May 29, 2021
Today's Podcast is all about learning to allow any feeling or
sensation by cultivating your curiosity through asking the
question, "What Am I Making This Mean?"
I take you with me to the beach, then exploring some back pain and my tattoo and how I use this process with my clients.
You're even invited to a Being Human Party, along with all our
feelings and see what happens when we try to keep Fear out.
Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.
[00:00:50] Hello and welcome to Move With Deb episode number 16. I'm calling today's lesson. What am I making this mean? I was walking on the beach, the other day, and it was a long way back from where I had started. One of the things I was noticing, was that it was reminding me of times of shame of walking on the beach, being hard. And then my brain was like, remember that time? That you couldn't get out of the pool at club med. Or remember that time in Cape Cod that walking on the beach was really hard, and you had a lot of negative self talk.
[00:01:36] And I could feel this shame storm wanting to come on as I was taking a walk on the beach. And so what I noticed was, I could notice and tell that my brain wanted to take me out of my experience, thinking about other times where I had taken a walk on the beach. Uh, and of course my brain really wanted to tell me. That, you know, something maybe bad was going to happen, maybe something negative. It was reminding me of times when walking on the beach was difficult. And in that moment walking on the beach was not difficult.
[00:02:22] But I had an experience when I decided I was going to turn around and walk back. And the distance felt very far. Like the visual experience of looking back to where I had walked from created this little sensation of fear. And then the fear, my brain was like, oh yeah, you know, here's other times, where we have felt fear, or some kind of unpleasant, emotion while at the beach.
[00:02:58] It was almost like going to a card catalog at the library and being like fear beach. And then my brain was like, yes, here's the memories like totally fears and beach they go together, sand (funny sound). So I could watch all of this happening. And I was like, Hey. I'm here. The beach and the water are here. And yeah, maybe sand is an asshole. And, but also I can have my own back, no matter what. I can take a break when I need it. I can take, as long as I want to walk back to my car. And if I'm sore tomorrow I can make that not mean anything bad about me. And I can recognize that my brain is doing my brain thing. And it's my job to choose where I place my attention.
[00:03:59] And so, placing it back on the ocean waves, the light glistening on the water, and my open heart, and exquisite love for myself is where I can choose to place my attention. And then in the moment, I would be doing something that I was enjoying. And then my brain, also associates sand with these tough moments. But it's not like the sand created my feelings. Or that the ocean creates my feelings or experience. Right. It's the question of what am I making this mean?
[00:04:47] So when I work with my clients around fear, I asked them to do this practice of noticing with curiosity. One of the things that I teach is to celebrate noticing. And I may have mentioned that probably more than once on this podcast. So the goal is to notice any sensation in the body, or the emotions, even noticing fear. We want to notice with a sense of curiosity rather than avoidance.
[00:05:24] So in pain recovery work, we talk about moving away from fear. And giving the body messages of safety. But it's really hard to know how to do that. Developing a practice of talking, listening, witnessing the relationship between the words our brains say to us and the feelings and sensations. In this process are all the answers we need to know why something feels the way it feels.
[00:05:59] If we feel something and we move into avoidance, or we buffer with other activities, or we're not letting ourselves feel a feeling, or we use distraction actions, we can notice that habit. And ask what am I making this pain or feeling or experience mean? If a should thought comes up in there. Just know that should thoughts are judgment thoughts. They're beliefs that you have. They're beliefs you have, that you violated. And that it makes sense that you wouldn't want to get curious or investigate or think, or feel that thought.
[00:06:49]Can you see how moving from just having the fear, to noticing that you were feeling fear can open up some space for you to change your experience from reaction to awareness. Sometimes we are afraid because we have the mistaken belief that if we think of thought it must be true. Or if we want it not to be true, we need to argue or fight against it. And we either win. Or we lose. If it's a thought that we got from our parents, from society, or medical providers, we might feel that they are the authority. And they're right. And I'm wrong. But I want to ask you to put down this debate club habit. And come over to what I called drama club.
[00:07:41]We begin to notice. What are you making this thought mean? What are the feelings and sensations you have when you think it. Feeling fear is a normal human response. And we dislike feeling upset. When we try not to feel things is when we create a lot of distress for ourselves. But feeling something isn't the same as agreeing.
