Chp 4

Sasiprapha, in seductive guise
"My! It’s been a good day," I’m thinking, as a sudden noise startles me.

‘Hello!’ Says a beaming Sasi, holding her gaze so long that I emit a short laugh.

‘What?’ I ask as she continues to look at me with curious expression.

‘I’m not sure - you look different somehow.’

‘Really! - Try to describe it darling,’ I ask, and Sasi ponders a moment longer.

‘Your face is more relaxed and you look ten years younger,’ she tells me and I smile with a pleading look for more.

‘Don’t push your luck buddy,’ she retorts. After a kiss and some gentle petting Sasi pulls away, giving me a concerned stare.

‘Seriously though, what’s happened today? - Is there another woman?’

‘No darling I just ate to much last night,’ I tell her describing my experience in the morning, how polyvagal ideas have started to gel with a sense of innate affects, their stimulated nervous system activity and associated emotions.

‘Because you ate to much?’

‘It’s about how you maintain your organism,’ I tell her, with a wink.

‘Don’t be condescending to me, not the orgasm joke again, please!’

‘Pity, it’s a good way to illustrate the theory,’ I say, explaining how the triune brain/nervous system is involved in the mating game. There are generally three brain/nervous system responses to the environment, immobilization, mobilization and social inter-regulation.

‘Social inter-regulation?’ Sasi asks, wrinkling her nose.

‘Yes, we literally help regulate each others body states, by triggering innate affects/emotions with touch, limb movements, voice and eye contact, like the way a smile affects our immune system,’ I tell her, while caressing her arm to illustrate the idea of affect.

‘Don’t stop!’ Sasi whispers as I take my hand away, ‘So we do maintain each others organism?’ She says with a sly wink.

‘Yep! Like the heightened interest - excitement you’ve triggered in me, as you signal your open to persuasion, and sparking my arousal.’

‘I am open to persuasion, east or west, where’s the best for romancing,’ Sasi bursts into her favorite Joan Armatrading song, waltzing me across the floor. After a few steps and twirls we fall onto the sofa with riotous laughter and mock kisses, sensations of arousal and endearment fuse an affective state of heightened mutual pleasure, sparked in part by the select neurons which are the innate affect called enjoyment - joy. As our laughter subsides, prolonged eye gazing ensures a passionate bond. They say the brain is the biggest sex organ, an intuitive insight from long before we understood how the brain mediates sexual function through all three of its evolutionary layers, by innervating our triune nervous system.

Later, as I try to re-focus my intention towards writing, Sasi wants to know how I can illustrate Polyvagal and Affect Theory in terms of our romantic coupling.

‘Well, in the mating game we use social inter-regulation to trigger mutual excitement and send signals that it’s safe to engage in this most vulnerable act, allowing sexual arousal to occur via the parasympathetic nervous system.’

‘Social inter-regulation is the newest branch of this animal nervous system thingy, and works through the higher layers of the brain, yes?’ Sasi asks.

‘I think so, although it’s not about just one layer, one branch at one instant in time, there is systemic interaction in all three areas of the brain/nervous system,’ I explain, ‘the sensation of sexual arousal is in large part a parasympathetic immobilization activity involving the lower layer of the brain and the lower branch of the ANS.’

‘Parasympathetic immobilization activity?’ Sasi says, wrinkling her nose again.

‘Your muscles relax, your heartbeat slows, all sorts of nice chemicals are released, and you surrender, darling!’

‘So that’s arousal, huh!’ Sasi whispers; fluttering her eyelashes.

‘Yes, but the climax darling! The climax is sympathetic mobilization activity, and that steady build up of arousal towards climax, brings the two branches of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity into reciprocal action, resetting the nervous system like no other physical action,’ I explain.

‘Is that the afterglow then? That sensation of bliss?’ She asks.

