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The default network – how many times do you default without realizing it?


“I’m mad. Well I’m feeling irritation. My temples and heart feel hot and tight making it hard to be present. I need to slow down my inner experience to gain some space and begin to attend to self-care.”

At times the stories can be stimulated so fast they take over quickly (limbic hijack) they can spin and spiral and catastrophize complexly.

Clearing off the kitchen countertop, I saw a stack of Christmas music CD’s, instantly I teared up missing my mom, I felt really small inside, and really sad. She was an amazing musician and mother and ripped from my life way too soon. For just a moment I remembered how comforting it felt to sit in her lap as a small girl, to feel her chin resting on the top of my head, and her hands gently caressing mine in a slow, rhythmic way. Emotion swelled up from my heart to my throat and eyes. Heat, pressure, constriction, pain of loss; I notice how as I acknowledge the sensations, they slowly diminish and dissipate. I love and miss my mother. This season I noticed how much I missed my grown kids. I missed my siblings who live far away whom I haven’t seen for years. Something felt really different this year.

My thoughts shifted to others I care for, I remembered how one is having an emotionally tough time and feeling really down. How another reached out with concern to tell me about their worry and fear for their loved ones happiness and well-being. Some in transition reached out, needing to know they make sense. Others need to be heard for how stretching the last two weeks have been for them to experience, needing connection, to feel felt, needing to experience acceptance and hope to bloom in their hearts once more. Some need friendship they can count on. I noticed my own heart as I held space for others. It felt compassion yet heavy, sad, achy and sore. In the midst of the swirl of my inner sea of experience, the implicit (beneath conscious awareness) rose to the surface to be noticed. In that moment I noticed a glimmer of new clarity in my temples, like a cooling balm on a hot sore. My breath deepened and slowed as a kaleidoscope of color began to make itself known within.

It was as if a new door had opened and I glimpsed a program running (imprint conditioning) that moved me out of congruence, out of full choice. This way of being in relationship with life was so familiar, yet so unconscious, and had been running in the background of my experience since forever. I could see that moment right before I got swept up in my conditioned self – the one that always felt she had no choice, she believed she was responsible to hold space for others – that was my contract – because my young child sense of self had experienced momentary relief, once the other persons internal state shifted, and thought perhaps then she might be safe. My experience in the moment doesn’t matter, only others experience does. I recognized my default network. In the same instant I recognized how vital my Compassionate Self is; to see me, to hear me, to know me, to be honest with and value me, and to accompany me, especially when it feels lonely and uncomfortable to be in the world.

“Are you needing support,” my Compassionate Self asks gently, “to take a pause and become present? Do you need acknowledge that of course you do what you do? It makes perfect sense! You are developing the capacity to stay present when this part gets stimulated. You can stay in choice and in dialogue with me!”

“How is it possible to stay in relationship with other,” my young part responded, “and honor my relationship with myself at the same time?”

“Your social engagement system needs support to stay present so the default doesn’t take over and run you?” my Compassionate Self empathized, “Would it be nice to receive some acknowledgement that this default network runs in really subtle energy and can seem invisible - until it isn’t?”

“Yes!!!” Naming this, receiving these guesses, making time for this inner dialogue, I feel enormous relief. As I continue to calm and soothe the default network, the more I notice it, slow down to pause and be with it, to understand with compassion how it came to be, the more I develop self-trust. I can understand why I experienced being numbed out by it in present time. Life felt too hard, too lonely and scary, this part believed it had no one to turn to who could understand her, let alone love her, and that was just too painful to feel.

The default network represented a really young part that witnessed another being (that was also really young) needing soothing, kindness, warmth and understanding – and instead got the opposite repeatedly. The default network was conditioned to hold space for this other beings pain – no matter what – no wonder she numbed her experience. My chest space deepened expansively in the moment; I noticed deeper breathing and calming waves cascade down my spine. I recognized the part that felt so utterly alone and hopeless. One who had no human friends, she only felt comfortable to be herself when she was alone with her horse. Humans she learned to mistrust.

She wondered; “How do you know how to be a friend? How do you develop the capacity to recognize and trust the ones God brings into your life? How do you find the courage to be a friend that has integrity and is really honest? One that is willing to foster a space for everyone to be accountable, responsible, and yet filled with grace.”

The closer someone comes to us, the more the deeper limbic structures become involved, which means that the earliest patterns of attachment (imprinted conditioning) are the programs we unconsciously use to predict and understand everything that happens in our relationships. We experience far less choice, and in order to become who we were born to be, we need to experience something different. We are not able to do this alone; we need to experience attuned resonance with warmth, and compassionate understanding, in relationship with another being. The key is to access present time in the moment, to heal and resolve those deep nervous system contracts of attachment.

Ah – a deep breath moves through me as I write this now. Softness relaxes my shoulders and ripples down my back as the beauty of transparency works its magic in my nervous system.


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