I HUGELY enjoyed this conversation with Stefan all about the importance of emotional regulation when it comes to behaviour.
How so many of us are wired for the stress response to be a baseline of ‘normality’.
This is a really important conversation in my opinion!
Stefan has a huge amount of knowledge and experience under his belt. He’s the founder of BioSelf Technology and the Inventor of Sensate, which I have been RAVING about!
He’s also an integrated healthcare physician and wellbeing technology visionary. The founder of New Medicine Group (London), Thrive Health and Zen Now.
He’s a traditional Chinese Medicine authority, food alchemist, cook. A breathing Coach & Mindfulness Mentor. A Fascia & Bodyworker and an Author and educator dedicated to global impact.
It’s safe to say he knows his stuff!
Stefan kindly gifted me my Sensate and I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and It’s safe to say I’m obsessed. I genuinely believe this is a game changer in emotional regulation. (You can get yourself a generous discount of £20 through my partner link HERE)
Fran: I am so excited that today I have Stefan Chmelik with me. Stefan is the founder of BioSelf Technology and the inventor of the Sensate which I have been utterly raving about on my stories on Instagram. I have been using it for a couple of weeks now and I am genuinely, honestly, blown away with how much I love it. Stefan and I were just having a chat about that before we came on. I find myself throughout the day actually wanting to take little breaks to use it just for 10 minutes at a time but really actually having that desire to do it. The Sensate is an incredible tool. It looks like a big pebble and it uses mere infrasound resonance by a bone conduction on your chest bone combined with uniquely engineered musical soundscapes which are glorious in the app and it is to calm the fight or flight response. It reduces anxiety and stress and can really help you relax on a deep level even if you’ve struggled with that in the past. I personally think this is going to be an absolute game changer particularly for anyone who finds it hard to mediate or relax.
I am so excited to have you here Stefan. I think this is going to be a great conversation.
Stefan: Thank you so much. I am absolutely thrilled to be here. My personal mission and the company’s mission is all about spreading the news about how well Sensate works. We have a global impact agenda so I am always thrilled to talk to people about it and I love that you love it.
Fran: I really love it. So tell us a little bit about yourself. You have got some serious qualifications behind you and, with the combination of all this, what made you want to create the Sensate. Where did the need for something like this come from in your opinion?
Stefan: Primarily I am a medical practioner. My background is 30 years in medicine, founder of New Medicine Group in Harley Street which is the UK’s main integrated healthcare clinic. Like many operations of that nature, it is a bit more virtual these days and has been over the last period with clinics being closed etc, but still functions. But I am now almost entirely dedicated to pursuing the Sensate mission. My dad taught me and my brother to meditate when we were very young so I have been meditating for most of my life and obviously I used that to inform my work with patients. I specialised in patients with anxiety, depression, pain, insomnia etc. Then upon forming New Medicine Group about 17 years ago the team was kind of brought together as an astonishing medical team really, with between us at our hight we had 300 years of clinical knowledge between the team. So it was an astonishing learning experience and hot house for new ideas but we were all very much united by this search for what is the thing in makes a difference in people’s health outcome. So why is it that some people get better from anything and some people get better from nothing. In other words some people can’t recover from apparently even quite simple conditions and we have seen variations on what we are now calling long covid for decades. We were treating chronic Lyme disease and chronic autoimmune conditions and chronic versions of viral or post viral fatigue type syndromes and the thing that seems to make the difference was a persons innate resiliency which we can kind of call their constitution plus the things they have done for themselves to increase their ability to adapt.
