[00:00:00] Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.
[00:00:50] Hello and welcome to Move With Deb, The Podcast. This is episode 46. I'm calling this one, the curiosity cure all. And it's obviously a bit of a joke, but let's be real. We all want the answer to feeling better. And we don't like being told that it's complex. Even I, who have a pretty decent understanding of the mind body process, I do not like being in pain and when I'm in pain, my brain often forgets the real remedy and wants to find the magic bullet. So I'm offering you a new magic bullet, the absolute cure of all cure-alls, curiosity.
[00:01:39] So today's the 10th anniversary of my mother's death of her passing I came to Florida to visit my dad, get a jump on doing his taxes, oh. So much fun. And spend time with him around this anniversary. The day after I arrived, I noticed that I was in pain, my hips and my back were hurting. And if I used this language, which I, I really don't, but I would have described it as a flare, as a pain flare. So having a pain flare the first day, I wake up in Florida around the anniversary of all of the awful things that happened in the end various Februaries, because there have been multiple difficult February's, now I'm like, oh my God, my brain, I see you. I love you. I know that this is my body responding to a difficult emotional time, remembering hard times in the past, thinking about all the things I have to do in the time that I'm here. Um, and so it's just my, my body constricting with some stress.
[00:02:57] Now I could have assumed it was the bed or the flight or the whatever, but I just got curious and, you know, I think I was curious and annoyed, which is fine. You don't have to be curious and happy you can be curious and whatever feeling you want. Right. And then you can get curious about that feeling. And so the way that I dealt with that pain was I just got curious and then I was like, oh right it's this time? It's this memory. It's this place being back here where I was, when my mother was dying, it brings up hard memories. And so I just reflected on that and decided, you know, that all I needed to do was give myself some love and compassion and then I felt fine. Like, I think I checked back in with my body, uh, later on in the day. And I was like, oh yeah, that pain totally gone. Don't feel it, don't even notice it. That was great. I was like, right. It's really useful to not believe that pain equals something is wrong, right. That pain is a communication from your body to you for various reasons.
[00:04:26] So it can be a message of protection. It could be a message to pay attention. It could be a message, like take your hand off the hot stove right now. So we do want to listen. We want to learn how to listen, curiosity and self-love and a healthy dose of sensory awareness reassessment is a pain remedy. Um, I was able to understand or at least give my brain some meaning of why I was feeling what I was feeling. And I also was able to be not very reactive, just very loving, very like relaxed. Um, I did not add more tension to my body through fear and concern because I didn't, nothing had happened. I went to bed, I woke up, I woke up in some pain. I knew I was going to get up, move around, but I didn't like move around to make the pain go away.
[00:05:29] I moved around with the intention of creating more space, creating more love, creating connection with myself, not to be self rejecting in any kind of way. Even my annoyance was filled with love was filled with love for this, you know, human body that is like full of feelings, full of emotional feelings, full of physical feelings. This is how we are designed.
[00:06:00] So the curiosity to be like, what am I feeling? Like, why am I feeling this? But not in a tragic way? Like, why am I feeling this what's wrong with me? Why can't I feel better? But like, I am a human being, having a feeling in this moment. Yes, of course. This is the anniversary of your mom's passing. This is the room that you were in when it happened. This is a lot of things going on in your life that create this kind of attention to self. And so I was able to just be really loving and kind and sweet with myself and just maybe I took it a little bit more slowly and then my brain was like, okay, thanks, I don't need to keep giving you this message. There was nothing for me to notice. Yeah, it was really eerie sitting in the same bed in the same place that I sat sat 10 years ago as my mother was dying. And beyond this like pain moment, right. This pain flare that I'm calling it for you because I feel like lots of people call these things a pain flare.
[00:07:20] I find that language can be problematic because it sets us up on this continuation of a whole series of actions that we have trained ourselves to take when we feel a pain flare. So it's not necessarily the language, that is the problem, but it's the, it's the automated actions and things that we do around a pain flare that help perpetuate the experience.
[00:07:49] So sometimes getting clear on language, sometimes switching it up sometimes, right. Instead of just assuming, oh, this is a pain flare. That's what curiosity is. Oh, I'm feeling something. Oh, I'm noticing the sensation in my back. That's different. That invites you in rather than this is a pain flare. These are the things I do to deal with that, right?
[00:08:13] When we, when we're often like this is a pain flare, this is my medication. These are the stretches that I do. This is all the work I do to not feel. And that's what we're trying to break up. That's the condition response, the learned condition response we are trying to shake up to get the brain to give a different prediction for what's happening in our body.
