Getting In Control Of Control

Our guts play a pivotal role in many of our automatic behaviors. Visceral reflexes not only control our internal processes such as breathing and digestion, but are also involved in our deepest protective response: our startle or freeze response. These reflexes are the earliest form of cognition, which we share in some manner with all living things. Visceral cognition monitors the status of the internal and external environment and responds with solutions to bring us back to long term internal balance. Visceral cognition can be thought of as the sentinel of self regulation, always vigilant and controlling moment by moment our internal balancing mechanisms. A good analogy for this type of cognition is steering a ship. The Helmsman is continually in control, watching the wind and waves in relation to the direction he wishes to steer in and constantly making small changes to the orientation of the rudder. In our bodies, the steering is primarily done hormonally, with visceral reflexes and tactile (pressure) sensing.
~
A freeze response can be related to control in that a stimulus, most likely an externally preceived threat, causes our visceral cognition to increase control to 100%. The freeze response completely takes control of visceral functions, stopping all normal activity. Using our Helmsman analogy, the rudder is pushed all of the way over and held there, as if trying to prevent a  shipwreck. Once you have navigated past the threat, you settle back down to just steering the ship, or normal visceral functions. It is common to actually feel your guts freeze up, and breathing stop, when you find yourself in a situation such as steering a boat away from nearby rocks you have just noticed, or when jamming on the brakes to avoid a car wreck.
~
Because the freeze state compromises normal visceral functions such as breathing and digestion it effective only with transitory threats. For most organisms this is fine as threats that are not transitory are usually fatal – the environment is unfit for the organism. When our freeze response is chronically activated it is another story. Because our protective responses have evolved far beyond the limitations of freeze, we can still function when freeze is chronically activated. However, our visceral functions are compromised, which over time will lead to degenerative conditions and eventually death. The viscera cognitively press on the freeze response to relinquish control so that it can “take care of business”. Somewhat ironically, how we experience this pressure is as a feeling of being out of control, that to survive we need to get more in control and somehow manage our situation better, whatever that situation is. These feelings can actually feed back into and reinforce the freeze response, locking the person into what can become a destructive cycle. We often experience this as the feeling of needing to get more in control of our situation, and we all know people who seem impulsively controlling of their surroundings. What they are experiencing is much more closely linked to a chronically triggered freeze response than to any of the things going on around them upon which they have fixated.
~
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) are examples of behaviors driven by chronically activated freeze responses. They are found to be extremely challenging to treat when approached from the perspective of the behavior. The behavior is a secondary aspect of the disorder, although it can be extremely self destructive as in Anorexia Nervosa. The primary aspect is the visceral functions pressuring the freeze respond to relinquish control so that visceral functions can take care of basic survival business, such as breathing. The OCD behavior is higher level cognitive response to the pressure emanating from the viscera. In essence the viscera is saying “Do something!”, and our higher cognition does something, like compulsively biting our fingernails. People with OCD often report that they feel that if they don’t do the behavior that they won’t survive, and are therefore compelled into their obsession. Momentarily, the behavior disrupts the freeze response relinquishing control of visceral functions, and lessening the feeling of dying. Once the freeze response is re-triggered, visceral functions are again compromised and before long the obsession returns, in a seemingly incomprehensible, never ending cycle. The way out of this cycle is to raise the threshold for firing of the freeze response. When this occurs, OCD symptoms dissipate without ever dealing with the behavior. People suffering from OCD are usually profoundly relieved to discover that the guilt and shame that they commonly feel about their behavior is misplaced and that the behavior is an expression of their core survival instincts, and not some self destructive tendency.
~
Addictions:
Smoking and other addictions include the mechanism described above with the added aspect that the viscera has become acclimatized to the addictive compound. When the compound is withheld, the viscera become dysregulated, and initiate the same type of command, in essence telling the higher cognitive functions, “Get me some of that stuff, or I will die!”. This in combination with the compulsive quality of the addictive behaviors generates a powerful impulse to perpetuate the behavior. Raising the freeze trigger threshold, in combination with gradually limiting the addictive compound, is very effective for breaking free of an addictive behavior. For both OCD and addiction, talk therapy may be required to orient our conscious intentions and will in line with self care.
~
Solution:
Working with the visceral reflexes is extremely effective at re-calibrating dysregulated control patterns. There are many effective protocols used, but the one I recommend originated with Dr. Masgutova and is called Fear Paralysis. It can be found in her manual in the Moro section.
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.