Darbella’s Articles — Memoirs of a Phaser, part 4

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Make it Big!

We are very cre­ative peo­ple when it comes to find­ing ways to dis­tract our­selves. Our heads often get in our way and present us with many dif­fer­ent sto­ries so that we main­tain life as it is rather than change. As a group at Phase One at Haven, we cre­at­ed a list of dis­trac­tions used to keep us stuck. It was a rather long list and it did not take very long to complete.

I have two main ways to keep me stuck and away from change. One looks toward the future and one looks back. My ten­den­cy when I imag­ine a future hap­pen­ing is to “awfulize” the sit­u­a­tion. I focus on all the pos­si­ble “bad” things that could hap­pen. I build and build until I am frozen and unable to con­sid­er any pos­si­ble change. In that place I shut down. Look­ing back, I over­whelm myself with all the “shoulds” — the way I thought I was sup­posed to be. I can give myself great grief and get stuck again in beat­ing up on myself.

I was pleased to learn dur­ing my expe­ri­ence at Haven how quick­ly I rec­og­nize that I am stuck in these places. This aware­ness was the first step. 

If we keep tak­ing checks inside to mon­i­tor what is hap­pen­ing to us at a body lev­el, this aware­ness is easier.

The next step is to acknowl­edge what I am doing. I must acknowl­edge to myself and pos­si­bly oth­ers that I am using this way to dis­tract myself — before I can change it. A sim­ple state­ment to myself like — there I go awfuliz­ing again — gives a mes­sage to my body that this is some­thing I am doing to myself.

The next step is accep­tance. This dis­trac­tion is part of who I am and what I do. This is a part of me that I can­not change. It will always be part of me. It is what I do. I can, how­ev­er, catch myself faster and faster. I can make anoth­er choice at any moment. 

When I make a dif­fer­ent choice — I have reached the next step which is action. For me, the action is often choos­ing to live in the present moment rather than choos­ing to be trapped in an end­less loop of awfuliz­ing a future sit­u­a­tion or beat­ing myself up with all the shoulds of what could have hap­pened in the past. 

These steps are commonly referred to at Haven as the 4 A’s and are part of the teachings there.
(For more on the 4 A’s see page 28 in A NEW Manual for Life)

For me, some­times a sim­ple recog­ni­tion of what I am choos­ing to do to myself is enough to shift out of being stuck. Some­times this is a repeat­ed process of remind­ing myself again and again until I even­tu­al­ly move past it for this time. Some­times I get total­ly stuck in an end­less cir­cle with no appar­ent way to get out. In that place, Haven teach­es a strat­e­gy called “make it big.” It can be used for any kind of obses­sion that is going around and around in your mind. The same ideas keep cycling over and over again in your mind.

In this Haven strat­e­gy, the idea is to take what­ev­er it is that you are obsess­ing about and make it big — larg­er than life. Go right into it. This involves your voice and your body. 

Walk­ing in a cir­cle, make your move­ment and steps match the feel­ings in your body. Use your voice to vocal­ize mak­ing each state­ment loud­er and loud­er. Keep mak­ing it big­ger and big­ger until you reach your time lim­it. Set it up in advance with a time lim­it. Use a timer or a friend. 

Get­ting a friend to lis­ten is a great help. Let your friend know your intent and get their agree­ment to coop­er­ate. You want them there to just lis­ten — not to give feed­back. This strat­e­gy helps to get the obses­sion out of your sys­tem. It is part of you, so you give it a place in your life rather than pre­tend­ing it does not exist. Set it up the way that you want rather than hav­ing the obses­sion in con­trol of your life.

I wit­nessed one exam­ple where a per­son used this strat­e­gy to get past obses­sions about work. He vocal­ized all the things he was think­ing about work. His voice got loud­er as he went. His steps were more and more exag­ger­at­ed. With time, the obses­sion ran its course. He then had more clar­i­ty and focus for the group expe­ri­ence,  rather than being stuck in the thoughts of work that had been trig­gered by a recent phone call. He could do noth­ing about the work issues at that moment, yet they were tak­ing over his thoughts. Giv­ing them a place in his life, accept­ing them as part of him­self, he was able to move past the thoughts and put them to rest — for a while. He is good at the obses­sion thing so they will creep back and with aware­ness he can express them and let them go.

Anoth­er exam­ple was a per­son who was try­ing to find some direc­tion in his life. He allowed his wor­ries about the future and any ideas of what he might con­sid­er doing with his life to come to the sur­face as he walked. This process allowed him to access some of the emo­tions that he was stuff­ing as well. He was able to express them through this process, let them go and move on. By allow­ing the ideas to flow freely, he could see which ones came up more often than oth­ers. He could take a check inside his body and see which ones fit. He need­ed to get past the emo­tions and the wor­ry first. Mak­ing it big allowed him to do that.

We had a time of silence and reflec­tion dur­ing the pro­gram. Dur­ing the few days pri­or to this, my “shoulds” had been build­ing. We were near­ing the end of the pro­gram and rather than look on the things I had accom­plished, I was stuck in the “shoulds.” Often it was enough for me to notice the shoulds and remind myself to look at the things I had done instead. This time, it was not work­ing. The “shoulds” brewed in my mind for a cou­ple of days.

Dur­ing the silence, I went for a long walk. With each step there seemed to be anoth­er thing that I felt I should have done or should have said. Most of my shoulds relat­ed to times when I chose not to say some­thing. I was in silence and I was walk­ing on a pub­lic road so I chose to express my shoulds in my head. I went right into it and I went over and over them again and again. I had a should for every step. The force of my steps increased. I brought up every should that I could think of. 

With­out any warn­ing, I let it all go. My whole body relaxed. My face soft­ened. I was aware of the fact that I was grin­ning. I felt alive in my body. I was thrilled to be alive. From out of nowhere, the words “I’m back!” came out of my mouth. I said it again and again and felt it every­where in my body. I felt this alive­ness through the rest of the Haven experience.

Since return­ing from Haven, I am more aware of the expe­ri­ences in my body. I have spent a lot of time in my head hav­ing it run the show. Now, I often scan my body to see what is up. My goal is to con­tin­ue to do this reg­u­lar­ly once work starts again and see if I can catch myself faster and faster. Tak­ing reg­u­lar breaks to breathe and check on what my body is doing will help keep me in the moment and aware. In real­i­ty, I imag­ine I will have to remind myself to stay present over and over again. I’m think­ing I will set up lit­tle signs in all my work spaces.

One day at Haven, I went to the ses­sion with a headache. One of the lead­ers com­ment­ed to me that I had the body posi­tion for a headache. This was a nor­mal body posi­tion for me and I often have had headaches. My shoul­ders go up and they roll for­ward. For the remain­der of time at Haven, I worked con­scious­ly on keep­ing my shoul­ders down and back. It felt so uncom­fort­able and unnat­ur­al because it was not a posi­tion I was famil­iar with. I kept work­ing on it. I would often shift my body and let it come back to the place I want­ed it to be. I noticed about two weeks after com­ing home that my shoul­ders were down and back and I feel com­fort­able in this place.

I imag­ine if I can stay tuned in to my body, I can use this as a sign that I am allow­ing things to get to me. I keep tak­ing body checks on a reg­u­lar basis each day and hope I will be able to do that even when I am busy at work. The ear­li­er we can catch our­selves, the eas­i­er it is to cor­rect. Aware­ness is the first step.

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