As human beings, we have a “threat system.” It is there to set off minor alarms (as subtle as our phones on vibrate) to tell us when we need to feed our needs like hunger, sleep, or belonging. It also sets off bigger alarms (as piercingly loud as the ringing of a school bell) to tell us when to fight or flight because of some danger threatening our lives. These alarms are in our bodies for us to successfully survive…but mine likes to cry wolf…a lot…as if I never learned how to set my phone to vibrate.
When I feel an emotion that is slightly abnormal, have a thought that is somewhat scary, sense a tiny sign of illness, or find myself in a situation where there is an unknown, my threat system sets off major alarms. When the alarm sounds, my inner dialogue starts to bicker back and forth. On one side of this subconscious dialogue, I use doubt and aggressive bullying to bash myself with mean and judging words (to motivate myself?). On the other side, I use an overprotecting stance where I demand a sense of control and perfection. Somewhere in the middle is me…trying to make my voice heard.
The conflicting and painful dialogue makes me tense. My body begins to clench as I start to lose the natural flow of my thoughts and emotions. I get scared to face this inner dialogue. It is like my own personal bully and I feel like a beaten dog cowering in fear to it. This does not just happen in my mind. It is typically how I respond in social situations too. I rarely stand up for myself or speak from my true voice. Against any loud, aggressive, or manipulative personalities, I fold and let them steamroll me as I stay silent and apathetic.
Before this quarantine…for the last 12 years to be exact…I’ve tried to create a path towards a growing, adaptable, trusted, and respectable person with a strong, yet warm, voice. I have tried to fulfill the potential I have inside, but I keep getting distracted by these constantly blaring alarms and negative self-talk. It is time to do something different than running away from it and denying it. It’s time to walk right up to it and face it.
The first step is to repair my threat system from setting off faulty alarms. Let’s say I just coughed and now there is an alarm going off in my body. But, then I get in tune with my senses and I objectively see that there is not an emergency. If everything looks calm and it was only one random cough, then it is not pressing enough to become a need or priority for me.
Yeah…but, why did I cough? What if it is something life threatening? There could be a thousand reasons “why” it happened. There could be thousands of “what ifs” that I could spiral down. Those paths are not productive though. The only thing productive is to be actively involved within my context right here and right now. Whatever is showing up as a priority here is what needs my attention. If that is sleep, then I will put my attention towards sleep inducing activities.
“I feel the bed underneath me, I hear the sounds of my dogs snoring, and I smell nothing out of the ordinary.” Sounds boring, right? The present can seem boring to my mind that typically lusts after short-term fixes, fantasy lands, and constant stimulation, but there are ways to make the present beautiful, productive, and (to be very honest) there is no other place where we as human beings can actually be alive. So, the question is: do I want to be alive or do I want to mostly race to the next event rarely experiencing life?
Alive in the Present:
Okay. So, I am acknowledging and letting go of all thoughts and emotions that do not have to do with this moment surrounding me. I am not asking “why.” I am not going down the rabbit holes of “what ifs.” I am not judging the facts that come through my senses. So, what am I doing? What can I do in this unstructured and unadulterated space?
Without my mind attending to distractions, I have created a lot more space to experience my senses, my body, my wants/needs, and my responses here. The best way to describe “the experience” is with a ping pong metaphor 😊
My two goals during a ping pong match are, 1) to use this paddle to hit the ball over the net and onto the other side and, 2) to have fun. When the ball is coming towards me, I choose to patiently experience this moment as it is. Only when the ball arrives is when I will think about how to hit it. I choose not to anticipate what it will look like before it arrives. I choose not to be frustrated at my response after. I am patiently waiting for the ball to enter my “hit point.” That is when I set my paddle at the correct angle and hit it with the right amount of force to ensure it goes over the net and hits the other side.
I am still figuring out what activities, goals, or focuses to have in the present. But, I think that is part of the problem. The natural flow is whatever is going on right now. If I choose to play ping pong, then I am playing ping pong. If I get hungry, then I eat. If I get tired, then I sleep. If I get lonely, then I have a conversation with family or friends. If I want to help people, then I focus on school and become a therapist.
The more I can find the natural flow of the present moment, the more I will realize that the specific alarm that just went off in my body is too tiny or even fake to put my attention towards, which means I will spend more of my time feeling and being alive.
Building My Voice in the Present:
And…then…finally…once I have more natural and dedicated time living in reality, my determination to find, activate, and be my voice will finally be accessible. I really want to work on building a me that I respect and can trust to lean on as a resource for strength when life gets tough.
- Process information as my natural *HSP* self
- While also using context and outer perspectives to develop a more realistic vantage point of that information
- Spend time on the most significant information and let go of the rest for now
- Develop a sense of priority on what is most pressing at this time (my surroundings) and what most certainly is not (nebulous threat alarms or my inner dialogue attached to them)
- Understand what my long-term desires and needs are (immediate needs too)
- Calmly and peacefully stand up for them amidst any adversity as I pursue my voice
- Respond to the most pressing information and pursue my want/need with a choice to tap into character qualities that help build respect and trust within myself
- Presence on the here-and-now with limited distractions
- Vulnerability to the constant change and pain of life
- This is honesty turned inward and it is about capturing the natural flow of being me and being alive (without turning a blind eye)
- Humility & Humor in failure as I pursue growth with a focused, light, and humorous attitude
- Outward Honesty to show my vulnerability in public and create a warm and light environment around me
- Compassion for all human beings as we are all constantly suffering
- That person going 50mph in the fast lane could have just lost their partner or just found out they lost their job
- Independence as I believe we are all responsible for our own responses to our out-of-our-control contexts
- We may not have control over the outcome of our situations, but we mostly have control over our behaviors in those situations…so you and I are both in charge of our own respect and trust in our “selves”
- For those with oppressive social contexts built into our society’s systems, advocacy is needed for complete independence and those not oppressed must assist in such important advocacy for equal and fair opportunities for all (in calm and peaceful manners so the other side will be able to hear, empathize, and walk with us)
Most of the time and dauntingly enough, this “step by step” process above happens in a matter of seconds. So, these skills are unlikely to develop overnight. It will take months and years of practice and determination to find, activate, and pursue my independent and trusted voice inside. And, so worth it 😊
*HSP = Highly Sensitive Person with an extra sensitive nervous system allowing me to pick up on the details of my experience and attempt to process it all at 100mph – a blessing and a curse*
Eddie Vedder – Rise:
I thought you all may enjoy another song. Eddie Vedder is another one of my favorite musicians out there and this is “Rise” off of his solo album that he created for the film “Into the Wild” performed by me.