Feelings of resentment often point us directly at where we have compromised on our personal boundaries. Resentment poisons our spirit if left unexplored, but if we give those feelings our attention they can tell us what is missing in our life and where we need to become clear on what is a "NO" and what is a "YES" for us. Why do we say yes when we mean no? When we say yes when we really mean no and NO is actually what is true to our body we create a disconnect with ourselves and we create a rift in our ability to trust in our own self.
Allowing others to cross our boundary is often completely within our ability to stop, but it takes practice and confidence to create healthy boundaries ESPECIALLY IF YOU WERE RAISED WITHOUT GOOD ROLE MODELS. A case in point for women is that women in our culture say "I'm sorry" constantly. Women apologize when they show emotion, they apologize if they lightly and accidentally brush against someone, they apologize if they open a door too fast and there's someone coming in at the same time. What are we apologizing for....our mere existence? It's a really enlightening practice (if this rings true for you at all) to practice not saying "I'm sorry" unless you actually are sorry for something.
Not being able to align our yes or real no with our body-knowing results in resentment and unattended resentment creates on-going and chronic stress. The snowball effect is burn-out and often chronic disease or less than optimal health.
Getting in touch with our own body creates a situation when we know what is a no and what is a yes...we take a risk, we trust ourselves and our life begins to shift. Gaining confidence in our yes allows change to unfold naturally and without so much effort. Now that sounds better than living in resentment to me! It takes courage to live our YES...and it's worth our time and energy to go there every minute of every day.
There are so many ways that we weaken and water down our communications. Language…body language, speech, etc impacts the way the world sees and feels us, so it’s nothing to be ignored. Practice tracking some of these weakening influences for a few weeks and you’ll see what I’m saying!
Stop saying “I’m sorry” immediately! You can be more creative if you lightly bump into another person…”oh, excuse me.” You can be more creative if you are in an awkward situation reaching for something at the same time as a stranger…”(make a joke) shall we arm wrestle for it?” If you actually hurt someone… “my apologies, I didn’t know that was important to you. I’ll pay closer attention next time.” Perhaps the only instance when I’m sorry may be applicable is if your offering consolations, such as…”I’m sorry for your loss.” In our culture we start making kids say I’m sorry for every little thing even before their brains have a concept of what that means…the message we are sending is: If you’re sorry, you’re a good person. I call bullshit on this social norm.
I’ve referred to this in other places, but NEVER say “yes” when you really mean “no.” This is a huge topic. The first important thing is to know for yourself in your gut when something is a no or a yes for you. This is big. If you only work on one thing…this is the one!
Do you know how to use the term “literally” correctly? Here's crash course on how to use this word...if you have a shirt with hearts on it, you can say "I, literally, wearing my heart on my sleeve." It's funny and cleaver when appropriate. Perhaps people are using "literally" as just another way to put emphasis on their point? There are other ways to do that.
More and more people are using the phrase "kind of" before expressing true opinions and feelings. Listen for it and you will hear things like "I kind of think that I want to quit my job" or "I kind of want you to know I care about you." In both of these cases, what is "kind of" doing here?...watering down the sentiment and making communication unclear. Sometimes “sort of” stands in for “kind of”…same effect.
"You know" has become a filler phrase similar to "like." Does the person using this phrase really think you know? Probably not. More likely, it's a phrase to help curb anxiety while speaking, becomes a habit and is hard to stop saying after the habit is formed.
Saying “you” when you are talking about your own experience and “I” is the appropriate word. THIS IS A BIG ONE!!! This is about our cultures tendency to live outside of our own bodies. It might sound like I’m overstating a fact here, but using you instead of I assumes others can relate to what you’re saying, which is a dangerous assumption AND disembodies and disowns what you’re saying about your own experiences. Example: "You just feel like you're lost." In this example the speaker feels like he/she is lost. When did "you" replace "I." Why are "we" afraid to say "I."....."I just feel like I'm lost." There's power in saying what YOU feel.
This might be getting picky, but why when there’s a group of people (even all women) do we say "Hey, you guys!" Hmmmm.
