Where have I been? Threat, Drive and Soothe

Sorry about lack of updates, was initially trying not to think too much about it. But for the last 10 or so days (since Monday 26th Feb) I’ve done pretty much no exercise.

After a run on Monday 26th (almost 2 weeks ago) I felt like my right leg might have had a stress fracture. It was really painful even just to bear weight on it. I couldn’t feel it on the run that much but just mentally broke down in the shower not just because of the pain but because of what I feared the pain meant. The next few days the pain rapidly decreased till about 4 days after it was fine to walk on. Since then it feels a lot better although still mildly painful sometimes but not painful enough to physically bother me. I’m hoping its “just” shin splints. The recommended rest for that is 2 weeks, which I will have finished this coming Monday. Shin splints can develop into a stress fracture so I am being careful with it.

If its a fracture then that’s at least 8 weeks I think. So that would mean missing the Manchester marathon, also my leg would waste away in a cast (from previous experience).  I will have a go at running on Monday, if it becomes painful again I will have to go to the Dr, a fracture may show up on an x-ray by now (stress fractures are usually harder to see initially – I believe – again from experience (a different one)). Oh god nested brackets. I hope that isn’t the case.


Fortunately running muscle isn’t the only thing I have been working on, although I haven’t been working on this other stuff nearly enough. I hope the following helps other people too as this is a common problem/scenario in everyones life. Here’s what I was working on with a psychologist after getting out of hospital till January this year. It splits up our brain into 3 areas, Threat, Drive and Soothe. I will just copy the summary from here


Building upon an evolutionary model, Paul Gilbert proposed that human beings have a tripartite emotional regulation system. The model argues that people can be in states of ‘threat’ (focused on dangers), ‘drive’ (with a mindset attuned towards achievement or competition), or ‘soothing’ (which promotes safeness and feelings of interpersonal connectedness). Each of the states are associated with distinct feeling-states, motivations, purposes, and neurochemistry. A healthy response would be the adaptive use of all three of these systems in appropriate measures. Dysfunction comes about because of limited flexibility, or over-use of one system to the detriment of others

And you can visualise it like so:



My psychologist explained that my soothe system was under-active/developed. And that meant I lived mainly in the land of Threat and Drive. So that when drive failed, I.e. work or anything else, I immediately went into threat mode where I saw myself as a failure and catastrophised and became paranoid. I was in other words like a 2 legged stool.

Well what’s all this to do with the price of fish? Running for me is obviously mainly about drive, although I try to argue it is “a bit soothe”, I was never quite convincing. I’ve known for a while that I need to develop some “soothing muscle” in order that when I can’t run for whatever reason, I don’t immediately end up in threat land. Also to help with my mental health in everyday situations.

Since the injury instead of running I’ve managed to get absorbed into a game on my pc (for the 1st time in years), start reading again, listening to music, and doing other non goal oriented stuff. And its been pretty successful so far. Although I have definitely spent a few days in threat land and need some more practice. Its a pretty big step for me, although it sounds really pathetic an probably annoying.


Anyway, I think the same goes for everyone, whether they are workaholics or runners or both, these days there’s not much soothe in peoples lives because it is discouraged from a young age in favour of drive. It is seen as a weakness and people end up less able to cope with setbacks in a world where more and more drive is required of people everyday.




One thought on “Where have I been? Threat, Drive and Soothe”

  1. good reminder! it’s always helpful to find ways that fit oneself to pause and restore energy and calm. I have recently been reading more and trying to have tea more often. – Chelsea


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