Monthly Archives: November 2016

#48 Love & Anxiety: Election Hangover Blues

american-flag

This has been a tough year and a difficult election season. I think I speak for many of my fellow Americans when I say we are tired of the nasty, mean spirited smear campaigns that have been a hallmark of American politics for quite a few decades. We long for an atmosphere where groups of people who believe very differently can have honest and respectful discussions about the differences. And, finally, at the polls, the voice of the American people will be heard.

Regardless, this election is now past us and the real question is how are we going to move forward? We seem to be becoming more deeply divided as a nation. The gap between rich and poor is growing and the disrespect for other religions, ethnicities, and sexual orientation seems to be more prevalent and violent. This all saddens me deeply. We are all connected to the human race. regardless of our differences, we belong to each other. None of us is non-human! Though in anger and frustration we sometimes dehumanize our opponents, that is a more anxious mode of being, not a mature, wise position.

I would like to offer some thoughts of hope moving forward as we begin 2017 with a new president and a new group of folks in DC who seem to be in power. Because the character of my leadership matters to me much more than his or her policy positions, (as goes the leader so goes the nation), I am personally saddened that a person who is seemingly so angry, disrespectful to women, and dislikes so many different groups of people has been chosen by so many to be our President. But, that is not the point. The point is how do I act and live on a day to day basis regardless of my leadership. If we as Americans, as humans, keep meeting anger with anger and vitriol with vitriol, we add more fuel to a fire that is already burning too strongly and if we continue to feed it, will at some point consume us all.

It is time to stop name calling and attacking each other. It is time to stop fighting, band together and find out what we have in common within our shared humanity. We all grieve and laugh and hope and dream. We all deserve the same chances and opportunities to do these things.

Click the link  Human Contact experience  for a wonderful, short video that shows what people all over the world are doing to try to reconnect us to our commonality and our sense of belonging to each other. It is called the human connection experience. Strangers are coming together in parks and city squares all over the world to sit and silently and respectfully gaze into each other’s eyes for a few minutes. Watch and see the powerful results. “True connection is our pathway to peace!”

My hope for the future is that we stop focusing on fighting each other and our differences, that we begin to focus on our own inner worlds and our own attitudes and behaviors. We have the choice each day to brighten the world around us a tiny bit more. Or, we can darken it by our words, attitudes, and behaviors. How each of us acts on a daily basis MATTERS greatly. I know I keep quoting  Barbara Fredrickson but her books and research are so powerful and compelling. We can make our inner worlds more peaceful, improve our body’s health, decrease our anxiety while increasing our sense of love and wellbeing, just by having small but regular positive encounters with other human beings. People we know, and even with total strangers as you saw on the video. Love 2.0 is wonderful, read it if you have not. It has brought me so much hope for life and the future. Humans are amazing, they are wonderful, adaptable and resilient. We can bring change to our nation over time by the power of our positive and loving choices.

Let us show whoever is sitting in the “power seats” in DC this kind of true power. Our personal power to chose life and hope and love. Our choices to be a bright light in the world, to be kind to those we find easy to love and to those who are our polar opposites. A nation can help change its leadership, by their collective voices and their repeated actions. South Africa no longer is ruled by apartheid and racial hatred.

So whether you voted for Trump or Clinton, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, Green, or any other party, look at your own life and your own choices as we move toward 2017. Remind yourself and your loved ones of our shared humanity, of our commonality as human beings. The more we try to understand differences the less the differences frighten us. As you know from my many blogs, anxious and frightened people are not acting our of their best selves. Fear changes us negatively. So let us approach 2017 with hope and a renewed desire for our ability to find good, do good, and experience the good of living in America.  I am grateful to belong to this nation and share my citizenship with you all, regardless of the issues and struggles we face.

GOING DEEPER

1;) What emotions and sensations were you experiencing on 11/8 as you watched the news? What are you experiencing now? Do you feel hope or fear about the future?

2:) What helps you remember that we belong to the human race? What inner resources support you when you deal with people who are very different from you?

Advertisements

Love & Anxiety # 47: Lost in a Strange Land!

fullsizerenderHello Friends. I have desired to blog the past 2 months but life keeps reminding me that I only have time and space for a FEW priorities. Luckily, since I love to travel, October’s priority was traveling overseas to present some educational workshops, one which was in Italy!

In a previous blog I shared that traveling is great for our bodies, and for opening us up to expansion and newness, as well as to other viewpoints.  But today I want to talk about a travel experience we all love, getting lost in a strange place! I am being facetious!  There are a few hardy people who are so confident, and have such great nervous system regulation, that they actually enjoy getting lost, but most of the rest of us hate the experience. Being lost in a strange landscape exposes our vulnerability, our fears, and our “alienness” or lack of belonging to that place. The street signs are in a strange tongue, the sights are totally unfamiliar, and the locals are all busily buzzing on their own trajectories and often appear indifferent at first glance.
But today I will share the good news about being lost in a strange place!  How navigating this experience benefits our body and Autonomic Nervous system, and how asking for help from strangers can improve our confidence, decrease anxiety, and even provide some Attachment healing/ feelings of nurture.