[00:08:38] And so, you know, as I'm reflecting on this, I also notice how differently I deal with life. Like in my life right now there's a number of stressful things happening that I would have been absolutely fixated on before. And now I'm like, huh, I wonder what's going to happen? And I mean, two years ago, I was not like this either. Although at that time I kind of knew it could be different. I just was in this place of tension where I was like, I know that there's a different way of engaging with stress with stressors, but I didn't have the language and I didn't have it in my body to be able to believe it. This is why in my work, when we want to believe something, we check into the body. We find the belief.
[00:09:33] When we think about neuroplastic pain, we find how are the ways that I can believe that this is what's happening in my body? Where is the evidence, building my evidence sheet, putting deposits in my belief bank, the pain moves around. It's worse when I'm in stress.
[00:09:51] Pretty sure that I have a episode that was all about the fit test, which is the functional inconsistent and triggered. Uh, those are the diagnostic criteria by which we diagnose primary pain. And of course I'm not a diagnostician, but that's the criteria from Dr. Schubiner.
[00:10:13] Coming back to the train of thought that I was riding on. Some of this curiosity for me has only been accessed in these last six months. And I have a feeling there's going to be as much as I want for the rest of my life, if I'm lucky.
[00:10:29] I really want to touch on this idea of cultivating curiosity as a remedy for stress, for pain. I find that it's working. I've had multiple clients this week tell me that their symptoms are better. They had a super stressful thing happened like a spouse being potentially diagnosed with cancer and they had big feelings, but their body didn't collapse. I had another client that had fewer IBS symptoms, no flares and no panic and no overwhelming fear. They had feelings, then they had these thoughts. I've got me. I have my own back. I know how to feel, so I know how to heal, and a myriad of other nervous system regulating beliefs.
[00:11:23] So as I sit here and remember some of the most painful moments of my life, time with what felt like blinding confusion and a deep sense of injustice around my mom passing when I thought she was too young after I was, she was the epitome of vitality. I can feel it all. And I can feel that fundamental shift. I have so much gratitude for the me that loves to learn that is never not fighting for my own best survival. I know that I have me in a way that I can't imagine not ever believing that again.
[00:12:06] So that was maybe a tangent, maybe not a tangent. So there's belief, which is so interesting. Right? So I'm talking about curiosity. Sometimes curiosity is like, I don't know what's going to happen. And some of what I'm talking about is anchoring yourself in belief. I am anchoring myself in this belief that I have my own back. I am also anchoring myself in belief that I can feel feelings and be safe and be okay.
[00:12:38] Right. So I'm anchoring myself in self-trust. That is what allows me to cultivate curiosity. Because curiosity is like the embodiment of trust. It is the practice. Maybe that's more what it is. It's the practice of trust. It's the willingness to ask questions we don't have answers for and to be open, to play around.
[00:13:09] To cultivate curiosity, it can be helpful to see that it is the antidote for shoulding. To should when we think we should do something, we've already decided this is what the answer is. And then we also self-harm by saying, and I didn't do it. We are very in belief when we say should. That like, whatever it was that the answer is, I am not doing it. And so I'm wrong. But what if that's not the answer right now? That's a place we're trying to kind of force ourselves into belief, create forced self compliance. We also probably have a lot of should thoughts about other people and the world, all these things should be different. My mother shouldn't have died, you know, at 70. I have moved through a lot of those thoughts and beliefs. And the fact is that she did die at that age. Doesn't mean I have to be happy about it, but to should is almost like creating a false reality that we are trying to make ourselves live only because we think that it would be better. We also don't know that.
[00:14:32] So there's like an entire play, like a theatrical reality that's happening in this shoulding , but really the reason why we should ourselves is because it remedies the fear of curiosity. It takes away the not knowing which can be destabilizing or frightening, especially when we only imagine bad, negative, unpleasant experiences with our curiosity.
[00:15:05] So here's the thing. We are not perfect students. We are fucking messy human beings. Because of our brains wiring for safety through hypervigilance, those of us who could use some wiring for curiosity, don't have it because we are currently wired for threat assessment and safekeeping through these old patterns.
[00:15:30] So shoulding is a old pattern of safekeeping. It doesn't work. You ever have like a pile of pens and you keep picking up this one pen that you really love, but like, it doesn't work. You're like not throwing it away. I'm going to keep this pen. Doesn't work. I'm going to pick it up. I'm going to try to write with it. And then you're like, oh no, now I need a new pen. That's kind of what this, this like, constantly being wired for hypervigilance is. We can also throw out the pen.
[00:16:06] And obviously rewiring our neural pathways isn't as easy as just throwing out a pen, but God knows apparently throwing out a non-working pen isn't easy either. But we have to like be able to let go. We have to let go of old patterns and develop new patterns and develop the intention of a new pattern even before we have it. And that is also curiosity.
