Updated: Apr 10
When we are first learning about rewiring the brain to overcome chronic illness there is a lot to learn. It’s a very new paradigm we are stepping into, with new language, new daily routines and lots of other things to incorporate. Often, we are very focused on “getting it right”, which makes sense because we all want to be healthy and feel good in our bodies again. In the spirit of “getting it right”, it’s common that we see all of these new practices as rules instead of guidelines.
Rules tend to be rigid, strict and unwavering, which naturally feeds into perfectionism. Rigidity and perfectionism do not send a message of safety to the brain and nervous system, in fact they can do quite the opposite. Having a rigid and perfectionistic approach to rewiring the brain tells the brain “I’d better get this right”, “I have to do this perfectly or I won’t heal”, “there’s no margin for error here”, etc. All of this of course, drives the stress response that we are trying to calm down in our brain and nervous system.
The limbic system thrives on rigidity and rules. Being very dogmatic in our approach to rewiring the brain can actually give the limbic system one more thing to get hyper-focused on. In fact, one of the ways the limbic system tries to keep us safe is by creating very strict and inflexible ways of thinking and behaving. In trying to “get it right”, we often unintentionally feed into this cycle.
Guidelines on the other hand, are flexible, pliable and allow for the ease and grace that comes with being ok with imperfection. This sends a message of safety to the brain and nervous system. Embracing guidelines tells the brain “my best is good enough”, “I can find what works for me and trust my own experience”, “it’s ok if I’m not perfect”, etc. This approach very much helps to calm down the overactive stress response that happens with limbic system impairment.
Please stay tuned for part 2 of Rules vs Guidelines where I’ll share one of the ways I see this pattern come into play all the time. It might surprise you.
Connie Boczarski has been coaching clients in using neuroplasticity and other regulating resources to regain their health since 2018. Her approach with each client is to see them as an individual and help devise a plan that is responsive to their life and unique challenges. Embracing guidelines and stepping away from rules is a part of this approach. If you would like to learn more about Connie’s approach or services that she offers, please go to her website: ConnieBCoaching.com
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