So a resilience and ability to kind of roll with the punches and, over many years of explanation, what we found is that if you dig down into what resiliency means is essentially it is a way of describing vagal tone. In other words the tone of the Vagus Nerve. The Vagus nerve has become increasingly popular. You’d think it had just been invented really but of course as beings we have had a vagus nerve for approximately 500 million years so we have had a vagus nerve for hundreds of millions of years longer than we have had a brain. And we have had a body of course also for hundreds of millions of years longer than we have had a brain as well. So, things that are wired into the body and wired into the vagus nerve are much more deeply wired than emotional or brain based neural or trigger responses. Which is why anxiety, depression and phobias have no relationship to education or intelligence because that reactive system is incredibly powerful and impossible to overcome simply by telling yourself “I don’t need to be afraid, I don’t need to be anxious, the threat is not real”. So very very intelligent people have OCD, they know they’ve turned the cooker off but they have to go back and check or whatever version of the behaviour pattern they have is. These kind of innate deep brain stem level and vagus level threat perception responses, because that is really what they are, is the brain taking information from the environment, often misinterpreting it, because we have these amazing human brains that can process vast amounts of data, and that is exactly what our brains do. They process data and often they will come up with a conclusion that isn’t entirely accurate to the situation. So as human beings that is our biggest issue in many ways in determining where a threat is real or where it is just perceived. And to go back to your actual original question, I have been using breathing techniques and meditation techniques with thousands of patients over the last few decades and what I really noticed about 10-15 years ago was patients ability to use the techniques really fell of a cliff. That process has just kind of continued. It is not actually about attention span, because in many ways peoples attention span has increased but we have this problem of continual partial attention. This has been described in research at Stamford and our attention is simply divided across too many data channels at once. And if you also bear in mind the research that shows that actually nobody can multitask, multitasking is a complete myth. What some people can do slightly better than others is do more than one thing at the same time by switching their brain from one task to another, but you are not actually multitasking. The human brain is hard wired to only be able to focus on one thing at a time so the concept of multi-tasking really is detrimental actually. Just do one thing at a time and do it well and then move on to another task. But that is the issue we have so many data input like phones and a dozen different things pinging. I have had to turn off a dozen things so they don’t ping too much during this interview. There will still be something I’ve forgotten so something will ping at some point no doubt. And then obviously all the reminders and the to do lists we write ourselves to be more productive to increase our output.
Our brains are essentially incapable of telling the difference between actual physical threat and the feeling of being overwhelmed. The brain stem, the lizard brain, is literally remnant from our days as lizards and isn’t that sophisticated. It is very powerful, because it has the ability to press the emergency response button, but it is not particularly cleaver. It has a very hard time between distinguishing between somebody actually chasing you and just too many emails, too many of everything, so we are overwhelmed. I think this is in many ways the single biggest epidemic or pandemic that the world is suffering that is human overwhelm. Our nervous systems only really have one response to this, a very effective response, which is to initiate the emergency response, the fight or flight response, which most people have now heard of, but it is a real thing. But what I have found is that a lot of people are living in this perceived threat emergency response level more or less all the time without realising because of course it is their everyday experience. Its normal. Its normal to feel overwhelmed. It’s normal to be essentially in a state of anxiety and heightened arousal, the correct term for negative stress, and this increases the body’s sensitivity and it releases adrenaline into the system. It disrupts stress hormones – cortisol and norepinephrine as well. And these are short burst hormones designed to make you run really fast or to fight. They are not meant to be used like stimulants like coffee because they are highly pro-inflammatory, they are corrosive. If you dig down into most of the chronic health issues that are affecting people today you will find disruption stress hormones underlie a lot of that. There is a lot of chronic inflammation whether its heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer etc. Most of these have a root in inflammation. But of course if we are in this high arousal stressed state then sitting still, calming your mind, and noticing your breathing and not feeling overwhelmed is not available to you. It is like somebody trying to learn a breathing technique whilst having a panic attack. It just doesn’t work. You have to have the techniques in place before hand so when the event happens you can use this.
