On reversing the groove of misery and hypervigilance

I received an email today from someone who read a book I wrote years ago on the subject of misophonia (extreme sound sensitivity). I responded to the person, and then I realized that the message I wrote is pretty good advice generally.

So I’d like to share it with you here.

Let me preface this by saying that it may be helpful to first acknowledge that you have been completely unsuccessful in trying to fix your problems. When you can acknowledge that, you are ready to open to something beyond the limitations of your conditioned perception of yourself and your life.

Your perception of yourself and your life is a product of what I call “alert mode” in the message below. Alert mode is the mode of perception that you stuck in if you keep trying to solve your problems. And no amount of thinking, reading, understanding, or seeking can change this. In fact, all those things reinforce the stuckness.

Here’s the message I wrote that I’d like to now share with you.

Your nervous system has two basic modes of operation. For the sake of simplicity let’s call those modes alert (i.e. hypervigilance) and rest.

When you are stuck in alert mode (as you are), that forms a vicious cycle in which you are most likely to remain stuck. That is because you are unconsciously forming a groove in your nervous system. It is just like how over millions of years a river can form a canyon. Bit by bit, that groove becomes bigger and bigger. And after a long time, everything will feed into that groove.

That is the situation you find yourself in. So you must first understand that is the case. And know that because you are very sensitive right now and because you are in the habit of fear and reaction, you must not let that also cause you stress. Just accept that is the case right now. You are afraid and reactive and tense and that is how it is. So don’t fight it. Because if you fight it, you will only reinforce it, making it stronger.

The good news is that you can recover. I promise you that you can. It is 100% possible. And it will not take a very long time as long as you commit to it completely.

What you have to do is undo that groove. And to undo the groove you need to do only one thing, which is deeply relax. No matter what happens, your only responsibility is to deeply relax. You must deeply relax as often as possible. And you must use every trigger as a reminder of your responsibility to deeply relax.

When you deeply relax, you shift into rest mode. In rest mode, your nervous system undoes that groove of stress and hypervigilance. But you must remain in rest mode often enough.

Physically relax. Observe your breathing and allow your breathing to become relaxed. Let the exhalations be long but not forced. Relax your facial muscles. Relax all the muscles in your body. And let thoughts drift by. Do not attach to any thought. Do not try to solve any problems. Do not try to protect yourself.

If you try to protect yourself or solve your problems, you only reinforce the groove of stress and keep yourself stuck in alert mode. You must commit completely to deeply relaxing.

I promise you that if you practice deep relaxation as often as possible all day long no matter what happens, even if it is scary, even if you feel rage, this will cure you. You just have to commit to it no matter what.

You will feel many things that you think you do not want to feel. You will have thoughts that will tell you that these feelings are unbearable. You will want to tense up and scream. You must relax anyway. And if you must think any thought, just think this thought: It is safe to be here now. It is safe to feel now. You are safe now.

Just keep relaxing deeply and trust that it will work. The more you do it, the more it changes your nervous system’s conditioning so that a new groove forms. That new groove is a groove of rest, relaxation, openness, ease, happiness, creativity, and flow.

At first it may seem impossible. It is not impossible. It just seems that way when you’re stuck in alert mode. Alert mode keeps your focus narrowed so you cannot see the bigger picture. So you must trust and deeply relax.

You can do it. You can succeed. You can heal and be happy and at ease. All your problems can dissolve. I promise you it is true. It just requires commitment. No matter what.

You will see some benefits in a short time if you commit to it. And then sometimes it will seem harder and as though you have relapsed. Do not dismay. Just continue to relax deeply. Make it a new way of life to relax deeply. And sometimes things will seem very, very good. Other times you will think you are relapsing. Just continue to relax deeply. It will keep getting better. You just have to keep relaxing deeply no matter what.


  1. Joey, this post of yours is synchronous as I have been practicing deep relaxation, especially when faced with traumatic events. I am opening and relaxing into trauma when it is happening, instead of bracing against it. I have come to this practice by increasing my inner love and support for myself. I find that the opening and relaxation occur together as a unit, and serve to increase my vulnerability, in an already extremely raw and vulnerable situation. However, I also recognize the goodness, courage, and well being found in this undefended, exposed vulnerability. Things unravel in layers. Becoming more comfortable, by relaxing into the discomfort of one layer, opens it into another emotional sensory layer. In a recent article, I mentioned about how living becomes a perpetual act of venturing out onto a new edge of fear, from an expanding but fragile comfort zone.

    Thank you for your post. I am happy that you have resurrected yet another website. This incarnation of your site has a spartan stripped down quality that fits well with what you are writing. Hope all is well with your family. We still want to visit and I have been intending to email you for awhile.

  2. Same here I love the simplicity. You make something the mind says is impossible ..into something so doable. No matter what’s happening or how I’m feeling..I choose to deeply relax. Let’s see how this goes.

  3. Simplest, most straight forward and to the point observations and suggestion you’ve ever shared. Love it.

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