YOUR SOOTHING SYSTEM
Research reveals that most behavioral and emotional health issues are related to an overuse of the Threat and Drive systems. Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is based on the latest neuroscience. It provides practical skills to build the Soothing System and bring all three systems into balance.
THREE EMOTIONAL SYSTEMS
CREATING YOUR BALANCE
"Unfortunately, for many people, the Soothing System is often both hugely misunderstood and underutilized, or it is completely blocked."
Andreas Comninos, PhD
4 BENEFITS OF A BALANCED SYSTEM
JUST TO NAME A FEW
1PROCESS PAINFUL EMOTIONS
With a stronger Soothing System, we can access Self-Compassion and gratitude to process through painful and overwhelming emotions, such as anger, fear, pain, disappointment, sadness, and loneliness.
2NAVIGATE DISTURBING THOUGHTS
Navigate difficult thoughts, painful memories, fears, what if's, anxiety-based imagery, looping thoughts, and self-criticism.
Lead yourself through difficult situations, such as relationship distress, trauma, stress, failures, loss, disappointments and frustrating events.
4CALM, PRESENCE, CONNECTION
When parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are balanced, we tap into neurochemicals like oxytocin and endorphins that allow us to truly connect, in the present moment, with ourselves and others. In fact, we need access to this level of calm in order to truly feel connected with, loved and loving.
"When we practice self-compassion, we are actually moving our sense of safety from the Threat System to our own care-giving Soothing System. This awakens our own ability to ‘self-soothe’ which triggers the release of opiates and oxytocin, which generates feelings of safety and peace."
Andreas Comninos, PhD
UNDEVELOPED SOOTHING SYSTEM
WHAT CAUSES AN UNBALANCED SYSTEM?
UNDERDEVELOPED SOOTHING SYSTEM
Although essential for our survival, the Threat and Drive systems make us hold onto the pain of the past, get triggered by anxieties about the future, and berate ourselves in the present.
There is no peace at the level of these Threat and Drive systems unless their use is balanced with a third system: The Soothing System. The Soothing System activates calm, joy and connection, and deactivates the Sympathetic Nervous System.
CRITICAL INNER DIALOGUE
Self-criticism is both the cause and result of a underdeveloped Soothing System. A berating Inner Critic activates the Threat System, creating an excess of cortisol and stress hormones, an increase in anxiety, hostility, suspicion, distrust, and disconnection in your relationship with self and others.
LACK OF SELF-COMPASSION
Self-kindness and Self-compassion allow access to the Soothing System. However, due to negative memories, we can learn to associate kindness, closeness, and love with threat – not safeness. Thus, the mere act of self kindness, or standing up to Inner Critic, can trigger a Threat System response!
History of painful emotional and interpersonal experiences, insecure attachment styles, trauma, heartbreak, betrayal, and childhood experiences of shame, rejection, humiliation, bullying, parental issues, emotional neglect, lack of emotional health skills, hyper-critical parenting and more.
"Our ‘tricky’ brains can produce dozens of unwanted thoughts... we can hold onto the pain of the past, we can get triggered by unwanted anxieties about the future, and we can attack present unwanted emotions with our Inner Critics."
Andreas Comninos, PhD
DRIVE & THREAT LOOP
STRESS, RELATIONSHIP DISTRESS, FAILURE, SELF-CRITICISM
DETECTION AND PROTECTION
Keeps us alive, by scanning for and identifying threats. Fine-tuned over thousands and thousands of years, it detect threats immediately and reacts to ensure survival (FIGHT or FLIGHT). PTSD is an extreme version of an overactive Threat System.
Focused on survival, it interferes with our capacity to relax, connect with others, listen attentively, sleep, feel joy, content, love, trust, heal, rest and digest. It may result in self-medicating to numb anxiety and toxic stress. Can lead to shut-down in FREEZE mode.
Threat-based emotions (fear, anger, disgust, etc.), do not know the difference between a perceived or real threat. You may have a false belief that feels real in the moment, only to react irrationally within 100 milliseconds!
Our ability to imagine and ruminate, can keep the Threat System on-guard even in the absence of external threat. We feel the sting of negative memories, like being reprimanded much more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.
"LACK OF SELF-FORGIVENESS CAUSES ALMOST ALL OF OUR SELF-SABOTAGING BEHAVIOR."
Mark Victor Hansen
ACQUISITION AND ACHIEVEMENT
Powerfully motivating, it focuses our attention on pursuits. However, it can push us towards behaviors that cause harm to ourselves or others – leading to stress, perfectionism, burnout, depression.
This system motivates us towards our needs (food, water, connection, shelter, and comfort) and wants (achievement, success, money, status, social rank, etc.)
Highly influenced by Dopamine, the ‘reward chemical’ (produces rushes of pleasure). The Drive System urges us to 'get more,' eat more, achieve more, crave more, etc.
Can lead to substance addictions and compulsive behaviors: chasing and ruminating in unrequited love; obsessive behaviors over-working and substance-use disorders to flee feelings.
"You’ve been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens."
Louise L. Hay
SAFETY, CONNECTION, AND CALM
Like the Threat and Drive Systems, our Soothing System is hard-wired. It operates naturally when there are no threats to defend against. The issue nowadays is many are in an over-Drive with berating Inner Critics, or haven't healed from past pains, resulting in a constant Threat-response.
Thus, the Soothing System remains atrophied, while the Threat and Drive systems become over-built. Luckily with Self-Compassion practices you can quite literally build your Soothing System with neuroplasticity (ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization).
Unlike the Threat and Drive Systems that can over-activate us, the Soothing System is a more sustainable fuel source. It is associated with self-actualization, balanced focus, long-term goal attainment, and peaceful states – feeling safe, calm, and content.
LOVE AND AFFECTION
This system taps into neurochemicals oxytocin, endorphins, and other opiates. It allows us to truly connect with ourselves and others, giving/receiving affection, care, acceptance, kindness, encouragement, support and affiliation.
SELF-LOVE AND HEALING
The Soothing System is associated with action-oriented self-care, self-compassion. It provides anxiety relief, a balance to the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, and detox from the stress chemicals involved in Threat and Drive Systems.