[00:16:35] Curiosity is the question of like, I wonder what will happen when I do this. And then holding that mystery inside of our body and not thinking it only means something bad.
[00:16:50] Here's an example. I was laying in bed thinking I would like to go for a swim before starting my day. I woke up with some trepidation, some negative thoughts, some pain assessments of my body to see what kind of mood I was going to be in or what kind of day I was going to have.
[00:17:08] And so I'm going to stop right here and say, if you change only one thing about your life, it is to stop doing this. Stop the morning news. Stops the scanning of your body and pre deciding how the rest of your day is going to be. Because you don't know, it hasn't happened yet. All you're doing is. Interpreting your current sensory experience and narrating it through the words in your head.
[00:17:37] This was my life for decades. It was often hard to get out of bed. It often felt like I was stuck in bed thinking about the things I wanted to be doing. And I couldn't get my body to move and do it. And that became very depressing. It was confusing. Sometimes I would just give in and go back to sleep, not because I was tired, but because I was sad, frustrated, confused, angry, and I blamed myself. So going back to bed, it was my nervous system taking care of me. It was shifting into dorsal mode after experiencing a nervous system activation. That was my body's way of taking care of me in the best way at knew how. And also that cycle kept repeating. And then years later, I learned how to fuel my doing stuff with a giant burst of adrenaline. And I liken that to revving my car engine and pressing down hard on the gas pedal when you're trying to get the car unstuck, like over a snowbank and it works.
[00:18:51] And as also very inefficient and adds a lot of extra wear and tear to my body slash car. And now, you know, I'm not a car, right. And there's a lot of ways we have in our bodies to naturally recover from this kind of fueling with fear or fueling with too much like go-go juice, right. Adrenaline get up like, oh my God. I'm late, oh, I have to do this. I have to do this. That voice , that sparks in your head that like gets you out of the bed like somebody lit it on fire. I have to do this. That narration becomes a habit . And I liked getting things done. I liked becoming that person, but it was also an unsuccessful strategy because it required a lot of force and still maintained that there was this method of having to make myself do things. Again it's the car revving, revving itself to go. It felt like having my foot on the brake and the gas at the same time.
[00:19:56] So this morning I could see, I was both laying in bed thinking I should go to the pool and swim. I also wanted to go to the pool and swim, but the launching myself energy wasn't quite there. And I played out that scenario that I would lay in bed, looking at my phone. Thinking about myself, wanting to go swim, thinking about how sad I would be if I didn't go and stayed in bed, thinking about it, just like I used to, and then how sad I felt about that. Then in that moment, I realized I really can choose an alternative. I wanted to choose the new neural pathways that I want to be in developing that will help me break out of this old foot on the brake and revving the gas method of launching.
[00:20:49] So I got curious because I didn't have the answer. So getting curious is the first step, I got curious, I thought, what is the way to create the energy I want with the least amount of effort required? What does picking my foot off the brake feel like?
[00:21:09] Okay that's the thought I don't have to swim. It's not about making myself do something. I want to. I started to think about how the swimming feels, how the pool and the water holds me and is pleasurable. I thought, I don't know what will happen when I get into the pool, whether I'm going to do laps or float or both.
[00:21:34] But I do know what will happen if I stay in bed, no swimming, a hundred percent, no swimming will happen if I stay in bed. Which is fine, if that was my choice, but clearly I wanted the other choice. And in those moments, as I leaned in this curiosity, I could feel my foot coming off the brake.
[00:21:56] I do want this. I do enjoy this experience. I can create it and I don't have to have a larger goal than just showing up for that moment of getting into the water and seeing what happens. When I take my foot off the brake. It didn't take very much energy at all to get up, put on my suit, grab a towel and go.
[00:22:18] Then when I was in the pool, I noticed my brain. It was very, very active in trying to solve all my problems ahead of time. My swimming was effortful and my head was kind of not very present. I could feel all the tension and tenderness in my body. My brain was cycling back to being on high alert. Need to solve. Need to fix.
[00:22:46] And that was actually a mindset that I had going on a lot back when my mother was dying. I would go in the pool and my brain would be filled with all my to-do lists, all the things I had to do. And it was obviously a way to like protect myself from feeling all of the hard feelings that I was having.
[00:23:07] Also there were a lot of things to do. There were a lot of details that had to be taken care of both here and elsewhere. But it was also a place that my mind went because being productive was a refuge from feelings, I didn't want to be feeling and realities. I didn't want to be living in.
