Chop and burn trees Pollute the seven seas Contaminate the air we breathe One day you will finally see That we are natures and earth’s disease And in the end its us who bleeds And will lead to us going extinct. Image courtesy of Pinterest
A potential client gave me a topic idea that I am exploring to create a workshop. I realized I have 10+ books on my bookshelf about the neuroscience of resilience. Kind of crazy when you get to create presentations on topics that you’ve been studying for years just out of your own personal interest!
So in readying myself to organize the outline I wanted to share a few thoughts here as I work on that. I am hoping to partner with a yoga teacher I know in order to create some practices that people can implement on the spot as part of the workshop.
As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression in my past (and have come through a recent decade of robust mental health) I believe my experience can be helpful to others. I have read so many great books on this topic and will list some favorites here (this doubles as my bibliography for the session).
The Chemistry of Calm by Henry Emmons, M.D. (2010) – especially Chapter 3 on the Roots of Resilience. This whole book is a gem for anyone who has ever suffered anxiety.
This latter book was referred to me by a kind Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor for whom I am still grateful. He identified the hidden grief I was processing back in 2010. If it weren’t for him, I might have lost my job since I had been put on a performance improvement plan (giving only 90% at work instead of the 110% I customarily give).
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. (2010) – especially Guideposts #2 and #3 on Cultivating Self-Compassion and Cultivating a Resilient Spirit.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. (2014) – this book again brought me to yoga in its explanations of the physical mechanisms that keep trauma “locked” in the body (both physical and mental).
Overworked and Overwhelmed: the mindfulness alternative by Scott Eblin (2014) – I heard the author speak at a leadership event for my company and I knew he had important messages for me. Scott tells a powerful journey of his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and the steps he takes to manage it. He actually became a yoga teacher in order to teach some of the things he was learning to take good care of his body. Another inspiration for me.
Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body by Daniel Goleman, PhD, and Richard J Davidson, PhD (2017). I knew meditation was starting to have an effect on me when I made a commitment to practice in February of 2017. This was the evidence I was looking for, that thoroughly reviewed the science behind how these practices change not only our current state but also our gene expression.
My premise is that human beings are (by nature) resilient. AND there are things we can do throughout our lifetimes to increase our own resilience in the face of difficult times.
I have many more. These are the ones that were top-of-mind as I scanned the shelves to work on my course outline. I will have WAY more than material than I can cover in a 2-hour session, but I can always hand out a reading list of suggested resources for those interested.
I borrowed the above title from a line in a guided meditation and I wish I could remember which one so I can properly attribute it. Nonetheless, it reminds me that building more space into my weekly time for reflection and writing my own work is more challenging than I thought. I am seldom the wordless person. I have lots of words. And I share them freely.
When you write your “morning pages” in your journal, you are the only one who can give yourself praise for getting your work done. Social media and the clicks and likes can be an addictive little “hit” for affirmation. As a writer, I write every day no matter what. It is like oxygen for me. But I am susceptible to that buzz that comes from others receiving the work well.
I am comforted to know that there is brain chemistry and neurobiology behind this, of course. Those clicks and likes produce a little hit of dopamine in your brain, and because we are social creatures, approval is important to us at a primal level. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is very natural. Please have some compassion for yourself if you worry sometimes about what other people think. Being part of a tribe or pack was how the mammals of today survived.
As a person who loves words, and who loves the ease of publishing that blogs can offer, it is even harder for me to be the “wordless” person. I joke to my husband that this blog is my little soapbox, so that I can express my ideas freely without subjecting him to all of my opinions. 😉 So he is grateful that it exists.
Some days, I am better off going into observer mode rather than writing publicly. It reminds me of meditation, noticing what is going on in my body, and in my mind, while not attaching to it. Emotions come and go, as thoughts do. Ideas float through and sometimes I want to grab a pen. But I sit, and allow things to flow through. My ego-ic mind can be quite impressed with my thoughts sometimes. But my higher self, the watcher, just observes and allows. No thought is better than another, they just are.
Is it challenging to be the wordless person? Heck yeah, more than I ever realized.
The premise of this 5-minute video is that we are all profoundly lonely. We are not heard. We are not known. But we long to be heard and known. Our true vocation may be talking with our fellow human beings about what matters to us. Writing is a symptom of social isolation, and it is a substitute for what we truly want, real human interaction.
I agree and also disagree with this premise. I like Liz Gilbert’s and Brene Brown’s notions that humans are by nature, creative. We enjoy making things, just because we can. But I like the provocative ideas that the School of Life puts out there, and I always think there is a grain of truth.
I had to continue to watch the video on “Why We Feel Lonely and Odd” because most of the time I do not actually feel lonely. I enjoy my time alone, and I am able to entertain myself quite happily most of the time. Of course if I am alone for too much time, I do long for a companion, a good friend my husband or with whom I can share my thoughts.
The concept of psychological asymmetry is fascinating, though. The fact is that we know ourselves more than we know other people simply because we only know what they show us. People often hide those things that they do not think are “acceptable” to other people. But we all have a dark side, or thoughts that are petty, grandiose or perverse sometimes.
I love the “solutions” the video proposes to this idea about loneliness: art and love. This idea of art actually contradicts the idea of the first video. The conclusion is that through art, we understand that none of us is quite as odd or as “special” as we might assume or fear. The School of Life promotes emotional intelligence, and provides a number of training resources and products to support that goal. Founded by Alain de Botton, a brilliant writer, it is worth checking out the videos of you are a psychology geek like me.
What I take away from this is that by embracing those things that make us “odd” or different, and perhaps sharing those, we see that we are truly not alone. Others share similar struggles, and though we do not always put ourselves in that vulnerable place to open up, we are inextricably linked by some larger force. Writing can help us forge those links, and I know it has for me.
It is a somewhat profound miracle that the internet has enabled a different kind of sharing than our ancestors could have dreamed. And yet, it can isolate us when we do not value real human contact, for which there is no substitute. No matter how odd or different you may think you are, reach out when you are lonely. Even if you face rejection from some people, the ultimate benefit is real human connection, which we all crave.