Sometimes we develop coping mechanisms in childhood, and we keep using them as we grow, even if we’ve removed ourselves from those situations that made them necessary. If you learned to push your feelings down as a child, for example, it’s highly likely you’ll grow into an adult who has difficulty expressing yourself. This stuff doesn’t just vanish, after all, and like anything else, it’s always easier to learn something the right way, than it is to unlearn one thing and relearn another. But if you’re like most people, you’ll have some unlearning to do.
Awareness isn’t the whole story, although it goes a long way. We can’t change a habit unless we know we have one, but you might be incredibly self-aware, and still feel stuck. You might realize you have abandonment issues, and you might know exactly why that is, but if you start to feel uncertain in a relationship, that overwhelming fear you’ll be left can be crippling even if you know you’re being triggered. A lot of people get stuck at this very point. They recognize their “stuff”, they’ve tried to heal by bringing these wounds into the light, but the power of the pain is undiminished when push comes to shove. Pain is still running the show.
The best way to unlearn one thing and relearn another is to work with your own experience, your own nervous system, your own mind. Reading about concepts can be very helpful, but putting them into practice is where it’s at. Thinking about high levels of reactivity and how that can disempower you is good, but working on non-reactivity and empowering yourself is better. I don’t think you can just take someone’s word for this stuff, no matter how much you trust them, or feel they “get it”. If you want to make significant shifts inside yourself, you have to get…inside yourself, right?
Yoga is brilliant for this, but only if you practice with compassion and patience, because of course you can show up on your mat and be cruel and unforgiving with yourself (I know, because I did that for years!). Only you know the quality of the voice inside your head. I mean, if you’re clearly frustrated when you fall out of a pose, your teacher doesn’t have to be a mind-reader to guess you’re dealing with a loud inner critic, but you don’t have to give that critic power. You could tell that voice to f&ck off with a little smile on your face, and find a way to come back to your breath. Maybe you could take yourself a little less seriously, and start to understand the poses are tools, and they’ll only work well if you use them wisely. Then you might start to feed a loving, compassionate voice. The kind you’d use if you were speaking to your best friend, or your child, or someone else you love with all your heart.
There’s something incredibly powerful about a visceral experience. If you feel challenged in a pose, or you feel infringed upon by the person next to you, you have a chance to work with those feelings. Maybe when you feel confronted in your day-to-day life, you run, or you dig your heels in, or you take yourself somewhere else deep within you, or you get loud or aggressive. The possibilities are endless. but if you know you have beliefs and tendencies that aren’t serving you, that are, in fact, impeding your ability to live life in a way that feels good, you do not have to accept that this is “just the way things are”, or that this is, “how you are”. You don’t have to push people away, or cut yourself off from the pain by also cutting yourself off from the love and the joy. You don’t have to give up on yourself. You just have to get busy unlearning so you can relearn. You have to watch what you feed yourself on every level. You have to choose thoughts that will strengthen you and not weaken you, and all these things take time and practice, but I really don’t know of a better endeavor. You can’t offer up the best of yourself and tear yourself down simultaneously. The world really needs each of us to offer up the best of what we’ve got right now, so healing is a gift you give to yourself, but ultimately, it’s a gift you offer to the world. You can get started right here, right now. I hope you do.
Sending you love and hugs,
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