The Panic or grief distress emotional brain system
Panic is to do with psychic pain. Psychic pain has to do with the feeling of being alone. The inter- psychic pain of social loss arises from the feeling of being lost. All of a sudden, when you realize that you do not know where you are and you can’t find anyone that cares for you, this throws you into a panic because we all possess a separation distress circuitry in our brains. This is an age old system that keeps us connected so that we remain safe and secure in numbers.
Let’s see, panic, oh yeah. I absolutely LOVE rides and I have been to Canada’s Wonderland more times then I can count. I think it was actually the first time that I went to Canada’s Wonderland (mind you, NOT the first time I was on a rollercoaster) and my family and I went on The Leviathan. I was sitting there, my mother beside me, my dad and my brother behind me, and all of a sudden I knew I was going to die. I started to cry and hyperventilate and it was all noticeable because some super star from the waiting line called out ‘don’t worry! Only three people have died!’ (it was a man by the way so there’s that). There I was, on a rollercoaster similar to the ones I had done a thousand times, with my family sitting right beside me, and I felt like I was the only one in the world about to plummet to my death.
That was my moment of being thrown into a panic, my separation distress kicked in as I got in touch with my sadness and grief over my loss, which resulted in me calling out for care which generally speaking is by crying. My brain chemistry exacerbated feelings of distress and what is it that alleviates feeling of distress? Chemicals in the brain such as brain opioids, oxytocin, and prolactin, which are generated by feelings of warmth, attachment, and care which resonate with that psychic pain creating a sense of trust, deep acceptance, and feelings of being saved, nurtured, redeemed, which regulates depressive affect. The attitude of care, nurturance, guidance, is essential because in panic, care is what is most urgently needed.
In this instance of me sitting on that ride it was my mother reaching out to me talking me through it over the duration of the entire ride. Without a self care protocol, that psychic pain can easily result in reaching out to food to powerfully alleviate that distress, by increasing those brain opioids, oxytocin, and prolactin, substituting food for social attachments to regulate depressive affects, food becomes the nurturant that guides through those feelings. The foods that you reach out for in order to comfort yourself are the foods that you are eating to alleviate the panic, grief, distress, and it is important to recognize that is what it is that you are really trying to do by reaching out for food. You are actually really looking for anxiety relief, depression relief and inflammatory relief from the distress chemicals that have been released in your brain, by alleviating that distress from the emotional biochemistry of the food (usually high in fat, high in salt and high in sugar). It is important to recognize though, that you need to be able to understand this in order to begin to use the principle of substitution.
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