This is the first in a series about the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS stress response (or threat response) goes through sequential stages: Social Nervous System, Sympathetic Nervous System (Fight/Flight), Sympathetic with Parasympathetic (Freeze), and finally Parasympathetic Nervous System (Hypo/Collapse).
This article addresses the very common "Hyper" or Sympathetic Fight/Flight phase. We all experience Hyper states throughout our day, and many of us chronically. The energy of Hyper is UP, OUT and FAST. Our society runs on this Hyper energy. We need to get things done, faster. Rushing, mind racing, anxiety, and tension are typical of the Hyper state.
All of us living in these Hyper times need tools to bring us back into presence, back to ourselves, and back to regulation. To counter the Hyper tendency, we need practices to help us TAKE A PAUSE, SLOW DOWN, MOVE INWARDS into our bodies and DOWNWARDS towards the ground. The ground of being in our bodies is where we find the rest and revitalization we need to fully engage with life and to feel fully human.
For deeper support in finding regulation for your Hyper States, schedule a session.
This information has been adapted from "Window of Presence, Functional Range" by Anna Chitty with Ray Castellino, from the Colorado School of Energy Studies.
HYPER States (Fight-or-Flight)
What is Hyper?
The Hyper state is sympathetic arousal. It means the fight-or-flight response has been activated by a real or perceived threat. In most cases, we experienced the original danger long ago, but at the time we did not have the resources to fully complete our threat response. Therefore part of us remains reactive to current similar triggers. Cortisol and Adrenaline are the hormones running our system in a Hyper state. All the sympathetic “gas” is turned on in the body, with no parasympathetic “brakes”. Chronic hyper states may express as sleep issues, gut issues, addictions, compulsive and risk-taking behaviors and relationship problems.
What is it like to be in a Hyper state?
Tools for Regulating Hyper States:
Key concepts: SLOW, DOWN & IN, HERE & NOW, CONTAINMENT
Signs the Hyper State is returning to Regulation (The Window of Presence)
At one time or another, many of us humans have centralized our attention on trying (hoping, praying, wishing, fantasizing, intending!) to find the ideal partner. We’ve come up with all kinds of intelligent schemes, spent exorbitant amounts of time shopping for potential mates on Match.com, conducted rituals with love potions—the long list goes on!
The usual problem with these approaches is that when attention is directed so intensely outwards to some future, external, unknown “other,” our own essential energy gets scattered and confused…and here's the secret: hidden within our own essential energy is exactly the love we're craving!
The simple thought “I want to find the perfect partner for me” can easily snowball in the mind into obsession and fantasy and lead to impulsive decision-making that increases suffering (believe me, I've been there!). Let's pause to investigate that thought. Is there an underlying, foundational thought that proceeds that one? Usually it's something like, “I don’t have the [love/friendship/connection/passion] I need.” Investigating further, you will likely find that that thought comes from a feeling of lack ["I feel lacking in love, lacking in connection"].
Any feeling of lack is a hard place to start from to find a good partner. Are you attracted to people who exude lack?
So what is the alternative to frantic partner-seeking from a place of lack, you may ask?
For starters, try this simple, step-by-step magical love potion:
The happiness, love, and peace you imagine your ideal mate will bring you starts and ends with YOU—your relationship with your Self.
I’m not saying you won’t find a great mate on Match.com, as I’ve heard many success stories from friends! It’s just that if and when you do find a great match, it will likely come from someone who's inner awesomeness is attracted to your inner awesomeness. And then once you are “with” that person, sustaining the relationship in a harmonious way will require directing your attention back at yourself and doing your own “inner work" anyways!
By focusing your precious life force energy on your own internal alchemy--by directing your awareness towards cultivating love inside yourself--you will soon attract a partner whom you really desire.
But!...at that point you won’t need a partner because YOU will embody all the love you need. And this is where it gets good! Instead of needing each other and placing demands and expectations on each other, you will enrich each other’s lives, bring each other joy, authentically share experiences, and choose what you want to create together. Now that sounds like fun!
