I go back to the lesson I was taught about the animals in the forest. I go back to the idea about the deer when hearing a sound and how the deer runs for safety.
Eventually, the deer finds safety and stops running. Eventually, the deer goes back to whatever it is that a deer will do. By the way, this is how the deer survives danger.
The difference between us is interesting. As the superior species, we too have our own survival instinct. However, the difference between us and the deer is we cling to our fear. We live in the past.
Animals go back to doing whatever it is they do. But us, not so much. Unlike the other animals in the animal kingdom, we hold the fear. We hold the anxieties. We tense up. We react or respond in the future with preemptive strikes to protect us or defend ourselves from the elements. We assume. We form biases and prejudices.
We think way too much. Meanwhile, the deer, the rabbit or the little bird that flew away because something dangerous came too close; they go on with the rest of their lives. But us, not so much. We live in the past. We live in our memories and the unresolved tensions or previous traumas and unwanted outcomes.
We live in old conversations that resurface in our minds. We live in old memories about painful outcomes or ideas that caused us to sustain moral injuries. We react to this and live in this regard. We prepare. We protect. We do our best to insulate ourselves from the past happening again. And yet, in our efforts to navigate away from this, we find ourselves closer to the tensions we’re trying to escape. Hence, the rage. Hence the need to find something to solve the riddles and have the world make sense. We find ourselves spun around in this thing we call the Thought Machine, —and like a wild ride that makes us sick; there’s no getting off until the ride comes to an end.
There is a pathology or science to this. However, to each their own but to be helpful, I can qualify this with some history of my own. For example, I could relive an argument from five years ago. Ever do this?
In fact, I can relive an old tension from my past and think about an unwanted outcome. I can think about a loss or a traumatic episode in my life and as a result, my body will react to this.
My mind will respond in a chemical way. Meanwhile, the mind does not understand the perception of depth or time. In fact, I can relive an uncomfortable thought and my mind will experience this as if it were happening to me all over again. I was at full-speed, all day, every day. No rest. No sleep to speak of. My mind was in critical mode.
I have been thinking about the different episodes in my life. I have thought about the unresolved traumas and self-inflicted injuries that were both emotional and physical. I was thinking about the mistakes I’ve made. All of them are gone now, but yet, I held these ideas closer than my victories. I refused to let go because what if they happened again? I was thinking about the personal persecution and the aftermath of high anxiety.
Like the deer in the woods, I was running for safety; however, unlike the deer, when I found safety (or at least, my perception of safety) the anxiety continued.
We are not built to constantly live in “Red-Alert” mode. But yet, here we are, living in anxious times with anxious thoughts and around anxious people. Here we are, trying to navigate through life, trying to find that safe place, trying to relax, but yet, how can you relax when your mind is constantly responding to something? How do you relax in traffic? How can you relax when there is so much tension in the world. The news on television is awful. The irrational thoughts of dying or impending doom are nothing short of relentless.
Sometimes, (I swear) all you can do is breathe.
Sometimes, all one can do is try to find something to alleviate the tensions, to calm themselves or comfort themselves. All one can do is find a way that appeases the angst or uncertainty in our head by any means necessary.
Our mind is always looking for the path of least resistance. We are always looking to make sense of something, — especially if what we’ve experienced makes no sense at all; — our mind is always trying to find a way to cope, to cure, to deal with or make sense of what’s going on. Unfortunately, sometimes there is no way to make sense of unexpected traumas and unnatural events.
There is no control, and yet, we know this but the trauma and the burdens of trauma persist like an unwanted voice that keeps speaking in the ear.
I can say that I have spent decades both bullying and beating myself up. I punished myself about mistakes, unresolved arguments and the aftermath of poor choices. I have spent decades, reliving old events that were beyond my control. I wished I did things differently. I wished I paid attention. I lived in regret. I lived in the confusion of boundary violations and emotional injury. I wondered about this. I wondered why I’d seen the things I’ve seen. Why couldn’t I get out or get away? Why did I have to see or feel or experience some of these tensions?
Why can’t I just let them go? And isn’t this what everyone says?
Just let it go.
Just shake it off.
