Please watch The Social Dilemma. It will show you why we spend so much time on social media, what it is doing to our thinking, and the resulting social divide.
On a personal note, it helped partially explain to me why my brother-in-law and I, both good people, see the world so differently.
The reason I’m writing this Love Note though, is because the real take-away The Social Dilemma reminded me of, is the importance of learning to trust ourselves instead of our newsfeed.
Part of getting my PhD was learning how to gather, analyze, and manipulate data. Have you heard the phrase “the data doesn’t lie?” Data doesn’t, how people use it though, shapes what we see from the data. We see what the data presenter wants us to see.
Your body doesn’t lie.
Our body, if we learn to pay attention to it, tells us our response to a situation, not what someone wants us to believe.
Your body is more trustworthy than your phone.
If you are like most of my clients when they start working with me, you haven’t learned how to pay attention to your body’s wisdom.
That’s because most of us learned to not listen to what our body is telling us. That’s why we work when we are exhausted or sick, why we need coffee in the morning and sleep aids at night, why we do things for others even though we feel resentful.
Here are some statements I heard as a kid that taught me not to trust my own body. I’m sure you’ve heard similar, or maybe even worse, comments.
“You can’t be hungry, you just ate.”
“Don’t eat now. Wait until dinner.”
“Don’t be stupid, that’s nothing to feel bad about.”
“Sit still!” (I heard that one a lot as a kid with ADHD)
These comments told me what my body was feeling was wrong.
My parents and other authority figures weren’t bad people. They weren’t trying to create a lack of trust in myself. I was a lively little kid and what my body was doing wasn’t convenient for them.
I learned to be convenient, I learned to listen to them instead of my body. It helped them, and it kept me out of trouble.
It also cut me off from a huge source of wisdom. For 20 years I have been learning how to listen to my inner wisdom again.
How to do that, you ask? One tool I often use with my clients when they can’t decide what to do is this—
Close your eyes and pretend you’ve made your decision one way, and notice how your body feels. Do you feel tension, heaviness, a sense of dread? Do you feel lighter, calmer, a sense of moving forward? Do you feel contracted or expanded?
Open your eyes. Then close them again, this time pretend you made the other choice (we are often deciding between two choices) and notice how your body responds this time.
Your body is giving you information about your choice. Which decision feels better?
When trying to decide something, I gather information using my mind and my body. When they agree, I go for it. If they conflict, I frequently choose my body’s response. I have found over the decades things work out better when I do. Most important, I have learned to trust my body, and myself more.
It’s a grey Seattle morning. I’m drinking coffee and reading “Detox Your Life” by my friend and colleague Rebecca Gould. I highly recommend you get it.
I can barely sit still because I am reading her section on saying “no.” I LOVE it!
As a child I learned that “no” was not an ok response. Around the age of 50, I decided to declare “my year of the bitch.” I told everyone to expect me to act more bitchy that year. In reality, I was just going to practice saying no, but that doesn’t have the same pizzazz. For me it is more fun if there is pizzazz.
That year started me on a path to freedom.
All my life, I had believed if someone asked me for something, I was obligated to give it to them. I was wrong.
Yet I felt like a totally bad person if I didn’t say yes. It was time to shift that belief.
So I said no, mostly when it would have been easy to give someone what they asked. I practiced saying no to little requests because it felt excruciating to say that two-letter word. For example, if someone asked me to go for coffee that week (one of my favorite activities pre COVID)
I said no, just to know I could, and nobody would die.
That sounds extreme, but it felt so awful inside when I said no, that it felt like death. I still cringe inside when I say no, but it doesn’t feel nearly as bad as when I say yes when I don’t want to.
Saying “yes” when I want to say “no” feels like a violation of me—because it is.
Even now, eight years later, “no” can be hard to say. In Rebecca Gould’s book she lists Marcia Baczynski’s 12 ways to say “no.”
I’m a no to that, but I’m a yes to you.
I’m not so into that, but you go have fun!
I want to be in connection with you, but that doesn’t work for me. Can we do this instead?
I’m a no for now.
I’m not available for anything like that right now.
I need to build more trust before I’d be willing to consider that.