[00:08:16]When we try to not feel something or we try to think something that we should feel. That feels like lying. That could feel like self gaslighting. And then we will feel the experience of that. So the process of curious awareness is to begin to understand our own associations and our own reactions. We always start there.
[00:08:45]What am I making this mean? Can be a gift of a question to ourselves. We often want to associate the feeling with the circumstance. And then, because we find feeling this feeling or story unpleasant, we think we need to blow it up, change everything really quickly to feel something different.
[00:09:07]So like on Thursday, I got a tattoo coverup. I also woke up in the morning in a surprising amount of back pain. I don't usually have back pain. My brain immediately started telling me that I must've done something wrong. And that this pain will get in the way of my getting my tattoo. And that it was unfair that I'm also still recovering from a sprained ankle. And I wanted to blame myself. And I wanted to not be experiencing back pain.
[00:09:40]But I said, well, Deb, you know, a lot about pain. So what might be the best approach right now? What am I making it mean that I am experiencing pain?
[00:09:53] I'm making it mean that something happened and it was my fault. That I'm always going to be injured and never out of pain. That it's going to be something new that I will have to deal with and I have enough on my plate. That I don't know how to care for myself and my dad at the same time. That this is too much. And I can even feel myself getting emotional when I read these thoughts. These thoughts have resonance.
[00:10:25] So I took a moment with that thought dump. And I asked myself to separate the story from the circumstance. And the circumstance was that I'm feeling pain in my back on the right side. And it hurts when I go from laying down to sitting up. From sitting up to standing but it feels better as I start walking. And I don't remember any proceeding incident. I decided to think that this pain was transitory. I decided to think that regardless of what the pain was about I could choose to soothe and tend to myself. That I could feel and allow the fear that was arising without agreeing with the content of the thoughts that I was having.
[00:11:19] Then I decided that I would just stay curious throughout the day and see what my body was doing. I can be relaxed when I feel an intense sensation as something that's just passing through. And I decided that if the pain got worse, or something changed that required me to get it checked out. That I would know when that was. But for now I'm just going to go do my day, and keep creating relaxed, self love and care for myself, get my tattoo, which I was excited about. And then I'm not going to focus on the pain because I don't want to tell my brain that it is something I want more of.
[00:12:00]And it's changed. Today is Saturday. And I woke up an 80% less pain. Hooray. Totally celebrating, having less pain. And it's not like I did anything. I just let myself relax. I created a friendly, relaxed space to feel what I was feeling without agreeing. When we cultivate the ability to feel or allow a feeling it doesn't need to stick around. And you don't need to avoid it.
[00:12:37]I had a conversation recently with a client about her experiences of fear and overwhelm. She said that letting go was scary. Scary because you don't know anything else. And I asked, what if it was okay to be scared sometimes? It's okay to feel afraid. It's just a feeling.
[00:12:59]It's like if we had a party and we invited all of our feelings over, but then when fear showed up, we decided it wasn't invited and we slammed the door in it in fear's face.
[00:13:10]And fear being a feeling that was invited to the being human party, knocked on the door. Because it was meant to be with all the other feelings. And you hold back fear at the door. And the more fear pushes on the door. The stronger you have to be at resisting it. And all the other feelings are at the party.
[00:13:33] They're being ignored and they go unnoticed. Because you're spending all your time. Trying not to let fear into your human party. Why? Because you think if you let fear into the party, it will dominate your party and ruin it? But isn't that what's happening right now when you're trying really hard to keep it out?
[00:13:55]It's taking up all your time and energy. You're exhausting yourself. You're not focusing at all on joy, happiness, silliness, sadness, calm. The party decorations and the cake and the conversation and the laughter all goes unnoticed. The other feelings are there, but they have none of your attention.
[00:14:19]If you open the door and let fear in, it could have a seat at your being human party table. Maybe you'd look over and you'd see that it was there. But if you invited it. And welcomed it to the party. You wouldn't feel the intensity that comes with trying not to feel. And the fear of feeling fear, diminishes, and you end up feeling less fear anyway.
[00:14:51]So here's some thoughts that you can think when feeling fear. That I call neutralizing thoughts. They're not meant to make any feeling go away. But they let you come near the thought and practice your curiosity skill that you will develop when you ask yourself, what am I making this mean?
