The 2 min Metaphor That Can Change Your Life!
The Strong and Healthy Self…that is what we are talking about today.
Think of a time you were around someone who wasn’t treating you right.
Maybe they are disrespectful? Dismissive? Aggressive in their language, tone or behaviour with you? Or maybe they just ignore you and treat you like you are invisible. Maybe how they treat you is unpredictable (good one time, bad another), or they have betrayed your confidences? Whatever it is, think of one of those people, and how you felt when you knew you were going to interact with them.
We often get anxious when we think of interacting with these people.
That is because we are self correcting by nature. Nature wants us to succeed so it built a signalling system that tells us when we are off track. Unfortunately, the only way for our strong and healthy self to tell us if we are on track or off track is through negative feedback.
Let’s think about this for a minute…
2. If we step on a nail...it hurts, and if we ignore it, it gets worse and can even become life threatening if we don’t tend to it. In many cases the more discomfort seems to indicate how threatening the stressor is.
3. Have any of you ever tried not to cough? It is near impossible and incredibly uncomfortable! That is just strong and healthy you telling you that you NEED to cough in order to be well.
4. Lastly, has anyone ever tried to hold their breath
It turns out it is the same with life situations…
1. We get anxious when interacting with someone who strong and healthy us knows is not treating us well
2. Ignoring the negative feedback makes it worse
3. If we have learned to ignore our strong and healthy self for whatever reason, it turns into Anxiety, Depression, or unhealthy coping (ie. Eating disorders, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, cutting, steroids etc)
People don’t usually intentionally teach us to ignore our strong and healthy self, but we often get this meta-message as a kid through people just doing their best
For example, if we were upset because
Another common way we learn to ignore our strong and healthy self is when we try to stand up for ourselves, and it goes poorly. For example if we are met with being teased more, met with anger from our parents or teachers, or we get a worse beating from the bully. We take away the message that listening to our strong and healthy self is dangerous and we learn to ignore it.
4. When this happens, we then get stuck focusing on the unhealthy coping, the depression or the anxiety as the problem. Sometimes we even end up on medication to try to help us deal with the depression or anxiety etc. And sometimes we need medication to help us sleep, eat well, get less stuck in negative thoughts, basically to help us do the work, but medication alone won’t make us happy if we stay in a situation that is unhealthy for us.
I often tell people that I can give all the meds in the world, shock treatment and set them up with Dr. Phil and Oprah themselves, and they won’t be happy if they stay in a job they hate, in a relationship where they don’t feel physically or emotionally safe or if they don’t have a sense of purpose or meaning in their life or a safe tribe (group of people they feel they can be themselves with).
5. All that to say that we NEED to address underlying issues in order for strong and healthy us to stop sending negative feedback and for us to be well. So how do we move from HELPLESS to HEALTHY? How do we move from PANIC to PRODUCTIVITY?
We listen to our strong and healthy self, we start to PAY ATTENTION to what makes us feel stronger and what makes us feel weaker
Instead of getting distressed by the anxiety or negative feedback, BE CURIOUS about what it is telling you and ACT to ADDRESS the underlying issues
If we are unsure, then we can stop what we are doing (whether it is analyzing things in our head or a conversation we aren’t sure is constructive), and do something that we KNOW is healthy for us and come back to the thing we were not sure about when we are clearly in a strong and healthy head space
When we are in a strong and healthy head space, we make strong and healthy choices, when we are feeling small and scared, we make small and scared decisions. The choices we recognize we have are completely different in these two states of mind.