‘Well, the reciprocal action of the two branches allows for a nervous system rebalancing, perhaps even a re-set, so we get to feel a nervous system in its calm state, the one that nature intended,’ I explain, ‘the key thing though is the perception of safety at the level of brain neurons and nervous system activity; something Porges calls ‘neuroception,’ so for sexual arousal and climax to function well, a sense of safety is paramount.’

‘Cos, if a big saber tooth tiger wanted us both for lunch, that would have been an ideal time to pounce, yes?’ Sasi says growling like she’s a lioness. After pausing for a second, she asks, ‘so you’re saying that the wonderful afterglow of sex, that feeling of bliss, is actually a deep feeling of security.’

‘Between committed lovers yes! It’s the sensation of Bowlby’s secure base, the newborn child held close with skin contact and mum’s heartbeat evoking a deeply felt sense of security, I tell her, ‘it’s all those warm wonderful feelings you get when you meet that special someone, that you and me against the world feeling.’ Sasi looks at me with one eye half closed, unsure if she believes me.

‘So feeling self secure is about a well balanced nervous system - is that what your saying?’ She asks.

‘You’re living, breathing, walking proof darling!’ - ‘And resetting their nervous system is why men crave orgasm, more than women do - we’re wired different’ I say, with raised eyebrows.

‘Dam! I thought it was about love,’ Sasi retorts.

‘No! Its need darling, if we‘re really honest with each other.’

‘If you say so darling, if you say so! - Anyway, how can neurons have perception, they’re just cells inside the body,’ she tells me.

Feeling a pressure to prove myself, I issue Sasi with a challenge, if she wants to meet her own neuroception, her cellular self. I challenge her to spend three days isolated somewhere, no contact with others, no TV or radio, with just a pen and paper for company. I explain that she’s so thoroughly immersed in the social inter-regulation of her nervous state, asking her to be conscious of it, is like asking a fish about water.

‘I’ve been on plenty of meditation retreats,’ Sasi declares.

‘I’m talking about being completely alone for 72 hours darling, when have you been alone for more than an hour or so?’ I reply.

‘I don‘t know, never I guess.’

‘I guarantee things will be going bump in the night, before to long,’ I tease.

‘I’ll think about it,’ Sasi tells me, suddenly moving of towards the kitchen. Hmm! I didn’t get to explain parasympathetic mediated digestion and the dorsal state, I say to myself.

I sit for a while, pondering innate affects and the triune brain/nervous system. How do I interpret this into practical self help, are there three definable modes of human behavior based on innate affects and a tri-part neuron/nerve system, like three different operating systems to use computer metaphor. I balk at the computer metaphor idea; it’s too much like separate clockwork parts to describe the organic electrochemical activity of the brain with its mushroom like texture. And how do I convey metabolism, how the brain/body converts oxygen, food and water nutrients into metabolic energy, largely delivered by the blood stream. How do I explain that when innate affects are triggered they stimulate a whole body response, which is a nervous system mediated change in metabolized energy, what the neurologists call an ‘affective state.’ We are born with certain innate affect responses to help us survive just like all other animals with our very first response to life an innate affect, the birth cry stimulated by feedback triggered innate distress. Innate affects are the flints that spark our complex emotions, based on individual experience, and early innate affect experiences literally sculpt the architecture of the neural networks and systems of the brain, setting up the predominant autonomic nervous system neuroception.

I think the three modes of response (behavior) are: The (DVC) dorsal vagal complex, which is the oldest reptilian system of our ANS, and it has a neuroceptive view of survival based on conserving metabolic energy, with passive avoidance and hibernation type behaviors, and the freeze response to threat or novelty in the environment. The (SNS) sympathetic nervous system is the mammalian system of our ANS, and it has a neuroceptive view of survival based on active engagement or avoidance, fight/flight adrenal type actions, including a massive mobilization of metabolic energy for aggressive response. The (VVC) ventral vagal complex or social engagement system is the newest of our ANS, and it has a neuroceptive view of survival based on social security, the support and protection offered by others of our kind, it involves the rapid modulation of the nervous system without engaging the older systems of fight/flight or fright/freeze energy states, there is a sophisticated modulation of nervous energy, allowing secure social interaction and the all important health and vitality affects of emotions like elation.

