When people come in my door they are often suffering, in some kind of pain or stuckness, and they are looking for help to feel better. What they may not know is, they are really looking to grow.
The things that trouble us are invitations arising from deep within, asking us to deal with and resolve the barriers to being our most powerful selves.
And we are built to grow. Wired in us is a force that wants us to emerge, to become all we are most deeply meant to be. That growth force is the transforming power of vulnerability, and it is signalled by the body sensations of anxiety.
Vulnerability is the truth that we have limits to control over outcomes that matter to us. And that is a difficult truth to fully embrace. We are wired to resist what vulnerability feels like. The physiology of vulnerability feels like anxiety: muscle tension and agitation. I call this feeling “dissonance” and it is a tool you can use to become aware that in this exact moment you are on the cusp of an experience that can grow you. Dissonance is your wake up call. The uncomfortable feelings of hunched shoulders and trembly hands and tight throat and held breath are calling you to grow. They want to bring your attention home to the body so you can really feel what you are feeling, so you can grow.
Growth arises out of experiences. It is not thought that grows us. We need to come towards our experience of vulnerability in the body and truly feel it, warm, interested and nonjudgemental. But we are (many of us) not comfortable with the feeling of vulnerability. We have the urge to shut it down and to move away when we feel the little tensings and tightenings of the truth of our limits.
When vulnerability calls us via dissonance (our jumpy tight muscles), we are tempted to avoid ourselves. Perhaps we eat, drink, shop, or work too much, or we get irritable, worry, controlling, or we otherwise shut down what we are feeling. Or perhaps we are tempted to push through the experience and endure like a soldier, not caring about what we feel.
But we need to feel to grow. In order to let ourselves do that, we need to have faith in the force within us that wants us to grow. We don’t need to force anything and we don’t need to run away. We need to allow the wisdom in us, in the body, to guide us toward a bigger experience of ourselves. We need to be kind to ourselves in this uncomfortable experience. We need to understand that although the feeling of dissonance feels like threat it does not really reflect any danger. We need to create a feeling of safety inside by carefully paying attention to the sensations with warm interest and nonjudgement.
A tulip does not grow because it is under threat. It does not need to be pushed or forced to grow. A tulip grows because it is built into a tulip to grow. And so it is with you. Like a tulip you can trust that your body is programmed to have the experiences it needs to grow. There is no need to fight yourself.
Breathe and allow and feel. Even though it does not feel good. Create safety with your loving attention toward yourself in the body in this precise moment.
And grow. You are so worth it.
Photo Credit: DB and pups