And this really was my conclusion, that traditional techniques that humans have put together around meditation, breathing and relaxation were just simply not working and indeed there is actually a very large percentage for whom, when they try to self regulate, when they try to sit down and notice their breathing they actually feel worse. Isn’t is interesting, if you want to make someone stressed and anxious, ask them to notice their breathing. Then if someone is chronically hyper-ventilating as a lot of people are, they are breathing poorly, they are breathing in their upper chest and holding their breath you then sit them down and say OK, now notice your breathing. And of course what you will notice is how terrible their breathing is and therefore by noticing they activate the emergency response and they breath even more poorly. So I decided that my mission was to create a way for modern humans to develop the skills to be able to self regulate without the techniques we have developed over some 100s of thousands of years being useful anymore. So if meditation and breathing aren’t effectively much use to most people, and of course there is a section of people they are fantastically useful for and that is great, but I am interested in the hundreds of millions of people for whom these techniques don’t work. So the technology is created really for those people. It is not a substitution for meditation, it is a path to the ability to self regulate for people currently finding it very difficult. Once it is there they can then develop whatever techniques they want. But it is an engaging, easy, quick and enjoyable A to B, because if you can’t get from A to B there is nowhere to go. It is that first step on the ability to self regulate. And all the clinical information and trails etc in patients, and your experience as you’ve noticed, points to the effectiveness of its ability to do that. So we are thrilled that we have developed something that really does do what it says on the tin.
Fran: I love the fact that when I started to try it, as I have a million different tools and techniques and strategies under my belt now, but I can remember when I think back to when I first started this, that I had zero ability to regulate emotions. And when your emotions are driving your behaviour and then you are getting angry and frustrated at yourself for your behaviour it is in this perpetual loop that people don’t understand. But I can remember when I first started to meditate that there is this massive misconception about clearing the mind and all these different things and I know a lot of people can struggle and a lot of people, because their base line, their normal, is in a little bit of a heightened level of stress response, it actually registers as danger in the brain to relax, so you have to start to train that into yourself in a nice, safe, and enjoyable – I love the fact you said its enjoyable – because that is the thing I found the most profound. Because we all struggle to start habits, particularly if you don’t understand how habits work, but for me this has been the one thing that has been completely natural. I don’t have to put a reminder in my phone, it is there and I want to do it because it feels really good and I understand the benefits. I think that is part of the genius. And I said, as I was doing some stories on this, the lanyard, just having the lanyard around you as that little reminder to just be able to quickly take it and say OK I am noticing I am in a little bit of a heightened response so I am going to just do a quick ten minutes and it completely gets you back on track. I love it. Would you use it if you were in a conversation with someone. That is something I wanted to know.
Stefan: As the inventor I feel I am able to break the least case, or bend it at the very least. So the least case is ten minutes once a day lying down with headphones on and your eyes closed. That is what we ask people to do. We say do that because that will give you the best results. Most people do get an immediate benefit from the first 10 minute session which is amazing. We find that a lot of people do multi sessions in a day – they do longer sessions or multiple sessions. We haven’t established that you can over do it. It is not an electrical stimulation, it is pure sound. We can talk a little bit about the mechanism itself. But you are using sound, just audible and inaudible infra sound so we don’t thing you can over do it. So I do sometimes use just the vibration element if I am talking to people, if I am on long phone calls, because technology, phone calls and keyboards really make your shoulders go up. There is some great research with electrical muscle receptors that show as soon as someone goes on the keyboard their breathing accessory muscles start to tighten up. The diaphragm is of course the main organ really of breathing but all these breathing accessory muscles in the neck and shoulders that move the scapula up and down are also really important and this is why so many people have chronic head and neck tension. Tension at the back of the head, those kind of headaches are because of this upper chest breathing pattern which is so common and which technology tends to encourage.
Fran: So tell me a little bit more. As it is using sound and the vibrations together, that is where a lot of the magic happens. Tell us a little bit more about the science behind it, what it is actually doing for us, and the frequencies that we are using.
