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Blog 31: Making New Associations part 4 – Moving from Insincerity or Faking it, to Living in Honest Authenticity.

Sometimes I enjoy watching “The Big Bang Theory”, a show on CBS about a little group of friends who are mostly geeks. Sheldon, the main character, is a genius who has no verbal filter and is irritating as hell because of his total self-focus and his condescending attitude toward everyone. Because they are not as smart as him. But Sheldon has something going for him. He is HONEST and genuine. He never pretends to be someone other than who he is, even if it gets him in trouble. Though his motivation for honesty comes from his sense of superiority, the fact remains, with Sheldon you always know exactly what you are going to get.

Becoming an idiosyncratic genius is not my idea of a good time, but we could all take a lesson from Sheldon in staying true to our real self. Ed Deci says, “Authenticity necessitates behaving autonomously, for it means being the author of one’s actions—acting in accord to one’s true inner self….to be authentic is to be true to one’s self.” Today’s blog is about making a new association with how we act in the world and present ourselves to others. It’s about moving away from inauthenticity, hypocrisy, and faking it, and moving toward living in genuine honesty, a type of moral integrity, in that our inner attitudes match our outward words and behaviors.

I have caught myself scoffing at politicians who like a chameleon, change exteriors so often you cannot tell his or her true colors no matter how hard you squint. They shift views, beliefs, and attitudes depending on the constituency surrounding them. I am not a politician but I have also been guilty of being a chameleon in certain situations and changing how I act based upon who I am hanging around. It is disingenuous to judge and criticize shifting loyalties and behaviors in others, when we sometime struggle with acting in similar ways. Sometimes we put on airs or a false persona for certain people, or act differently than we might if we were alone. Many of us do this to hide our humanness, our flaws, kinks, quirks and brokenness. We fear rejection so we hide the self we really are behind a “more acceptable” mask or behind an act that sometimes fools no one but ourselves.

Are the concepts of honesty, vulnerability, and genuineness still valued in our culture? Sometimes its seems that hiding, faking and guarding our true selves has become the soup de jour? However, thanks to people like Oprah, Brene Brown, Ken Wilber, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, etc., honesty and vulnerability seem to be making a comeback. For this I am grateful. There is a true power found in raw authenticity that energizes humans to live in vitality and to bring about positive changes in our culture.  A power that is rarely found in wearing a mask or a persona. Perhaps one of the reasons people like Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama, and Jesus, just to name a few, have been able to act in ways that have changed parts of the world with present reverberations. They all live(d) honestly and let their true voices ring out loud and long to the world where they had influence, They did not hide their voices and beliefs, or spout a party line. Their passion for the greater good burned true and bright and the world was been changed.

I was just at a Rob Bell event in San Diego last night, his “Everything is Spiritual” tour. http://robbell.com/portfolio/tour/ It was amazingly life giving, and motivating. One thing he shared that really helped me was that the Universe is made up of 96% dark matter and energy and though this is not fully understood by scientists, they know that somehow this dark matter and energy are important for the overall health of the universe. And he concluded, we humans are full of dark matter as well. Our shadow sides, our wounds, histories, flaws and struggles. Rather than hiding or ignoring our own dark matter, we need to embrace it. To use the energy of the darkness inside to propel us forward into the world for good, for loving, for connecting. We all have dark matter and like the universe it is part of the overall health of our own bodies.
I have been guilty of hiding my dark matter but as I have learned to embrace my struggles and honesty share my humanness (warts and all) there is a great freedom and power that can feel almost Nuclear at times in it’s intensity and brilliance. I was given a great big universal push into healing and vulnerability a few years ago when a dear friend put me on the Cable TV show, “What Not to Wear”. http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/what-not-to-wear/ My issues with beauty, identity, self-love and my discomfort with my femininity and sexuality were exposed to untold multitudes via the medium of Television. It is harder to hide when everyone is watching.

Instead of wrecking me or filling me with shame (my greatest fear), this experience opened me up to my unique beauty and value and helped me embrace my dark matter as an important part of what made me Wanda. Risking vulnerability and honesty in front of the “world” was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. When Stacy London and Clinton Kelly and all 45 of the crew, loved and accepted me even though they saw and heard about my flaws and struggles, something broke open deep in my heart and I have lived in a new experience of freedom and joy from that moment on.

