Tag Archives: Family

Blog 45: Pleasure Part 3-Exercise:Tell me what you love!

So here is a great  exercise I learned at a Tara Brach conference. Tara Brach She is truly an amazing teacher and human being. This exercise is a great way to feel Enjoyment and Pleasure. It is also a great exercise to deepen loving bonds with partners, children, friends, family, etc. And, of course that will also increase your Pleasure.

EXERCISE:  TELL ME WHAT YOU LOVE!

Try this experiential exercise 1-on-1 with someone you love or desire to grow closer to, a partner, child, or friend.

1-Sit facing each other at a comfortable distance and set a timer on your phone for 2 minutes.

2-Decide which person is going to begin as (A), the Questioner and who is going to be (B), the Answerer.

3- (A) makes comfortable eye contact with (B) and using their name, asks this question. “      ______please tell me what you love?”

4-(B) provides a one word, or a one sentence answer of something they love or really enjoy. I.e. “Nature”, or “Being with you”, etc.

5-(A) registers that they heard this answer with a nod or a thank you, and then pauses for a few seconds and then asks the same question again…___ please tell me what you love?

6- (A) asks the same question, and (B) answers over and over for entire 2 minutes.

7- PAUSE and both A & B check inward with bodies and hearts and notice how the process has shifted any feelings, emotions and sensations so far.

8-Then you switch roles, set the timer for 2 more minutes and (B) begins asking (A) the same question. “_______ please tell me what you love?”

9- Again, PAUSE at the end and notice the pleasure, feelings and emotions this connection has generated in both of you.

10-There is no cross talk or commenting on the other person’s answers, you are just witnessing each other sharing what they love and increasing your emotional resonance.  Which is very Pleasurable.

Please give this and try and let me know how it goes. Couples who do this on a regular basis have a deepened connection and build up their Couple resiliency. This resiliency which helps balance out the effects of the normal relational conflict we all experience. And, kids love this one.

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One of the most deeply bonded couples I know!

GOING DEEPER

  1. What was that exercise like for you? Was there any discomfort in the process? Sometimes intimacy is difficult even though it is what most of us long for in a relationship.
  2. Which role did you enjoy most? What was the difference inside your body and heart when you were the questioner? When you were the answerer?
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#39: Love & Anxiety-Contentment at Christmas?

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I have read lots of blogs, books and articles raving about the importance of mindfulness in order to live in a peaceful mind and body, and I agree 100%! But what I would love to read or hear more about is another “state” or attitude, that of Contentment.  Contentment is related to mindfulness but is not exactly a buzzword in our predominately self-focused popular culture.  I was with a friend recently who will remain nameless, so as not to embarrass her and her kids. She spent a small mortgage on her day off to take her sons and their friends to one of those “fun zone” places (where junk food, quarters and over-stimulation reign supreme.) Unfortunately, even after her hours of sacrifice, the only sound heard on the way home was the song of complaint. Complaints about what they didn’t get, and frustration about having to leave “so soon”. There was not one word of gratitude and certainly not a shred of Contentment found in that car.  Not in the kids, or in my friend.  A sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations often walk hand-in-hand and both kill our ability to feel Contentment. Gratitude and Contentment are not the same concepts but are related, supply energy to each other, and are the Yin to the Yang of entitlement and unrealistic expectations.

Why is Contentment so hard to achieve in our daily existence? There are several reasons besides those noted above. One seems to be, at times humans can mistakenly equate Contentment to stagnation or lack of ambition. The reasoning goes, “if I am content with where I am in life and what I have, how will I grow and improve and get more out of life?” But  Contentment is a great word and a great state to spend time in, dictionary.com defines Contentment as: the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.  I like that phrase, ease of mind. The last blog was about human restlessness and how it negatively impacts our joy and increases our anxiety levels. Restlessness could be called unease of mind or even dis-ease of mind. Contentment then, is one of the antidotes for getting stuck in restlessness on a regular basis.

Contentment is not stagnation.  You can have goals, dreams, and desires but still live in Contentment on a regular basis. Because Contentment is not about specific outcomes but an overall ease of mind /attitude about life. Contented people usually have fairly realistic expectations (read appropriate) about  life, limits and their place therein. Contentment allows us to experience the overwhelming good that is our daily life without being tainted by seething restlessness or the frustration that comes from comparing our lives with the lives of others we believe are more fortunate.

