If you've ever worked with me directly in coaching, joined my Benzo recovery school, or even just have taken a deep dive into the content I share on my YouTube channel, my website, support group, podcasts, or published books on Benzo recovery, you've likely heard the terms "lulling" and "pushing."
These two terms are central to the Benzo recovery program I put together during my time in withdrawal and recovery. Lulling and Pushing are exercises that I attribute to saving my life during my tumultuous crisis coming off of a high dose of diazepam, which I had taken for ten years. Lulling and pushing is a set of exercises and a philosophical approach to recovery.
So what exactly is lulling and pushing?
Lulling and pushing exercises serve multiple functions. Firstly, they help us access largely benzo-suppressed good neurochemistry (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, & natural GABA) while at the same time reducing the extremely high levels of benzo-induced cortisol and adrenaline responses that flood our bodies. The suppression of the good chemistry, while the increase of the so-called bad chemistry, is a huge part of our suffering during benzo withdrawal and recovery. Both directly and indirectly as a response to chemical withdrawal and receptor damage.
When we examine the mechanics of what benzo withdrawal does to our brain and body, we see more dynamic functions than just chemical withdrawal. In fact, the term 'chemical withdrawal' is an umbrella term for a host of intricate biochemical and conditioned/reactive limbic system processes.
I cannot stress enough to you all how much of a role our limbic systems and cortex-based (learned) anxiety play in our withdrawal and recovery, our suffering, and our ability to positively impact things. For the past ten years in my work with the Benzo communities, this is something that I've seen missing, overlooked, or flat-out ignored. Others have tried to deny the role of these features altogether, instead adopting a limited and inaccurate one-sided model of benzo withdrawal and recovery: that it is ALL chemical withdrawal and receptor damage. This represents the most dangerous bad 'science' that circulates and encompasses the benzo communities like a brushfire. More and more nonsense gets shared among members, which is really sad because it disarms them from fully understanding what is happening to them and what they can do about it! Becoming a vegan or adopting the carnivore diet isn't going to save us, though they can help. Prayer or meditation alone isn't going to pull us out of the conditioned amygdala responses that can go on to keep us stuck in a benzo-induced loop of mental illness!
Many of us are suffering profoundly, and we've been mistreated, neglected, injured, gaslighted, and even abused by our once-trusted psychiatrists and prescribing doctors. This can easily lend to us almost instinctively joining the benzo tribalism we see pervading the support communities and the louder voices. Unfortunately, This can drive us to derive a narrative of "it's all chemical damage, and there's nothing we can truly do...." And that is how hopelessness and despair are born.
I'm here to tell you this isn't true. We CAN absolutely engage in our recovery. We can and SHOULD help reduce the bad chemicals while working to access the good chemicals. For example, we must learn to identify maladaptive coping while fostering new healthier coping mechanisms.
Lulling and Pushing create the groundwork for this. Much content further explains these two concepts and breaks down how we utilize them in our recovery. Lulling and pushing complement each other, and they share a kind of symbiotic relationship. We use lulling exercises to help lull down our hyper-vigilant, hyperaroused, and fear-conditioned limbic systems. We use pushing exercises to help push back against the conditioned debilitating fear responses our amygdala has generated through its language of pairing associating stimuli.
I often think of the samurai when I think of lulling and pushing. The samurai had a saying, "A warrior who knows only one side of themselves leaves themselves vulnerable to attack." This meant understanding and developing both the masculine and feminine energies and components of their being. For this reason, samurai practiced the art of war, fighting, sword making, and battling (Bushido). They were some of the fiercest warriors in history. However, they also were a gentle group of people who embraced art and beauty and practiced writing poetry, flower arranging, art making, design, calligraphy, and more. Everything was a potential art for them, even making their swords.
This concept is mainly missing today in our societies, where everything seems so dualistic and often opposing. People are either hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine. The idea of integrating and bringing harmony to both energies seems to be a forgotten art and science. Well, in Benzo withdrawal and recovery, it's paramount!
For example, most female clients are adept at lulling exercises. They are fantastic at practicing mindfulness, relaxation, compassion, love, and self-care and seem to be instinctively nurturing. Often much more so than most of the males I work with. However, most male clients struggle with lulling exercises and often neglect to practice them, whereas they are very good at pushing exercises. They are great at putting themselves out there and doing challenging work, such as exposure therapy, physical exercise, and cognitive reframing. Males tend to be better at white-knuckling it, which may bring more problems than solutions in the bigger picture. Conversely, females often find it tougher to do pushing exercises.
Of course, everyone is different, and this certainly doesn't apply to all people. It is not meant to be a stereotype but a general observation. Again, the importance is in balancing both lulling and pushing exercises.
In the next blog, I will dive deeper into lulling exercises, as they serve as a critical beginning base for all the work we will be doing together.