In short, I was hurt. I was afraid. My emotional triggers ran from humiliation to pain, to sadness, and of course, rejection. None of these were something I could control. Hence, I lost control. I never wanted to feel or re-feel the effects of my old traumas.
However, I was still in flight mode. I was in a constant state of Red-Alert; therefore, no matter how much I tried to change or calm down; I couldn’t because I was still responding to my old tensions.
How does someone move away from the records of their history? How does anyone resolve to see a new future if they cannot see beyond their unresolved past?
How do we create a new circuitry of thinking?
How do we eliminate the obstacles of our past and rather than see life through the means of reversion, we focus on the creation of our future?
The answer is until we find our own resolution; until we can find something the mind can grasp and accept as a means of replacement and distraction, we find ourselves in a constant loop.
To find peace, we have to define peace. To find comfort, we have to define comfort. This has to become our new focus. This has to be our goal without excuse or distraction.
It has been said by many experts that if the mind is a record of the past then it can also be a map to our future. I agree with this. Yet, in fairness, I struggled to get myself started
Therefore, there is a call to change our thinking. There is a call to recognize the direction of our thinking and the habitual direction of our thoughts This involves training and routine practice, which can be uncomfortable at first. Keep in mind, the mind is only looking for something to grasp and make sense. Habits allow the mind to placate the tensions and cope with stress. Change creates a new flow and proposes a new order that challenges the comfort of old routines. This is why people quit in the early stages of transformation because the newness of their evolution does not make sense.
Give yourself room and the permission to struggle. It is okay to challenge our assumptions. It is okay to honestly inspect our thoughts and furthermore, it is important to realize that thoughts, feelings and perceptions are not always truth. It is helpful to challenge the fearful thoughts that create anxiety. Put simply, it’s okay to tell yourself that there is no monster under the bed. It is helpful to create a new inner dialoged that creates promotion instead of regression.
In fact, I have something I say when my anxiety reaches the danger zone. There are times when I find my thinking has snowballed out of control. My emotional senses take over, — and if I’m not careful, the anxiety becomes uncontrollable.
So, what do I do?
I breathe. I have etched three numbers into my memory.
The numbers are 7,5,7.
I inhale through my nose for seven second. Then I pause for five seconds and finally, I exhale through my mouth for seven seconds. I repeat this process to oxygenate my bloodstream, which physically allows me to calm down. I have also added personal steps to this process.
In some cases, as I inhale, through my nose, I will calmly think to myself, “None of this is real,” and as I exhale, I will calmly think to myself, “None of this is happening to me now.”
I will repeat this to myself until my mind makes the connection. I do this to instill a sense of mindful calmness. I do this to counteract the rehearsals in my mind that have already triggered the thought machine.
To qualify myself, I can say that I might not always be where I want to be. I can say that I am a work in progress. I might not be where I want to be but I’m not where I was. And that’s great.
The strongest move I’ve ever made was the move I made when I learned to escape my past. I had to allow myself to move away from the old paradigms and venture into my new understandings.
I had to begin to dismantle my old biases and subconscious programming. I had to address my challenges, one by one, and reprogram my trained beliefs in order to evolve into a new person. This took time and tolerance on my part to endure the steps and make my changes.
I could no longer respond to the elements of both personal and interpersonal bullying. I had to allow myself the understanding that my perception is often deceived by emotion; that memory can be shaded and changed by emotions and fear.
I had to allow myself the moments of mindful reflection to promote a sense of wellbeing —and, as well, I had to create changes in my personal narrative.
I had to forgive myself as well as my previous language. I had to stop the self-deprecating discussions that went on in my mind. I had to learn to rewind and replace the old tapes, which both dictated and determined my moods, as well as my thinking,. I had to take back my thinking to improve my state of well-being. And more and more, I was able to resolve my old tensions. I learned to understand the voices from my past. More accurately, I learned how to comfort the wounds and old pains because although they seemed painfully real; the past is the past. Yesterday is gone and neither of us live there anymore. This is true . . .
I will not say the journeys I’ve taken have been easy. I will only say that all of this was worth it. My efforts towards personal change and improvement have been worth every step. I am no longer who I was but at last; I am who I am.
One thing I’ve learned is the future is there whenever you’re ready for it.
Well . . .