I don’t know how many of you can identify with being overwhelmed, disappointed, anxious, or frustrated and reaching for something yummy to numb the feelings. Sometimes there’s just too much in life to deal with that the thought of not dealing with it at all becomes an attractive solution. At some point in time, almost everyone has done this. No shame. The problem becomes when it becomes our default to deal with tough times. That default can be considered similar to the “software of the soul,” a concept I talk about in The Clarity Club.
Let me explain. A circumstance occurs, and you interpret the circumstance- good, bad, or neutral. From that interpretation is a feeling, and based on the feeling, we take an action. Depending on how that action makes us feel, we decide to repeat it or discard it the next time we encounter a troubling circumstance. It becomes a cycle though , if you will – our operating Software when our default for handling situations is based on past circumstances.
Let’s say you have an issue with a work project or a misunderstanding with a loved one. The next thing you know, feelings come up around the situation. You may be uncomfortable, anxious, overwhelmed, helpless, disrespected, or annoyed; the list of options goes on. To get back to a point where you don’t experience discomfort, you reach for something that “makes it better .” Do this once. You feel better. So the next time a similar situation presents itself, your Software says- “hey, last time that slice of birthday cake, fries, not my food, you fill in the blank made me feel better. Let’s do that.” Pretty soon, you find yourself Doing “that” it again and again. Deepak Chopra, world renowned thought leader and physician, calls it the Software of the Soul – karma which is Sanskrit for action, memory, and desire. Before you know it, we have this conditioned response and find ourselves doing the same thing over and over again.
Over time we program our Software until pretty soon, our default is the action that’s not necessarily in service of our body, and we don’t even stop to think about what we are feeling. We just default to the feelgood. Hello, Starbucks, on the morning commute!
The other day, how deeply engrained this software is for me became crystal clear. You see, I am in a coaching group. Everyone needs coaching- even coaches. If you want coaching, I’ll offer a shameless plug – visit Truebasishealth.com and check out the Clarity Club, where we provide monthly group coaching. Hint, hint.
But anyway, in this particular coaches coaching group, we have this process called coach the coach where each coach takes turns coaching each other. The coach I worked with followed her intuition about me being in my “head” a lot. Ha Ha….. I need to find out where she got that from. LOL, Type A’s out there who like to analyze everything- I got your back. Anyone out there like that always in their head?
So, we are talking about how we approach challenges, and I’m talking about optimizing this, that, and the other. The coach says, can I try something? I’m like, sure- I’m always open to learning something new. Next thing you know, she has me closing my eyes and visualizing a mountain of jello. I’m like, do what? Jello. Evidently, my creativity was lacking. Where is she going with this, I thought?
She was unphased by my response and just said, just bear with me. What color. I’m like, fine. Red. Good, she says. Failing to see the value of the questions or where she’s going with this line of questioning, I begin to get a little frustrated. I let my guard down- she’s talking about mountains of jello, right?
She continues and says now when you have this mountain of jello (read challenge) in front of you, how do you deal with it. Without a thought. Without flinching. It blurts out of my mouth. As if you were to ask me what color shirt I had on…. Plain as day- I say “You eat the mountain, and you get on with the next challenge.” MAN It was out there, and I couldn’t take it back. I hadn’t been able to process it before I blurted it out. Have you all every said something so quickly your mind couldn’t filter it first? So, in this case I was kinda glad it happened. I mean that’s what I’ve been doing all these years. Eating difficult things and moving on.
Holy smoke. Cue the light bulbs. I’m stepping out of my analytical mind trying to solve a challenge with flippin’ jello. Next thing you know, I’m talking about eating the challenge. And here’s the thing. I always knew I ate to deal with things I didn’t want to deal with. The thing is, it had never quite clicked like that before. Who knew…. Jello could be so powerful. LOL Profound.
Why do I tell you this story? Because you can only fix things in your life properly if you understand why you default in specific ways. And so before we can talk about reprogramming to actions that are in better service of your body, we need to get some clarity around the feelings and thoughts behind our conditioned responses. Understanding you are eating to deal with feelings is a significant first step. But unless you unpack those feelings and find out what’s behind them on a deeper level, the habit of soothing those feelings will persist. You know what they say- what you resist will persist.
