People report they’re more stressed than ever, which is why developing an approach of practical peace has never been more vital.
Too much stress can be toxic —negative thoughts increase cortisol production, and too much cortisol can exacerbate a range of health problems and impede cognitive function. This toxicity can become cyclical—and contagious. Mirror neurons in our brains can echo what people do and say around us, informing our feelings and thoughts, and without developing the resilience to constructively respond to negativity, it can become a poison both emotionally and physiologically for the person exhibiting the negativity and the person responding to it. It’s what we at CPI call an Integrated Experience.
The Integrated Experience is defined as the way behaviour impacts behaviour—how my behavioural choices can impact yours. CPI training emphasises that to positively inform this Integrated Experience, you must understand that the only behaviour you can control is your own.
One choice can set the path of crisis prevention, or crisis de-escalation, in a positive direction. And knowing that behaviour impacts behaviour, making that choice one of practical harmony is vital for the people around you.
The Integrated Experience, as illustrated by CPI staff and Certified Instructors, provides strategies that help.
- Personal space and body language are highly important. Being aware of someone’s need for personal space helps them calm down when they’re upset. Using respectful, nonthreatening gestures, facial expressions, and movements has the same effect.
- How we say words matters so much more than the words themselves. When someone’s feeling scared, angry, hurt, or aggressive, they don’t hear what we say so much—they actually respond more to our tone, volume, and cadence.
- Simple and clear directives always work best. If someone’s upset about something, they often can’t hear everything we say, so we need to be clear, speak simply, and offer concise and respectful support and directives.
- Our behaviour and attitudes affect the behaviour and attitudes of others. This is the Integrated Experience from the CPI Crisis Development Model℠, which teaches us that while we can’t often control someone else’s behaviour, we can control how we choose to respond to that behaviour—and that helps them behave more positively.
Shifting your own physiological and cognitive response to an intentionally positive one has a domino effect on the people around you, inspiring them to elevate their own thinking. That, in turn, changes how they interact with the people in their care. We can’t always prevent bad things from happening, but we can proactively address the risks of trauma, and help one another to heal.
The Integrated Experience isn’t just about helping yourself to feel better in the face of stress. There’s tremendous potential for diminishing lasting harm to others by taking this philosophy deeper into a trauma-informed care approach.
1. You can help your residents or patients begin to identify, tolerate, and develop more adaptive responses by engaging mindfully in the earliest steps of the Crisis Development Model℠.
Think of the first behaviour level, Anxiety, as a redirection zone. If we’re effective at this point, we can provide the needed support before a client loses rationality and attempt to inhibit that hair-trigger response of the limbic system. Mindfulness, particularly when employed as a meditative practice, can empower individuals to form new neural pathways that can lead away from their trauma and toward recovery by helping them learn to self-regulate. People can’t be relaxed and triggered at the same time—these are incompatible states.
2. You can learn to identify defensive behaviour as trauma-reactive behaviour, not a deliberate outburst.
Being mindful of trauma as a Precipitating Factor can help you focus on Rational Detachment, rather than taking a client’s actions personally. Knowledge of nonverbal and paraverbal behaviour can yield a more sophisticated understanding of baseline behaviour and allow for an earlier read of defensive behaviours. A quicker read ideally leads to a faster therapeutic reaction.
3. You can also discover the triggers of risk behaviours by remaining rationally detached.
The moment of crisis is a key opportunity to uncover what might be triggering an individual’s behaviour. Risk behaviour could well be rooted in trauma. The rapid firing of the limbic system when triggered can result in “flashbacks” or dissociative reactions in people, to name a few possible scenarios. Implementing the team approach recommended by CPI training ensures that you’ll have the supervision necessary to do this safely and inform more effective treatment interventions.
4. Take a trauma-sensitive approach and pave the way for positive recovery during Tension Reduction.
When helping de-escalate a crisis, the goal should be to not only prevent the crisis from happening again, but to reconstruct those neural pathways that have previously triggered this acting-out behaviour, giving people constructive coping skills—and where Therapeutic Rapport can help individuals recognise maladaptive responses in the aftermath of acting out, and determine new strategies to prevent future occurrences.
5. Always take the opportunity to debrief with the COPING Model℠.
For clients, this is a time to actively and safely participate in their own recovery. For staff, debriefing provides essential protection from secondary trauma, or compassion fatigue, and can be the cue to implement appropriate and effective self-care strategies. As a Certified Instructor, I encourage staff to not only use debriefing to establish a relapse prevention process, but to also make sure that they are on the lookout for vicarious trauma in the aftermath of a crisis.
practical—not just as a strategy for safer de-escalation, but for effective violence prevention.
The Integrated Experience challenges us to choose practical approaches. It’s clear that our interactions with one another are a significant factor in the perception of stress—and our inability to cope with it. The subsequent buildup of anxiety and pressure not only has a poisonous effect on our individual well-being, but it fuels the seeds of conflict between people. More importantly, we must acknowledge that many of us do
have the ability to do something about it. We can change this trend, by taking ownership of our personal choices when it comes to responding to the challenging or stressful behaviour we encounter. Through training, we can build the resilience and confidence to consistently choose the response of practical peace.
Viewing one another through the lens of practical peace—by considering our interactions to be Integrated Experiences—opens the door to not only reduce our own personal stress, but to decrease the stress and anxiety experienced by those around us. Behaviour impacts behaviour. A foundation is built when we acknowledge that all we own are our actions, and that we must bear the consequences of these actions out.
Training is what empowers us to make Integrated Experiences positive. Acting from a principles-based perspective, each of us can be an ambassador of practical harmony. Changing the world for all of humanity is too big a task for just one person—but changing your
world has never been more possible.
Are you ready to take ownership of your side of the Integrated Experience?
(Note. The original version of this article first appeared on the CPI US website)