It occurs to me that you may not be comfortable with looking inward. With consciously feeling what you may already be feeling. Meaning, you already have whatever feeling it is that might be too much or too uncomfortable or even too minimized or denied. So whatever is inside of you could very well be a stranger if we were to give it a persona (which I don't like doing, but it serves as a metaphor).
I think my course could be a great way for you to get more acquainted with your inner feelings and ground yourself more in the present moment. And this blog could be a good compliment to that, providing a new framework to build from. Learn more about my 30 day course through the image below. Read on to learn how to treat yourself more like a potential new friend and less like a dangerous stranger.
TREAT YOURSELF LIKE A POTENTIAL NEW FRIEND
Let's first define what a "friend" is and how it's unique to other relationships. Yes, there are fairly obvious, but it's worth a very brief differentiation.
a stranger is someone you don't know (I told you it's obvious!)
a co-worker is simply someone that you work with. This would be a person you say "hi" to and exchange simple pleasantries (aka "mindless chit chat") with as you pass by each other.
an acquaintance is someone that you might spend more time with and discuss more superficial things, like a co-worker that you go out to lunch with. Or a peer in class that you hang out with between periods. But a friend is something different than these.
a friend is someone that you spend more time with, know better on a more personal level, have more emotional investment in, have more trust and empathy in
Think about your relationship of your thinking self to your somatic self. If these were two different beings (they're not, just a metaphor), what type of relationship would you say they have? On the spectrum of stranger to friend, what kind of relationship is there? That might be an indicator of how in tune you are with your more whole self.
If there is a stranger type of relationship, then your thinking self and your somatic self are probably not very connected. Your story always follows your state, so the two are factually and biologically still very much connected. But we want your thinking self to be in tune with your somatic self. For them to be close, to have a friendly relationship. When those two are in sync on a conscious level, then that will create a more whole individual or true self.
Steps to friendship
When you make a new friend, there are steps that you might follow to get to know them better. You first start off as stranger, then meet each other as peers at school or work, then get to know each other better as acquaintances and then reach the level of friendship. The way you interact with a friend is much different than the way you interact with the stranger, co-worker/peer or acquaintance.
You're not going to start that new relationship off with disclosing all of your biggest fears, dysfunctional relationship patterns, deepest secrets or painful memories, right? And if you do, I highly recommend you don't. For that new person in your life, it might be too much too soon. And that's true for your thinking and somatic self as well. The thinking self might not be ready for the pain that your body holds. Likewise, your body might not be ready for the vivid memories that your thinking self has. These two things interact all the time anyway, but when you bring it to your consciousness, it could result in too much sympathetic or shutdown activation.
Instead, allowing the thinking and somatic selves to get to know each other a little at a time might be a better approach. If they spend no time together right now, then having a little lunch together per day might be appropriate, just like hanging out with a co-worker who is now becoming an acquaintance. And if these two selves of you are complete strangers, then a simple introduction might be in order.
Here's how this might look:
Focus on the positives
Just focus on what is pleasant or a relief. No, I am not referring to drug use or cutting or anything similar. I mean what textures are pleasing? I mean what colors? What sounds and what smells? These simple steps might be a first large step toward getting to know yourself better without it being overwhelming.
You would keep things light and positive with a friend too. You'd talk about the tv show you both like. You'd talk about your kids or your pets. It wouldn't be threatening. It might be a little awkward, sure. But it's doable in bits and spurts.
Besides the senses that bring you feelings of pleasure, you could also focus on memories that bring you feelings of happiness or contentedness. You could engage in play that brings a smile to your face. No matter the route, you need to actually pay attention to the experience of these things. If you can notice them, then you can begin to savor and extend them.
Deb Dana calls these "glimmers" and "glows." What's happening during these is that your ventral vagal safe & social state is activating. This state is responsible for connection, safety, relaxation and happiness. Without this state active, you simply won't be able to access more of yourself as you begin to befriend yourself and your nervous system.
So when I recommend that you not focus on the pain yet, I'm not saying to simply ignore it and it will go away. I'm saying that you first need to develop the tolerance by building the strength of your ventral state. This is no different than building a friendship. First, you need to know that the other person is safe before learning more about them. After you've spent some time with that person, become acquaintances, know they're safe and built trust in them, then you can begin to disclose more of yourself to them.
And that is what will happen when getting to know yourself and looking more at the memories or emotions of yourself. You won't feel as much fear/apprehension from these things. Just like when your new friend tells you they don't have the same religion or politics as you, they won't necessarily be as threatening. You might be more curious as to how they came to their conclusions instead of being scared away. You might want to learn more and build a different type of connection.
When we live in a defensive state, that really becomes our reality. Not just the external world which is perceived as more dangerous, but also the internal. So from that defensive state, when you look at your somatic self, you're going to see danger. It's going to feel like danger and be overwhelming.
But there's a lot more to you. There really is a lot more inside of you that you might not be aware of. When you learn about a new friend, you assume there is a lot to them that you don't know, right? So bring that same understanding to yourself. For better or worse (I assume better), there is a lot more within you.
The work of change is not static. It's not exactly either/or. It's a process of blooming and discovering (#bloominganddiscovering ooh I like that). It's about what you have within you; but also what you have yet to experience. When you have more access and more of an anchor in your ventral safe/social pathways, new experiences come along with it. New opportunities and potential. Your window to new experiences opens up.
Curiosity > Evaluation
Foundational to this venture is going to be utilizing whatever curiosity you have and directing it inward. If you make a potential new friend and learn about them, you will need curiosity. If you think you know everything you need to know about that person, you're not going to truly get to know them better. If you've judged them already and put a cap on their potential in your life, you won't truly get to know them better.
Same goes for your thinking and somatic selves. They can't be evaluating each other. They can't be judging each other. They need to be curious about each other.
Likely, you've already got some judgments and evaluations. Just like anybody else, including myself. We all do it. So it's not that big of a deal on a larger human scale. It's kinda normal. Not ideal, but normal. But that also means it can be improved, since other people are able to do so as well. And you're a person, so this applies to you.
There is some curiosity within you already. If there isn't, then why the f**k are you reading this? So bring that curiosity to the "parts" of you that you don't know. The somatic feelings. Meet it and greet it using these tips I've laid out here. I think eventually you're going to learn you've got a pretty kickass friend within yourself. They're worth loving and worth getting to know better.
You are worth loving and getting to know better.