No, thank you.
I don’t have the internal resources to pull that off.
Hmmm. That’s not going to work.
It’s really hard for me to say no to people, but I’m practicing being braver and more honest, so I’m going to say no right now. (That’s my favorite.)
Aren’t they great? I’m sure you can come up with some of your own too.
My favorite method to use when I want to say no, but I’m afraid of disappointing the other person is to say “can I get back to you on that?” Then when I am by myself, I shore up my courage and practice how to say no in that situation. It works every time.
Sometimes it feels too hard to say no in the moment when we believe the person will be disappointed. That’s why it’s helpful to disengage for a bit, so we can also get in touch with how it would feel to disappoint us, instead of the other person.
We aren’t in charge of other people’s feelings. We are in charge of ours.
Here’s the magical thing about learning to be ok with saying “no.” We don’t take it as personally when someone tells us “no.”
Saying “no” is about someone taking care of themselves. It is NOT a reflection of how valuable you are.
How freeing is that thought?
No is about saying yes to your own value, and wants, and desires.
That is why “no” is one of the most powerful words in any language.
Also, my interview on Lisa Zawrotny’s Positively Living Podcast is up! Lisa and I are kindred spirits. In it you will hear my story about how I made my life hard in Kindergarten, and at the end, you’ll hear 2 super simple practices to reduce your stress.
I’ve been feeling a lot of fear lately. Maybe you have too?
Fear is not usually helpful, unless a tiger is chasing you and fear makes you run. Then it is super helpful!
When we are afraid, our brain shuts downs. We get less blood flow to the decision-making parts of our brain. The most primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, is in charge. Again, this is awesome when we literally need to fight or run for our lives, but not great when we are in an argument with someone, or in bed at night trying to sleep.
Because my go-to response is overwhelm or a sense of helplessness, I always look for how I got back to a sense of agency. How I can choose to respond, instead of my brain shutting down.
Yesterday I was feeling a lot of fear for humanity. I’m afraid of our isolation and our inability to see each other because we are wearing masks. Masks cover the parts of our face that convey whether we are dangerous or safe to others.
For the brain geeks reading this, the part of our face between our eyes and mouth constantly has micro-movements we can’t consciously control. The nervous system takes that information and tells our body whether we can relax with someone or be on guard.
Back to the antidote (woohoo!) One of the best antidotes to fear is connecting—connecting to ourselves, others, pets, nature. Connecting gets your brain on board.
Yesterday was a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon in Seattle, and I was filled with fear. It was time to be in nature.
As soon as I was done working, I hauled my towel, a good book, snacks, and my floatie to my favorite place in the summer—Greenlake—a lake in the middle of Seattle.
I floated in the lake, feeling the water on my legs, looking at the blue sky, the ducks, and the people swimming. I got out of my head and into the amazing part of the world that is still here, even during the coronavirus.
I felt peace and calm and joy. Greenlake brought me back to myself.
Nature has the power to bring us out of our minds, so we can come back to ourselves.
There are many ways to connect. A favorite way to connect is to talk to people I love. Even leaving a voicemail saying I called to say I love them makes me feel connected. I pet my cats. I get out of my fear-based mind and am present with what is outside my mind and my negative thoughts.
What are your ways to connect? Use them, especially now that the world is set up to disrupt our connections. It is important that we intentionally choose to connect and relate, and be in our hearts versus in fear.
My new favorite way to connect is through being on podcasts. I am always amazed at the conversations I have. The connection that occurs in the space of an hour, even when I’ve never spoken to the person before, still surprises me.
I invariably leave the interview feeling deep gratitude for the experience and the person I just spent time with.
In this Love Note I am including a podcast recently posted. Conveniently, the Podcast is Connectfulness.
I’ve known Rebecca Wong for several years. We met at a conference for therapists. I connected with her right away. And during this podcast I remembered one of the things that drew me to her—her skill at listening and being present to the conversation are unparalleled.
P.S. As I type this up, a little later, I am feeling ridiculously good. The world is not any different than yesterday, but I am different in it, because I made the choice to connect rather than stay in fear. Woohoo!