Honestly, this is something that I struggle with daily, which seems sort of ridiculous. Of course we should all be kind to ourselves! The problem is that most of the time we treat ourselves like shit and then we treat others like shit because that is all we are conditioned to do.
Often this takes the form of simple neglect.
Step One in self kindness. Recognize why you are not being kind.
Anxiety is the physical manifestation of worry and, worry is the collaboration between your conscious mind and your ego. These two work together like the writers and cast of SNL.
I’m not talking about your personality ego but rather the one that drives that part of you. This deeper part of the brain doesn’t discern between the encroachment of a new clan who might steal your food and sack your small cluster of Yurts that your clan staked out by a lush river bank and your new boss. The ego is blind to that difference. The nuances of the world 10,000 years ago and now are lost on it. It doesn’t care. New is uncomfortable. New can be dangerous and its job is to keep you alive. End of story.
So, it just pulls the danger lever whenever it senses something it doesn’t recognize and that generates a feeling of un-comfort which starts the chemical factory up. The conscious brain takes this cue to create worry and then it starts painting pictures around a worry storyline which it understands. The interesting thing is your brain only knows how to create stories in the future.
In other words, they are not happening to you. You as your conscious self get tricked into thinking these future skits are in fact a reality coming towards you like a freight train.
Cue the anxiety.
Our conscious mind is self aware and wants at all costs to avoid danger, calamity, maladies and above all, pain.
We as humans are set up for pattern recognition and we like familiar patterns, no matter how uncomfortable they might be. So your repetitive behavior of creating dire future circumstances and the manufacture of sustained levels of adrenaline and cortisol are not healthy but they are familiar.
As worry becomes anxiety, it dumps cortisol into the body. Chronic anxiety creates a dependance on cortisol. When that level is only enough to stave off the with drawl effects, the body doesn’t get its fix, so ups the ante and dials up the level of anxiety. The brain goes into overdrive painting new pictures and fabricating new stories of dire events to keep the flow going. Boom. More cortisol.
And so goes a chronic, un-virtuous cycle that generates all sorts of collateral damage. You give up working out, you drink more, you retreat into mindless tv binge watching in order to escape. Your physical health deterioration starts to catch up with your mental health deterioration.
Or, perhaps you go the other way. You dive into training, you sign up for races, you obsess about performance metrics and the like. You become an obsessed fanatic about running or CrossFit or whatever.
Either way, when you look into the mirror, what you see isn’t reality. It is a fictitious image of yourself that is the byproduct of all the negative collateral damage you do to yourself because whatever you do isn’t good enough. Because it doesn’t fix the feeling. That’s the insidious link between the chemical and the mental.
I don’t want to trivialize or suggest that there is a simple fix to some of these issues for many or it is universally as simple as this. For some it is surely not. For many of us, it is.
Rather than espouse where the dividing line is, I will leave that up to you. I simply want to share my personal approach in the hopes it helps just one person break the cycle.
Step Two of being kind to yourself. Know you have the power of choice.
Know that you have a choice. Therein lies the power. You can choose to be kind to yourself. You want to raise your energetic frequency. There are a couple of very good books on this topic. The Science of Can and Can’t by Chiara Marletto, Feeling Good by Dr. David D. Burns and Power versus Force by Dr. David R. Hawkins are go-to reads on Audible. Also good are:
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The Creation Frequency by Mike Murphy
Letting Go by Dr. David D. Burns
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza
The common theme amongst these tomes and many others is that everything is energy and energetic frequencies seek out and align with energetic frequencies that are in harmony and that more often than not, we down-regulate our energetic frequencies without even being aware it is occurring.
Quite literally, you attract what you are signaling. You attract it externally but also internally. Negative thoughts and emotions amplify and seek to crowd higher energy thoughts and emotions out.
“Today is going to suck.”
Which leads to…
“What do you have to be happy about?”
Which leads to…
“I will never be as good as I once was.”
Which leads to…
“My life is a wreck. I have never made the money I want to make. I’ve fallen short in every aspect of who I am. How am I going to pay a vacation when I can’t even afford to give my family the comforts they deserve. I have to get away. I am miserable. I want a good vacation but will never be able to have it.”
As this fills your mental room, it sucks all the oxygen out for higher thoughts and emotions. In this skit, you are the victim. You are oppressed. You are cheated. You wallow in the delicious self pity. That is your cycle and that is the pattern your body and brain feel safe it.
Step Three of being kind to yourself. Recognize what you are telling yourself is utter and complete bullshit.
Change the paradigm. Give yourself a little kindness. Then a little more. Mel Robbins talks about giving yourself a high five. Is this stupid? Is it anymore stupid than giving yourself some slack and a little kindness? Here is how to start the reversal of fortunes.
Step Four of being kind to yourself. Change the pattern.
To do this, you have to start by telling yourself it is ok to feel anxious or upset. This is the first step in giving yourself some kindness and a very important one.
Acknowledge your own personal reality. “I recognize that I feel out of sorts, let down, scared and frustrated right now.”
Then tell yourself that you control the “why”. This is the ‘why you feel this way‘. Take away its power. Tell yourself that you choose to let go of the negativity and literally visualize either it passing you by or you walking away from it. I touched on doing this in the first Field Guide Blog here. Use whatever works for you. Mine is visualization.
Start your reversal of fortune
Replace the empty spot inside you, where ever you feel it…your chest, stomach, or head. (Note where this is…Likely it corresponds with one of your Chakras which are located along the energy pathways in your body and where you feel it is where it gets stored and builds up, so know this and work to purge it using this same technique over time).
Keep in mind this empty spot where the negativity recently vacated will not remain empty long. Nature abhors a vacuum. It is like a hole in wet sand on the beach, so fill it quickly with simple gratitude. Find something to be grateful for in your life. Maybe be grateful to have fresh air to breathe of food in your refrigerator. Maybe be grateful for the cup of coffee or tea you have or the fact the sun is shining…or be appreciative of hearing a simple bird chirp.
Then be present in that gratitude. Visualize it. Immerse yourself in it right now for as long as you need until you feel stillness and your mind quiets. Give it a chance to set roots.
Build on this
Once this is done, choose your intention for the rest of the day. Surround gratitude more gratitude. Start with the mundane and small and build on it. Visualize your energetic frequency raising in amplitude. Then take a few deep breaths and smile to yourself. You’ve now begun the process of breaking the un-virtuous cycle of negativity. But like muscle memory, you have to repeat it in order to set a new habit. If you don’t, you will revert. Then rinse and repeat tomorrow. If you fall down, get back up and start over. It’s ok.
The Fourth Step in Self Kindness
Give it away. Find a way to be kind to someone. Do it and don’t expect anything in return. The ironic thing is what you get in return will be well beyond what you expect. The first thing is greater self peace and clarity of the true reality, not the one you have manufactured in your head. The second thing you will get is a change in circumstance. You won’t win the lottery most likely but you will begin to change the trajectory of your reality by thinking different and then feeling different.
You Can Choose to Do Whatever You Want
You have the ability to choose, which means you hold the power.
Viktor E. Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning summed it up well. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Change your trajectory, your reality and your path by simply giving yourself a little kindness today. As Chris Tanner said in Episode 3 of the TCP podcast, “it isn’t really that hard. You just have to have the courage and the belief that you can in fact choose.“