[00:15:14]So here's some thoughts.
[00:15:16]There I am.
[00:15:18]This is what it feels like right now.
[00:15:22]When I am not so focused on feeling fear, what neutral or pleasant sensations or feelings. Am I not focusing on that are available to me?
[00:15:34]How can I welcome fear as just a feeling to be felt?
[00:15:39]If this feeling was a color or a shape or a texture what is happening? What does that feel like? What is that color? What is that shape? What is that texture?
[00:15:55]Does this color, shape, texture move or change as I'm paying attention to it?
[00:16:03]I'm not paying attention to these sensations to change them. Just to make the habit of paying attention more comfortable.
[00:16:16] And you want to take care of yourself as you do this practice. We don't need to force anything. In fact, this is the opposite practice. This is the art of allowing and receiving without self rejection.
[00:16:32]Remember, we are not agreeing or disagreeing with the thoughts or beliefs. We aren't going to debate club. It's time to be in drama club with trust falls and improv games. We're building the capacity, to be with ourselves with a sense of self-trust. And without needing to control everything.
[00:16:58] Anything can be noticed. If it's hard to receive compliments or experience good or pleasant feelings or experiences. You can notice that. It is hard to do noticing wrong. Because even if you think you're doing it wrong, And you notice you have the thought "I'm doing it wrong", you are doing it. You're noticing. So celebrate that. Anything we celebrate. We'll do more of.
[00:17:33]So this will help you make the space between an experience and a sensation, and all of the meaning, that we wrap up into it. Because I will tell you, 99% of the time we are reacting to fear, that are the thoughts in our heads about something. The fear that we feel is real. But maybe when we are able to look under the hood of the fear, we can see it's the story that we've told that is fueling it.
[00:18:09] Stories are powerful. They create love. And war. And struggle. And triumph. So because I'm calling it a story. I'm not diminishing the power. In fact, I think that it illuminates the power of a story. I'm not minimizing the intensity of the emotional experience. But learning to witness our metacognitive processes. And the relationship between the thought we think, about a circumstance or a body sensation, and the meaning we are making about it and the corresponding feeling, is the greatest tool I know for healing and for feeling better overall.
[00:18:59]So many of our psychogenic symptoms of anxiety are the nervous system's response to fear. The things that fall outside of our window of tolerance. And this might not be the only way in to changing or shifting these experiences.
[00:19:17]There's many different avenues to changing our physical experience. But if we could change our anxiety symptoms, or lessen them by changing our relationship to fear and reactivity, that's a whole body systemic change. And it's not contraindicated with medication or any other kind of treatment.
[00:19:43]Developing a self loving witness, this lazy detective, that we invite in to create the habit of observation with love and kindness. This is how we learn, how to decrease hypervigilance, move on from old stories. Let go of what we want to let go of. And decide what we want to believe as possible for ourselves today. And for tomorrow.
[00:20:10] When I started this work I received an overnight reduction in my knee pain. That was my embodied physical experience. I will never forget that. It did not require me to lose any weight or get any younger. My knee pain, practically disappeared, overnight just because of the way that I changed my relationship to the physical sensations I was feeling. And what I was making those sensations mean. It has forever changed my experience of my conversation between myself and my body.
[00:20:55] I had no guarantees. I only had some willingness. And also a bit of desperation. But nothing in my experience told me what happened to me was even possible. So now I hope that as this unshakeable belief, in this changeability of the body. And the experience of the body. And how closely it's related to emotional allowance. And related to the meaning that we make and attribute to the sensations that we feel in our bodies. And getting curious is the first step.
[00:21:41]I hope that some of what I've shared will be helpful to you. My coaching doors are always open. If you would like to explore what developing self curiosity feels like, please hop on a curiosity call with me. I'm happy to talk to you about my eight week pain recovery program.
[00:22:02] And this summer, I'm also going to be opening my schedule to just some general life coaching. I always work with this process. No matter what the topic is. Whether it's physical sensations that we're feeling in our bodies. Or emotional overwhelm or anxiety or productivity or relationships. It all starts with the feeling. And then it all starts with creating that ability to notice, with self-love, self-compassion and without judgment.
[00:22:34] Til next week, we'll talk some more about these ideas. I hope you have a wonderful time, practicing, noticing, and celebrating, noticing. Thank you.