Resetting The Smoke Alarm: Uncoupling Emotional Experiences From Personality & Identity

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Let’s consider for a moment that our nervous system exists on more than just an individual level; it exists on a collective level as well. Not only are we working within the context of our own, personal experience but we are also living within the dynamics of the social and cultural nervous system also, creating a broader ecosystem of feeling, response, and reaction that we are all in constant relationship with.

Having an understanding of how the nervous system functions and the tendencies that we all share that lie under the umbrella of “being human” is vital in order that we can zoom out from our individual experience and recognize the context that informs much of our behaviors and responses. Without context- without recognizing how we are set up to survive and thrive as creatures on the planet- it’s all too easy to internalize challenges or feeling states, such as anxiety or fear, and own them as an inherent part of our personality, rather than an understandable response of our nervous system in the face of traumatic stress.

This is where it gets interesting. Let’s say that at some time in the past, I experienced a high-stress event, but at the point of high activation there has also been a highly charged emotion attached- say in the case of an accident, injury or trauma- which has not been effectively addressed or integrated, that energy can stay stuck in the body. It’s possible then that we find ourselves in a situation- sometimes shortly after, sometimes many years down the line- where we find ourselves skilled and able but having a disproportionate response to something in front of us. One that seemingly has no context and appears inappropriate for the moment. If we have enough reactions of this nature, we internalize the experience and instead of understanding it as a result of chronic stress or trauma, we see it as in intrinsic part of us, or what’s more that we are flawed and incapable.


I am a nervous rider
I am an anxious rider
I’m not very brave

… and so on and so forth.

This internalization of experience as some sort of weakness or flaw is problematic in many ways. Firstly, if we believe a “problem” is “inherently part of us”, we distance ourselves from the ways and means to move through it.

Secondly, we desensitize ourselves from our intuition and instinct that gives us true and real indications of how to navigate the situation that we find ourselves in.

And thirdly, if you want to fast track to feeling down and out and even hopeless, this is a great way to get you there.

In this episode, I talk all about context and understanding and why both will help you reassess the areas where you may have confused an emotional experience or behavior with a part of your personality or identity.

I hope you enjoy it!

❤️ Jane

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