You know how when you go back to the hometown you grew up in, how you almost feel like a child again? Sometimes you can feel it in your whole body, like you’re being transported back in time. For some, this can be a good feeling, yet for others of us it’s not always comforting.
I was having coffee with a good friend of mine the other day, and we were talking about the quickly approaching holidays, and how we can get thrown back into ways of being that we thought we’d outgrown – or at least felt we should have outgrown by now. But this is much more difficult than you’d expect. Our brains and bodies are essentially prediction machines, constantly working to get us safely and efficiently through life. They don’t have time to assess every single moment of our lives, so they predict what’s about to happen. They say,’ this situation looks almost exactly like that other situation, so let’s have the same reaction, since that old reaction seemed to work well.” By the time you celebrate your 18th birthday, you will have spent nearly 158,000 hours practicing how best to cope with the situations of your youth. When you return to the place or people from your past, it’s no wonder you feel like a kid again, flooded with the sensations and feelings of childhood. Your brain and body are saying, “Whoa! This smells and looks and feels exactly like all those other times. Here are the reactions, and feelings, and coping methods you need to to get through this.” And all of this happens nearly automatically and without any effort on our part.
I like to think of this phenomena as a ‘whirlpool of placeness.’ It’s the everything about a place or the people in it that causes our mind and body to revert back to an earlier time and way of being. It can happen against our best intentions to be different. It can be powerful and relentless, sucking us down into ways of being that we thought we’d outgrown. It can leave us reacting to situations in the present using the coping skills we learned in the past.
The holidays are coming up fast, and for many of us that means putting ourselves into situations that can drag us back into stressful ways of being. But it’s possible to return to our roots and interact with our heritage in a present and mature way. It’s possible to be ‘present-day you’ in the placeless of your past. It’s possible to not revert back to the same reactions you had back way back when, even if everyone else is acting out as they always have. You absolutely have the capability to overcome the whirlpool, once you have the right navigation tools.
Some of the most potent tools are:
- Stay present and calm
- use a slow and even breath to stay calm
- tune into what your body is feeling to stay in the present
- Bring curiosity to the forefront
- ask yourself questions such as, “I wonder what…?” Or, “I wonder how…?” to bring your mind out of past thought patterns. “I wonder what Uncle Joe would do if i smiled instead of arguing with him.”
- Be kind to yourself.
- take a break if the whirlpool is getting too strong
- realize your reactions are coping mechanisms that worked for you in the past, but that you now have a choice in how to react.
If getting through the holidays (or any days, for that matter) is tough for you, We’re teaching a half-day immersion coming up at the Neurosculpting Institute on November 11th. This fun and casual class will teach you powerful skills to help you shift out of old patterned reactions. These skills will allow you to be the person you want to be in any situation.