I write from my recent personal experience in Italy. After presenting the workshop in Naples, I ended up traveling alone for 5 days in Southern Italy. Prior to this experience I had never ventured south of Rome, and now I was headed south of Naples. I was excited to see some new territory and experience a slightly different culture. However, my Italian language proficiency is limited to a few important phrases such as “where is the bathroom, how much does this cost, where is the Hotel _____?”  So I was also a little anxious about the whole experience.

I determined on day 1 to know where I was going and to have an organized plan. The unknown feels unsettling, and most often produces anxiety in a human being. Our brains prefer knowing what to expect at any given moment. So, the idea I had a plan, mentally helped with the anxiety of the unknown—but the plan fell apart, as plans tend to do when exposed to actual life! Getting on my first train, all I knew was the name of my stop, Piazza Cavour, so I thought I was set. However, it turns out, the train’s screen malfunctioned and after 10 minutes it reported each new station stop was Piazza Amador. My belly began to tense. I knew this couldn’t be good for my plan. After the 3rd ‘P. Amador stop’ my fight or flight energy kicked in and I started trying to get off the train and find help. (I own a car in San Diego, so I am never on a train or subway system, it is an unfamiliar situation no matter what country I am in.)

Surprisingly, help came from unexpected quarters. A sweet 3-foot tall Italian grandma saw me looking stressed, and frankly a bit panicked. Though she spoke not a word of English, she pointed at me, at the screen, and said Piazza Cavour,  and then pointed the opposite way the train was traveling. I gathered from her excellent charade skills that I had missed my stop, one of the P. Amador’s was actually P.Cavour. Then, an urbane and well-dressed older gentleman who spoke a tiny bit of English, told me to follow him. I was at the point of “any port in a storm”, so I followed him off the train. He walked me to a platform about 5 minutes away and told me to get on this train and go 2 stops. Then he smiled and walked away.
After that experience my anxiety about traveling alone in Italy dropped away. If without asking for help I got the support I needed, maybe I could just ask for help at any point on my journey? So, when I got lost in Sorrento, I asked for help. When I couldn’t find the train station, I stopped a stranger and asked him. When the SITA bus to Positano dropped me off at the top of the town and I had no idea where my hotel was, I asked another stranger.  A few people could not help me or didn’t know the answer to my questions, but they all tried to help. Southern Italians are amazing, warm, kind and friendly. I was blown away by all the support and kindness I received. Even on the Circumvisiana train (where travel guide books provide dire warning about pickpockets abounding, paste your valuables to your body, etc.), Italians made conversation with me and I met many wonderful people. By my second ride I was not treating my wallet like it was one of my kidneys. My fears dissipated and I really enjoyed this “dangerous” train experience.

By the end of my trip, looking back, I could not believe I had any anxiety about traveling alone. Though this was my first time doing so overseas, my confidence in navigating around a foreign country had skyrocketed. Thanks to Steve Jobs and my iphone, I had no trouble finding transportation (no uber in South Italy), booking hotels on the fly, and deciding where I wanted to go next. I had wonderful dinner conversations at every restaurant. People talk to you when you travel alone in Italy. I made friends with Colombians, Australians, Britons, Spaniards, and even some wonderful strangers from Ohio! I felt so much safer in my body and in my own experience. This always happens when you face a fear or something that brings you anxiety. Triumphing over the fear brings out sensations of our natural empowerment and increases our sense of safety. It is impossible for your anxiety to keep telling you that you cannot do something that you are actually doing! It kicks the fear right in the ass.

In closing, the best news is that asking for help from strangers brings more love/care in your life. If you don’t believe me, believe Barbara Fredrickson  and the research that she includes in her wonderful book, “LOVE 2.0.” A simple encounter with a stranger when you are present and connecting, synchs up both of your brains, begins a flow of oxytocin (the love/bonding hormone, not to be confused with oxycontin the drug), increases your vagal tone, which promotes heart and overall physical health, and calms and soothes your Autonomic Nervous system! All that in just a brief encounter. Oxytocin is the hormone that counteracts the stress hormones that many of us have coursing through our bodies on a regular basis. So my mini encounters also helped me physically and emotionally.

My experience was that when strangers treat you as if you really matter and provide the help that you need, it increases your own sense of value, as well as deepens your awareness of how we are all connected as a human race. I felt more self-love during and after the trip just from the experience of so much help and care coming from so many strangers. I have wonderful friends and feel very loved on a regular basis, but there was something new and powerful that emerged as I repeatedly experienced being cared for by strangers.

So, my encouragement to you is to ask for help more often. Ask strangers for restaurant suggestions, directions, etc., when you travel. Whether you are going to Nebraska, Saskatoon, or Taiwan, let people help you when you need it. See what you notice in your body, mind and heart. Please let me know how it goes.

Going deeper:

1.) Have you ever traveled alone in a strange country? If so, what was your experience like? What sources of support did you use to find your way around? Did you ask any strangers for help? How did that experience work?

2.) Do you have a sense of your own confidence and competence in navigating the unknown? If so, what is your source of support or comfort? If you do not, can you imagine stretching yourself and trying something new, unknown or a little scary, but asking for support in the process?