Stefan: My father and my brother are both musicians and I have been a musician in the past so music has always played a big part in my life. I’ve used music and sound in therapy for decades and in the last ten years used a big piece of equipment that sends infrasonic waves through the patient and that was really the starting point with using low frequency sounds. We found that by using that in clinic we had an across the board improved success rate with all kinds of conditions so we pretty much used that technology on everybody as a base line because it enabled them to self regulate, enabled them to improve vagal tone and improved resilience. I was actually going to roll out a bunch of clinics with that technology in it but then I realised that the impact for that was pretty difficult, obviously expensive technology, upmarket high street locations. Whilst on that technology one day though I had this kind of eureka moment where the whole kind of concept was channelled, and I realised you could get rid of 99% of the hardware and the computer power by turning the body into the hardware and by using a phone to replace most of the computing power. So rather than using huge infrasound transducers that had to go through all the big muscles on the back, by placing the device on the chest and using a small infrasound transducer, what you are doing is turning the body into an instrument. So there is this column of air through the throat right down into the chest and diagram and just like on a violin, guitar, cello, you can make that column of air vibrate in an instrument you are using like strings. In the chest normally you are using the vocal chords and all we are doing in a sense is using very very specific harmonic low frequencies combined with what you are hearing in the ear and through bone conduction on the chest which then makes all the air molecules in the chest and throat vibrate.
So from an experience point of view it is very similar to ommming or chanting or certain types of breathing so if you are skilful and you have the time to practice those techniques you can absolutely get the same results. The problem is the learning curve, doing it right, knowing if you are doing it right, doing it consistently. These are the problems. And that is really what Sensate does, it is a reliable, consistent, rapid method to produce similar kind or physical responses using sounds. The low frequency sound, which is stuff below 50 hertz like humming – humming is also a very good method. Winnie the Pooh must have had a fantastic vagal nerve tone, he was always humming wasn’t he. So there are exercises aren’t there in yoga techniques, bumblebee breathing, which are designed to make the chest and throat vibrate and hum, but we are just doing it with specific frequencies which change. It is a multi frequency, it is not just simply vibrating, and we are then synchronising it with the audio content in the headphones. It is one piece of music that you are hearing, and you choose which piece you want from the app, there is lots of different pieces and we are adding more later on this year. So just one piece of music but part of the orchestration, roughly half the orchestration, is below the hearing threshold and it is played by bone conduction into the chest. So you feel it rather than hear it. By vibrating these kind of air molecules those then excite other parts of the body, particularly the water in the body. We are up to 75% – 96% water as humans, and water is a fantastic medium for the conduction of sound. Much better than air. Air is actually quite a poor medium for sound conduction. Whales for instance can hear sounds 16Km away under water. Who knows how are they can hear sounds out of water as we cant measure that. So water is this amazing medium for sound transmission. It is actually faster than nerve conduction speed so sound travels through water in the body faster than nerve conduction speed so it is very efficient, there is very little loss and it is incredibly fast. If you want to propagate a sensation around the body then using a frequency that stimulates water in the body is an incredibly efficient way to do that. The mental image I like is having the Sensate on the chest is very much like dropping a pebble into a pond. There is this ripple that goes out upwards and downwards. If you combine that with the stuff you are hearing, so you are also having the neural processing element, it is very rapid and very powerful and profound in its outcome. It is not flaky to think about or talk about frequency or vibration. If you read information from the most prominent quantum physicists they are saying exactly this. They are saying the entire universe is a vibration. Things only exist because of their vibrational rate. The only difference, and this is well established, between this table and love is the frequency of vibration. Each is just a moment in time. By accessing a much broader spectrum of the frequency range we are doubling the impact that music can have. We already know that herd music can have a massive physical and emotional impact. We are doubling the wave length, so we are using twice the amount of information in the body and also you are experiencing it on a cellular physical level not just a brain level. Given what I said before that we have had bodies and vagus nerves for hundreds and millions of years longer than we have had a brain, that is incredibly important.
Fran: Yes, so much of the messaging is 80% body to brain isn’t it. But most people idolise the brain, and it hugely important and we love the brain but there is this huge piece of the puzzle that has been missing from so many mindset techniques and tools, and cognitive tools. There is such a focus on the cognitive and the thoughts but actually so many of those thoughts are coming from your body and people just don’t know this information.
Stefan: There are multiple brains. There are multiple brains in the head of course but there are also multiple brains in the body, ones that we know about, like the gut brain connections. The gut is officially the fifth brain. There is a heart brain. I am sure there are other brains as well that we haven’t quite quantified as brains yet, so I think the whole fascial connective tissue network in many ways functions like a brain. We know that many hormones that control emotional regulation are produced in the fascia, we know that the signalling around the body and therefore trauma is locked into the fascia as much as it is into the nervous system. Daniel Goldman says that we have multiple brains and actually the brains are the servant in the body and not the other way round.