Last but not least….There is a common speech pattern which instantly makes you sound like you have no confidence and I invite you to stop right now…when one raises his/her voice at ends of sentences, as if asking a question but you’re actually making a statement. It conveys that the speaker is unsure of himself/herself and weakens credibility for the listener. Again, this is often habitual and hard to break, but can be done with time and attention.
Also, in general, there is a way in which most of ask when we don’t need to be asking but telling someone what we want! There is an underlying sense of apologizing for ourselves that can be very damaging. For example: I need something from a co-worker and I’ve already asked several times. It’s the difference between “Brad can you get those reports to me” and “Brad I need those reports. When will they be ready?” The 2nd option is, technically a question but there’s no choice but for Brad to tell me when he’ll get those reports to me. The first option gives room for a passive no from Brad.
There’s more than this, but I think working with these will make a substantial difference in your confidence and how you present yourself to others.
I want to say upfront that this is not a technical article. I will provide some resources at the end of this article for those who would like to explore further.
Our nervous system is built to react when our safety is threatened. When we are in danger our nervous system activates to fight, flight or freeze/faint which can be a highly effective survival skill that our body activates for us; this is not a logic-driven process. If we have trauma (doesn't have to be "major" trauma) we may be triggered by other people, events in our environment or by our own beliefs/thoughts which can lead to emotionally flooding and overwhelm. If we become overwhelmed in this way our nervous system perceives a threat and may then move into fight, flight, freeze when our survival is NOT at stake. This can be very problematic as once this happens the frontal lobe/neocortex starts to go "off line" making it hard for us to learn, take in new information, be reasonable or rational. If we move into a flooded state there are resourcing tools that are highly effective for regulating the nervous system (this doesn't mean our emotions go away, by the way...). For all of us it's highly beneficial to practice and strengthen nervous system regulation tools, which at the very least benefits us when we are feeling emotions strongly...mad, sad, scared, and even big joy, in an argument, in heavy traffic, wanting to take a risk you're excited about, etc.
The following may apply to highly dys-regulated states, but it's helpful to practice before we are activated to lay a body memory for these skills! Some skills may apply better to smaller dys-regulation. I will say that the master regulation skill is BREATH.
ACTIVE WAYS TO NERVOUS SYSTEM REGULATION:
(breathing deep into the belly regulates the nervous system and send the message that we are safe while shallow high breathing send the message to our nervous system that we are threatened)
(too many different approaches to meditation to mention here)
dance, yoga, tai chi, moving with the instinct of the body such as shaking, rocking, etc.
(increase levels of the stress reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol)
Talking Outloud/Naming Body Sensation
If you're naming how your body feels outloud such as "I feel butterflies in my stomach and my face feels hot. It feels better if I massage my hands." your mind has a very hard time running thoughts, stories and beliefs that would rev up emotions.
Talking Outloud/Orienting to Environment
Look around, name the color of the furniture, touch and name the texture of a chair. Again, when we're naming outloud or mind can't easily run problematic stories about what is happening.
Using Touch & Texture
Examples: fidget cubes, stuffed animals, sand, etc.
Brain soothing sound, relaxing sound
ACTIVE SKILLS FOR SMALLER DYS-REGULATION:
Some fragrances and help us regulate and relax the nervous system such as lavender, cinnamon, orange
Closing Our Eyes
Many Herbs Nourish the Nervous System
Having a cup of tea such as chamomile or lemon balm can calm the nervous system
SEMI PASSIVE (& BEING ATTUNED TO BY ANOTHER):
Taking a Hot Bath or Shower
Getting into the Ocean
Sitting and Watching the Water
Sitting in the Sunshine
Being held by another, regulating from their nervous system
This is a very long list. Some of these approaches are more for building resilience in your nervous system for overall health and embodiment over time AND some are about how to regulate in the moment, but even the in-the-moment approaches are more effective if we practice when our nervous system is relaxed and can learn!
More Technical Article on Neuroscience: loveandlifetoolbox.com/the-neuroscience-of-resilience-nervous-system-regulation/
It does not make much sense to spend time, money and energy on fancy interventions when the most basics of quality human health have not been tended or given attention. Now, that said most of us know what those basics are: enough sleep, good nutrition and hydration, exercise, social life and a sense of purpose, which may come from a paying job or domestic pursuits. Sometimes the most straight-forward things are ignore or rejected as too simplistic.