The evolution of this third branch of the autonomic nervous system, based largely on the two hundred muscles of the head and face is primarily a mammalian signaling system. A mammalian signaling system that has had the added benefit in humans of creating metabolic energy states like elation. Highly positive energy states that enhance wellbeing and growth, contributing to the growth of the frontal cortex in the human brain. These highly desirable vitality affects of social inter-regulation are dependant on the neuroception of security, when we do not feel secure; our older nervous system defenses automatically activate. The emergency responses of the two older systems are metabolically costly, flight/fight behavior demands high energy, and so does the contraction of muscles in the fright/freeze behavioral responses.

Our felt sense of security occurs at a neuroceptive level, well below the threshold of conscious awareness, feedback signals from habitual muscle tensions throughout the body can cause a sense of threat from within. When interacting with others, subliminal signals about our internal state are transmitted by posture, body and eye movements at neuroceptive speeds to fast to comprehend, with thoughts catching up as a rationalization of what just happened. If we hold an insecure state at this neuroceptive level, it will be transmitted to others, creating a perceptive and unconscious defensive reaction in them, something will feel off. In this way our unconscious state becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, as unconscious activity in the ANS begets a defensive reaction from others confirming our neuroceptive view of a dangerous environment. Without awareness of these nervous system modes of behavior, we can be stuck in unconscious over reactivity from a very early age. Foundational events can establish the older nervous system responses as the predominant reaction to life experience, if the organism’s instinctive defense of its survival is never adequately soothed to an unconscious neuroceptive state of security.

* * *

‘Oh no! You’ve gone off again.’

‘What!’ I ask.

‘You’ve got that wrinkly old man look,’ Sasi says, glancing at the photo of Einstein.

‘Well! Like him, I’m exercising my frontal lobes, darling!’

‘I don’t know what that’s doing for your health, but your forehead’s not looking too good,’ she tells me, affecting me to fits of laughter.

‘You’re priceless,’ I say, which brings a lively 360 degree spin with her lovely legs fully exposed by a swirling skirt.

‘Worth 20 million a kilo?’ She adds, beaming down at me.

‘Wow! I’m sure that’s why Selfridge was so perplexed by ‘unobtainium’ darling, no lifeless object could affect me the way you do,’ I say, returning my lovers beaming smile.

‘Dancing tonight?’ She asks, arching her eyebrows for heightened affect.

‘Oh yeah!

* * *

As the following days turn into weeks I continue to work on deepening my insight into these three nervous system modes in my own behavior. I continue with the daily deep breathing routine, coupled with muscular feedback exercises, slowly finding improvements in awareness of my autonomic nervous system states in any given moment, I think?. Using the example of Hakomi’s “How do You, do YOU,” I’ve adopted the mantra of ‘how am I doing me,’ constantly reminding myself to be aware of my current ‘affective state,’ feeling for muscle tensions and movement impulses towards or away from engagement, and the state of my energy level.

Sasi was delighted when I suggested increasing our social contacts to compensate for my isolation, and now we’re dancing four times a week. Ceroc is a very close, intimate partner dance that I’ve had difficulty getting used too, often making excuses to sit out the more advanced second lesson on many nights; I was frightened by the sexier, closer moves, fearing they might trigger my shame reaction. Now I’m challenging myself to fully participate each time we go, using the new awareness of my habitual nervous system reactions, to avoid the gaze aversions I‘ve been guilty of. While dancing with relative strangers, I consciously tilt my head up slightly, allowing a fuller breath and helping relax unwanted muscle tensions, and I diffuse my stare with more lateral focusing of my eyes. I keep in mind my old unconscious expectation of a shaming look from others, and I relax my facial muscles, easing the habitual storm of thoughts that have helped bring on the dreaded shame reaction in the past. I’m developing a stronger sense of how my preoccupied mind has caused facial muscle tension, signaling that ‘something off’ sensation in others. I’m starting to understand how my nervous system can set up a negative reaction in others, confirming its neuroceptive expectation of a dangerous world, and justifying its predominant (DVC) immobilization mode, despite my conscious desire to participate.