Here is a fairly simple example. If at age 30 I take up the sport of football, there is very little possibility that I will be drafted by the NFL. I could become a great football player, if I am willing to put in hours of daily practice. But NFL level players usually have been playing football since childhood. If my expectations, or set goals, do not match reality, Contentment will be a hard state to attain. If I expect to be drafted I will be disappointed and discontented. However, If I expect to get really good and enjoy the sport, I have a much better chance of feeling Contentment with my choices and accomplishments.

Sometimes we paint unrealistic pictures in our heads about how life should play out, or even how we should feel on a regular basis. We can get the impression via reality TV, FB posts, movies, songs, etc. that life is one big happy adrenaline rush. We think we ought to feel immense love or excitement or joy 24/7.  Contentment is hard to find when living with those kind of unrealistic expectations.

Life was never intended to provide the same experiences all day long day after day. Let’s use art as an example to stand in for life and the various situations, moods, and sensations we all experience. A beautiful piece of art or a stunning photograph most often is comprised of various “objects”, shapes and colors. A green leaf is lovely, but in the fall when the leaves turn colors and become a  gorgeous palate of oranges, reds, yellows, and browns, that’s when tourists stream into New England to take in the art these multi-hued leaves provide. Very few people come to gawk in the summer when the leaves are only the color green.

Well, real Life is multi-hued as well. If you imagine feelings, events, and sensation as colors, there will be green moments and red moments, and purple moments. There are yellow feelings and pink feelings and black feelings, etc. Life is fluid and flows, it changes and morphs. When we realistically expect and accept there are green/red/blue/purple, etc, moments, we will not be thrown or upset when we don’t feel excitement or happiness all day long. We become more tolerant of the hues that we feel less fondness for but know that we can learn to be with, and learn from them. For example, we can allow ourselves to feel sad for a time which in turn allows us the awareness of how great it feels to experience happiness.

There is another great benefit to experiencing and enjoying life as multi-hued and morphing.  We become better able to sit and allow our own shifting internal states to BE whatever color they are without criticism and judgment. In so doing, we are more able to “tolerate” the shifting states of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones.

So friends the holiday season is upon us and it is easy to get caught in the busyness and the merchandise mucking about foisted upon us hourly via ads and TV networks. But I encourage you to settle inside yourself and find your own state of inner Contentment these next few weeks. Experience how Contentment may shift the energy of the Holiday Season and the family interactions during the many holiday themed events. As always, I would love to know how it goes for you so please let me know via comments.

GOING DEEPER:

1.) What is your knee-jerk reaction to the term Contentment? Is it positive or negative? What beliefs live inside your head and body about contentment? Do these block you from, or move you toward Contentment.

2.) Is my analogy normalizing life as multi-hued art, and not a single state of being, helpful to you? If not, come up with your own analogy or metaphor of life with its various permutations. Which colors/sensations/feelings are you most comfortable living with, and which are uncomfortable to you? Share your answers with your friends and loved ones if you dare.

Evict your own anxiety: Join one of my 3 week anxiety reductions workshops held here in San Diego, CA. 10% discount if you mention this blog! Anxiety Reduction workshops

Love & Anxiety #20: Gratitude for our humanness?

This week I have been reading an awesome book called “Leaving Church: A memoir of faith”, http://www.barbarabrowntaylor.com and I have so enjoyed her prose, which somehow manages to be soaring, AND yet full of  down to earth wisdom. And, what I have really resonated with is her affirming the goodness of being a human! That our humanness is not the cause of our problems, so much as refusing to acknowledge we are human. Since we are human, we are fallible, messy, confused, prone to errors and tempers, stress and struggle. While at the same time, we are beautiful, loving, capable of great generosity and deeds of kindness, and containing great reservoirs of wisdom. This is one of her many books and is a worthwhile read, even if you don’t come from a faith tradition.

But since this blog is about love & anxiety, what I want to share today is how practicing gratitude for our humanness is a massive anxiety buster! Whenever we are able to accept what actually is (reality), rather than trying to live out what we wish we were (denial and pretense), our stress levels decrease. We are human and when we allow ourselves to love our humanness, “all our curves and our edges and our perfect imperfections”, to quote John Legend, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg anxiety diminishes and in its place, we make room for pleasure, joy and peace again. 

