Have you ever set a boundary you were proud of only to be guilted about your decision? That happened to me, and shame wrapped its tendrils around my limbic system (for those who like to nerd out like me: the part of the brain that controls behavioral and emotional responses; hippocampus and amygdala, with a special dance of the hypothalamus, thalamus, cingulate gyrus as well). When the limbic system is activated, guess what happens? Fight, flight, freeze, and/or fawn (appease).
You may have noticed the last three blog posts had a different tone or voice to them—including my progress report on my intention for 2022 (open-mindedness through use of the 8 C’s: compassion, curiosity, calm, clarity, courage, confidence, connectedness, and creativity).
Those last three blog posts reflected fear. The boundary I set activated that fear response for every thought or action I have had for several weeks. The thing I hate about fear is how I respond—or react—to it. I become angry, confused, and indecisive. Nothing makes sense anymore because I no longer trust myself or anyone around me. Everyone/everything is dangerous. I am suddenly hijacked by multiple parts (remember Internal Family Systems).
Well, I am hijacked or blended a little less frequently and with much less intensity for the past week. I had a brief text conversation with my therapist in must have had a moment of “self-energy” and had a lightbulb moment. It had not occurred to me until that conversation that I had been hijacked.
“My entire life right now is a clusterf*ck.” (“Mess” did not quite capture my thoughts or feelings).
My therapist told me that was a part talking—my inner critic.
“Is it? Genuine question…”
So, my life is not actually a clusterf*ck. It just feels overwhelming, and I know how to approach overwhelming—one step at a time on the staircase or ladder. I went back and read some of my older blog posts at my therapist’s recommendation to, you know, find that self-energy again. I am pretty sure I stepped out of some twilight zone in which I was horrified to have been in to begin with.
As I was reading my blog posts, I thought about two books I had read sometime within the past year:
- Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by Navy Seal David Goggins
- Staring Down the Wolf: 7 Leadership Commitments That Forge Elite Athletes by Navy Seal Mark Divine
These two Navy Seals have courage in common—and maybe stupidity (Ever heard this quote by Jeremy Goldberg? “Courage is knowing it might hurt [sic] and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that’s why life is hard.”). I thought of the two books because I was acting out of fear, and these men discussed courage and determination at length.
When I read Can’t Hurt Me, I wanted to like the book more than I did. I really struggled with David Goggins’ extremism. I personally need to stay as far away from extremes as possible, and he encourages his readers to go well beyond their limits. I am all for pushing my limits, but at some point, it is wise to listen to our screaming intuition. What I gleaned from the book was the concept of completing after-action reports. Goggins learned to do these in the military and began doing them to reflect on all situations in his life—big and small.
To “reset the compass” and recommit to my intention, I am going to make an effort to reflect each day as if doing an after-action report. The questions I will ask myself each evening (or as often as I need) will be:
- What did I want to accomplish today?
- Did I accomplish that thing (or things)?
- What went wrong and why?
- What went right and why?
- What is one thing I learned today?
- What will I do next time?
Staring Down the Wolf was written for leaders, specifically in business. I am no business leader. I do have a fairly prominent role in my job, and I have a leadership-type personality at the gym. But again, I am far from a leader. I prefer the background—a quiet background at that. However, the interesting thing about IFS and parts work is that the Self is a leader. The Self leads by using the 8C’s, and the goal is to welcome all the parts, listen to them, give them what they need, and release them to do a job that fits. For example, one of the “fire-fighter” parts I have is the suicidal part. The suicidal part is only trying to find an escape from stress, pain, and/or overwhelm. When I listen to that part, I can reflect and identify what I can do to decrease stress, pain, and overwhelm. The suicidal part does not want me to die. It wants relief. The best job for the suicidal part is to be the alarm system that something isn’t right.
Anyway, back to Mark Divine’s book. He too discussed the after-action report when something goes wrong and asked the following questions:
- What are my biggest insights and lessons from the obstacle?
- How has the day made me better? What did I learn?
- Did my actions move me toward my vision and goals?
- Any unresolved issues or unanswered questions I need to follow up on?
The questions both men asked themselves allowed them to look at each day, event, occurrence, obstacle, etc. with curiosity, compassion, clarity, creativity, connection, confidence, calm, and courage.
Courage. In Staring Down the Wolf, Divine listed seven commitments and the fears that went with them…
- Commit to courage, fear of risk
- Commit to trust, fear of failure
- Commit respect, fear of judgment
- Commit to growth, fear of discomfort
- Commit to excellence, fear of being unique
- Commit to resiliency, fear of obstacles
- Commit to alignment, fear of sharing
Fear. That is my language. I don’t want it to be, so I act tough. Yet deep down I am terrified of taking risks, failing, being judged, discomfort (especially with the unknown), being unique (standing out), obstacles, and sharing (my failures, fears, or whatever). It stops me in my tracks. It sets the stage for me to criticize myself and sink into despair again and again.
At the end of the book, Divine mentions a final commitment: “Stare down the fear of committing to a bigger mission.” Dude, it is necessary to take one step at a time but seeing the big picture—the PROCESS—is what makes it all work. I have struggled to trust the process over the past several weeks, and it has been reflected in my recent writing.
I am back. I am committed to being curious, having compassion, getting creative, looking at things with clarity of Self, seeking authentic connection (with others and parts), walking through obstacles or difficult situations with confidence, seeking calm, and practicing fierce courage. I have a lot of work to do, but I have done a lot of work too.