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What is Neuroception and how does it impact your life?

By, Luuk L. Westerhof, MSc


Introduction

Neuroception is a process that happens in the brain that allows us to unconsciously and automatically assess risk in our environment. It is a survival mechanism that is hardwired into our nervous system and helps us to protect ourselves from harm. This process happens outside of our conscious awareness and can be thought of as our brain’s built-in alarm system. It is constantly on the lookout for danger and can be triggered by a variety of things, such as a loud noise or a sudden movement.


Once triggered, our body reacts automatically to the perceived threat. We might freeze in place, our heart rate will increase, and we will start to sweat. This is all part of the fight-or-flight response, which is a natural and automatic reaction that happens when we feel threatened. Neuroception is an important part of our lives and helps us to stay safe. However, it can also lead to problems if it is constantly on high alert. This can happen in people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or who live in a dangerous environment.


What is Neuroception?

Neuroception is a process in the brain that allows us to automatically and unconsciously assess our safety in the environment. It is a built-in “alarm system” that is hardwired into our nervous system and helps to protect us from harm. Neuroception is constantly on the lookout for danger and can be triggered by a variety of things, such as a loud noise or a sudden movement. Once triggered, our body automatically reacts to the perceived threat – this is part of the fight-or-flight response. Neuroception is an important part of our lives and helps us to stay safe. However, it can also lead to problems if it is constantly on high alert. This can lead to a state of hyper-arousal, where the body is constantly scanning for danger and responding to threats that may not actually be there. This state of hypervigilance can lead to increased anxiety and difficulty focusing on tasks, as well as physical symptoms such as headaches and muscle tension.


How Does Neuroception Impact Our Lives?

Neuroception has a major impact on our lives as it can affect how we interact with our environment. For example, if a person is constantly in a state of neuroceptive alarm, they may not be able to properly process sensory information. This can lead to difficulty reading social cues and interpreting people’s intentions, which can affect relationships and friendships. Neuroception can also affect our ability to go about our daily lives. If a person is constantly scanning for danger, they may not be able to focus their attention on tasks or engage in activities they enjoy. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and a decrease in productivity.


The Three Types of Neuroception

There are three types of neuroception: positive, neutral, and negative. Positive neuroception is when the brain notices a safe environment and response accordingly – allowing us to relax and enjoy our surroundings. Neutral neuroception is when the brain detects no threat and our body remains in a state of homeostasis. Negative neuroception is when the brain perceives a possible threat and activates the fight-or-flight response.


The Impact of Trauma on Neuroception

Trauma can have a significant impact on neuroception. People living with PTSD tend to have an overactive fight-or-flight response, which can lead to increased anxiety and difficulty focusing on tasks. This is because their brains often perceive even the slightest of stimuli as a potential threat. This can lead to difficulty functioning in a safe environment and can make it hard to trust or form relationships.


How to Change our Neuroception

The most important thing to remember is that neuroception is an instinctive process that is beyond our conscious control. Therefore, the best way to change it is by focusing on the underlying causes. This can include learning healthy coping strategies, such as mindful breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Additionally, psychotherapy can help to identify and address potential triggers and address any underlying issues that may be having an impact on neuroception.


Conclusion

Neuroception is an important process that helps us to stay safe in our environment. It is a survival mechanism that is hardwired into our brains and is constantly on the lookout for danger. Neuroception can have a major impact on our lives – it can affect our ability to interact with the world and make it difficult to go about our daily lives. Trauma can make this process even more difficult, leading to increased anxiety and difficulty forming relationships. However, with the right strategies and help, it is possible to change our neuroception and cope with the challenges it poses.

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