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The Real Way Back to Feeling Safe

podcast Apr 07, 2020

Can't Listen? Here's the transcript: 

Hey Dethroners!  This week I want to discuss the feeling of safety that we are all trying to get back to. I know that these past few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I am calm and the next minute I am panicked. One minute I am feeling somewhat normal and the next I am wondering if life will ever be the same again. One minute I am feeling love and connection for my kids, and the next I am ready to explode on one or all of them. 

We are all in the throes of trying to deal with our own emotional roller coasters, all while trying to hold onto some remnants of our old life. And nothing really looks like our old life at all right now. We are all getting tired, exhausted really, because we’re trying to find the illusion of safety and predictability and that is not possible right now. 

Now, prior to this pandemic, most people lived their life with the illusion of safety and predictability. There is this amazing article in the Harvard Business Review that what we are all experiencing is grief. I encourage you to all google the article, just google HBR and grief. The article is based on David Kessler’s work with Elizabeth Kubler Ross and what it says is that we are all grieving because the world as we know it has changed almost overnight. 

And the article discusses what he refers to as anticipatory grief. That is when our minds conjure up images of the storm that we think could be coming. Our minds might be racing and focusing on images of getting sick or someone we love getting sick, of losing our business, of the financial impact this will have.

And our primitive brain does not like danger. Our primitive mind wants to find ways to avoid danger so it focuses on the “what if’s” as a way of trying to predict what is to come. The brain uses the habit of worry as a way to try to find safety. It is a primitive response to imagined danger. If we can somehow figure out what is coming, we can feel more in control.

But in fact, when we indulge in worry, this is actually what creates the opposite of feeling safe. This is what creates the feelings of panic, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, depression that so many people are dealing with right now. And when people feel that way, they are their worst selves--angry, irritable, overwhelmed, depressed, disconnected, and then those feelings create unhealthy behaviors like lashing out at others, eating and drinking too much, or numbing ourselves in some other way.  

So what we are experiencing is anticipatory grief when we indulge in worry to try to predict what might be coming. But keep in mind your worry is a habit that you have been indulging in for a very long time.  I should know because my automatic mind is completely conditioned to go right to worry. I have to do the work every day to observe my mind automatically landing on worry thoughts and returning to the focus on being right here, right now. 

But I have been doing that work way before Corona. That is daily work that I begin my day with. I meditate and I journal my thoughts as a way to clean out my automatic mind. And some days, it’s like cleaning the kitchen and then finding that it’s dirty again a half-hour later!  But I know that cleaning out the mind is the most important work there is for any of us to do. 

Now, most people have been functioning with an autopilot mind even before COVID-19.  And the things you worried about were also ways to try to give you a false sense of safety, comfort and predictability.  The things you worried about in the dark corners of your mind were things like:

What if I’m really not good enough?

What if I am not valued or important or loved enough? 

What if I never achieve the ideal version of myself? What if I never become who I think I am supposed to be?

What if I fail?

What if people reject me?

What if I really am broken?  Inadequate?

And women, in particular, we had so many social constructs of who we thought we needed to be. What if we aren’t a good enough mother? What if our kids don’t grow up to be successful humans, and it’s all our fault?  These were the fears that lived in the dark corners of our minds and we did everything we could to keep them dark and hidden.

Because we didn’t want to feel our vulnerability. So we kept our fear, our pain, our regret, in the dark.  And we definitely pushed away our shame. And we did this by trying to “make it". Get there. Be as successful as you can. Be as beautiful as you can be. It’s ok to work 12 hours a day. It’s ok to be so stressed out that you yell and scream all the time. It’s ok to have an emotionally disconnected marriage. “Well, that’s just what marriage is,” we said.

That’s just what life is. Don’t look at your pain. Just be grateful for the good, and accept that this is the way life has to be. Push your children to be as successful as possible with good grades and the right extracurricular activities and let’s just normalize the issue that many of our children needed to be medicated just to survive childhood.  We all just accepted this overwhelm, pressure, stress, pain, addiction, conflict as “normal life”.  

We have been operating for so long from a place of “getting there” into this future ideal where once we figure out how to get ourselves and our life to fit our picture of the way it’s supposed to be or having someone else act the way we need them to, like a spouse, child, family member, coworker, boss, so that we can feel ok-- and then numbing ourselves to our pain and frustration, with overeating, drinking, shopping, buying more stuff, overworking, staying busy.

We have been so busy avoiding the pain and the what if’s that so many have been carrying around since childhood!  So many people have been operating on top of all those feelings of inadequacy, shame and pain that were created by the thoughts we have been thinking over and over.  Those anticipatory thoughts--I can’t go for my dreams because I might fail. I can’t leave my marriage because I will hurt my kids. I can’t let anyone see that I don’t have it all handled.  I can’t put myself out there. People will judge me. Or leave me. I’m not good enough or worthy enough to have the life that I really want. 

And now, all that distraction has been stripped away.  We can’t keep busy, we can’t push ourselves towards perfection, we can’t define ourselves by all of the things we used to use, like money, and success, and accomplishment, and beauty.  Now we are stuck with the truth of who we really are and who we have always been. And the truth of who we are is about how we choose to think.