Being human means we learn, change, and grow as the years go by. What good parent would be angry at a child who takes at least 2 or more years to gain urinary continence (a child who pees their pants, for those who like simple words)? None, because good parents understand developmental tasks, and that the growth and maturation process of a human child goes on for years and years and years! Those of you who have grown children still living with you, really know what I mean.  So, growing fully into our humanness and living well is also a developmental process. One, I will submit, we are engaged in for our entire lives. Maybe there are a few of you that are fully done and have no more growing to do, but I am speaking to the rest of us that are continuing to learn and grow daily.

If taking the risk of loving our humanness becomes a desire, and we are willing to do the hard work of changing the internal lenses through which we view ourselves and our expectations, we can learn to live in the deep gratitude that comes from loving that we are human beings. Dr. Taylor seems to have learned this lesson, and I know it is one I have been working on for quite some time. The other benefit of gratefully embracing our humanness, is that gratitude in general decreases anxiety. If you recall, some of the earlier blogs were about how the brain is biased toward negative information and how we need to take in the “good” in our life in order to overcome the negativity. Practicing gratitude for anything is a great way to take in the good and shift our brain out of the anxiety/danger mode, back into openness and relaxation. 

I encourage you to work on “loving all your curves and all your edges and all your perfect imperfections” this week. Practice gratitude for your life and your human body, even if you screw up, yell at your kids, or fail to yet again to attain your own (too high) expectations. Please let me know how it goes!

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     Cameron and his mom, embracing his humanness!

Going deeper:

1. What does this blog bring up for you? Resonance and relief, or resistance and resentment? Journal about your answer and see what comes up for you.

2. Where did you get your first messages about your humanness? Were they positive messages or negative ones?

3. If this practice seems too hard or even impossible, I invite you to pick just one aspect of your humanness and just try to feel gratitude for it. It is a powerful practice and you will be surprised at how easy it becomes when you make this a new habit.

Blog 19: Rage, Art & Poetry

Today we will talk about Art, and specifically, poetry. Poetry is a powerful art medium that combines words, metaphors, and images in a manner that deeply touches the human soul. According to wikipeda.com “Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses.” Today we value conventional poetry less than our ancestors did, but our musicians and moviemakers are this generation’s poets. And I would suggest, that is one reason why we value them so deeply and sometimes “worship” some of our favorite bands and musicians.

But an additional benefit of poetry is the reason it is today’s focus. If you can recall the subjects from recent blog posts — emotion, sensation and emotional regulation— then you will see where I am going with this. Poetry is a wonderful means and medium to help us Experience and Express our big emotions. (Remember those 2 E’s that help us better handle our upsetting emotional storms?) By connecting to what we really “feel” inside, we can use the energy generated, and pour it into a poem. Sharing the raw pain/anger/confusion/joy or terror that we feel, allows other humans to realize they are not alone in these states. Poetry has an intimate connecting effect, it often prompts us to say, “Oh you feel that too! Wow, I thought I was alone in this.”  

As a therapist working with anxiety and trauma, I hear terrible stories from people of all ages. Some of these stories are harder to shake off than others and I feel the impact in my body. It is especially hard when working with children or teens. Some stories really trigger me because I have felt or experienced similar emotions, or even situations. In the past I got scared of being overwhelmed by all the pain that found its way into my office day after day. However, years ago, I found out with the help of a wise wizard woman, (you know who you are, and Yes, there are still those living on the planet) that poetry was a wonderful way to allow processing and releasing of these big somatic impacts. So I started writing poetry out of my own rage, confusion, and pain, and the vicarious pain of the courageous people I have the joy of journeying alongside of on this crazy path called life.

Since for many, anger is such a difficult emotion to healthily express, I will show how anger can be expressed in two poems I will use to end today’s blog. Poetry can allow a sense of playfulness, even when expressing rage. (Any poem about clients are a compilation of client stories in order to protect client confidentiality.)

Poem 1- Superhero        by Wanda Brothers

When I grow up, I wanna be

a super-hero, with big black boots

wielding a lengthy whip,

and a surplus of superpowers.

 

My job will be my joy

chasing villains, busting bad guys,

making a safer world for us all,

enacting the eventually promised justice,

that I lack the patience to wait for.

 

I will be respected and feared

and little old ladies will thank me,

and bake me casseroles

for saving their grandchildren

from the swine that pollute

our earth like raw sewage,

raiding and raping with impunity

until they run into me.

 

Then shaking with terror,

they will pee their pants

piteously pleading for the mercy

they denied many a victim.

With studied gravity, I will demur,

and with a pretense of regret, 

I will annihilate them, and then,

dance on their graves with glee.