Three months has passed and I still find myself doing more reading and self awareness practice than writing, a state of affairs that draws the ire of my lover from time to time.

‘You’re not getting anymore than a year, buddy! - So start with the serious writing already,’ she gently reminds me, followed up two days later with; ‘Are you writing a book or indulging yourself in a personal therapy? - This is not a health spa you know!’

* * *

Her admonishing comments affect me to despair at times, I swear I can feel those brain neurons of the (DVC) withdrawal system orienting my body towards hibernation, and I struggle to resist going off for a nap or just sitting and staring into space. Today I’m sketching out ideas on how to describe innate affects and the three nervous system modes of behavior. Metaphors like the motor car come to mind, with heart rate driven metabolic energy being the engine, and the dorsal (DVC) activity being the gears for reversing in the world, with adrenal (SNS) activity the gears for going forwards in the world and social (VVC) activity, the special eye-tronic gears for navigating the human forest. Apparently attunement of our internal states is what we are doing with eye contact, matching each others affective state. I’m not sure a motor car metaphor fits with the vagal braking of the heart Porges describes though, or the electrochemical brain activity that stimulates it. I spend a week trying to write without using object type metaphors, finding it beyond my limited and very object oriented intellect. How do I describe these systems of electrochemical activity, which have more in common with the chaos theory of weather patterns, than the separate parts of some elaborate clockwork interaction? In the systemic inter-regulation between people you just can’t say what affects what using the old linear cause and effect model. Just like Galileo, Newton or Einstein, someone needs to have a simple idea that makes it obvious to the rest of us, then there can be a paradigm shift in our object oriented perception.

Dorsal, adrenal and social, seem to describe the three nervous system modes of behavior best, I’m thinking now. How do innate affects determine which mode is the active one though, I wonder and am I using a clockwork model in my imaginations. Thoughts about my birth experience and early childhood come to mind, innate terror affect was the birth experience, while circumstantial neglect brought a high density of distress affect, further conditioned by my family’s daily use of distress in the form of worrisome concern. Innate distress, diluted to concerned thoughts was the predominant emotional transaction between our family members, the ‘family affect.’ Shame is the third of the innate affects that activate my predominantly dorsal mode of behavior, unconscious terror, distress and shame are the three innate affects, as groups of neurons firing in the brain which spark my emotional complex, if that Jungian term is accurate.

Are these the innate negative affects that activate my predominately (DVC) dorsal mode, like the sudden urge to withdraw I often get when socializing in a large group. Perhaps a mode that was never soothed or de-activated enough in early life. I seem to feel it most in the morning ritual, as I challenge myself to rise from bed and face the day, slipping into adrenal mode to fight my own inertia. I see now the swings between aggressive (adrenal) and passive (dorsal) interaction in my social relations; as I engage - withdraw - engage - withdraw. The ubiquitous use of daydreaming reveries to muster my metabolic energies by increasing the temperature and blood flow in my brain, never secure enough to elicit this need through the inter-regulating affects of others. Except for intimate’s like Sasi of coarse, I use music mostly to generate external affects and I’m feeling it rouse my energies right now as I type these words on the laptop.


During my daily walk I have the idea that innate affects are like spectacles, like the way we see the world through rose colored glasses when we’re in love, our outlook colored by the innate affect of joy. I can see myself walking towards the dance floor, feeling those three foundational innate affects color this scene with danger. My dorsal behavior mode of immobilization is unconsciously active here and at war with my conscious intent, my muscles are tending towards freeze as my mind is urging enjoyment, is that neuroception? I say to myself.

