Our ‘Defenses’ – whether in thoughts, feelings, or active words and behaviors – can be adaptive or maladaptive. When they create enough time and space to pace effectively facing the situation, then those defenses may be considered adaptive. They become a transition to “Emotional Regulation.” However, when the defenses serve only to stay away from, rather than grow through the situation; and/or when they damage the self in mind, body, or soul, those behaviors can be considered maladaptive.
“Emotional Regulation,” on the other hand, is a turning towards, a taking care of ourselves so we have access to using the whole of ourselves to clearly see, hear, and understand our situation – and how to best support ourselves in the growing forward.
The Emotional Regulation’s “rest and digest” mechanisms and structures in our bodies already exist. It’s a matter of practicing the steps to access them. Such as the classic power-tool of taking a “coherent” belly breath with the exhale through pursed lips being twice as long as the inhale through the nostrils. But how do we get ourselves to do that?
One way to enable you to slow your system down enough to prevent a negative automatic-reaction, and to instead take a coherent breath is to start creating practice moments: At pre-set times and/or with pre-existing habits (i.e. when about to brush teeth, open a door, etc.) pause, be curious, and notice what thought you are in the middle of and how your body is behaving, outside and in. How are your limbs/shoulders/stance/face-muscles, etc. placing themselves? and what are the sensations you are experiencing inside throughout your body?
Creating this integrated relationship within you is key for the “Emotional Regulation” to do its work of taking care of you. It’s what you – what each of us – needs to thrive.
The gifted mind, and for some, the gifted body, work so speed-of-light fast, that defenses explode in response to even the slightest sense of ‘danger’ before the person’s whole mind, body, and soul even have a chance to access what’s appropriate. These systems respond instantaneously as if everything is an emergency.
Key for those of us with these default settings is learning the process of slowing down to check in and connect with all parts of our system: cognitive, creative, emotional, body-centered, heart-opened. Developing that process is described above in the “For All” section since it enhances life for everyone. For Gifted/2E, with systems that have more intense, more frequent, longer lasting experiences that elicit the survival mode, regularly practicing these processes of slowing down for self-regulation is a must. For this population, it is not just a matter of how to flourish. It is a matter of survival.