Poem 2 – Helpless Rage for a Drowning Client   -By Wanda Brothers

My rage is hidden, shy, sly.

It rises and I turn to look

and it’s already gone

like the view in the rear view mirror.

 

The parents are killing her, I say.

and the Bureaucratic bunglers don’t stop them

everyone looks the other way

and she is drowning in front of my eyes.

I give her a breath of clean air

here and there, but stand aside,

as she thrashes, like a good citizen,

while they murder her by inches,

and hack her soul to bits.

 

I want to stab them, slash them

into ribbons, and feed her their flesh

but it will do no good,

nothing does, so I take up

again, my useless vigil

and give her another breath.

       Going Deeper:

  1. Do you enjoy poetry as an art form, if so, who is your favorite poet? If not, can you notice how the lyrics to some of your favorite songs find their way into your soul? 
  2. I encourage you to try writing a poem or a song about the next big emotional storm that you go through. Allow the emotions and sensations to generate words and images and see what happens internally after you get them down on paper or on your ipad/iphone/imac or PC. Then, as one more big step, I suggest you share it with the person closest to you. I think you will be thrilled at how they respond. 
  3. If you want to send me any of your poetry, feel free, I would love to read it. info@sdtraumatherapy.com

Blog #18: Love & Anxiety-Individualism vs. Community

We live in a culture that currently is fairly obsessed with Self and individualism. The old days when the group or community mattered more than the individual seem to be long gone. Other countries still focus on the importance of the family or community, but here in the good ole US of A, we like ourselves. We like to be sure that no one gets in the way of our personal happiness. Here are some typical slogans that you may have heard.

Look out for number 1!

You deserve a break today.

Nice guys (girls) finish last.

He (or She) who dies with the most toys wins.

If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

Be all that you can be.

While it is very important to love and care for ourselves, there is a cost when we cease focusing any of our energy toward the good of the society or culture in which we live. Linsey Lohan, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and most of the Kardashians, are some examples of what can happen when self-focus runs amok. Some people may be fascinated by the lives of these celebrities and find their escapades amusing, but most parents would not want them used as role models for their young children.

As a professor, a favorite quote I shared with my college students goes like this: “A person wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package.”  Not only have I seen this to be true, a person wrapped up in themselves often also experiences more anxiety. When a majority of the energy and focus in life is directed inward, toward self, ego, possessions, etc., bettering or collecting more of these things becomes the prime concern and top priority. Therefore, you are much more aware of what you have to lose.

Because of the brain’s bias to the negative, (see past blogs for more on this), fear of loss is of much greater interest and much more motivating, than hope of gain. So a consistent fear of the loss of all we have fought to gain, generates internally greater and greater levels of anxiety. To quote Daniel Coleman in Emotional Intelligence”; “When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller.”

Love, on the other hand brings a sense of calmness and security. Being loved and loving is one of the best antidotes we can “ingest” into our hearts and souls against the toxins of anxiety and fearful selfishness. When we focus solely on ourselves, we forget that at the core we are mammals. We are more than an animals, but as mammals, we therefore need our pack to feel safe and secure. People who are focused on the good of their communities and those they love, tend to be happier, and feel more secure and peaceful. They often have more of a sense of intimate connection and purpose. They have a better balance to their focused energy, some going toward self and some going towards the community and loved ones. Studies have shown that people who love and give are much happier overall. There is something fulfilling and rewarding about making a positive difference in other’s lives.

I am not suggesting we stop taking care of ourselves but perhaps taking a look at our lives to see if we are in balance. Is some of my focus going toward bettering the self and some towards bettering others? As a child, attending a Mennonite church I was taught that service to others was all that mattered.  My needs were deemed irrelevant. I later learned the hard way that living without love and care for myself turned me into a burned-out angry mess. Perhaps in your families or religious organizations you have gotten a similar message. Well, as in anything, balance is the key. Love of self is connected directly to the love of other. Most cultures and religions subscribe to some form of the golden rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” So go out and love this week, love yourself and continue to love those around you.

 

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War orphans from Uganda, they know how to do community, they would not survive otherwise

Going deeper:

  1. As humans we often struggle with extremes, balance seems to come with hard work and experience. In this area are you in balance, or do you tend toward one extreme or the other? Selfishness, or are you a people pleaser with an utter lack of focus on self-love and care?
  2. Whichever side you typically inhabit, this week try to focus a bit more energy into the other side. Notice what impact this has upon your mind, body and soul. If you have been programmed to think that self-love and care is “selfish”, practicing it may be hard for you, but please try. You will feel better.
  3. Those of you who naturally have these two sides in balance, thank you! Please keep being a great example to the rest of us who need a bit of support and a role-model.

