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  • Fe Robinson

Breaking state to snap out of a feeling

I was on a training course recently where there was amble opportunity to observe the power of break states. A break state is when we deliberately do something to change our experience, to make a difference to our emotional and physical state. Doing so interrupts the pattern we are running, and so changes what we perceive and what experience. In the context of the training, we were moving each other from a state of activation when distress had been triggered, back to a state of calm.

That’s a useful change, so how can it be done? The most simple way to lessen arousal is to look up. It sounds odd I know, like it would not be enough, but in itself it does make a significant difference. When you look up, you move attention away from the intensity of what is happening in your body and in your self-talk, and move your focus to the place where you will generally be making pictures and visualising things.

Next, you can re-engage your cognition, bringing more of yourself back online. When you become activated it’s hard to think, naturally, because your blood is being diverted away from your brain and into your major muscle groups to help you get ready to fight or run away. So how to re-engage? Imagine your mobile phone number written on the ceiling and recite the last three digits in reverse. Or see the alphabet and say it backwards. Or do your seven or nine times table in reverse. You want something that will be a little challenging, but not impossible.

These kinds of techniques will help bring you back into a balance where your heart rate and breathing slow, and you move back into a ventral vagal state of calm. From there, you can begin to ground yourself and reinhabit your body safely.

For help in learning how to manage your emotional and physical state, reach out to a psychotherapist who incorporates body or trauma work, or talk to an NLP Practitoner.


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