In today’s episode we explore the powerful concept of INDIFFERENCE. Fostering an attitude of indifference is a transformative way to acknowledge your brains messages without being overly fazed them.
You’re not taking whatever it’s telling you as the unequivocal TRUTH of the situation.
Insomnia is a conditioned pattern of fear. But we can nurture our brains to let go of this fear. By responding from a place of indifference (versus reinforcement), we can forge new pathways around what the brain perceives as a threat.
Examples of indifference include:
When the brain is signaling DANGER, DANGER, DANGER. We’re saying, “Whatever, I’m actually okay.”
Indifference can be valuable because it helps the brain perceive a sense of safety.
Before you know it, sleep becomes sleep again — just a natural part of life.
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About Beth Kendall MA, FNTP:
For decades, Beth struggled with the relentless grip of insomnia. After finally understanding insomnia from a mind-body perspective, she changed her relationship with sleep, and completely recovered. Liberated from the constant worry of not sleeping, she’s on a mission to help others recover as well. Her transformative program Mind. Body. Sleep.™ has been a beacon of light for hundreds of others seeking solace from sleepless nights.
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Hello everyone and welcome! Today’s episode is all about the concept of indifference. But first, I wanted to let you know that as we approach the holiday season, I’ll be shifting over into every other week recordings of the podcast until probably after the first of January. So, if you’re wondering where I am next week, no worries, I’m just taking a step back to enjoy the holidays and eat leftovers which hopefully includes pumpkin pie because that’s my absolute favorite. But I’m just embracing a slower pace of life during the season.
Okay, so what am I even talking about when I say indifference? In the context of this episode, I’m talking about cultivating an attitude of indifference towards some of the anxious thoughts and sensations that show up when you’re going through insomnia.
But before I go deeper into this, I want to mention that building an awareness of how we respond to insomnia (which is a part of my approach) doesn’t mean that we use that awareness against ourselves.
Because insomnia is not your fault.
Many of us who develop insomnia tend to be very hard on ourselves, we have high expectations and standards for whatever we do and oftentimes we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to respond the “right” way. Or we become hypervigilant of our responses in general. But here’s the thing…. You can’t do it wrong. You can’t do any of this wrong.
So, while I’m going to give you a tool to use in terms of how to respond to what’s happening in a helpful way, if you ever find yourself struggling with what to do or how to respond, you can always default to self-compassion. Self-kindness and letting go of pressure will ultimately create more safety in your experience and in the nervous system. And I think that’s always a pretty nice place to be anyway.
That said, there are times where we could use a little guidance on how to deal with the ups and downs of insomnia. And I’ve found this particular tool to be a particularly useful one, so that’s what I’m going to share with you today.
An example of an indifferent response would be something like: “Oh well”, “Whatever.” “So what?”
I really appreciate this tool because it offers an effective way to show your brain that you acknowledge what it’s saying, but you’re not overly fazed by it. You’re not taking whatever it’s telling you as the unequivocal truth of the situation.
Because you know what? We do not have to take all these thoughts so seriously! I personally tend to be a kind of serious person, so I find humor to be a HIGHLY EFFECTIVE way to break a pattern in my life, or pull out of my story, or have a big realization. Because if I can laugh at myself, then the jig is up — the thought or pattern pretty much loses its power over me and the emotional charge of it is just so much more diminished.
So, I really relish the people close to me who straight up tell me when I’m being ridiculous because I usually agree with them and ultimately, I end up being a lot easier on myself when I can apply some humor to the situation.
So the moral of that story is it’s okay to laugh at yourself and your own brain because most of the time it likes to make waaaay more out of a situation than the situation actually represents.
So back to using the tool of indifference… When the brain is signaling DANGER, DANGER, DANGER. We’re saying, “Whatever, I’m actually okay.’”
