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3 Core Emotional Foundations & Choosing a Path

As you proceed on your path of emotional awareness and personal growth it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and training available to you.  There are so many systems, skill sets, books, and trainers / teachers; each with a unique and helpful perspective and way into transformation. You may struggle to know where to begin and how to choose a path and commit to it.


Keeping the core foundations in mind can greatly support you in discernment.  In the complicated and rich milieu of all the healing and personal work you do,  you can pull out these three core emotional foundations:

 

1) Safety:  an ability to experience safety when you are safe and to identify danger when it is present


2)  Worth:   a grounded connection to your own inviolable and innate goodness


3)  Presence:   an ability to compassionately observe with curiosity any experience you have


Safety

The ability to notice safety and correctly identify danger, may seem a bit basic.   Unfortunately though, if you have any history of trauma this basic ability may not be present to one degree or another.  


When this emotional foundation is in place,  you are able to be present for more subtle aspects of experience and access joy, learning, and intimacy with life. When this emotional foundation is not in place,  your attention is used for vigilance. Vigilance takes a lot of your attention to scan for threat depriving you of access to certain experiences. Fortunately healing work with trauma has come a long way in the last few decades and there is effective help for relaxing vigilance and integrating a felt sense of safety.*


Worth

The basic confidence that you are worthy, that your goodness is not something that comes and goes,  sets you up for a sense of emotional security in relationship to your own experience and with others.  This is something much more core than self confidence.


In the ideal world, a baby downloads this basic sense of "I am good,"  "I am worthy of love," through kind eye gazing, responsive and gentle care for their basic needs, and emotional responsiveness.  This mainly occurs through the human attachment system. Thus a secure and responsive emotional bond is a key to this basic sense of worth and innate goodness.  


As an adult, engaging in consistently loving caring long-term relationships helps with healing .   Attachment therapy is also key here. Lastly, with consistent concentration and insight practices in meditation,  the heartbodymind can become still and clear enough to recognize what is always there. For most, it is a combination of these three that anchors a sense of innate goodness.


Presence

It's very difficult to engage transformation work when you don't trust that you can be compassionately present for your own experience.  Much of individual therapy is primarily helping with this piece. The therapist is providing enough compassionate support for you to risk turning toward your experience.   Mistrust of an ability to be with any particular experience is well founded. It's all too likely that you grew with caregivers who were struggling with life and didn't have the resources or ability to model and teach emotional regulation and a compassionate relationship to experience.


Learning to be present for your own experience with compassion arises from the first two core emotional foundations along with:

  • The presence of others (therapists, teachers, friends, family) who meet your experience with compassion and equanimity and model the same

  • Your own practice of taking the larger perspective of how we all struggle and have difficult experiences - shared humanity

  • Cultivating a stable mind through meditation practice

  • Explicit practice and engagement with emotional regulation strategies.**


The good news is that all of these foundations can be cultivated and stabilized.  While echos of reactivity may go on indefinitely, you can stabilize in these three foundations and find ever new layers of joy and fulfillment in life.


Practice

Take a moment to reflect on these three core emotional foundations in your own life.  In which do you have a sense of stability? Are there situations in which you lose access to one of these?  If so, what would support look like for those situations?



*Here are some resources for trauma work:

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; text-decoration-line: underline; text-decoration-skip-ink: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">http://www.emdr.com/

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; text-decoration-line: underline; text-decoration-skip-ink: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">http://besselvanderkolk.net/index.html

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; text-decoration-line: underline; text-decoration-skip-ink: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">http://somaticinstitute.com/


**Handout on emotional regulation strategies:  span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; text-decoration-line: underline; text-decoration-skip-ink: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/resources.html

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2 Responses

  1. Mar 29, 2018
    Lake

    Thank you LaShelle. This arrived in my mailbox right when I needed it.

    Lake

  2. Mar 29, 2018

    Very glad to hear it Lake. Your welcome :)

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