I'm not going spend this article trying to reiterate what so many others have said along the lines of what to do to be in good health or get good sleep, but I do want to try to convince you of the power of sleep! If you want all the science I'll refer you to: WHY WE SLEEP by Matthew Walker, PhD.
I think cultivating good sleep hygiene is the SINGLE MOST IMPACTFUL thing we can do towards great physical, emotional and psychological health. Here's a few things you may not have heard:
Just as the lymphatic system drains contaminants from our body, the GLYMPHATIC SYSTEM removes dangerous contaminants generated by the work our neurons perform. It's a night time "power cleanse" where the cerebrospinal fluid cleanses the brain that ONLY happens in DEEP (NREM) sleep. Now, you may be thinking...oh, I can do without that...and the answer is, yes, you can....but, if this area is not cleansed in this way regularly the first place to accumulate junk is the area of our brain which generates deep sleep, lose that and then you also lose the ability to access this power cleanse at all. This process is connected to Dementia and other diseases. (see book page 160 for more details).
Most people know we have sleep cycles such as deep sleep, REM, etc. But, did you know that each cycle does something uniquely different and that having some and not the others can cause us to miss out on major health benefits, creativity, learning and memory advantages? Furthermore, we have different needs related to sleep cycles at different ages (I won't get into that here, but it's hugely important!). Simply stated, we go back and forth between NREM and REM sleep throughout the night on a 90 minute cycle, but the ratios are different for each cycle. Okay...blah blah blah...one of the things that that means is...if you short yourself from 8 to 6 hours sleep you are consistently denying yourself your last REM cycle again and again. That REM cycle does something different from the other REM cycles. AND the same is true if you go to bed later, sleep cycles are specific to time and length. (see book page 43 for more details).
Okay, let's say you're on board for improving your sleep! What to do first?
The single most consistent advice is to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on days off. If you've got that going on, but you're having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep it might be time to try some anxiety reducing practices to help the nervous system (stronger interventions may be needed for those with PTSD and severe/recurring trauma nightmares). Cutting out late night or heavy meals, caffeine, sugar and alcohol are key. Some people say alcohol helps them to relax at night, but then as it leaves your system, you wake up. Not a great trade-off. Similar effects can come with THC use also.
When sleep is consistent and on-track, all areas of your life improve. Some people need to see a sleep specialist or a natural doctor if simple interventions are ineffective. Sleep medications are discouraged as they are more sedative rather than helping us sleep (our body sleeps, but we do not get the benefit of all of the processes we get without them), so sometimes it takes time to figure out what will help. It's worth the effort for so many reasons.
All this said, you may have pain related sleep issues or trauma related sleep issues. If this is the case, there is a formal program that may be helpful such as: THE POST-TRAUMATIC INSOMNIA WORKBOOK: A STEP-BY-STEP PROGRAM FOR OVERCOMING SLEEP PROBLEMS AFTER TRAUMA
80% of our communication is non-verbal. On a very basic level this means that if our words are not aligned with what we really feel or what we really are, others can pick-up on our lack of authenticity.
That's not our biggest issue, however...more problematic is when we don't even realize we are being inauthentic. What does it mean to lack authenticity? When our body, mind and emotions are not synchronized we create a mis-attunement to ourselves. It is basically impossible to attune to another is we can't attune to ourselves. Learning to attune to yourself can change your life in magical ways!
Amy Cuddy explains on Ideas.TED.com that "Certainly being inauthentic is not the same as intentionally deceiving someone, but the results look similar. Presenting an inauthentic version of yourself strikes the observer the same way as intentional deception does, thanks to your asynchronous nonverbal behaviors. The less present we are, the more poorly we perform. The two are mutually reinforcing."