At some point I will write about my “What Not to Wear” days in this blog and I am working on an Ebook about this transforming experience.. But for now, I will close by encouraging all of us to seek and find our dark matter instead of hiding from it, and to stop faking our true identities in order to receive a scrap of approval from other people who want to fit in and wear all the same logos and drive the same cars. Own who you are proudly. Don’t settle for a caricature of yourself. The world needs you to be fully who you are. You are the only you that will ever live.

Clinton, Stacy and the famous dog, Mary.
Clinton, Stacy and the famous dog, Mary.

Going deeper:

1.) What messages did you receive over the years about your own dark matter? Have you been given encouragement to embrace all of yourself, or have you bought into the cultural lie of perfectionism and the need to put on a happy face that may not be fully yours?

2.) What experiences have you had with your dark matter that have turned out positively for you? Perhaps you chose to embrace and reveal it, or maybe you were universally pushed into it like I was. How has that positive experience helped you live more deeply and authentically?

Join a 3 week anxiety reduction workshop held here in San Diego. See www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more details. 10% discount if you mention this blog.

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Blog 26- Part 2: Nike, the serenity prayer, and stress physiology!

Part 2 – The Serenity Prayer

Part 1 of this blog addressed Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It” (JDI), and how it beneficially impacts our physiology. Today’s blog will make more sense if you read part 1.

Now that we know the power of JDI, let’s talk about the Serenity Prayer. I will include the short version of this prayer below, just in case you have been living under a large rock for the past 30 years and have not heard it!

“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference”.

The concepts contained in this prayer are perfect partners with JDI energy to help shift our Nervous Systems out of threat physiology. Knowing when and where to apply our efforts and energy, and where not to, is critical information when it comes to a threat or a perceived danger to our body. Because sometimes there is nothing we can do about certain aspects of a problematic situation. So even if your switch is ON, if it’s an impossible situation to change, you could just get frustrated. Trying to change something over and over without success, makes us feel helpless and impotent.

Knowing what can be changed in a dangerous or stressful situation, is almost as important as having your switch ON. With this knowledge, you will be able to target your JDI correctly and not waste energy or stress on things that are not changeable, such as other people’s choices, your body’s limits, or natural laws, etc. As I said in a previous blog, “sometimes it is less traumatizing to surrender to a situation than to fight it”. So knowing when to let go and when to do something, will determine how successfully you act in a difficult situation. Knowing where to direct your ON energy and JDI, are keys to thriving in life rather than simply surviving it.

Let’s use an example that all Californians can relate to. We have a drastic water shortage here in our lovely state. If each one of us tries to solve the situation all by ourselves, or spends inordinate amounts of time brooding on the problem, we will be stuck in stress physiology for sure. This could also flip our switch to OFF because we feel helpless. However, combining our JDI with the Serenity prayer might look like taking shorter showers, only washing full loads of clothes, watering our golf courses and lawns less often, talking to our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to join us in our efforts, etc. If every Californian made these changes, over time, it would make a big difference, in the problem and inside our bodies.

This week notice how the Serenity prayer beautifully compliments your JDI energy and try applying both concepts to any stressful situations that occur. In what instances does surrender ever feel like serenity to you? Perhaps refusing to get in the same old fight with a spouse or a child, or letting someone cut you off in traffic without losing your mind in rage, etc. Please feel free to share your successes (and attempts) in the comments section.

Fiona connecting with her inner tiger, serenely waiting for the next moment to happen!
Fiona connecting with her inner tiger, serenely waiting for the next moment to happen!

Going Deeper:

1.) Which of the 3 tenets of the Serenity Prayer do you find the most challenging? Do you notice any internal resistances when you read it aloud? Just be with those somatic imprints of resistance this week and see what comes from this practice.

2.) What situations do you find easiest to use your JDI energy, and which situation are easier to surrender to? How does letting go feel to your body and mind? Many of us find that the body handles surrender much differently than the mind does. What is your experience?

3.) Think about the past few weeks. Have you experienced stressful situations? If so, have you been able to JDI? What needs doing depends on the situation, but doing something is much better than collapsing in helplessness, do you agree?