Girls growing up in Western society are immersed in a culture that does not recognize the importance of the threshold at which a girl becomes a woman. This transition is given the sterile label of “puberty” and is often discussed briefly in middle school health classes by mentioning anatomical changes, how to insert a tampon, and the emotional changes triggered by that dreaded onslaught of hormones. A girl is expected to navigate this confusing and tumultuous time in her life perhaps with brief counsel and hurried answers from Mom or adult friends, perhaps by exchanging hushed giggles with other girls at school, or perhaps completely in her own psycho-emotional world. Girls at this (most commonly) pre-teen stage of life often struggle with embarrassment, shame, anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts or tendencies. This is due to the lack of true understanding, respect and honoring that our society gives a girl becoming a woman.
Many cultures throughout the world have honored and continue to honor girls stepping into womanhood with festivities, rituals, and ceremonies involving either just other women or the entire community including men, children and elders. Sometimes these ceremonies last many days, as in the Navajo or Diné ritual that lasts four days. The girl completes special initiations, food is prepared and shared, blessings and prayers are offered, and she is welcomed as an adult woman into her community.
From my conversations with many other Western women about their experiences receiving their menstruation, common themes emerged: Instead of pausing normal daily activities to celebrate the birth of a new woman, usually her family and community rushed onward, making her feel as if her changes were insignificant. Instead of communicating openly and asking her about the changes she was experiencing, her family and community had little to say, and often the subject was altogether taboo. Instead of honoring her changing body, her family and community saw her body as “in that awkward phase,” and she often developed deep-seated body image impressions that were difficult to heal.
It is time to bring back the wisdom, knowledge and healing power of age-old rite-of-passage ceremonies to modern society. How do we do this? First, for a moment let us step out of our Western cultural frame of reference centered around various aspects of Self—money, career development, reductionist science, and power—and step into another frame of reference centered around Relationship—how to relate with the earth, the cosmos, and each other in a good way. From this perspective, we see that we must pause to honor and celebrate a girl as she receives the gift and power to create new life in her womb. She is transitioning out of the innocence and playfulness of her girlhood into the greater responsibility, interconnectedness with her community, and fulfillment of the creative potential of her womanhood. Even if she does not physically give birth to a child, a woman will use the power of her womb for many creative purposes: healing, artistic expression, leadership, teaching, and nourishing and sustaining her community in many ways such as preparing food, building and maintaining her home, caring for other children in the community and so on. Of course, without this New Woman, there will be no new life brought into the world.
Give yourself time to pause and feel into the true meaning and significance of this sacred passage. What does it feel like to you? We can then ask ourselves how we can help bring change to our own communities. Is there a girl in your life who is making her transition to womanhood, or will be soon? How will you be with her during her special time and what can you do to honor her?
For some inspiration, here are 7 Simple Ways to Honor a Girl-Becoming-Woman:
1) Share with her what your experience was when you received your moon (if you are a woman, of course!), the challenges as well as the gifts! What do you wish you would have known at her age? Share with her this wisdom.
2) Ask her how she is navigating these changes and what support she needs (even if she says she is fine and does not need anything, it will likely feel supportive to her to be asked!)
3) Get together one or more of your adult women friends. Light a candle next to a bowl of water, sing her a song, and offer your prayers and blessings for her life.
4) Present her with a special gift representing this sacred passage, such as a red necklace, bracelet, hair ribbon, medicine pouch, or other wearable item.
5) Do a craft project together: Create fabric menstrual pads (there are simple patterns online).
6) Share with her one simple thing you do to honor your own moontime, such as: Taking a candle-lit bath, setting aside time to draw or paint, resting more, offering your blood to a tree or the earth, writing down dreams and visions, gathering with other women…?
7) Set aside an entire day or weekend to spend with her in celebration. Prepare her favorite food together, go on a hike together, honor her connection with nature, read stories about womanhood ceremonies from other cultures…Be creative and have fun!
For a more in-depth honoring of a Girl-Becoming-Woman, you can create a Womanhood Ceremony with guidance and inspiration from other cultures (contact me!).
In Gratitude for My Womanhood,