As you peer a little deeper, you see the swirling shape, colour and texture of fear. This is prehistoric programming at its finest—preparing you for fight, flight or freeze, that trio otherwise known as the stress response.
Often, the brain (ego) doesn’t like change, even if change connotes something better, or something you do want to experience.
As an example, I’d like to share an encounter I had with a woman at a trade show. I explained how being immersed in stress (negative thoughts and emotions) affects physiology – higher blood pressure, increased heart rate, tensed muscles and one that is easily visible – chest breathing. I instructed her to imagine gently sending oxygen down, down, down to her hips. Within in seconds, she began fidgeting, followed by a hoarse, “I can’t breathe.”
She could breathe. The problem was that it just didn’t feel normal to her. It was the brain in the middle of a hijacking. You see, she had been chest breathing for so long, that she had forgotten what it felt like to breathe using her diaphragm. Any change, even if it was welcomed change, was seen as a threat. Her perception was that she couldn’t breathe, yet when we did the exercise again with this new information, she was able to calm herself and over-ride the unfamiliar feeling and begin recruiting that large dome-shaped muscle known as the diaphragm.
When you encounter change, your perception makes all the difference to what happens next. In the blink of an eye, without awareness, the stress response is triggered, setting you on a course bound for resistance. When you develop and practise skills, you can take a different route, one that is less bumpy; one that transports you to new experiences and feelings.
The next time a wave of resistance knocks you over, make some time to look beneath the surface.
Some questions you may wish to ponder:
- Am I reacting automatically, without logically thinking about what the changes will bring? (The stress response often elicits a knee-jerk reaction.)
- Does this change remind me of another instance where things did not go well? (The amygdala, a gland in the brain is looking for close enough situations. When it encounters one with similar characteristics to another negative experience, it initiates the stress response.)
- Is there a way I can welcome change? (When you learn stress techniques and practise them, you put the brakes on the automatic response to anything new. A different part of the brain—the prefrontal cortex—is activated. Decision-making, problem-solving, purposeful behaviours and consciousness originate in this area.)
Perhaps you may want to adopt the mantra of that large, loveable, green creature known as Shrek who said, “Change is good, donkey.”
How about a change of perception? What if you could ride the waves of change to a new shore, opening you up to a variety of adventures, experiences and feelings – ones that bring about a change within – one that is good for you?
In a timely Twitter conversation with the very knowledgeable Robyn McMaster, she had this to say about adventure.
Is it time for a sea change?