In the land of Vikings and sea monsters being highly tuned into your environment is just called survival of the fittest. Have you ever considered what kind of stock you come from? If you are descended from Dog Beard and co. odds are that you could feel the vibrations of a moving sea monster above sea. If you couldn't you wouldn't likely have many descendants around today. The necessity of a having a highly tuned fight or flight system was of complete essence. But all this begs why in the heck are we talking about sea monsters and vikings?
While so much around us has evolved the human body hasn't evolved hardly at all. What this leads us to a body full of systems that are set to survive harsh environments. Those who couldn't feel the vibrations of the sea monsters quickly perished at sea. The response to use fear to attack, to flee, to fight meant survival. But what does it mean today? What happens when you feel the vibrations of the sea monsters? Living off of a full throttle parasympathetic nervous system (the one that helps fight sea monsters) is more than just a little distracting and it leaves us searching for sea monsters to fight.
A sea monster today can be anything that we have decided is out to get us- it's our programming if you have made it from hardy stock. Sometimes it's a sound outside the window. It's a distracting smell. It's a voice inside your head telling you that your pants are too tight. It's a look from someone across the way that you are convinced is about you. It's that nagging feeling you have that someone is going to be disappointed in you. All of those things used to be sea monsters and they were something to fight off.
Most of our fighting today has turned into freezing. Most of us as women were taught that it's not becoming or lady-like to fight. We've learned to freeze and fight within ourselves. We blame ourselves. But what if it's just a programming designed to fight sea monsters in a sea monster free zone.
Sometimes we are closer than we think. Sometimes we exert way too much energy making things way more complicated than they need to be. Sometimes we focus too much on the wrong part of the equation trying to control the outcome. Sometimes all we need to do is to apply a little pressure and follow up with a little confidence. Sometimes all we need is a horse to teach us all these things in less than an hour.
I'm always a little surprised what happens in the arena. I'm a little surprised how hard it is for me to sit and watch waiting for the lesson to happen. That's when I realize how hard it is for me to be a co-therapist instead of THE therapist. I'm grateful that Sparrow humors me. I usually forget how difficult tasks are in the arena for most people because most people haven't spent over 300 days around horses every year for the last twenty years. A simple lunging exercise turned out to be way more difficult and illuminating than I had planned for. Of course, everything that happened was exactly what needed to happen.
Couple dynamics are fascinating. Giving two people something to do that neither have any experience in can bring up all kinds of nasty messages. It's a pretty quick way to see what a couple does in their 'real world' without the censorship of self-report getting in the way. The session starts with a decision to try the task together with the option being to pick one or decide to go at it as a team. Going at it as a team is significant in some obvious ways. Watching to see how hard each works to solve the perceived problem illuminates some pieces that may be a little less obvious.
With the first half of the session the over-functioning part of the couple is clearly over-functioning. Sparrow isn't moving a whole lot and neither is the other half of the couple. It's amazing how hard people will try and get a 1200 pound animal to do something. It takes a lot of effort and energy. The over-functioning side of the couple is also only about three steps from heading in to treatment. You can answer for yourself if she should be the one spending the most energy. She's also not willing to address that she shouldn't be running and dragging a 1200 pound animal. Regardless, it's clearly not working and the over-functioning one feels stupid, depleted, and frustrated. The help she's getting from her team is marginal. While she's focused on dragging Sparrow around she's hardly engaging him and focused on solving the problem as the answer was defined. She keeps looking to the arena for the answer. The answers are rarely that external of ourselves.
At this point ignoring the third party in the room but expecting it's participation is a mistake. You have to learn to take some power over Sparrow if you want him to do what you need him to do. The eating disorder is usually the third party in a couple that no one is really talking about. Facing Sparrow created a great deal of fear- even before the connection was made that he represented her eating disorder. In fear we tend to fight, flight, and freeze. A simple redirection to focus on applying pressure to something if we want it to go away and there is a lot of freezing.
It's hard to have confidence when you don't know what's going to happen. It's hard to commit. It's also important to realize that we are closer to the answer than we think we are. Even when we aren't. It's the willingness to commit to believing that makes the difference when we are too often willing to give up after only a few tries. We give up when we are tired, depleted, frustrated, and feeling stupid. We listen to these words more than the words that tell us we are over the hump, close to the end, or more than halfway there. Committing to ourselves takes a lot less energy than trying to control a 1200 pound animal.
I was mindlessly walking my dog this afternoon when I tuned in to what I was saying to myself. It surprised me and then surprised me that it surprised me. I tuned in to being pretty mean to myself about not keeping up with this blog. I ranted a number of blog posts ago about how difficult it seems to be for me to keep up with posting on somewhat of a consistent basis. It isn't about not trying. I make notes in the margins of my client notes from sessions on a daily basis. There are countless nuggets that are completely blog worthy in my sessions. However, at the end of the day, when my brain finally gets to stop firing on all cylinders, I can hardly get myself to put a thought together about much of anything. Every day I'm waking up the next morning gently kicking myself about the things I was 'supposed' to remember to do the night before.
I thought I was listening to the birds. I thought I was listening to the ruffle of the leaves in the trees. I was actually calling myself some nasty names about not keeping up better with this blog. Then I realized exactly what it was that I wanted to write about for my next blog post. Why are we so mean to ourselves? What purpose does it serve? What if we stopped being mean to ourselves all together? Would we turn into lazy people who never did anything? Would we never work hard again without constantly throwing out the whipping stick? As a self-professed meanie, it can be a skeptical thought to think that turning into a nice guy would have a positive effect. At the same time, it does make sense.
If what we think leads to how we feel it begs to reason that changing our thoughts about ourselves might lead to a more positive and happy relationship with ourselves. If I walked around telling myself that I can instead of I can't there are a number of things that will happen. The first of which is a profound impact on my nervous system. The side of my nervous system that is focused on telling me when to fight or flee goes into overdrive at the sound of even one can't. My can't(s) like to participate in what I like to call the snowball effect. One can't can easily become ten can't(s) and my nervous system is starting to short out. I almost get tunnel vision. I'm no longer making eye contact. I'm so focused on my physiological symptoms that I can barely see what is happening outside of my skin. All the input I'm getting is 'my legs feel funny' or 'my stomach feels weak' or a running diatribe of judgments against myself for my weakened state. My body rarely feels powerful enough to do any fleeing! If there was a chance at one of those day turning around comments like, 'hey, I really like those pants!', I'd never see it because I'm busy listening to all the things I can't do. Snappy dressing isn't usually the one I'm known for.
Attempts to offer myself a little bit of belief in myself, a little bit of hope are likely to get a little bit more play when I'm backing myself up with a few I can's. My chest opens up. I can breathe a little bit. With a little bit more breath I feel like don't have to look down. I find myself looking down at those points when I can't bear to have someone even breath my way since I'm also thinking that everyone else thinks I can't either. Can't what who knows- that isn't what matters. When I'm breathing and giving myself a few I can's there's like an anti-snowball effect. It's like a sudden surge of super awesome sand castle building sand thrown at my feet. It comes from refusing to hold my breath. It comes from letting my belly hang out there full of breath and full of power. It come from letting one little I can spark a bigger I can until that one becomes another which grown into another.
So I may not write another blog post tomorrow. I may write a twenty little notes in the margins of my client notes before the next one. I can write another one. Guess you will have to come back to see.