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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Castro

Understanding Your Unconscious Patterns

Growing up in an unstable environment creates anxiety. When your primary caregiver is unpredictable and does not provide safety the belief “I am not safe” becomes a deep rooted conscious and unconscious, pre verbal, primal feeling. Any subsequent reinforcement experiences of trauma/chaos that occur as you grow and develop in conscious thought become reinforcing events making the cognition “I am not safe” stronger. These connect to physical/sensory patterns that activate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Any pre-existing neurocognitive patterns of behavior (for example genetic patterns such as impulsivity or emotional dysregulation that have been inherited) are also activated by subsequent unpredictable experiences (this is how trans generational and inter generational patterns of trauma are passed down).

The result can become a strong response of fear and activation to stimuli as the individual is already in a heightened state of nervous system response.

The solution is identifying the negative cognition and sources of activation, along with physical, emotional, and mental responses. Practicing mindfulness, healthy self soothing/healing activities, and conscious adaptive replacement thoughts and patterns when the negative cognition is activated are also helpful.

These can include:

  1. Check the facts- am I actually physically safe right now? If not- change the environment so you are safe.

  2. Set boundaries as needed to maintain a safe and healthy environment.

  3. Eliminate threats to your peace that you can control. Accept that you cannot control other people and sometimes unpredictable events will occur.

  4. Do not catastrophize upsetting events.

  5. Observe yourself and your thoughts and behavior from a logical perspective by taking a step back to understand what is really happening instead of staying immersed in your activated neurocognitive network. (Wise mind).

  6. You are now your primary caregiver. Provide yourself the safety you deserve.

  7. Remind yourself that your feelings are valid but they are not necessarily rooted in the present experience.

  8. Accept that this is an ongoing project and some parts of it can and will take time.

  9. When your environment is inherently safe - and your memory networks are activated - deactivate them by placing yourself in a healthy, sensory soothing environment.

  10. Eat well, hydrate, shower, rest/sleep, prioritize your immediate physical wellness and environment, and engage in calming activities specific to you.

  11. Manage your external environment through clear communication with others (I would like this, etc)- keeping your environment clear of activation.

  12. Practice replacement thoughts by reminding yourself “I am safe now” and “I can keep myself safe”.

  13. Reinforce replacement thoughts with physical actions that support muscle memory release of tension - conscious movement, massage, stretching, unclenching of muscles, change of posture.

  14. Identify additional negative cognitions that overlay the belief “I am not safe”. These are often thoughts that occur repeatedly such as “it’s my fault”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not lovable”, “I’m a bad person”, “I can’t trust anyone else”, “I’m a failure”, “I’m different/weird”, etc.

  15. Repeat.

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