It may seem a bit rude to interrupt, yet my daily work with clients is about interrupting. I interrupt people as they deny or suppress or defend against the truth of what they are experiencing, and invite them to come home. With compassion, I invite them to pay attention to the flow of feeling that they are (often unconsciously) avoiding. Such a simple thing yet so hard for folks to do…
“There’s nothing going on inside.”
“But I don’t know what to do with my feelings.”
“What’s the point in feeling? It doesn’t change the situation!”
“I don’t think I could handle it.”
All these reactions made sense at one time in these peoples’ lives. Ignoring themselves served some purpose in their developing years, and over time and many repetitions their brains laid down pathways to make the suppression quick and automatic.
Yet now they are paying the price. They feel disconnected from the meaning of their lives, they have anxiety and/or depression, they have trouble feeling close to others, they have trouble making decisions, they feel out of touch with themselves. They are paying this price and they have done nothing wrong. All they did was make the best of an earlier difficult situation.
But in getting really good at ignoring themselves, they missed out on getting really good at noticing themselves.
So now we practice this new thing, this paying attention. We begin by the most simple and most hard thing: feeling the body. No story. No future prediction and no past rumination. Just tracking, with precision, the little sensations of discomfort that let us know we are on the cusp of feeling. Right here and now in this moment we make the choice to take the phone call from the body. We tune in to little sensations of muscle tension and energy. These sensations of anxiety are actually a question from the body: “Are we safe?”
What makes this so very hard is we are wired to move away from these sensations of arousal. It seems right to do something to stop the feelings or, if we cannot, to avoid or suppress or distract away from the feeling. We do not realize we are creating our own prison. It seems like that prison keeps us safe. It seems like, even though we are not allowed to know and feel all of who we are, at least we won’t get hurt.
And that rationale which was once true may not even be in our awareness. So I interrupt. I gently ask “Do you notice your foot tapping?” “Can you feel how you are holding your breath?” “What is going on inside you right now?” As we pay attention together we reveal the old strategy and we discover it is no longer necessary. We are surprised to find out that feeling (when we can be present for it) not only does not harm us, it has the power to heal us.
We all have this inclination to neglect ourselves. To only notice ourselves when we must, called finally to attention by high levels of distress or discomfort or pain. Daily I too find myself avoiding me. Tuning out from my clenched teeth or hunched shoulders or tense thumbs. I have my own wiring to “tough it out” and “push through” and treat myself lovelessly. And when I catch my neglect I interrupt it. I do my best to make the choice, though it is not easy, to return home.
I know that the soft animal of my body loves me, and if it thinks I am in danger it will highjack my brain. It will make me a survival creature, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but not as creative, not as flexible, not as compassionate, not as intelligent, and not as fully myself as I am meant to be.
So I love that soft animal back. I love my body by paying it warm interest with non-judgement. And in doing so I come home. I learn again and again a new way of being that facilitates my growth into more of who I am meant to be.
I invite you to be a bit rude. Interrupt the automatic pattern of self neglect. Refuse to ignore yourself. Cut right in and change the subject from avoidance to approach. From fear to love.
You are so worth it.
Photo Credit: Sparker