Take a few deep breaths and relax your whole body from head to toes. Look at these sentences and notice your response.
Someone came up behind me and I jumped a foot. I am frustrated that I startle so easily over nothing.
I was enjoying a visit with a friend, but the music in the coffee shop made it hard to hear. After I’d been there awhile, I felt like the noise was assaulting me. Whoa! Over the top response. What is the matter with me that I get enraged by loud noise?
At work there is a guy who looks at me like I’m pond scum. I know in my head that it shouldn’t matter what he thinks of me but when we’re in a meeting together, I feel awkward and my voice isn’t steady when I am called on to speak. Am I twelve? I shouldn’t feel this way.
I feel better when I get to bed by 10 yet I watch myself avoiding it. I decide to watch 1 more episode on Netflix (that turns into 3), I get caught up in YouTube videos, Facebook or I can’t turn off the news. It’s midnight when I drag myself to bed, exhausted and mad I have sabotaged myself. Again!
What do all of these have in common? They are all nervous system responses with a dose of shaming thrown on top.
The above scenarios all indicate a problem. Your experience might be similar. The details will be different. It’s complex – which is great because it gives us many options for healing.
Reality: We live in human bodies with a primitive brain, nervous system and survival drive. We are affected by our life experiences.
Help: Understand your nervous system, brain and the effect of developmental trauma (childhood experiences). Accept this is “how it works”. Wishing we had a more resilient nervous system or shaming ourselves for our nervous system responses makes it worse.
Reality: My nervous system reflects my past experiences. I don’t feel resilient. I am anxious and often on yellow or red alert.
Help: Work directly on increasing strength and resilience. Breathe. Relax. Go for walks outdoors. Sing in a choir. Get into your body with yoga. Join us for daily practices. Twenty years ago medical researchers discovered our brains are neuroplastic – they have the capacity to heal and grow. Reduce what is difficult for your nervous system and increase what strengthens it.
Reality: My thoughts drive anxiety in my body. Anxiety and fear drive intrusive, catastrophic thoughts. I feel powerless to stop it.
Help: Develop a mindfulness practice of watching for thoughts that are harmful. Turn down the volume on the old song and increase thoughts that contribute to calming and strengthening your nervous system. Turning down the volume can include a direct challenge when we notice we are shaming ourselves or caught in a flurry of catastrophic thoughts. On the positive side, develop a daily gratitude practice. This gradually shifts the momentum.
Reality: When we have been hurt by people, we are afraid to be vulnerable. AND we need to feel connected with ourselves and other human beings. We might want so badly to be seen and loved that we can’t afford to see the whole picture then are hurt again. We retreat for safety and end up with deep loneliness.
Help: Everything above will help. These are deeply held patterns and beliefs based on evidence from our past and driven by survival level needs for safety and for connection. The Living Inquiries have helped me heal core deficiency beliefs and really become a friend to myself. We are capable of change. Healing is possible.
This series of 7 short videos is a great place to start.
Join me for free online practice 8AM Eastern every day. http://zoom.us/j/645904638
Try this guided practice, looking into your own nervous system.