returning to felt safety but sometimes it’s a much deeper process then just relaxing our muscles.

Here’s one variation:

  1. I use interoception (body awareness/bottom-up regulation) to relax my constricted muscles.
  2. Then I use neuroception (top-down regulation) to remind myself “this might be a difficult moment, but I am safe.”
  3. I pendulate back to interoception to check in, are my body and brain congruent? (both experiencing safety cues, accepting and not fighting this experience?).
  4. I sense some tension. Part of me is still feeling trapped, activating my mid-brain and limbic system, generating symptoms.
  5. I reach out for relational connection to soothe that part, activating the social engagement system and stimulating the vagus nerve.
  6. I pendulate back to neuroception. I actively chose to move into this situation, not avoid it. I remind myself of my resources and capacities.

Sometimes I can do this in a few seconds.

Sometimes it’s minutes or hours depending on how deeply triggered I am. No longer does it take days, and I celebrate that growth.

In this process each fail is a success as it facilitates the desensitization of my past trauma and present triggers.

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Jenny Brackman
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