In the midst of all that is going on, especially the pandemic, I’ve noticed a lot of confusing messages, with two that might be extra confusing for us multipods**:
- You should take this time to slow and relax from all that you do.
- You should take this time to learn/create something fabulous and amazing.
So, which is it?
There is a lot of pressure on us in this society and a lot of these sort of mixed messages. What are we supposed to do, which message are we supposed to follow?
For me, I found myself paralyzed. I couldn’t bring myself to do something fabulous and amazing and I definitely couldn’t relax. So instead, I went into this sort of weird state of nothingness. And then, of course, felt pretty bad about it because… I wasn’t relaxing and I wasn’t creating.
I wonder if any of you have experienced something similar?
There’s a great deal to unpack here from a variety of angles. There’s the cultural and the psychological, the socio-economical and political. Do you have the luxury to slow down or take time to learn new things? Are you at a place you can examine down in the deep nitty-gritty psychological roots?
My background is in psychology, but you can’t remove the rest because all of it is intertwined. But still, let’s see if we can take a look.
First, we are dealing with the cultural dimension. Our society (and I mean all societies) focuses on productive citizens. “Get out there, have a career, be a ‘productive member of society’. But be creative and amazing while you do it. And, be happy and super content with your life.” We deal with these expectations from our culture all the time. And of course, they shape our psychological worlds.
Second, we are dealing with the psychological. Our internal selves, built by the structure of the human psyche and all the things that modify it. When we are up against these cultural and personal expectations, and we feel we aren’t fulfilling them in some way, then all the Inner Critics show up to do a dance of “let’s mess you up” right on top of your head.
I can write a whole piece on Inner Critics (and I will) but for now, I bring them up because they can be an integral part of the paralytic process I mentioned above.
When you don’t relax, or don’t create, what do you hear in your head? Those voices that say, “You suck, why can’t you do that thing that everyone says you should do.” You know the ones.
And then you’re caught between the rock and the hard place, a chasm which can fill up with ice and freeze you solid.
Now, I don’t recommend sitting in an ice block, of course. Unless you’re into freezing your butt off. But maybe being in the middle isn’t so bad.
Hear me out.
There is this incredible push for you to DO SOMETHING. To slow down and relax (still “doing”) or to amazingly create (definitely “doing”). But what if you did neither? What if you sat in that middle place and got to know that in-between better?
Don’t get me wrong, that place is going to suck. There will be the pull to go one way or the other, the Inner Critics screaming and tromping about and as you remain in the middle, they will get worse. As you “do nothing”, you may find the paralysis getting worse.
- Maybe you end up lying on the floor, eating bonbons and watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer like your life depended on it.
- Maybe you end up getting up to “do something” as the discomfort of purposely sitting in the middle forces you in a direction.
But I am still suggesting that you stay there.
Examine that space. What is the quality of it, how does it feel? What are the sensations in your body as you make yourself stay there? Heat, crawling, cold, tingling sensations on your skin?
Don’t try to label them (“Oh gods, it feels like bugs crawling all over me, I’m having anxiety!”) or judge them (“This feeling is horrible and I hate it!”). Just notice, just observe. Don’t forget to breathe while you “do” this. Just be there and be aware.
You feel the urge to lay on your face or fling yourself into action, gently note those responses, and just remain in the middle. Just sit IN it and note what arises. Don’t worry, plenty will arise. Stay, stay… stay. Let whatever be present just be. Stay. Breathe.
Yes, it is going to suck.
But take the time to just be in this space, for a little bit at the beginning, see if you can remain longer and longer. After you check it out for a while, then if you feel moved, step from the middle of the chasm into one “side” or the other and engage.
Give it a good try, a real test. Not just a couple of times but over and over, longer and longer, on a daily basis.
See what happens.
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