Fran: I like that. One of the things with Sensate is obviously using all of this and, knowing this and understanding this, I always find that when people can understand why something works there is so much more motivation to do it which I love, its why I like to educate a lot. So you get the in the moment effects, but can you talk about cumulative effects over time. Because so many people say “oh I did that for a few days and didn’t really feel anything”, or “oh I tried it for a couple of weeks and then I stopped doing it and everything just came back and it was the same as it was before”, so I would love for you to talk about the cumulative effects of this.
Stefan: Well to be hones that is almost the entire motivation for designing sensate in the way that I did, with 30 years of clinical information working with patients. Obviously I have done research but I am a clinician first and a researcher second. I think that is incredibly important. We see medical inventions and devices invented by researchers, researchers are fascinated by brain headsets. But people aren’t. People are much more interested in things that will make them feel different. Human behaviour change is the holy grail. We have been trying to find ways to regularly, consistently and reliably change behaviour for a very very long time and it is incredibly difficult. I think the reason we generally fail is because we approach it from an intellectual point for view. Whether its diet or exercise or emotional and behavioural issues, we approach it from a very intellectual point of view whereas in fact behaviour is governed by brain chemicals and emotions which are physical. That is why addictions are effectively behaviour change apparatus. So its like a dopamine driven addiction. And that could be good or bad. It could be games on the phone that give this instant reward but no long term rewards, and that is incredibly powerful and of course good and drugs etc as well.
People say it is easy to get in a pattern where you are seeking this kind of dopamine high. But dopamine and hormones – oxytosis and serotonin etc- if you can work out how to use these for positive behaviour change then that is incredibly powerful. You do that at a feeling level. In other words at a physical level so you cant think your brain out of trouble. You have to feel the brain and the body out of trouble or into positive habits. We don’t say “oh I think I’m fearful” or “I think I’m in love”. We say I feel love, and I feel afraid and I feel worried, I’ve got a gut instinct. We use these very visceral feeling based descriptions of things that actually drive our behaviour. We are living in a decade of cognitive dissidents anyway so what people say and what they believe are different. And people go on about wanting evidence but actually, once presented with the evidence, if it doesn’t support what they want to believe anyway then they will just ignore it. So although evidence is important, it confirms peoples beliefs but it doesn’t tend to change them interestingly. Which is part of the reason why, when developing sensate, we went very much down a clinical patient route rather than a medical route. So rather than developing a medical device which will then be rationed or prescribed by doctors in a clinical setting, we wanted to empower individuals at home or wherever to be able to control their own behaviour, to be able to develop their own self regulation. For me that is a much much more powerful objective and is taking hands from doctors and giving it to people. Because no one understands how you feel better than you. But also we can feel powerless with out ability to change what is going on. So people who fail diets, people who make resolutions and then fail to live up to them. And then each time we fail then that of course cements that relationship so the cliché, the description from Stamford, “the neurones that fire together wire together”, its a lovely sentence, and its largely true, and there are versions of it to make it more sophisticated, but we are what we do. We are what we think and we are what we feel and we are the behaviours that we do on a regular basis. So if we meditate regularly that becomes the default neural network. If we hit the bottle regularly that becomes the default neural network. So you build up patters of behaviour, positive or negative, by repeating the behaviour. So although its straight forward enough to change the behaviour, you just do this for long enough to become the new habit. But if it doesn’t give a dopamine response, you essentially don’t want to do it and its not enjoyable, you simply don’t do it more than a few days or weeks.
