You’re running late and there was an accident on the bridge and traffic is delayed and you forgot your cellphone. All you can do is hunker down and get there as quickly as you can, right? Actually, wrong.
You do not have the choice to turn back time, nor do you have the choice to magically teleport your phone into your hands. You are vulnerable and there are things you are not able to make happen, even though you may really really wish to.
But you still have a choice. You can ignore yourself in the tension and agitation that naturally arises when we are faced with vulnerability. The body lets us know we are up against those limits to control over outcomes that matter to us and it asks “Are we safe?” The body speaks to you in the language of sensations. You could stay unconscious about the question arising from your body as your breathing becomes frantic and your teeth are gritted and your butt is clenched. You could choose not to hear your body asking for assurance.
And in ignoring you, in saying no to your body’s request for attention, you will be catapulted into defenses against your feelings. You might get irritable and drive dangerously. You might beat yourself up and say mean things about your lousy time management and fundamental stupidity. You might suddenly have a craving for a triple frappucino or (and?) a big gooey cinnamon roll. You might feel overwhelmed and get confused and show up at the wrong address. There are so many ways to disconnect from what you are feeling…
Or you could say yes to you. In that precise moment you could bring warm interest and nonjudgement to the body. The feeling of “dissonance” is what we need to tune in to – the physiology of anxiety. Striated muscle tension is the first most important place to look. The voluntary muscles (those you can command – and there are over 400 of them) are trying to get your attention. They are tightening and tensing and contracting and bracing and clenching and constricting… Your legs might feel like they want to run or your hands might feel fidgety or your throat might be tight. Slow your mind and notice. Let yourself feel what your body is feeling. Say yes to you.
By saying yes your body finds out there is no actual danger in this moment. The increase in sympathetic nervous system arousal is only a sign of vulnerability, not a sign of imminent threat to life and limb. So you can come home and be home. And from there you can access more of your mature adult resources. You can feel compassion for yourself: “It’s hard to be running late.” You can have perspective: “I’m grateful I wasn’t the one in the accident.” You can have access to all your full IQ: “I remember there’s a shortcut just off Taylor Road that will cut 5 minutes off the trip.” And you can have a sense of humour: “Okay Sandra, furrow that brow any deeper and you will frighten the dog.”
Saying yes to you means you have access to more of your resources which means you cope better. You arrive in better shape and more able to deal with what you need to. But even more important, you get to be fully yourself. You are connected with the inner experience of you. You feel authentic and real and powerful. You don’t have to run away from discomfort. You don’t have to avoid what it feels like to be you. And that makes you truly confident.
When it comes to the inner experience of yourself, you have a choice. You can say yes to you or you can say no.
Will you say yes? You are so worth it.
Photo Credit: Incredibly Brave Pictures