Changing old habits that no longer serve you is one way we grow our well-being muscle. It’s a way to help us show up as a better version of ourselves. And the beauty is each of us has the tools to do that once we gain clarity around what we want, what we are doing, and why we do it. Then we just need to decide what we want to do differently. We decide on the future version of our Self that we want to become. We identify with that new identity, and in doing so, we can start advancing towards the new patterns we want to create that are in better service of our health.
Just as software can be updated on your iPhone or computer. We can update how we respond to challenging situations. Just as with an update, though. If you don’t know there is something better out there, it’s tough to do the update. No notice comes and says you have an update available.
That’s why in the Clarity Club, one of the things we learn is to cultivate clarity, so it becomes possible to identify when we need to update our way of thinking. We learn to identify triggers. With this state of clarity, we can reframe how the trigger is interpreted and then select a more beneficial thought out solution. Still arriving at comfort as the end result, but without the emotional eating and damaging self-talk that often accompanies it.
So I want to ask you to try this the next time you are triggered. The next time someone says something to you that gets you fired up. Or the next time you are overwhelmed by your to-do list. The next time no one is paying attention when you are trying to explain something. Whatever it is that triggers you. Pick anything that makes you want to throw your hands up in the air and say- “Hell with it. Pass me that donut.” Ok. Got that. Just this one time, tell yourself I’m going to sit with the discomfort for just a 90 seconds. In the end, if I still want that donut, by darn it, I will have it.But for these 90 seconds, I’m going to see what this feeling of discomfort is really about.
Why 90 seconds?
Jill Bolte Taylor, Harvard brain scientist explains: “When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.” If you want to read more check out her book Reset your Mind. In the book she explains that if we can observe a physiological sensation in the body without reacting , the emotion dissipates within 90 seconds. Now it may come back again. But we sit with it for another 90 seconds until it becomes less triggering. And in those 90 seconds, just understand what is behind your feelings of frustration. Is it fear, anger, disgust, or sadness. Or it’s the other end of the spectrum, and you are happy or surprised. Just sit with it. Go deeper. If you feel bad, are you feeling overwhelmed, unseen, inadequate, or whatever it might be? Try to identify why the circumstance is making you feel bad.
Once you’ve identified the issue, congratulate yourself on sitting in the discomfort. Take a breath. If you continue to feel the discomfort after 90 seconds – you are likely choosing to stay hooked on the thought because the body has processed and released the hormones associated with the event. And with clarity, choose how you might reward yourself with a nourishing choice instead of punishing yourself by eating food you really don’t want or need.
Could it be I’m going to treat myself to a little walk outside, or maybe you will give yourself permission to remove some items from your to-do list and take a baby break? Perhaps you decide to quit trying to prove yourself or explain yourself because you realize you don’t owe anyone an explanation but yourself. Whatever it is that feels right for you at the moment. Do it. Then Congratulate yourself again for listening to yourself, and you are honoring your needs. And decide if this is a better scenario for you the next time a similar situation comes up.You might try on a few different responses the first few times you are triggered until you land on something that feels better than gobbling up that snickers bar.
Progress, not perfection, right.
It took years to engrain the habits of dealing with less-than-ideal situations, and it will take time to update the software. Just chalk it up to a slow internet connection! But eventually, the update installs, and you are free to work until you need the next update.
I’d love to hear feedback on what you learned about yourself from this exercise. What triggers you, and what did you try that helped you free yourself of the thoughts and was in the best service to your body. So, feel free to comment or post on Instagram@truebasishealth or share with me directly.
Remember, our minds control so much of what we do, often on default., and our bodies take it like a champ. Decide next time you’ll put your body first and train your mind for a different, more productive outcome. I’ll leave you with this quote from Deepak Chopra. “Every time you are tempted to react the same old way, ask if you want to be the prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”