Have you ever taken one step forward to find yourself two steps back?
When you start working on yourself life is likely to become a rollercoaster of highs and lows. We take a leap of faith into a new experience or a new way of being, only to be followed by a crash when we realize that we couldn’t keep it up. From diets, fitness promises, relationship issues to positive affirmations and awakening of consciousness the journey of personal and spiritual growth seems paved with feelings of failure.
For those of you who watched my work with David in the Channel 5 Make or Break show, he had an expansive experience of “owning his balls” and feeling empowered as a man. But putting that into practice with girlfriend Beth appeared to be much more difficult. Or from your own experience, you might recall an time when you had a positive experience that in the moment felt wonderful and right, while next day you start doubting yourself, telling yourself that the experience wasn’t real or wasn’t that good. That could be anything from a new kind of sexual experience, or meeting a new potential partner, or taking a risk to speak your truth in your workplace.
Why does that happen? Why can something in one moment feel right and true, while in the next you hit your head against the wall? The clue is very simple: we are coming up against our own limiting self-belief. Every time we take a risk and go for a new, positive experience there’s a part of us that gets scared! It’s our belief about who we are and who we are allowed to be. However absurd it might sound when we actually get to understand it, somehow our psyche is attached to keeping a status quo, no matter how uncomfortable that may also be for us. The known identity is always the go-to for our psyche, even if this means we experience ourselves as disempowered or inferior.
Let me give you an example, again from the recent Make or Break show: Ellie was struggling with enjoying intimacy, because somehow she didn’t find her own body attractive. The year before she had been competing in high level Bikini Body competitions. But she didn’t enjoy herself back then, either. Even when she was at the most fit and perfectly trimmed, inside she was still feeling like the rounded teenage girl she once was. This painful experience created an identity and a body image that would haunt her long into her twenties. Whenever she would try to escape, even taking extreme measures, this limiting belief would pull her back, and she would still feel uncomfortable inside her own skin. Somehow our psyche tends to stay loyal to our worst fears instead of embracing our potential, even when we try to make it to the goal of our dreams. Very, very frustrating, right?
But if this resonates with you, don’t despair! Your psyche is just doing what it’s designed to do: looking out for potential threats. Our mammalian brain is still wired for survival, and mostly it feels safe to stay small, under the radar. And however strange it may sound, any change, even a positive one, will feel like a challenge to our sense of identity: the established sense of self. Even positive change creates a sense of destabilisation. So the psyche tries to re-stabilise itself: we get scared, we deny the positive experience, we find a way to make it mean something negative, we revert back to the safety of our smallness which doesn’t require our self image to change. This means that wherever your self-image is fixed, this alert part of your psyche will try to make you stay in the known.
Does that mean the odds are stacked against real, lasting change? Fortunately not – as long as we know that this is the way our psyche works. Whenever you’re determined to grow, succeed and expand expect a kickback, and just reassure yourself that the kickback is a sure sign that you’re about to change! If the smaller parts of you weren’t feeling threatened by the potential expansion, they wouldn’t flair up and try to pull you back.
The way to get your mammalian brain on board to change without feeling it’s giving up the safety of the fixed identity is very simple: instead of thinking who you’d like to be, start feeling it. When you’re thinking about something you’d like to be different about yourself, you’re basically rejecting yourself. Your psyche will feel threatened and try to pull you back. Try instead to change focus into feeling this positive version of you, imagining and feeling at the same time as if the change had happened already. When you activate your body into feeling a positive state you are creating a felt experience of this new, positive identity. You are already becoming the expanded version of yourself, and the part of your psyche that is attached to the old, limited identity will feel less threatened, because it’s got a felt sense of identity to cling on to.
So FEEL THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE: Imagine it’s happened already, feel it in your body, breathe into it and welcome the game with a smile when the kickback of your old, limited identity is trying to pull you back.