Fran: Salad over the doughnut
Stefan: Exactly, these responses are very primal and its pointless trying to fight them with an intellectual “but I want to, or I know I should” response. That’s just not going to work. So the technology was always designed from day one to be enjoyable. That sounds silly and simple but actually, as I think you understand, the importance that that cant be overstated. Otherwise, you wont do it. You don’t get any behaviour change without people doing the thing they need to do. If you go in at that level, that kind of enjoyable, engaging, I want to do it, I don’t need to remind myself to do it, I won’t resist it level then, one it works more effectively from the first try anyway and two, you are much much more likely for it to become a pattern of behaviour which then cements this neural network around that pattern of behaviour. We see that with sensate from the technology. We see the engagements stats through the anonymous app data. We see stats that are unheard of really in the industry so my co-founder and CEO Anna Gudmundson who is in Los Angeles now raising our new funding round. We are a great team and share a similar passion for human potential. She has a background very much in technology but also particularly in apps and she knows, and this is one of the reasons she came to work for the company, despite being able to work for much larger companies than us, is the compelling and really quite unprecedented nature of the engagement that the technology produces in people. Normally you are talking about single figure stats whereas our stats are way into double figures. How often and long people use it for and how long they use the technology for. This is also why we didn’t go for an app only solution. We tried, but it seems its just not neuro-anatomically possible, it’s not physically possible to produce the outcomes using just airwave compression sound. You need the physical element because so much of the body isn’t the brain. I think that is one of the reasons why we are fascinated by the brain. I think Noah Yuval Harari said this, we love the brain because we think it gives us an insight into the mind. But actually, the mind is so much more than just the brain.
Fran: And that is why it is so difficult to explain that and I don’t think anyone has really ever been able to give a definition of all these different things and we can use words interchangeably. But when we are talking about cumulative benefits and improving vagal tone and changing behaviour, what are the things that you have noticed, or that other people have fed back to you that they have noticed about using this.
Stefan: The single most common piece of feedback we get, and we love this because it keeps the team going, you know we are a devoted team, but we are a tiny start up and it is tough out there, but the daily spontaneous feedback from users – you know the kind of I just had to write to you type stuff – is that users really love the technology. They develop a very person relationship with it. We try to support that as much as we can. Everyday we get “you have changed my life”, or “for the first time in 20 years” kind of stuff. This is what we hear from people. We know also it is very engaging and it is working well because the percentage of people who are dissatisfied with their experience is 1.12%. It is very close to 98% satisfaction rate which is ridiculously unheard of.
Fran: One of the things that I have notice in particular is feeling more balanced. Even though I have done a lot of emotional regulation, I do heart math all the time, all of these different things, it is on those days when you are a human and something happens or there is conflict, or whatever may happen, those human moments, those moments are feeling calmer and more balanced and I think people can underestimate the power of that and the difference that makes to your life. Because when you are regulated in that way you are going to make better decisions.
Stefan: Exactly, we are also all a bit obsessed with productivity and focus aren’t we and doing more and having even longer or more efficient to do lists etc or crossing things off our to do list, but exactly as you say, if you want better focus then have a mind that is able to do one thing efficiently at a time. And the reason it is called vagal tone is because it is like a muscle. Its up regulation as well as down regulation. It is the ability to respond and roll with the punches. It is also the ability to activate the relaxation response. So it is performance but also down regulation at the same time.
So we are a non medical device so we don’t talk about the technology effectiveness for medical conditions like IBS or migraines or whatever but we look at qualities within peoples lives and people feed that back to us. So, anxiety, and improved ability to cope with stressful events, and feeling better generally. But also, quality of sleep. Sleep quality and anxiety are the two main things people report to us that have improved.
Fran: They are so linked together as well, and people don’t appreciate that.
Stefan: Yes, we are probably almost a bit bored almost of being how critically important sleep is. A few decades ago of course sleep was regarded as the enemy, sleep less, sleep when you’re dead kind of thing. But now we know if you don’t sleep enough you are under performing and are a shadow of yourself. Some people choose not to sleep, they choose to have too little sleep. For some people its not a choice. Unless there is a really distinct hormonal or biochemical reason why somebody just cant sleep, and that is actually rare, then everybody should really strive to improve their sleep quality. Both the amount of hours but, also, the quality of the sleep within that. It is always going to give you back more functionality but also more years of life than what you gain by missing it.
