The Healing “C”quence

Living creatures have two basic biological imperatives. The first is to survive and the second is to pass their genetic material to the next generation. Threat physiology is a necessary component to maximize chances of survival while the whole organism goes on alert. The variables are the intensity and duration. Safety physiology is necessary to regenerate to fight another day.

The two sides of cognitive consciousness

Humans have the unique gift of cognitive consciousness. Through language, elevated communication capacity, and cooperation, we have risen to the top of the food chain. However, there is also a curse since we are wired to survive, and our nervous system is geared towards looking for trouble. Unpleasant thoughts are also perceived as threats, our instinct is to suppress them, which fires up the nervous system even more. Emotional and physical pain share similar circuits in the brain. Since we cannot escape them, we are all exposed to some of level of constant fight or flight physiology.



Humans have a word describing the feelings generated by being in an activated threat/ stressed state – anxiety. Avoiding it is the driving force that keeps us alive and why it is also a gift. Anxiety is the result of stress/threats, not the cause. The reason it is so critical to understand the nature of this survival reaction is because arises from your subconscious brain, which is a million times stronger than your conscious brain, is hard-wired, automatic, and we have no direct control over it.

Not being able to escape the unpleasant aspects of our consciousness is a curse. Human cognitive consciousness may be the at the root of chronic mental and physical illnesses and diseases.


One of the most futile efforts to deal with this aspect of our lives is striving for self-esteem. It is a disaster and addressing it is the focus of this article. Remember, satisfaction, contentment, and joy are sensations generated when you are in a state of safety physiology. Self-esteem creates the opposite effect.

  • First of all, it is a terrible mismatch of your conscious brain attempting to deal with intentionally unpleasant survival sensations arising from your unconscious brain.
  • There are many ways to lower threat physiology but working on creating a positive “story” about who you are and how you fit in is not one of them.
  • It is an endless comparison judgmental process. You are judging yourself positively or negatively against others and societal standards. There is no endpoint.
  • Your threat physiology also causes inflammation of your central nervous system, which increases the sensitivity to sensory input, which adds to the problem.
  • Much of our self-esteem is based on cognitive distortions that become increasing more powerful over time. The “story” that evolves about your place in life disconnects you from what is actually happening in front of you.
  • Self-esteem may be the mother of cognitive distortions. Instead of connecting and learning from your past, you are connecting to your stories you have about it and disconnecting. How can you learn?
  • Conversely, self-compassion allows you to be with your “flaws.” It is nurturing, calming, and you can quit fighting.
  • BTW, since all of us are “flawed,” why are any of us “flawed?”

Confidence in yourself and your abilities is much different. You can skillfully deal with adversity and keep moving forward. But you must fir connect to your own internal resources to possess it. There is a necessary sequence.

How to heal

There is a process that allows healing. The sequence takes you from Reactive to Creative.

  • Connection
  • Confidence
  • Creativity

Being connected and confident allows you to move forward and creativity allows you to regenerate and heal.

A tree



In order to reach higher, you must first dig deeper. Consider a tree as a metaphor for your healing journey.


The soil represents your entire past and is the source for learning and future growth. There is one major root in any tree that is called the taproot. It grows straight down in search of water and nutrients. The trees with deepest ones are found in harsh dry environments. A tree may initially show little growth for a few years until the taproot is more mature. Roots grow relentlessly and will even grow through rock. The more developed and complex the root system, the better the chances for survival and growth.

All humans have some level of trauma. Our needs are not always immediately met even in the best of circumstance and adversity never stops coming at us. Many people have suffered severe, even extreme childhood trauma and there is plenty more to be had in adulthood. We don’t feel good about it and might feel ashamed of it. So, a lot of time and energy is spent on analyzing, fixing, covering up, whitewashing, or suppressing the past. Why wouldn’t we? Somehow, we feel that by spending a lot of time dealing with past, we’ll have a better life. The problem is that you attention is focused on the problems and not the solutions. It is where your brain will develop. It also requires a lot of energy that could be used in dealing with the present and thriving.

Specific skills, including nurturing self-compassion, are required to allow you to be with your past as much of it may be unpleasant, painful, and difficult to be with. Anytime you are anxious or frustrated, you are reacting to something in the past that you perceived as dangerous or was dangerous. It can be a mental or physical threat. Digging in and being with your past is the opposite of seeking self-esteem. Sometimes this requires help from a skilled trauma therapist.

Conversely, self-compassion allows you to be with your “flaws.” It is nurturing, calming, and you can quit fighting.


The trunk represents the confidence that emanates from being able to be and deal with every aspect of your past and not feeling you must fight or run from it. There are many ways to process and deal with it and it requires skills that improve with time and practice. You are grounded and able to deal with even severe adversity efficiently and move on.

The tools are considered in terms of 1) processing input (your stresses) so as to have less impact on your nervous system 2) increasing the resiliency of your nervous system 3) directly lowering your threat physiology by stimulating the anti-inflammatory effects of the vagus nerve.

The term for this framework is “dynamic healing.” It acknowledges the interactions between you and your circumstances that create ongoing flight or fight body chemistry. There are many tools in each portal, none of them are difficult, but it does require learning and mastering them.


With a solid root system and trunk, the tree will grow an ever-increasing number of branches. You are now able to tap into your creative self and train your brain to evolve in the direction of your choice. This is where the deepest healing occurs. You are moving towards joy and away from pain. Nurturing joy is also a learned set of skills that few of us are taught. Creativity requires awareness of choices, and you must see (“C”) first in order to know where you are at and then make ongoing decisions to move in a different direction.

One woman, who successfully broke free from the grip of pain, coined a term for using the past for future growth – “neuroshment.” The neuroplasticity of the brain allows for infinite change throughout your lifetime. She had been in severe pain for 55 years and has been thriving for over eight years. Your brain really does change, and many symptoms will resolve. It is not “mind over matter.” Additionally, when your body’s physiology is in a state of safety, it will regenerate, including re-expanding the size of your brain. Your body can and will heal and it is infinitely more powerful than human interventions for chronic disease states.


Digging in, being with, and learning from your past is much different than compensating for it with an endless search for self-esteem. Your reactions to the past are automatic and arise from your powerful subconscious brain. Attempts at having higher self-esteem are from the conscious brain, are ineffective, and actually fire up your nervous system even more.

There are two parts of healing that are separate skill sets 1) effectively processing anxiety/ anger 2) pursuing the vision of what you want your life to look like – with or without your pain. However, they are tightly linked in that it is almost impossible to pursue joy while you are battling your activated threat physiology.

The first skill set is achieved with connection and confidence. The second one happens while you are in a creative state. Allow yourself to heal with this healing “C”quence going from reaCtive to Creative.