What triggers hyperarousal is the false perception of danger. And this fear response doesn’t always manifest with obvious feelings of anxiety, it can be conditioned beneath our conscious awareness. I did not have much in the way of physical sensations of hyperarousal when I was going through it, my fear showed up mostly as intense analysis and trying desperately to figure out what was wrong with me and putting ALL of my focus and attention on sleep because my brain pretty much insisted on it. The fear of not sleeping was so hardwired into my daily life that every decision I made was influenced by sleep.
In these kinds of scenarios, indifference can be valuable tool because it helps the brain perceive a sense safety.
If we are really scared and focused on fixing sleep ALL day every day, the brain is going to perceive danger. It takes cues from us to interpret the level of threat or safety in any given situation.
So, what we’re doing is understanding that we can influence that perception by saying: “Hey, whatever. I’m okay.”
Now, there are a couple of things I hear with this idea and the first one is usually: “Beth, I can’t be indifferent, no way, insomnia is just making my life too horrible.
And you know, I understand that because I have been there myself. And some days you are just getting by and that is okay. Those days call for a LOT of compassion.
But a lot of times, it isn’t the sleeplessness that causes as much struggle asit is the narratives we tell ourselves about the sleeplessness — that’s what can really drain your battery. So THAT’S the perfect time to cultivate an attitude of indifference and create some new pathways around how you respond to sleep.
So, let’s look at a few examples of this…
Just imagine your brain telling you, “I didn’t get enough sleep last night, the day is ruined, I’ll never get through…”
You can just respond with: “Whatever. I don’t really know that for sure.”
Picture your brain piping in with: “What if I don’t sleep before that early appointment next Tuesday, what am I going to do?”
You can respond with: “Who knows? NO ONE can predict their sleep?”
Your brain tells you: “You know, you took that sleeping pill again last night, and that’s 3 nights in a row.”
You can respond with: “So what?” And just get on with your day.
Or maybe the: “I’m so tired” thought rolls in…
You can respond with: “So what. I survived it before, and I’ll survive it today.”
The thoughts themselves really don’t matter; it’s our attachment and unwavering belief in certain thoughts that gets us swept up in them.
Now, the other thing I’ll often hear is: “Beth, I’m being indifferent to my thoughts but I’m STILL not sleeping!”
Anytime I hear a “but I’m still not sleeping” attached to it, then I know it’s just the brain reaching for some control. Because remember, sleep is passive – it’s one thing in life that we don’t have to DO anything to have except be alive and be awake during the day.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
Cultivating indifference can be really helpful, but if we’re unintentionally attaching a condition to it, then this can create some pressure and performance anxiety. So remind yourself that there is nothing you need to do to or be to sleep.
Now, when it comes to emotions, I think we can feel our emotions while remaining indifferent to the story behind them.
If you’re feeling sad, you can feel sad without judging yourself for feeling sad. “I’m sad, I’m allowed, I’m human. Whatever.”
Maybe you recognize; “Wow, I’m having super negative thoughts about my whole recovery process.” Okay. Whatever.
It’s honestly a pretty freeing feeling to have this option.
But please, do be discerning in your life around what might warrant a deeper presence with your feelings because if you are grieving or processing a major loss, then that is something you are definitely going to want to honor.
So now you might be wondering… "But HOW do I do it? HOW do I become indifferent?"
And you know, this basically comes down to your understanding of how insomnia works. The fear signals coming from your brain are based on a perceived threat, not an actual threat to your life. When we know and understand that just because something FEELS dangerous doesn’t mean it IS dangerous, we naturally become more indifferent.
The other thing is just remembering this is always an option. Pulling away from our thinking enough to apply indifference.
Chronic insomnia is a conditioned fear pattern, but we can nurture our brains to let go of this fear. By responding from a place of indifference instead of reinforcement, we can forge new pathways around what the brain perceives as a threat.
As those pathways get stronger and you gain more confidence in your own ability to sleep, the old pathways start to die off.
And then before you know it, sleep becomes sleep again — just a natural part of life 🧡
Thanks for joining me today. I invite you to rate and review the podcast on your favorite platform — that helps me out a lot. This is Mind. Body. Sleep and I’m Beth Kendall… I’ll see you next time.
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