Fran: Absolutely. It is so funny to think something the size of this pebble that you can put on your chest, and the profound effects that it can have. When we are talking about vagal tone and the ability to regulate your emotions, and obviously we know when you can regulate your emotions you are not being hijacked by your emotional brain, and you can make these better decisions and you are operating from your pre frontal cortex. All of these things that we want to be able to live the life that we want, and we got into a really interesting conversation before we started this, about the mission of the company being on a global scale and I kind of said to you, imagine if we had a world of emotionally regulated people operating from the right areas of their brain. Not operating from fight or flight, not operating from this nervous system response. I would love for you to talk a little bit about that because I think we are definitely in line with our missions here but you are a little bit further down the line than me so far.
Stefan: Yes, if our vagal tone is better and we are therefore able to better regulate the stuff that life throws at us we are better able to resist the temptations to move into a fear based response. So my personal mission, and the mission of the company, is to try and be part of a movement to create a world that is less full of fear. I have got children, I would love to see my grandchildren, and on current trajectory there are a number of things that could easily wipe out the human race in the next 50-100 years. Some of those we can have little impact on but many of them we can. Whether its pollution, ecological issues, plastics, equality, all these things require a critical mass of human beings to make better quality decisions, to force their government to put the changes in place that will make those things happen. As long as we are locked in this cycle and we have really seen over the last few years, and the pandemic obviously, has absolutely exacerbated that in addition, but as long we are locked in this cycle of fear and therefore short term decision making we are not going to be in a position to elevate the human thinking and make those better quality decisions. So the company and I are dedicated to mass tipping point behaviour change improvement. Movements that have been going for a long time and have either not grown quickly enough or have failed like, to be honest the mediation movement to some degree. Since the Beatles bought meditation into the mainstream in the 1960’s, meditation as a concept has had a lot more acceptance and it is much more in the mainstream academic understanding. So most people now know what meditation is but still the percentage of people actual using it as a life changing modality is way too small and I don’t think that those kind of techniques have the ability to scale fast enough to achieve the kind of tipping point that we need as human beings. But there are companies who are working on wellness who are equally obsessed with human behaviour change. So we really want to be part of that movement which is changing the outlook for hundreds of millions of people who are more focused on compassion, more focused on longer term thinking and able to resist this incredibly powerful fear based emergency response which is engendered when you perceive threat in the environment.
So whether it is a pandemic, or pollution or whatever it might be, whether its war, job insecurity, the new of course, all these things engender fear. I tell people to stop watching the news, put down the paper, because it is just producing this kind of emotional fear based response in you and that becomes an addiction of sorts. And one of the things which helps me understand why it was so important to scale was when I sort of really appreciated that the human blueprint is basically one of anxiety. Human beings are hard wired for anxiety, so all the overly laid back or relaxed or non-hoarding humans didn’t make it. It was the slightly paranoid, slight anxious, hoarding humans who passed their genes on. This is the blueprint that we have all come from. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that we have a tendency to anxiety or to hoard, we saw this obviously in the first wave of the pandemic when people started hoarding immediately, it is one of the first human responses is to hoard stuff. Weirdly it was toilet rolls wasn’t it. I think there is a way that one could interpret that. We should feel OK about that. We should say OK this is actually how I am built. My first response biologically is to feel anxious. So if I want to elevate my ability above this, how do I rise above this basic blueprint of fear and anxiety. And you do that through self-work. But the problem is the pathways to that self-work have become harder, not easier. So we have to embrace technology. We can’t be fearful of technology. Technology is the only thing that will save the world from the series of impending disasters that could happen. But if we use technology wisely, we can save the world.
Fran: The funny thing is, is that coming from the modalities that I’m trained in and from your experience, it is knowing that on a deep level that actually that is a possibility. I think that is quite spectacular, but it is just getting that message out. Helping people understand how much more control we have over ourselves and how much we are ruled by early childhood experiences, and experiences through our lives that have created essentially codes in our nervous system and in our brains to repeat the same behaviours, because that to our body is safe. I think the biggest thing for me is there is so many people struggling with anxiety but then beating themselves up for it and beating themselves up for feeling overwhelmed. And you want to say look at what you are up against here, you have the hunter gather situation coming down the lineage, you have generational trauma, you have the big wide world going against you. You have been taught to be this way so the more you can understand that on a foundational level of who you are, this is not who you are, it is something you have learnt and that means you can unlearn it.
