Choice Point Psychological’s Theoretical Stance
Psychological Suffering is Rooted In…
Our Hardwiring for Negative for Thinking, Social Comparisons, & Anticipating Risks
All humans are hardwired for survival, which means we are unconsciously driven towards opportunities for connection, resource accumulation, and striving to be the fittest of the pack. We are all prone to screen our environment and relationships for threats to our survival, resources, relationships, and self-esteem. We are motivated to find our purpose in life and reach our highest potential (aka self-actualization), but this motivation can be stunted by events such as criticism or doubt from others both early and later on in life. When this occurs, our system interprets this as a threat to our survival, which leads to a mobilization or immobilization response based on the degree of criticism. We are left feeling an even greater drive towards accumulating, working harder, or proving ourselves. This hardwiring makes us prone to negative thinking, social comparisons, and anticipating risks.
OUR PAINFUL PAST LEARNING THAT MAY IMPACT BEHAVIOR AND COPING WHILE UNDER STRESS
We retain memories for threatening experiences to inform our future actions. When a threat is detected, we feel stress, which can mobilize or immobilize us (fight, flight, freeze) for action depending on what might be the most adaptive in the moment. Moderate amounts of stress motivates us towards getting our needs met. Modern life, however, is characterized by chronic stress and has interfered with our ability to recover post-stressful experiences. Additionally, our highly sophisticated brains allow us to retain memories for past pain and suffering. This has advantaged us as survival creatures, but it contributes to psychological suffering when we spend time reviewing painful past experiences over and over again. When a threat is detected, we draw upon coping strategies that worked in the past or that we observed our families using as we grew up. We are also drawn to coping strategies that provide the quickest relief, especially if we are facing significant stress. Our conscious effort will be required to interrupt undesirable habitual coping behaviours and replace them with more adaptive strategies.
TRAUMATIC STRESS CAUSING FURTHER DISRUPTIONS TO OUR BEHAVIOUR, COPING, AND PERCEPTION
All of us have endured traumatic stress at some point in our lives ranging from mild to severe. Keep in mind that our threshold for what would have been deemed as traumatic stress has shifted throughout our life course based on our developmental age and needs. Traumatic stress is retained in the body. Traumatic memories are locked in time and fragmented into sensory parts (visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile) that are not properly stored in our long-term memory in the form of a complete picture or story that we can retrieve voluntarily. What can happen is that one of these sensory parts gets re-experienced in the body when something in our environment mimics the initial trauma. When this happens, we are often unaware of it, but may be left with an intense sensory experience that can confuse or frighten us and may cause the reactivation of the stress cycle.
AT CHOICE POINT, WE WANT TO LOOK AT WHAT IS AND IS NOT WORKING.
1. Are you over stressed, finding yourself short of time, energy, motivation?
2. Are you over relying on either threat systems or drive systems to guide your daily actions?
3. What are you doing to cope? Is it aligned with the person you want to be?
4. What is happening internally while faced with stress and is your stress cycle reaching completion?
5. In what ways is your painful past learning keeping you stuck? (maladaptive coping, shutdown, self critical, fearful/anxious, etc.)
SIGNALS OF SUFFERING
Detached from values, meaning, purpose
Avoidance of internal or external experiences
Chronic hyper/hypo arousal symptoms
Rigid or non life-enhancing coping behaviours
Lack of balance in lifestyle
Disconnection from self and others
Lack of vitality
Cognitive distortions or rigid thinking
Extreme or uncontrolled emotion reactivity
PILLARS OF WELLNESS
Daily values-guided action
Open to array of life experiences
Completed stress cycles with adequate resting periods
Flexible and dynamic self-care practices
Striving towards holistic living
Meaningful and supportive social network
Daily micro reminders of aliveness and gratitude
Noticing parallels between thought content & feelings
Able to be with our emotions & respond deliberately
ARE YOU STRESSED AND SURVIVING? WE WANT TO HELP YOU FEEL ALIVE AND ALIGNED WITH YOUR VALUES! HOW?
1. Identify the blocks and barriers keeping you stuck.
2. Skill building, skills practice, life improvement.
3. Working through past pain to make you less vulnerable to old habits while under stress.
Gilbert, P. (2009). The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach To Life’s Challenges. London: Constable and Robinson.
Hayes, S., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The Process and Practice Of Mindful Change. New York: The Guilford Press.
Porges, S. (2011). The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, Self-Regulation. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body In the Healing Of Trauma. New York: Penguin Random House LLC.