Love & Anxiety-Blog 26: Nike, the Serenity Prayer, and Stress Physiology!

Part 1 – Nike

The focus of the past few blogs was on how to flip our bodies out of threat physiology back into an embodied sense of safety and joy. One of the benefits my clients receive after engaging in somatic therapy is the experience of returning to feeling fully Alive in body and soul; rather than just existing, feeling persistent anxiety and worry.

Today’s blog focuses on another way to shift out of stress or threat physiology, but it’s more of a way of living than a tool. So, what does Nike and the Serenity Prayer have to do with stress physiology? Quite a bit it turns out. Today let’s start with Nike, more specifically, their famous marketing slogan — “JUST DO IT,” (JDI moving forward). What a great concept! We admire and respect athletes. Those who get up off the couch and just run that race, or just swim that heat, etc. It is not a coincidence, people who exercise strenuously on a regular basis are healthier and have better mood stability, than those who do not. There are many reasons for this including, improved heart-rate variability, rushing endorphins, and limbic system resonance, just to name a few.

But today’s blog is about the main reason why JDI matters in relation to our physiology. When it comes to attempting to recover from a trauma(s), stressful situations, or persistent daily anxiety, most of us don’t JDI. In threat and overwhelm mode, we are usually doing nothing about the issues that scare us, or even life in general. Some of us may worry, but that does not help! From an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) perspective, just doing something can mean the difference between life or death, safety or danger. If a tiger is chasing you, JDI means, run like hell to save yourself because if you don’t JDI, you will be food for the tiger. While we don’t have literal tigers chasing us in North America, we fear plenty of “paper” tigers such as; illness, job loss, financial woes, divorce, relational betrayals, struggling children, etc.

JDI positively and directly impacts the ANS. Imagine with me a large invisible light switch planted right in the middle of your body. It is either ON or OFF, there is no other setting. This switch is a metaphor for action and self-efficacy. When it comes to stress, or life and death situations, in order to survive and thrive, we need that switch to stay in the ON position. ON in the ANS represents I CAN! I can run, I can fight, I can get away, I can JDI, in order to begin to resolve this situation.

Of course then, the OFF position epitomizes I CAN’T! I am helpless in the face of this situation and I don’t know what to do. People who live with their switch mostly in the OFF position tend to freeze and numb out when it comes to stress and problems, they are not living JDI. People who live mostly in ON position still experience anxiety, as well as stress and danger. However, they have an embodied knowledge of self empowerment, so they know that they will do what it takes to get back to safety. Therefore, they experience less trauma and anxiety. They know they can do whatever is needed to survive.

The good news is that JDI physiology, keeps that switch in the ON position. Doing something, rather than collapsing in fear and worry, allows your body to move toward the experience of empowerment and a sense of safety. This could include going for a walk, making that difficult phone call, asking for support, confronting someone, etc. If your switch is mostly OFF, start doing something, anything, on a regular basis and see how differently you feel. Self-efficacy has been shown in studies to be one the best antidotes to recovery from trauma, illness, anxiety, and consistent stressors. Self-efficacy is defined as the ability to effect whatever is your desired outcome. Another dictionary defined self-efficacy as potency and power! Other words for JDI!

In a few days, I will post part two, but meanwhile this week, check in with your body when in situations that are uncomfortable to you. Try to notice the position of your metaphorical switch. If it is OFF, practice trying self-efficacy instead of helpless, angry worry. I  will leave you with a statement I came up with years ago while doing my own somatic healing work for my body. “You are only helpless until you realize that you are NOT!”

JDI - African Style
JDI – African Style

Going Deeper:

1.) What is your reaction to this blog? Does it resonate or is there inner resistance? What is your reaction to JDI? Sometimes it is easier to stay in a stance of helplessness and blaming others for our misery. But what happens when you focus upon trying to find even the smallest step you could take moving forward?

2.) What is your internal response to my final statement! It sounds simple but it is a profound truth. I encourage you to meditate on this phrase this week and see what comes up for you, mentally and somatically.

I am still providing 3 week anxiety reduction workshops here in San Diego. If you are interested in 90 minutes of training, 3 weeks in a row, I am starting another round at the end of April. Life is too short to be afraid!