Stefan: Exactly and it is also how you are built, and so if anxiety is the blueprint and, you are then taught to be anxious and to be short-term thinking in your responses, then of course that is what you are up against. And you mention trauma, I think it is interesting, we had a whole trauma speciality at New Medicine Group and when you are working in a clinical environment you realise how common trauma driven behaviour actually is. Not necessarily trauma with a capital T, or full-blown PTSD, although that is also incredibly common, but the percentage of people who have some kind of traumatic nervous system dysregulation is much higher than is commonly acknowledged.
Fran: Absolutely. I think that is why with my work, why I went down that road of becoming trauma informed and looking at heart math and narn and things like that because it is so important to understand this because I am helping business owners over come stress and self-sabotage. You have to understand where that comes from and understand that on a foundational level you make sense as a human. Part of my framework is being able to empathise with that part of yourself that needed that solution so to speak because that is what it was. Because at some point in your life that was a solution you needed to be safe. It is so important to have people understand this.
I love this conversation. We talked very briefly about over achievers and that is something which I think this is a really great tool to help overcome, because it is that judgement of yourself, of am I doing this right. You can’t let go of the thoughts, and judging yourself and thinking well what should it feel like. I think this devise that really does take that away purely by what it is doing for you with the sounds and the vibration. It just has this kind of mind quieting response, for me anyway, specifically. It is certainly not something I judge myself on, and I certainly have with other tools and techniques in the past when you start using them. You judge yourself and ask well I should be feeling more results, I should be feeling this. And it is when you know that you can have that incredible profound feeling, in the moment. That is going to change your emotional response essentially. Your behaviour. That that cumulative thing over time gives you that motivation to carry one with it. Again though, as we have said before, it is so enjoyable!
Stefan: Yes, its not an onerous task is it. Even now, after several years of using the device, including the clinical work, I often have a session and surprised myself at quite how profound and enjoyable the effects are. I think the hierarchy of needs, if you like, baseline, the ground zero that that is built on is ability to feel safe. That is the overarching number one need that people have. Over and above food, shelter, or love or anything. If we don’t feel safe nothing matters. I think one of the points of overwhelm, by keeping us locked in this kind of slightly adrenal threat perception mode is that we just never feel properly safe. So then when we try to self pendulate, try to self-regulate, of course that need surfaces and is very hard to do that on your own without some kind of guide that is not you. That is the point. Whether it is a teacher or a device like we are using, the point is it is not you. And also because it is physical as much as it is oral, the mental chatter that will prevent a lot of people from progressing, you know the sitting there meditating but actually thinking about the shopping and whether or not we need to put the lunch on. Because there is this physical component to it, it tends to deactivate this overwhelming mental chatter which will actually effectively prevent one going into a self-regulation state.
Fran: So important. So if you wanted my listeners to take one thing from our conversation and your journey and your missions and all of this that we have been talking about, what would that be?
Stefan: Well on a technical level, improve your vagal tone. And I would like to encourage people to do one thing I suppose which is use this as your mantra “if in doubt breath out” because we all breath in more than we breath out and that is one of the biggest problems. When you breath out, hum. Allow yourself to “hhhhmmmmm”. Create some vibration, some air molecule, resonance in your throat and chest when you breath out. Do that three or four times. Forget about breathing in. I never met anyone who fails to breath in. I met loads of people who failed to breath out.
Fran: Thank you so much for your time. I could speak to you for hours in all honesty. So, everyone, if you are excited about what you have heard today and want to get your hands on your own sensate you can head over to getsensate.com/Fran or hit the link in my Instagram bio and you can take advantage of the very generous £20 off.
Stefan: Great, I am really happy that we are able to do that.
Fran: Thank you so much, I have loved it. I am really excited to see what the future holds for sensate.
Stefan: Fran thank you so much, a delight to speak to you.