 

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join a Real Life Solutions 3-wk anxiety reduction workshop. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving!

Love & Anxiety #15: “To feel or not to feel….

At the end of last week’s blog, I mentioned that emotions begin as physiological events and not as emotional contracts and I promised to share more. I am not saying that we don’t experience emotions as mental constructs, but that the physiological change in the body comes first. Our then minds realize, ‘oh I am really angry, or, I am depressed’.  

To clarify this a bit more, let’s talk about language. The mind’s language is of course, words! As noted in the above examples. However, our body has its own language and speaks to us, but we often do not hear or even try to listen. The body’s language is Sensation.  Perhaps you have heard these phrases:feeling things in our guts; that pit in the middle of my stomach; or, the tightness in my chest, etc. Less often, we may be aware of a lightness in our hearts, a warm expansiveness in our chests, etc. This is the language of the body. It buzzes, constricts, contracts, chills, warms, opens, expands, just to name a few of the body’s words.

The reasons we are often unaware of, or completely ignore our body’s messages, is we have forgotten this language. We deem those messages irrelevant to our busy grown up lives. Somewhere between elementary school and high school, most humans cease listening to their bodies and begin to live in their heads. Our culture and our role models (adults) usually reinforce the message that our mind is the master and carrier of the most important information. Often it is our poets; musicians, film directors, artists, creative types, etc., who are the holdouts staying connected to both languages, which is one reason we adore them so.

If a person lives in her mind a majority of the time, she will have trouble really experiencing her emotions because she is not truly inhabiting her body. Until the sensations get soooo big, she can’t ignore them anymore. This is one reason why people who spend lots of time in their heads obsessing and worrying, experience high levels of body anxiety. The body is a lot bigger than the mind, especially when it comes to the “negative” emotions. (Not because they are bad, but because they FEEL so bad.) Anger, fear, sadness, when you have tried to tamp them down and ignore them for too long, eventually they will surge out and blow up. When they do, it’s usually a mess. We rant at someone, or go into a deep depression, or have anxiety and panic attacks, to give a few examples. 

Next week I will publish Part two of this blog, sharing more about embodied, present, living and how to more easily deal with our emotional storms. Stay tuned!

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my lovely Aussie friends displaying two powerful emotions -joy and anger

Going Deeper;

1.) What emotions are you comfortable experiencing and which emotions are outlawed from your life? Do you resonate with the information that when we stuff and bury emotions for too long, they burst up and make a mess?

2.) Are you comfortable in your body? Can you listen to its language of sensation? What sensations are you currently most aware of?

 

Blog 8 -Love, Anxiety, & Spirituality

Last blog we talked about early lessons and how they impact our behaviors. There is one early lesson we learn that is often under our awareness. We learn about the nature of the Universe. The way our parents attach to us, and interact with us, deeply impacts our spirituality and world view. Einstein stated, “The most important question a person can ask is, “Is the Universe a friendly place?

What he failed to mention, is how much our early environment has much to do with how we answer that question. Perhaps, he just understood this because he was brilliant. Almost across the board, children raised in secure attachment families would answer, the universe is friendly. Whereas children raised in abuse, neglect, or insecure attachments, would state is it not.

We learn in templates, so our interaction within our first family give us our baseline templates for power dynamics, how authority is handled, relationships, and how males and females and adults and children interact. This is just to name a few that have significance for this blog. We can not keep thousands of relationships separate in our heads, so our brains just associates anything similar to the first templates made. (By the way, the good news is that these templates can be changed for the better.)

Our world views are also formed during our early years, see previous blog for more on this. When our first years of life include situations where we feel unsafe or unloved, we are building our attachment styles and also our view of God or the universe. If you believe in a personal God, who interacts with human and creation as I do, the early lessons learned about power, authority and relationship dynamics will be automatically transferred onto your view of God. If you eschew the idea of a personal God, you may view it more as the power of fate or the universe, but you will still view the universe as unsafe if your early environment included neglect or abuse.

