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The Nervous System & Core Wounds: An Exploration & Journal Exercise

Thursday, March 28th 2024 10:00am 9 min read
Dr. Jessica Renfer drjessica.nd

Licensed naturopathic doctor with expertise in lifestyle transformation, healing from chronic disease and natural fertility & preconception.

In the process of healing, we inevitably come up against that which has wired our nervous system to maintain its alert, fight or flight mode. In this article I will present several lists to reference if you are at one of these very valuable junctions of unwinding and down regulating your nervous system. Ultimately, we will at some point start to bump up against what we might refer to as core wounds. These are disempowering beliefs about self that serve as an undercurrent for what might be viewed as unhealthy patterns in relationship with self and others. Some are a result of personal life experiences, and sometimes they are simply inherited from family members or friends or even from culture and society as a whole.

Before we start, I always begin with a gentle nudge to adopt a mindset of compassion, neutrality and curiosity rather than “I need to figure out what’s wrong with me” out of a fearful or judgemental mindset. Note that for most fear and judgment will come up in the process, hence why things get stuck in our system, however allow an overarching theme of genuine exploration of self to keep it from getting too dark or heavy. For as most who have been on this healing journey will tell you, at some point there is an acceptance that every aspect of our journey–the hard parts, the blessings, the sticky bits and shadows, all ultimately serve a self empowering, self loving, authenticity blossoming purpose.

I also want to emphasize that the goal is not to feel calm and relaxed all the time, rather it’s an awareness of if and when we are “stuck” in fight or flight, as well as if we are thrown off into the deep end and feel like we might drown every time we get emotionally triggered. The ocean and water analogies always seem the best, and so consider one’s comfort in riding the waves AND if we are able to notice when the seas are calm and take the opportunity for stillness when it presents itself.

First, Are you Safe Now?

Before diving into the past we need to assess our present. So I invite you to make a list of that which is currently stressing you out, and begin to discern between that which is genuinely a threat to our sense of wellbeing, and that which may be more in the category of anxieties and fears. The latter we will explore later as those give clues to those core wounds.  Take note of these questions, and again none of these are judgments, just all little pieces that may or may not move the stress dial up.

  1. How is your home? Do you feel comfortable and safe in your neighborhood? How is the level of clutter? Do you have access to nature?
    • a. Next ask yourself, is there a genuine safety issue or is it more that you have trouble feeling safe?
  2. How are your relationships? Do you feel safe to express your needs? Do you have any relationships in your life that feel “egg-shelly”.
    • Next ask yourself, is there abuse happening? Versus is there an element of emotional processing that can feel stressful at times but ultimately the relationship is supportive? Perhaps you may not know, and limbo or wondering can actually be one of the more stressful states to be in.
    • Again, assess if it is possible in your current relationship to come to a place of feeling safe.
  3. Do you have children? What ages and how much support do you have?
    • While a huge blessing, children are a lot of work time wise, physically and emotionally, so I always count this in as part of the picture. Considering age too, when our children are little we really are on alert 24 hours a day in order to keep them safe.
    • The biggest question here more comes down to solo self care time and if your current parenting situation allows for this, sometimes it can be quite a challenge.
  4. Do you work? Do you like your job? Coworkers? Hours?
    • Let’s be honest that anyone who works full time is going to have imbalances in regards to self care and down time, especially if you have partners and children.
    • Again the question is, is your work meeting at least your most important needs, for instance providing enough income, aligned with values?
    • Is there toxicity in the workplace? Either in expectations or interpersonal dynamics?
  5. How is your financial situation? Do you feel stable and secure?
    • Here I like to talk about the difference between scarcity trauma and scarcity fears or mentality.
    • Note that what feels enough can vary greatly between individuals.
  6. How is your self care? Are you able to take time for yourself to exercise, meditate, rest?
  7. How is your physical health? Are you struggling with chronic pain or disease? Or someone in your house or family? Do you have fears around health, or longevity? Does the state of healthcare, environmental and food quality elicit fear or anxiety in regards to your own health or others.
    • Again let’s see if we can categorize that which stresses us into immediate threats/experiences versus future worries/scenarios.
  8. How does that state of the world affect you?
    • Do you watch the news? Where are you in the conspiracy rabbithole?

Take a moment and assess. Are there any stressors that came up in the previous list that may actually be more in the line of fears and anxieties? Here we can decide, is there work to do in our present situation to enhance our ability to sink into parasympathetic nervous system mode? This is always always first! If there isn’t space for self care and self regulation we are not resourced enough to begin the journey of unwinding core wounds!
From my own personal experience if I am swimming in a sea of triggers and emotions, if I am fatigued and haven’t had time in those things that rejuvenate me I don’t have enough ground or stability to even get clear on what is real, what is trigger, what is core wound, etc etc. So I always go back to those practices that  remind me of who I am, of my inner strength and inner knowing that I am the captain of my own ship. For me, solo time in nature, self care practices and rituals, playing and composing music are some of my top tools.

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