Tag Archives: relationships

BLOG 50- What a 13th century poet knew about Love & Anxiety.

 

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Africa Volunteer team

Today I would like to share a poem  written by Rumi  a 13th century Sufi mystic in love with God and life. Let these words wash your soul and heart and notice your bodily response.

Reckless love is not afraid to explode

while reason seeks profit.

as love suffers,

she remains steadfast, solid & strong

Risking everything

She lies beyond self-interest seeking nothing

Betting on every glorious gift life brings

Without reason life give life

-without reason, give it back!

Wow, what a life we would lead if we lived even half as full of love as these words. If we feared neither loss or suffering, anxiety would be a cloud in our rear-view mirrors, rarely to be experienced again. If we trusted in the goodness of life and all the good we experience on a daily basis, we could risk expanding and pouring out our love and energy into life and other people, without counting the cost or worrying if “we are getting ours”.

What if we changed a fear-based mindset and thought differently? What if the person who keeps on loving even if they have been harmed, is the stronger person? What if loving more does not make victims but victors. What if the winners are those who loved the most? Some names immediately come to my mind, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, to name a few, people who seem to embody the poetic words of Rumi. As you can see from these names. loving others does not mean we don’t stand up against injustice or wrong doing, but we do it in a firm and respectful manner, not stooping to the fear-based tactics of scorn, disgust and hatred.

I know it seem impossible in our world today, to live without fear and chronically worrying about our own profit. I know I often don’t live these words, but I would like to. The Happiness research studies repeatedly demonstrate that the people who have concern for others, a willingness to give, and a sense of how all humans are connected, score the highest the happiness inventories. So there is a power in love to bring us what we desire that selfishness might not, happiness.

So think about how 2017 could be a year where we risk expanding more, exploding with love & joy, willing to give of ourselves to those around us. Maybe we can’t live without fear or self-interest but we could work on lessening both.

Going Deeper:

1.) How does love and self-interest interact in your life? Do you find there is enough energy to care for self & others?

2.) What brings fear and anxiety into your life? Does scarcity mentality dominate your life? Do you believe there is enough, or that resources are limited? How does fear subside, is it something you do to vanquish it, or is it when the outside circumstances change?

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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?

Blog 9 – Love & Anxiety Series: If you are happy, tell your face!

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The last blog was on spirituality and early world views. This blog about facial expression, or its lack, is a small part of how our sense of self can be reinforced or stunted.

When I was a child we used to sing a little song with this chorus…”if you are happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it…”

For most of us, this is true. When we are happy, we beam, we smile, we grin. And, this information is transmitted via mirror neurons, and our Nervous systems, via body language and facial expressions, to those that encounter us. In response, they immediately know that we are happy. This impacts the way they interact with us. Thanks to mirror neurons in human brains, we are “reading” each others emotional states, and our Autonomic Nervous systems (ANS) are pinging off each other all the time.

However, there are some people whose face does not broadcast their mood, happy or otherwise. The fancy term for this is called ‘flat affect’. This defines people who show little or no emotions on their faces. They look blank or “flat”, most of the time. If you recall the last time this occurred for you, there is probably a touch of discomfort connected to this memory. Because at a body level, we count on being able to read each others’ emotional states in order to know how to engage them.

So how what does this have to do with love or anxiety, quite a bit it turns out. People with flat affect, who show little or no facial expression, generate subtle anxiety in those they encounter. Granted it is often a vague and underlying sensation rather than outright fear, but when we cannot read another person’s mood on their face, our body and ANS responds with anxiety. If I don’t know if you are happy or angry with me, how do I engage with you?

Some of you might be in love with, married to, and/or a parent of, someone with flat affect. (This is one of the struggles for parents of autistic children. They receive no facial gestures of love and reciprocal affection and it takes a toll on the relationship.) While you have little hope for change with an autistic person, with anyone else, you can tell him or her how hard it is for you when their face is blank. People can learn new habits if they are motivated, including how to put a welcoming expression on their face. Or if you are the one that has flat affect, work on expressing an emotion with your face and voice rather than just experiencing it and moving on or hiding it.

If you are happy tell your face because it will help the people that you are in relationship with to feel safer and to connect more deeply to you.

GOING Deeper

1.) Think of anyone in your life that may not show much or any expression. Can you remember what you feel when you are in their company? If it’s anxiety but you can’t pinpoint that emotion to anything they did or said, then you are experiencing the discomfort of flat affect.

2.) Think about your own face. Go to the mirror if you dare and make your happy face, then a sad face and then a mad face. If there are very little differences in facial expression, you may struggle with flat affect. Become aware of the impact you may have on other people. Practice working on bigger facial expressions. Your relationships will improve.

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.