[00:23:30] Now when I get in the pool, I have to remind myself that's not what we're doing here. In that moment, I was able to get curious and loving with my brain and said to myself, what would we be doing in the pool right now, if we weren't trying to fix all these future thoughts and feelings?
[00:23:50] What kind of swimming experience right now do I want to be having? I floated on my back, I did some physiological sigh breathing as Dr. Huberman suggests. It's this pattern of doing an inhale, a second inhale, and then a long exhale. I did that a few times. The sense of calm and relaxation that happened in a very short amount of time was very present.
[00:24:23] I reminded myself that this activity of identifying and solving in the future, these problems, quote, unquote problems. I've decided are problems is a kind of mind, body theater. I thought what if sensing into relaxation is the best thing I can do for my body budget right now?
[00:24:46] My body budget is the allocation of resources for allostasis. It's the survival of my human self. Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett writes about that in her book, 7 1/2 Lessons About The Brain, because remember the brain is not made for thinking. It is made to keep this meat suit with a soul alive.
[00:25:09] I'm gonna read to you from Wikipedia. Allostasis proposes that efficient regulation requires anticipating needs and preparing to satisfy them before they arise, as opposed to homeostasis in which the goal is a steady state.
[00:25:24] Allostasis stability, through variation, was proposed by Sterling and Eyer in 1988 as a new model of physiological regulation. And then they updated it in 2020. And so here are the interrelated points that belong in the allostasis model of our bodies.
[00:25:46] Animals are designed to be efficient.
[00:25:48] Efficiency, requires a brain to predict what will be needed and avoid costly errors. The brain further enhances efficiency by prioritizing needs and enforcing trade offs.
[00:26:03] All systems, including the brain, organ systems and single cells are designed for a particular operating range. Example, cone photo receptors, adapt for daylight and rod photo receptors adapt for moonlight and starlight. A system's parameters vary according to predicted demand and adapt their sensitivities. While a wide range denotes a flexible and healthy system. When their evolved operating ranges are chronically exceeded, systems at all levels break down.
[00:26:42] I want to offer the idea that strengthening curiosity is a mind-body protocol that helps us cognitively and somatically, moderate our allostatic load that keep us in these flexible and healthy systems working within our evolved operating ranges and stopping the chronically exceeding of our systems.
[00:27:08] So true curiosity puts our body in real time of social engagement with ourself and when paired with self-compassion and developing a sense of agency, strong inner conversation.
[00:27:21] When we understand that the predictive brain is what they talk about in this quote, which is efficiency. So the predictive brain is the learned patterns and responses that the brain perpetuates, unless it gets a prediction update.
[00:27:41] So we can use curiosity through tools like somatic tracking or even just asking ourselves good questions to help us begin create prediction, updates for our brain to manage the body and decrease the threat assessment of stressors in our minds.
[00:28:01] And of course, as often happens with me. Hello, frequency effect. Hello, synchronous universe showing up in my inbox. There's a New York times article that speaks about a concept called behavioral activation and my coach calls it minimum baseline. And I'm calling. Lightest touch on the gas pedal, which when you make it an acronym, that is L T O T G P.
[00:28:28] So you can remember that, right? L T O T G P L T O T G P. I am not good with naming things. I'm sure that I've already mentioned that on the podcast. But it is the lightest touch on the gas pedal. Now you probably know what that feels like, starting again after a red light, it's just putting your foot lightly on the gas pedal. So it's not, you know, this maximum effort for maximum benefit. It's like a fucking bullshit trap. What if we start to cultivate this experience of maximum benefit with minimum effort, that's how we create safety. That's how we operate within our body budget. And that's how we create willingness.
[00:29:17] This magic key of curiosity can be what let's us go from doing something, rote or with force, and finding the way into desire, even if it's with a mixed mood or mixed emotions. So I'll link the article in the transcript and it, and it's like the counterpoint to languishing, which isn't a concept that we've all been feeling a lot in the pandemic, which is this like kind of lack of energy for doing things. And sometimes we put the label on that depression and then we treat it like a disease. I really want to also break up that kind of word association. When we call something depression, then we think we know everything about it.
[00:30:08] But what if we just described the experience of it without putting a label on it, then as we are describing the experience, what is the felt sense of languishing? What is the felt sense of not having energy to do things? How do we lean into that and get curious? Nobody wants to get curious about depression now, we're like, ah, depression.
[00:30:33] I don't like that. I had that. I hate it and I want it to be gone. This is how I write. That's a very closed arms, have to make it go away, emergency, or defeated. Those are oftentimes the responses. But we can change the way we look at any physiological experience and any emotional experience.