I remember Allan Schore’s description of postnatal care and the influence of affective states on brain tissue growth, and the formation of neural networks. Early events like the experience of birth, as we transit from an overwhelmingly organic state, into a stark, largely object oriented world, with some of us we even referring to the new born as an ‘it.’ What innate affects are triggered in newborns by the early events of life, and how does a life unfold if those early events are predominately negative. (NERVOUS MOTIVATION)
‘Cells that fire together, wire together’ is a famous neurology phrase that describes how the brain builds neuronal connections, networks and systems. During its postnatal maturation the brain requires energy in the form of oxygen and nutrients for neuronal network growth. Event triggered innate affects stimulate states of metabolic energy flow, providing the oxygen rich and nutrient loaded blood the brain needs to grow its neural synaptic connections into networks. And like a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon, chaos theory hints that early experience affected cell firings, have a huge influence on the architecture of these growing neural networks and brain systems. Which innate affects have fired most often in early experience establishes patterns of switching between autonomic nervous system modes, from DVC to SNS to VVC. The density of experiences with positive or negative affects, establishes which nervous system mode is the predominately active one.

Negative innate affects like terror, distress and startle, which may be triggered to fire to often in early experience, perhaps by birth trauma and poor postnatal care, influence emotive energy states, which is the way we metabolize energy for the brain. Such early negative experiences restrict the growth of neuronal connectivity, resulting in long term problems in the higher brain’s neural regulation of affective experience. Early experience of positive innate affects, like excitement, interest and joy promote energy states that increase neuronal connectivity and the propagation of networks over all areas of the brain.
As I type these words I’m listening to Jimmy Hendrix‘s, “purple haze” and “all along the watchtower”, feeling the emotional buzz, the energy of oxygenated nutrient rich blood flowing in my brain and my nervous system is affected to a predominately (VVC) social engagement mode, in such an affective state I feel the urge to be with people. When Sasi gets home she will bounce in with her usual vivacious energy, enabled by all her early experiences of positive innate affect, which have become her unconscious expectation of a positive affective state, mediated by her predominately active (VVC) nervous system mode.

Thinking about these three modes of nervous motivation I write some ideas down about innate affects and early life events, trying to do some serious writing as Sasi suggested.
Early innate affect experiences build neuronal networks that expand to emotional and autonomic nervous system motivated behavior, which become our neuroceptive adjustment to life. Broadly speaking they stimulate our unconscious approach or avoidance behaviors like all other mammals, except for our unique socially affected emotional states. Emotive energy states like elation, our heightened expression of joy, which are largely responsible for our unique intuitive imagination, provide the energy for heightened electrochemical activity in the brain, and those neuronal based synaptic connections we call ideas.

* * *

‘Mum’s sick and I want to go spend some time with her,’ Sasi told me this evening, turning down my offer to go along with a flat, ‘No!’

‘Leaving me alone darling?’

‘You can do that isolation thingy, you have plenty of pens and paper to keep you company,’

‘You mean the challenge that you can’t take?’ I tell her backside as she does her usual, disappearing, end of conversation trick. Despite our increased socializing and my imagined increased awareness of both our needs, tension about writing this book bubbles just below the surface and I wonder about my own dominance needs, am I taking advantage of Sasi? Is this project pure self indulgence? Is the battle of the sexes an innate urge to dominate, an emotional echo of the instinctual eat or be eaten law of survival? Where did that come from? I ask myself. Why did I snipe at her? Why does she always walk away leaving so much unsaid? Schore’s “Affect Regulation” comes to into my mind, Sasi is frustrated, hurt and angry, she walks away to help her regulate the emotions sparked by innate affects. My snipping remark about her not taking my silly challenge is a regulation of my own negative emotions sparked by innate affect. A lower primate would be affected to physical movement while I modulate the energy into an emotive verbal outburst, the urge of physical movement constricted into an intonation of the voice.

