My Dad shared this revelation with me this week, and I think it is so important.
The mind used to keep us safe. It would tell us when to run and when to hide. It would help us find shelter and food but those aren’t things, we generally have to worry about now, so the mind tries to protect us in other ways, by making us think about things, that could or may happen.
Dad called this “bashing the body”. The mind starts thinking about something upsetting or stressful as a way to keep us more interested in what is happening or not happening, at the moment we are in. So, in the case of worry – it projects fear out to the future and brings it to this moment.
But if we look at the actual moment we are in, we are often not in the place where the mind is taking us. I am sitting at the kitchen table, the French doors open, and a nice breeze is coming through the door. There is no Saber-tooth tiger behind me and there is no immediate reason for me to be experiencing the fear and upset associated with the thoughts my mind is thinking.
This idea helped me connect with the embodied pain I often feel when worrying. “Sick to my stomach” – is something I say when I let my mind bash me with the “what ifs” and “what could be’s”.
Lately, I have become more aware of this physical response to my worry, so much so that it signals me to stop thinking the thoughts I am thinking because I feel so uncomfortable. It’s like my body is saying to my mind – “Knock it off!
If my thoughts are so powerful that they impact how I am feeling, what effect on my long-term wellbeing is that having, chipping away at my health in some accumulative way that I might not know about?
This week I started to be more aware of the thoughts going through my head from the perspective of self-checking – is my mind bashing my body with this?
I found lots of thought-threads that were bashing me and mostly without necessity.
Those head conversations that follow receiving an email from someone where the tone pushes my button. Or finding out that something hasn’t gone to plan. Paying attention to the embodied experience of my thinking.
For example, for me, having difficult phone conversations always sends my heart racing and I find it hard to breathe. What am I thinking about that is causing this physical reaction? I’m not being chased yet my body is responding like I am. Or that feeling of deep overwhelm when something lands on my plate when I already have enough to do. That literal “sinking” feeling in my gut. All embodied. All taking their toll.
Yet if I stop and bring my attention to where I am and what is happening, I can redirect my mind’s focus from fight or flight. I can settle my mind and my heart.
Interestingly, the body although run by the brain, is also signaling back to the brain/mind that things aren’t right in the body. Yet oftentimes, we ignore those signals/symptoms, over the pain that our mind has us focusing on, until our body gives us, a larger symptom, that takes our attention.
The other thing Dad said that was interesting was that often our inner dialogue becomes, “I can’t stand this job anymore”, “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore”, “I don’t want to be here anymore”. That the tension our mind is creating in our bodies is so intense that we are looking for ways to physically escape or exit. If I remove myself from this, I will feel better.
But what if though…
this relationship or
this life – (this one precious life)
isn’t the problem?
What if, it’s the thoughts I am allowing and permissioning my mind to bash me with? The “what ifs” and the “what could be’s”, that are driving me away.