ALL the thoughts that we have been thinking over and over again on a repetitive loop, all the fears, all the what-ifs, all the anticipatory pain that we want to protect ourselves from.  All the ways that our minds have told us who we need to be so that we can continue to live the illusion of safety.

The thoughts that have been handed down to us from our parents, who got it from their parents that we need to measure up to some social ideal standard of who we are supposed to be, or else we are just not good enough. And those thoughts are exactly what has kept us toxic, emotionally unwell, for so long. 

The people that I have worked with that are the MOST emotionally unwell, are the ones who look like they have it all handled. The executives and CEOs and the wealthiest of people. The ones that are making half a million dollars a year and are miserable because they are constantly afraid that at any moment, someone will think that they won’t be good enough to get to the next goal.  

And being in this new stillness when you have never been there feels really uncomfortable and scary.  We are sitting with thoughts that bring up a lot of what if’s, but we had what if’s before Coronavirus that we never allowed ourselves to face.  

What I have been telling people over and over is that now more than ever, it is imperative to feel ALL of your feelings.  Don’t avoid your feelings. Feel how you feel. I have been hearing things like, “I don’t have a right to feel this way. Look at everyone else who has it so much worse.  Look at the doctors and nurses on the front lines. Look at the people who can’t afford to eat.” Yes, that is all there. But yes you do have a right to feel ALL of your feelings right now.  

Let yourself feel the feelings that are underneath the triggers.  Learn to sit with any emotion that you are feeling. Stop keeping the uncomfortable feelings hidden in the dark corners of your mind.  Because when you can feel your anger, your fear, your frustration, your regret, you can see the thoughts that are underneath. The thoughts that keep you stuck in your fear, whether it is about the Coronavirus, or about YOU.  

Now is the time to make some changes in what we have automatically conditioned to think for so long.  Resist the urge to numb, to isolate, to stay focused on the future and try to predict how it will be. Now is the time to decide what thoughts are in alignment with a different life.  A life that is not about trying to predict and control how your life will unfold. The same old mind you use to deal with the what if’s about the virus, is the same mind you have been controlled by.  

Going into your inner life, your inner world, tap into your inner wisdom that knows that there is safety when you ground yourself only in this very moment, which is the only thing you have ever had control over. Resist the urge to try to find safety by predicting the future. That makes you feel the most unsafe.

When you turn inside and ground your thoughts in a way that creates different emotions, this is what actually restores your nervous system and makes us feel safe.  Notice if you are having thoughts that create rigid expectations for who you are supposed to be during this time. Don’t expect too much of yourself, your kids, your family. Don’t get caught up in fighting with your children about being on Xbox too long, or not completing homework the way you think they should.  

What if you became part of the solution to the chaotic and unmanageable world that we lived in prior to this pandemic, that we all thought was just NORMAL!  What if you were part of the solution by learning to think in a different way. The biggest lesson of all of this: WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL. WE NEVER WERE. We lived our lives trying to control things we never could control because we were handed down these thoughts from our parents, and our culture and the world around us.  

It is time for us as a culture to start re-evaluating all of the beliefs we have been taught by our culture, by our religions, by our parents, by the media, or books or TV.  These are all fake beliefs. Talk about fake news!  

We need our inside life to be the thing that guides us through our lives, not our outside life.  If we can’t sit in the unknown, we can’t be who we are really meant to be.  And We become smaller and smaller because we can’t stand to feel the discomfort of the unknown.  

I have been sitting in feeling the discomfort and staring the unknown in the face for a long time. I’ve been practicing feeling all of my fear and what if’s and I’m not good enoughs and sitting in the unknown and letting life unfold in whatever direction it will unfold. 

I practice letting go of trying to fix it, control it, change it every single day. And I use the word practice because it is a daily practice of intentionally choosing thoughts in which I am surrendering trying to control things that I can’t control like how others think and act or whether my goals will be met the way that I want them to. 

While I am taking actions that are in alignment with the life I want, I practice letting go of where these actions will take me. Because I can’t know that. I can just take the actions that I take in this moment and allow life to unfold in whatever direction it will go.  

I want to leave you with an amazing tool called The Emotional Guidance Scale.  This is from Abraham Hicks, and it is a list of commonly felt emotions ranging from joy, appreciation, freedom, love, and empowerment, which are the highest, to fear, despair, desperation, grief, and powerlessness (the lowest).

When you want to feel better, you can identify where you are on the emotional scale and proactively reach for better-feeling thoughts that lead to better-feeling emotions.  And once you have practiced better feeling thoughts and are more stable in a new emotion, you’ve moved up the scale.

Then you continue the practice of reaching for a better-feeling thought and moving up the scale to a higher-vibration emotion.  And in order to use this scale to feel better, we have to sit with our emotions. We need to name it. We are in grief right now. We are in loss right now. YOU are in loss right now. Even if you don’t have it as bad as someone else, you are still in loss.  And your loss is just as significant as someone else’s loss. You can name it. It is a valid feeling. Whatever you are feeling.  

In order to truly change your life, you need to be willing to think differently from how you feel.

That's why I collected some of my favorite resources and trainings to create an owner's manual for your mind. Want access? Tell us where to send your log-in details! 

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