What happens when what our body knows becomes what our conscious mind knows? Perhaps, this is the simplest definition of authenticity, presence and actually LIVING! Most of us are really not afraid to die, but afraid to truly live fully. To live fully is to be "in the body." I find myself enjoying ideas and mental pursuits less and less and intrigued more and more by the practices focused on the somatic knowing. There are so many practices to explore....dreamwork, 5Rhythms, contact improvisation, voice work, somatic-focused meditation, etc etc. It's not an instant fix, but dedication to somatic practices yields amazingly rich rewards and delicate insights.
We are in a time when trusting ourselves becomes absolutely essential. In a world where inauthenticity appears to be richly rewarded, we must reach for our truth with new fervor! We are here to live...not to tune out.
There is a concept I have been finding most helpful lately…the idea of the “future self.” There is a way in which we often fool ourselves into thinking that our “future self” or “future me” has endless amounts of money, energy, time and commitment. We think…yes! I’ll sign my future self up to help a friend run a garage sale, take a weekend study intensive, pay off a big purchase, etc. Oh, future me has so much time and isn’t worried about how to pay the rent because the version of me right now really wants a new iphone!
I think part of this comes from our credit card culture…we buy now and pay later…with interest! We want it so much we’re willing to pay more. Hey! Future me won’t mind. Oh, but I do because the me in this moment is in fact paying off all of commitments and bills me in the past signed me up for. Ugh.
If this rings true to you as silly as it seems I’m thinking you’d like to get off this ride as soon as possible, but how? Well, step one is to take responsibility for whatever you, in the past, signed you up for AND stop committing yourself to things in the future until you know how to discriminate the yes from the no. I’ll give you a hint: If you’re not willing to pay for it now, don’t have time for it now, don’t have energy for it now, don’t have passion for it now, etc. You won’t want to do it later.
Does that sound too simple? Do you somehow still believe that your self in the future will be stronger, wiser, faster and richer? Somehow you will become more disciplined, open and loving? Well, the only way to make that true is to be kind to yourself in the present and listen to yourself in the here and now.
The simplest things are often the most impactful. Experiment with paying attention to this tendency in yourself. At the very least you’ll create space where there once was stress and worry. If you’re telling yourself a story that you can’t stop and you must keep pushing I would say that that’s a fear based belief running in your mind that will not get you where you truly want to be. So, be kind to your future self, take care of her, stop pushing her beyond her limits.
Simply put, Shame is Blame turned in on one self. Shame says "I am bad." Blame say "You're bad." But, shame and blame are not the only options! When we've worked with our own emotional patterns there is a way to move through the world neither taking responsibility for other people's feelings ("I'm bad because they said I hurt their feelings") nor projecting fault for our emotions onto others ("you made me feel sad because you didn't do what I expected...").
How does one get there? What is the process to not internalize someone trying to blame us even in the face of the possibility that we really were not behaving in a caring way? The first step is to take responsibility without making ourselves small (this is something we do internally)...getting triggered and shrinking in our spirit.
Some view Shame as the most extreme point on a continuum....Embarrassment---Guilt---Humiliation---Shame. Shame is the point when you embody the blame being directed at you and at a certain point blame doesn't even need to be directed at you for you to go into feeling Shameful.
Some therapists believe for truly chronic and debilitating shame patterns it's helpful to move through Blame to come through to a more empowered way of being. The view assumes that shame equates to freezing and shutting down and blame equates to fight. The difference is that the nervous system is trying to effect change in fight.
This may all seem overly simplified as we are talking about everyday patterns and not more complex violations or actual violence. Resolving patterns of shame in a child who has been in a violent home, for example, is a much more intricate process. But, even that child grows up and wishes to resolve deep internal patterns of shame. Most of us get subtle cues that we are not okay or somehow a disappointment to our family or teachers while growing up. If we have a healthy sense of self we don't internalize it and maybe even we push back! Others internalize it and remember it often above all the positive reinforcements we received. Shame is more prevalent in some cultures then others. Our culture publicly shames through social media and in so many other forms of media. We fat shame, shame women for their sexual expression, their age. Learning to not internalize this kind of shaming has become a survival skill and very much worth exploration and attention.
We empower ourselves and others when we don't tolerate or accept shaming and blaming and it doesn't have to be aggressive. In fact, it can be very gentle and subtle. In many ways it is purely graceful to refuse to absorb another's projections and own what is yours....and nothing else.