Neuroceptive Response: The Science Behind Stuckness

Stuck, stuck, stuck.

So we learned that it was not smart or safe to stand out.

Now as an adult, your brain may be singing that old childhood song from your habitual survival thought patterns that says it’s dangerous to do things like:

  • take care of yourself first
  • say no to others
  • set boundaries
  • launch that new career
  • take the time to exercise
  • set goals and trust you’re going to stick to them
  • charge what you’re worth, for your time, for your expertise
  • feed yourself with love instead of being on a restrictive diet
  • to simply be seen for who you truly are as your most authentic self.
  • to use your voice and speak up for yourself, your wants, and beliefs
  • to have an opinion and stand by it
  • to not take things personally

If you really pause to think about it, there’s actual no real time danger in most of these things, these actions.

This is where we get to practice holding that duality.

This is your magnificent neuroceptive response, which comes from ye olde lizard mind in your brain stem.

That neuroceptive amazing part of your brain can luckily also sense safety and it picks those cues up and distributes the right neurochemicals throughout your body to create that sense of being safe in the world.

But the part of you that is scared of being abandoned if you say no, I’m not available, is worried that he’ll be disappointed and then he’ll probably abandon you, which is definitely a bad idea.

So you buffer, you try to push away your emotions, and you find yourself, meaning you’ve gone unconscious.

The more you can recognize them as self-love, the more you can gently intervene as your own most loving parent, the more you can heal.

Other common experiences of that neuroceptive response coming on board is to feel foggy brain, distracted, unfocused, to have writer’s block.

I now realize, a large portion of it, some of it’s my wiring, that’s fine, was this neuroceptive response coming on board and it was fear.

Part of you feels petrified to do what you want to do because of that neuroceptive response.

When you have that neuroceptive, protective response and you allow yourself to judge, guilt, or shame yourself for having it, you drive it further into your lived experience.

Step one, bring awareness to what sends you into that dorsal shutdown, that immobilization, or that sympathetic fight or flight response. Notice your neuroceptive response.

Step two, honor it, love it, thank it.

Step three, pick a thing to practice with like journaling, movement, writing your book, asking for help, setting a boundary, whatever is up for you that you want to work on and with. Nothing is too small here.

Step four, before you get started doing this practice of working towards your goal with more neuroceptive response awareness, orient yourself to your space, which is a way to bring yourself into the present moment, the here and now.

Step five, scan your body for activation energy.

Step six, decide ahead of time what you’re going to do if that sympathetic, anxious, revved up feeling or that dorsal sleepiness check out sensation comes on board for you while you are attempting to take action.

Your protector parts may want to keep you from doing even the smallest thing and that’s okay.

Step eight, as you move gently to expand your window of dignity or tolerance, you can start by doing the task just for you.

Finally, step nine, once you know where your edges are, you can add 30 seconds a day or one to two minutes a day to your practice time, expanding what you believe yourself capable of doing.



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Victoria Albina, NP, MPH

Victoria Albina, NP, MPH

Victoria Albina, NP, MPH is a certified life coach, breathwork facilitator, holistic Nurse Practitioner and host of the podcast Feminist Wellness.