Continued from June 8, 2020…
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important self-care is at a time like this. I would like to stress though, that your self-care is even more than just you. You are every life you interact with, every life each of those people interact with. You are the butterfly effect.
In today’s special edition post, we follow up from yesterday’s discussion of the havoc currently playing out with the Pandemic and police brutality to dive into how we can respond – for ourselves and for each other.
What can we do?
So, what do we you? What do you, an individual, do? You educate yourself. You do the internal work. You own your mistakes.
Become trauma informed. And let me disclaimer, that no matter how nice your life has been, I’d wager you’ve experienced some trauma. It’s a big, scary word we don’t like to identify with. I mean, we all know someone who has it so much worse! Sure you’ve experienced some rough patches but that’s life. Exactly! More often than not, those rough patches are trauma. We just don’t know that when we’re not trauma informed. And even if you’re good, I guarantee you know people who aren’t. Educating yourself will enable you to recognize your own and others needs, then respond to those needs compassionately.
Two amazing resources are:
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk and
In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter Levine (creator of Somatic Experiencing) (Peter Levine on Trauma and Somatic Experiencing blog post)
Beyond trauma education, we need to educate ourselves on the things we don’t get or have much experience with that are showing up in big ways around us. Things like being black or brown in America or being LGBTQ in America or being disabled or being poor, I could go on.
Do Your Own Internal Work
There are endless opportunities to improve yourself. Therapy, working with a coach, self-help books and retreats. No matter the path you choose, it starts with identifying opportunities of growth. The person who feels they’re good and know what they need to know, is the one with the most opportunities of growth! Think of yourself like water, if you’re not moving, your stagnating. You can always grow into a better version of yourself.
You identify areas that you’re ready to grow in by spotting where you’re feeling resistance. I know you know that climate change exists and that you’re not racist and that you wear a mask every time you leave the house. When you’re in the store and you’re the only one wearing a mask, do you feel self-conscious and feel a bit tempted to not wear it? There’s an opportunity. When there’s a discussion about racism or really any ism, do you ever respond with a , ‘Yes, but…’? There’s an opportunity.
Here’s another way to spot it… We all have our pet peeves, to put it mildly. You know, certain types of people who do certain things that push our buttons like none other, even if we don’t know them? Like say, for one person I know, it was women who ‘allowed’ themselves to be abused by not standing up for themselves. When she heard of a woman being abused, she’d rail against that woman for staying or for moving on to another abusive man. Maybe a sore spot could be people who complain about their job or people who say one thing and do another or people who wait to the last minute to pay their bills. Literally anything that others do that does not affect you.
That is actually projection and it’s huge opportunity for growth! The projection could be that you do that thing but in a way that looks different so you don’t realize you’re doing that thing that drives you crazy about others. Or the projection could be that you were on the receiving end of that behavior currently or in the past and haven’t received help to process it fully.
Catch yourself in other moments of resistance. You’re resistant for a reason and it will always be an opportunity for growth.
You Own Your Mistakes
Ooh, this is a big one for a coach. We are all about accountability. (Self-Responsibility blog post) And this can be really tough. We can allow ourselves to learn from the easier mistakes but the bigger ones get a bit too personal. Tough as it is, it’s imperative to both how and if you are able to grow as a person and to how you are able to repair injuries to others. What does it look like to own your mistakes?
- Acknowledgement. Like alcoholism, the first step is admitting there’s a problem.
- Make amends. Apologize to whomever you need to apologize to, including yourself. And mean it. Do whatever is in your power to make amends beyond a sincere apology. What can you do to not only right your wrong, but to help the other even beyond that?
- Get introspective. See this mistake as a canary in the coal mine. If you are aware of this mistake, chances are you’ve done/said similar things that you have realized. Take a close look to see what else you might find. Acknowledge and make amends for them too. THEN get real about what lies under those behaviors. What thought and emotions and beliefs were driving your choices and actions and what changes do you need to make? Circle back up to Education and Doing The Work.
What Else Can I Do?
Those three steps are just scratching the surface. I’d like to also point out that those steps are all focused on improving yourself. What does that have to do with climate deniers and pandemic deniers and police brutality? Dream with me for a moment….what if every person, or even most people, educated themselves, did the internal work and owned their mistakes? Doesn’t that sound like Utopia? Doesn’t that impact greatly those around you? Also, people are inherently good. And we all hurt one another. Most injuries (physical, emotional, verbal) are done in ignorance. For the people who say, ‘I’m not racist but…,’ if they took time to educate themselves, to learn what a black person or Latina person felt about that statement, they’d realize they are indeed racist. They could acknowledge, make amends, and get introspective and do their own internal work.
Respond With Compassion
Another powerful and underappreciated tool is compassion, for yourself when you make mistakes and for other’s reality. Who the hell are we to judge what someone says their experience is? If we see someone wearing a mask, it’s not o.k. to cough in their face and call them a libtard. When we hear of uprisings against police brutality, it’s not o.k. to say, ‘I’m so sick of the white privilege conversation.’
Those are the moments we slow down and get super mindful. Hear what the person/people are saying, really envision it and allow yourself to feel as if you’re experiencing it. I always think of the mothers of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the rest. I’d be out of my mind if that were my son and I find myself crying for their lost sons and daughters.
Compassion can be difficult to feel, especially in tragedy. That’s also what community is all about. Who are we not to feel their pain? Because it is only when we feel other’s pain that we will be able to stop injuring one another.
Like I said, whether you realize it or not, nearly every person experiences trauma throughout their lives. And that makes feeling compassion during tragedy all the more painful and difficult.
One thing I didn’t mention during our short brain talk is that when your amygdala (fear center) is engaged, your prefrontal cortex goes offline. Since that’s where we plan, decide, choose, speak, and socialize, it can be a dangerous combination, as we’re seeing in our streets right now. It’s also the seat of personality, meaning that a person being driven by their amygdala can do/say things are contrary to their typical nature.
And so. To help you navigate the tough feelings you’re struggling with, to help you feel compassion without numbing out, it’s important to ground yourself in time and space. Here’s a link to a quick exercise to get and keep you in the present and in your body. Body Talk/Body Scan
Here’s a link to other sensory mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness
I implore you to daily explore and deepen your faith. In yourself. In God – whatever that looks like for you.
Faith in yourself looks like self-esteem, knowing you’re worthwhile, knowing that you’re competent and confident that you’ll show up for yourself the way you need and for others the way they need. Faith in yourself can often be a HUGE opportunity for growth.
Faith in something larger than yourself gives you confidence, strength, and hope. I’m not talking about head-in-the-sand religious tenants that teach ‘God’s got it covered, I don’t need to do anything’. I’m talking about your deep, inner spirituality and connection to something beyond yourself. Explore what that means for you and get super deep and personal. Daily. Think of this as training for a marathon. You don’t do the work the day of the race. You don’t do the work the day a pandemic strikes or the day police respond to police brutality with more brutality. You do the work daily, knowing that when the time comes, you can show up for yourself and you can show up for others in your community.
You’ve Got This!
Below are a bunch more resources. For those with chronic illness, you may especially be interested in ‘Feeling Your Emotional Pain in Your Body.’ But please, this conversation is more than our own struggles. Take care of yourself. Take extra care of yourself. AND learn how to help others take care of themselves, as well.
With much love and many blessings,
Fight / Flight / Freeze Response
Feeling Your Emotional Pain in Your Body