If you are questioning this information, do a little test, think about your dad and or mom. If your parent(s) were overall kind, loving and supportive people, I bet your view of God or the universe is a positive one. If your parents were angry, punitive, scary or neglectful, I bet when you think of God or the universe, your view is not so positive. Many long-term church-going Christians, and I would guess also Jews and Muslims, would insist that God is good and loving. However, when they are in trouble or have messed up, or are frightened, that same God seems unmoved to their plight, indifferent or even angry and punitive. (I was one of these people for many years of my life.)

This is one of the many reasons why learning how to become securely attached is so important. Your view of God and the universe changes for the better as you feel secure in your life and in your relationships. This can even occur in relationship with God and our faith communities, we can learn secure attachment there and then transfer it to our families, etc,. And my friends, this will decrease your anxiety more than most any other change you make!

Going deeper:

1) Think for a few minutes about your early environment and how that template interacts with your view of God and/or the Universe. Write down the correlations that you notice and if you have any anxiety about God or the friendliness of the universe, see where you may have over-laid your first experiences onto your worldview.

2)  We more often put our father’s traits onto our ideas of God because years of Christendom have given us the idea that God is a male, which is not even Biblically  accurate. When you think of your father, what traits of his, good or bad, have you overlaid onto your version of God or even the universe?

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

Love & Anxiety #6: Stranger Danger!

I saw a nice little tableau acted out before me yesterday on my way home from exercising on the beach. A family was walking toward the beach. Mom, Dad and the oldest son were all clumped together, but straggling behind about 80 feet were two younger sons. One appeared to be age 7, and the other boy, maybe age 5. The 5 year-old had frozen on the sidewalk and refused to budge. The older brother was trying to convince him to move and follow the family. Nothing seemed to be working. Biking by, I heard the older brother urgently whisper, “Willy, come on, there’s a stranger coming.” Sure enough a man was coming up on the sidewalk behind them. By then I passed them, so I don’t know if he moved or is still standing there, but it made me think about relationships, anxiety, attachment, and safety.

One of the reasons love can conquer anxiety is we are “hardwired” to attach to others and be in living in community. We are mammals after all, and mammals are social, pack animals. Though we are much more than animals, we have similar needs. A beloved other, someone from our family/pack, can bring peace and calm to a bad situation. But if a stranger approaches, our anxiety can skyrocket. What happens in our brains? Why the difference?

Once again it helps to understand the 3 brain systems. Our recognition and understanding of the identity of another person, resides in our Cerebral Cortex and in the Limbic systems. So, if we are doing well and feeling safe approaching and attaching, the appearance of a stranger may elicit healthy interest or curiosity. But, if we are in anxious-avoid mode, this will not be the case.

In our Primitive Brain/Brain stem, things appear very differently. It’s almost like being blindfolded. We are not aware of the identity of any person approaching us. Our Cerebral Cortex knows this is Aunt Sally, or the neighbor we enjoy, or the hot, new co-worker from next door. However, the Primitive/brain stem only sorts people into a few categories. I.e., Are they safe, dangerous, do we know them, do we love them, do we hate them, do we want to fight them, or have sex with them, etc. So stranger danger is not a joke to the Primitive Brain.

When we are feeling safe, considering attaching to a new person is natural, even if it that someone is a stranger. Every dear friend we ever had, was at one time a stranger to us. In this mode we are open and curious about the new person. As we engage in a bit of social interaction, all parts of our brains are deciding what we feel about this person. If we enjoy the interaction, we will leave with some positive feelings toward them.

However, if we are in anxiety-avoid mode, or when we have been programmed to “fear the stranger”, we approach any new person with anxiety, skepticism and suspicion. Our ability to see them clearly is clouded by the avoid-system in our primitive brains. Why does this matter? Well, if you join a new company, move to new neighborhood, find a new love, etc., all of these options include meeting and growing some kind of attachment to new human beings. Initially all are strangers to you, but soon to be part of your everyday life.

So, remember this information if you have to get to know some new people with whom you will be spending some time. Be sure you are relaxed and feeling safe and good. Let the Safety-attaching mode be strong in your brain. Then, the avoid system of your brain will not be registering danger signals. This way you have a better chance of really getting to know these people, AND, it will help you make a better first impression. Coming off as aloof, angry, or suspicious, will not endear you to the people who will populate your new life.

Going deeper:

1. What is your most prevalent attitude toward people who you don’t know yet?

2. This week notice what your bodily responses to people who you don’t know? If you feel anxious, try to identify what causes this feeling inside of you. Is it old messages, a prior bad experience, or something else?

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.