* * *

Today Sasi is leaving me for a month, flying off to visit her wonderful mother and after our goodbyes at the airport I swear to myself that I’ll have this book near completion by the time she returns. I settle down to days of isolation, determined to resist any distractions from my chosen task switching to predominately ‘adrenal’ nervous system motivation, I think?. For days I push myself to focus on writing, using coffee and chocolate to boost my sugar levels and the energy flows to my brain. My daily jog is spent immersed in thought, returning home with no memory of where I’ve been. Five days pass with no contact from Sasi and I wonder about the wisdom of waiting for her contact, letting her have quality time with mum is how I rationalized that. Days of this adrenal mode, have brought good results on paper, although there seems to be a price to pay. Tonight as I practice my breathing routine, relaxation won’t seem to come, I can’t shift this pressure away from my head again, the blood circulation is all upstairs, I think. Almost all sensation awareness is centered on the top of my head, and I struggle to find the feedback of tense muscles that are maintaining this state. How are you doing YOU? I say to myself. I’m stuck in constant thinking, telling myself to breath and relax, trying to think body awareness instead of feeling it, find the muscle tensions, I tell myself.
I lay down on my stomach needing to get in touch with the sensations in my chest. As I feel that area around my heart, precious little movement seems to be happening, muscles are constricted, frozen in habituated tension and I’m suddenly aware of the knot in my stomach, a clenched jaw where teeth press hard against each other as my tongue presses against teeth and the bottom of my mouth. I also realize that I’ve been constipated for days now, another tell tale sign of my freeze defense is active, as optimal organ function is suppressed.

Dissociation is a well known symptom of post traumatic stress disorder and this is how I do my version of it. This is how I’ve lived inside my head for most of my life; my degree of mammalian escape when there is no escape. Terrorized into splitting off awareness of my bodily sensations, fearful of the dreaded shudder reaction. Pushed back onto my older nervous system defense modes, I’ve used the dorsal and adrenal modes almost exclusively, at times like this combining the hyperactivity of simultaneous mobilization and immobilization to produce a degree of dissociation. Thoughts have no pain receptors you see, not up here amongst the grey, up here his blows have no impact and his vile emotional venom is trapped down below in my stomach. This is how evolution prepares mammals for death, a massive surge of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity, producing an escape when there is no possibility of physical escape. Mine is not the full blown animal response of feigning death of coarse, yet by degrees it follows the same nervous system evolutionary path, one of our innate mammalian defenses adapted in humans to produce an affective state we call dissociation. This is the nervous system reaction responsible for out of body experiences, torture survival and other states of altered consciousness. This is what happens in therapy when someone is asked to recall a painful experience, and the mind goes blank, suddenly we can’t think.
I glance across at Allan Schore’s book, the smiling mother and child start me weeping for the lost connection with my own mother, her generational pain was passed onto me, her emotional distance an unspoken communication of how it was for her, some therapists call it re-enactment. Thoughts of loss, lack and the absence of her loving touch make me cry out in pain and I hammer the pillowcase, urged to force my fist through to the floor below our bed.

"Bugger!" I do hope they’re right about brain plasticity, that you can undo this autonomic nervous system stuff, at least now I can console myself with a why for it, though?. "Come on David! You adapted to traumatic events, you can adapt to the reality of here and now," I hear a much younger David say. Maybe I should get a dog again; spending time with a pet has its unconscious affect on the autonomic nervous system as we match the animal’s natural rhythms. Which reminds me of how the cat will spend hours on Sasi’s lap, yet won’t come near me - felines! The thoughts bring images of Sasi to mind as I unconsciously regulate my internal state with warm sensations of my lover, displacing the negative affects triggered by memories of my childhood and all the consequences that those early events set in train. I stare at the Buddha’s serene face for a second then collapse onto the mattress, telling myself to regulate my affects, let it go! I say out loud.
As the pressure of blood following through my brain subsides, I feel the relaxing of muscles in my chest, and spontaneously let go of the tension in my facial muscles, especially around the eyes, mouth and my tongue, which are the last waking movements I can remember.

