In my last article, You Need to Recognize Old Baggage in Your Relationships, we discussed at length recognizing old baggage. Now let’s turn our attention to how to move forward and not sit down in a heap surrounded by bags and wallow. Learning how to move past your old baggage, is the way to move into the life you want.
A Way Forward.
Bolstering up your courage and creating the space to explore what you have in those bags is the first step. Reading books, having a coach or therapist, having a good role model, and healthy friendships are all ways to explore. For me, being in a group of people who were all bravely exploring themselves was what did, and still does, move me forward.
There is a place for radical curiosity and self-acceptance that is important to find. Self-judgement has no place in moving forward. Self-awareness does.
Envision Your Goal.
Having a vision of the life you want is useful. The idea isn’t about the envisioning, the big house, and the cool car. Those things may or may not show up. Instead, the invitation here is to envision how you want to feel about your life; how you want to navigate the plot twists; where you want to spend your time and energy.
The big house and the cool car as a goal won’t lead to a happy life. Seeing yourself able to let go of anxiety, however, will improve your experience. In multiple conversations, I have heard this theme woven into words, “I want to find my balance, feel trust in myself, and feel comfortable making good decisions for myself.” When you consider the house/car and balance/self-trust, it’s not right or wrong. Still, I’ve yet to meet the house/car that could bring balance/self-trust, while I have seen the balance/self-trust bring the house/car.
Then take time to feel, at this moment, as if you are experiencing your goal. Allow the sensation of being in that emotionally healthy, energetic space come alive for you. Let the experience of your goal tingle through your body.
Breathe First and Last.
Learning to breathe when you feel like shutting down, or you feel overwhelmed is priceless. Learning to acknowledge and breathe through uncomfortable feelings is how we learn to tolerate opening our bags. I just had a conversation with a new client about this very thing. I took her through a breathing exercise, designed to build her muscle of tolerance for healthy emotional discomfort.
The exercise supports the noticing of where the discomfort was in her body and breathing into it. Taking time to acknowledge the work that this part of her body is doing, in this case, her heart was holding the pain. Then shifting attention to where her body felt good and breathing into it, her feet, and acknowledging the work they do to carry her forward. Back and forth, back and forth, teaching her mind that it can move into and out of discomfort.
This recognition that you can move in and out of discomfort is the muscle that makes you strong enough to look at the crap. Inoculating you from overwhelm.
Many mindfulness techniques are useful. Yet your breath is with you at all times. Taking 1 minute to focus on breathing in and out, can teach you to self-regulate, decrease reactiveness, and support curiosity.
I have a theory that all of life is on a spectrum. You name something, and it’s on a spectrum. And getting curious about your something, where you fall on the spectrum between the extremes of your something, is enlightening. Taking the time to notice if your behaviors, beliefs, biases are serving you is crucial. Tolerance is on a spectrum that moves from one end of unhealthy tolerance to healthy tolerance. Assessing what you are and are not tolerating. Somewhere between the extremes is a place of conscious choice and hopefully balance.
In my article 25 Things Keeping You Stuck, there is an exercise to write down what you’re tolerating that isn’t useful. It’s an essential exercise in noticing.
It’s also important to consider that being able to tolerate looking at your baggage is different than putting up with situations that are unhealthy. Being able to rub my tummy and repeat, “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok,” rather than shut down to the exploration is essential. It’s is impossible to move forward in life with empowerment, when we are looking back over our shoulders, spiraling with the “what if’s…” or closing our eye, putting our hands over our ears and singing LALALALA at the top of our lungs.
Fear and Safety.
Our monkey minds spend a lot of time surveying the world to assess threats and seeking safety. We tend to err on the side of fear and threat because survival demands that if we are going to err, we err on the side of staying alive. Once upon a time, we lived in a world filled with things that might eat us. Our hypervigilance paid off in the form of survival.
Nowadays the threats to us have less to do with tigers looking for a meal and more to do with impact to our sense of self, our ideas about how the world should be, how people should behave, what we should and shouldn’t have to put up with, etc. We “should” on ourselves and others a lot.
Part of moving to an emotional sense of safety is to develop a clear understanding of what is and self-trust in our ability to handle it. In my dating program, we were discussing past trust issues in relationships. We all have them, the ex who didn’t treat us well, betrayed us or was emotionally or physically abusive in some manner. Even the small “t” traumas of not listening, or general disregard for our needs can, the unintended casual dismissal of what’s important to us, over time, leave us with powerful feelings of distrust.
Recognizing the indicators or red-flags of safety issues in relationships is vital. Developing self-trust comes from practice. Listening to yourself, calibrating when your over or under-reacting, and trying again the next time the red-flag waves.
I say this regularly, “It’s difficult to be afraid and curious, or angry and curious, or hopeless and curious at the same time.” The goal is to breathe into the discomfort and expand tolerance, not for bad behavior in others, but in your ability to sit with and then get curious about what is coming up for you. It’s a gift you give yourself — the willingness to be curious on your behalf.
Your curiosity may start as an exploration into the red-flags that you are experiencing in a situation. And, given time, may expand into what you need to learn, or set a boundary around, to take care of yourself. What is critical here, is that your ability to be curious about what is going on is how you will become conscious of what you are and are not choosing. What action you need to or need not to do.
Curiosity also works to support you to develop a deeper understanding of your needs and motivations. Everything we do, we do for a reason. Bring consciousness to what motivates us to accept or react to the world around us, gives us insight power. The more clearly, I understand what is driving me, the better I can choose if a wild monkey is driving me or my conscious wisdom.
Intentionality in Creating the Life You Want.
As with most things, being consistently intentional is what drive change. Intention + Attention = Manifestation. It’s a simple equation that is a formula for conscious change.
Humans tend to start with what we don’t like. Going back to threat and safety, we notice the things that could cause us problems: the stinky diaper, the broken heart, the frustrating pattern of how people treat us. So, let’s work backward.
Let me share a scenario, you are in a relationship, and you find yourself feeling angry and frustrated regularly. If you decide that you are ready, the feelings of anger and frustration are the place to get curious. Breathing into each emotion, noticing where in your body they seem to be stuck, breathing, shifting your attention to a place that feels good, breathing, shifting back and forth until you can get curious. What just happened? What is below the anger and frustration? It might be not feeling appreciated or feeling like your boundaries are being trampled. Take the time to notice. For our example, let’s say it’s the boundaries. Ask yourself, what do I want my relationship to my boundaries to be?
Intention: I want to calmly and with compassion hold to my healthy boundaries in all my relationships.
Attention: Notice each time the anger and frustration spark and look for the place where I allowed someone, or myself, to ignore my healthy boundary.
Manifestation: Overtime it becomes easier to choose to support the healthy boundary, I am less angry and frustrated. And, my relationships feel better.
If you choose to, you can explore all the places in your life where there is friction. By taking the time to explore and be curious, you can discover what you need to do to take care of yourself and reduce the friction. It doesn’t have to take years, we can make changes quickly, yet there is a transformational depth we have to dive to, to have quick changes stick around.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What is your takeaway from this article?
- What is one thing that you could do to take a step forward?