[00:31:00] Like depression is not just a mental experience. It's felt in the body. There's an experience in the body. This word, languishing leads you into a curiosity place about it. Why does that even mean? What is this weird word now that we're using to describe this experience? How do I feel that in my body? And then we, we lean into this question of like, well, what does activation feeling like?
[00:31:27] What is this, what are these steps to behavioral activation? What are the steps? Curiosity. How can we use that to find out where our energy is, how we can turn it on how we can be gentle with ourselves?
[00:31:43] And so here's some other questions. What if it's okay to not know how things are going to go? What kind of thoughts feel useful to you to get, to take your foot off the brake and then lightly press on the.
[00:31:58] Why is your foot on the brake? What is it? If the brake is meant to stop, what is it that we're trying to prevent happening? What is it that we are afraid of? Is this just a habit? Sometimes we do. We just have a habit of this energy cycle of like my foot is on the brake and I press the gas really hard to go. And that kind of activating with adrenaline is a habit.
[00:32:27] What if those old beliefs, which might've been absolutely true before doesn't reflect anything other than a learned condition response that you can update for yourself. And the joyful practice of curiosity can be your best ally.
[00:32:43] The other day, I was talking to some coaching colleagues about surprises that are happening in my life. And I got really excited because I was set to have a conversation and I really thought it was going to go one way. And I was preparing myself for that conversation that I thought was going to be happening in my head. And I felt, you know, I was like, I'm open. I felt really prepared though. Like, okay, these are the things I think we're going to be talking about.
[00:33:12] And, um, I was a hundred percent wrong, like so wrong that my brain was like in a time delay and I had to catch up. 'cause I, it was like, I am not prepared at all for this. This is the problem was surety my brain planned for a conversation that didn't happen. The conversation that happened was so not what I expected that like, literally my brain was on a time delay and like having to catch up to me updating this prediction of this conversation. And I was like, oh, had I almost just come to this call being like, I have no idea what we're going to talk about, let's just see, I wouldn't have been so far behind myself.
[00:33:59] But then I also was like, huh, I can't wait to find out what else I'm wrong about like so far, I've been wrong about many of my limiting beliefs about myself and I used to think that that meant something wrong. I have a podcast episode called the despair of disbelief. And that is about, that felt sense where your belief about yourself and kind of what you want it to be and what other people are telling you that they don't match and how painful that can be.
[00:34:30] That can be a painful experience. That can be painful if I had judged myself for the fact that I was wrong in this conversation, or even just the felt sense of like my brain is catching up. And that is a weird feeling when you're like experiencing your brain, having to run for the bus, you know, and the bus is driving away and your brain's like, wait a minute, wait for me.
[00:34:56] Some of that is because the brain is over in the wrong story. It's like, it's waiting for the wrong bus. So I missed the bus, you know, and then. Ran up after it. And I did, I got on the bus. It was all fine. Now I'm like, oh my God, that's hilarious. I cannot wait to see what else I'm wrong about. All these things that I have decided are true are just thoughts.
[00:35:25] We can, have some lightness and some curiosity with our thoughts in a way that brings us into our body, into this conversation, loop on the inside where we're present. And we're not assuming what's actually happening. That way of dealing with physical sensations goes from naming. This is a pain flare, and these are all the things I do to manage it, to being like, what am I feeling? What is the sensation in my body? Watching it with curiosity and lightness, not with constriction of our inner muscles and our actual muscles. Which is the part of us that says, I can't feel this.
[00:36:11] Curiosity, lightness self love. Maybe I'll make a loop, but just as curiosity, lightness self-love. Although I think after a while we stop hearing things. We, kind of get into this. Well, I know, I know, I know. I know I should be curious. But what is it that actually creates curiosity for you?
[00:36:35] Maybe that's your homework. What does curiosity feel like for you? Are you willing to be curious and notice curiosity and cultivate it. Cause maybe curiosity for you is like, oh, I wonder what's going to happen. And then your brain is like, terrible things will happen. Who knows? We can even get curious with that. I'm even curious to think, cause right now I'm like maybe I already recorded a podcast about curiosity. So this podcast might be curiosity, the cure all, and also might be curiosity, 2.0, I'm going to go back and look.
[00:37:12] But I think the reason why this is one of the skills that I emphasize the most is that it is literally the way to change our physiological experience of stress. It is one of the most important skills that we can develop.
[00:37:34] That's what I wanted to share with you. So thank you for listening to Move With Deb, The Podcast, where I talk about brains and bodies and how they all work together for our highest benefit of feeling, feeling better.
[00:37:53] I'm kind of in the, not doing things mode. Maybe I'll get curious about that and, uh, share what comes next with you. All right. Thank you so much. Have a great day.