Eleven hours later I wake feeling more refreshed than at any time since I first met Sasi. I should cry and punch the bed more often, I think, while bouncing into the bathroom. The thought of Sasi floods me with guilt for not calling her and I resolve to phone as soon as I dress.
‘Why haven’t you called?’ She yells at the first hello, and without pausing for breath she launches into complaints about being so stressed all she has done is talk and eat for five days.
‘It feels like that animal nervous thingy has gone crazy inside me, like I’m eating to stop myself from screaming,’ she tells me, and I suggest she is damping down her stress fired sympathetic nervous system, with counterbalancing parasympathetic nervous system mediated digestion, gobbledygook stuff she didn’t really appreciate.

‘I’m so sorry darling, I miss you like crazy,’ I say.

‘Then why didn’t you call me! - I told mum, I’ve been abandoned for a stupid book, at least another woman would make sense, but how do I scratch the eyes of a book.’

‘You’re priceless Sasi, worth way more than 20 million a kilo,’ I tell her.

‘Then you better write a really, really good book and buy me a rock as big as the one in the movie - buddy!’ She tells me, trailing down into a tone of voice that fills me with rapture.
The phone conversation leaves me with such warm, pervasive attachment feelings; I spend the rest of day fighting the urge to go jump on a plane. Memories of our time together, her spontaneous nature, the way pure innate joy seems to burst from her at the slightest provocation. It doesn’t just come with a smile, there’s a whole body reaction behind it, and her infectious nature is utterly irresistible; she is a contagious affect, a force of nature. On days like this I wonder what the hell I did to deserve her, I also wonder what affect my isolation is having on these fantasies.

* * *

In the following three weeks that Sasi was away I managed to write quiet a lot of material, with the aid of twice daily contact and her energy re-fueling affect. After the pillow pounding night, I found it easier to regulate my nervous system state, my conscious awareness of the active modes grew steadily. Each time I sat at my desk I was increasingly aware of a DVC immobilization urge, although less compelling than before. I would feel the desire to withdraw and the fuzzy head as SNS mobilization fought to impose my conscious will, while I wondered about a neuroception of vulnerability in this sitting position. I used music a lot to ease this state, allowing me to work without monitoring myself, although each time I felt pressed to find better descriptive explanations, I felt the old tensing of muscles and the rise of blood pressure at the top of my head. What changed and continues to change is the unconscious power of these states, as if I’m rising above them, these days noting the reactions they trigger, then letting them go. It’s like a Buddhist meditation of the nervous system, rather than the breath. I continued the deep breathing exercises though, with muscular tension awareness while contemplating a certain serene face, I even took to floating face up in the pool during lunch breaks, Sasi was amazed.

Every time I float face up in the pool, I get this flash back, a scene from another life, it’s my youngest son sliding down head first on his back into a swimming pool, still laughing as his eyes disappeared under the water. How can he do that? I remember thinking, he was only three at the time, our fourth and youngest child, his mum had become pretty comfortable with birth and child rearing by the time he’d come along. Was that reflected in his relaxed, fun and fearless play that day? I have to carefully sooth my nerves just to float on my back, aware that my habitual braced tension will bring on the dreaded sinking. Paradoxically though, I can‘t just sink into relaxation or sleep as I‘d like to, unlike Sasi whose relaxed natural body rhythms can see her asleep within moments of her head touching the pillow. My braced muscle tensions, my hyper vigilance has left me with differently organized metabolic resources I guess. A survival posture centered on the head, metabolized energy mustered there as constant alert, yet still needing the positive sensations of interest - excitement and enjoyment - joy, thank god for books, for affect stimulating daydreams, the vitality affects of music and for these days that are the haven of Sasi’s proximity, her ubiquitous innate joy encouraging the unguarded expression of my own.

Chp 5 >>

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