Saturday, 16 February 2013

Auto Pilot

When life gets stressful, the first thing that goes out the window is our creativity, our appetite for new initiatives.  Our brains want to hunker down.  Enough things are out of our control.  Why would we chase after something we aren't able to predict?

As life goes on, this is how we get set in our ways.  And each time it happens, a little scar tissue grows on top of the scar tissue we already had from before.

Our routines and habits?  At their best, they provide structure and foundation.  They are the skeleton, and our creativity and initiative are the muscles - we need them both.  But when we get shell-shocked from stress, hurt, and day after day of being a little bit hurt, a little bit unhappy, a little bit dissatisified, those habits and routines become overpowering.  We stop allowing people access to our deepest parts.  In fact, we just lock the door and don't even wander down there ourselves.  It's just easier. 

Maybe you've lost someone very dear to you.  Was your experience like mine?  When my mom passed away 7 years ago, at the same time as the pain and stress was overwhelming, there was a side of me that felt some relief, some satisfaction, that I was able to just feel something so strongly.  To cry with impunity and feel like I didn't need to suck it up.  I was allowed to let my heart break.  And in those moments, while my heart was torn apart, the ground was fertile.  I learned who my real friends were, and those relationships deepened, while others fell off.  I developed coping mechanisms (not all good). 

Like all emotional experiences, I healed.  Like a flesh wound, first I scabbed over, then I healed, albeit with a permanent scar.  Those scars come in the form of coping mechanisms I developed, assumptions I made about the world (my mom, who never smoked or drank, and LOVED everyone, was taken early, while the drunk who passed the bakery she worked at daily outlived her.  Try not to grow cynical with THAT in your story).

I collect scars as I go through life.  Some big, some smaller. But they accumulate.  And they kill my sensitivity.  And I have a theory about that.

If you're a regular coffee drinker, you might wake up one morning after a lousy sleep, and think, "I'm gonna need something with a little extra kick today."  And so you buy an energy drink.  You've been numbed to the effect of coffee.  You need to step it up.  People who drink need to drink more.  People who do drugs keep upping the dose so they can get closer to that rush they first experienced.

In the absence of sensitivity, we pursue sensuality.  When I'm not engaged, I don't hear my wife's hints that she had a rough day.  So I say something dismissive, and hurt her feelings.  And then I don't have to talk to her for the night.  And it perpetuates the problem.  Relationships take work.  But when I'm tired and a little hurt, it's easier for me to invest my emotion into a sports game.  Maybe for you it's the bachelor, or social media.  Or other friends who you can laugh with superficially but don't have to worry about hard stuff with.  You can have the quick benefits with none of the hard work.  It's like deciding that, rather than exercising to get an endorphin rush, maybe you'll try cocaine instead...

How do we avoid the scar tissue?  How do we keep the sensitivity?  I think one way is to try and recognize the sensuality in our lives.  Are there any areas where you're avoiding hard work to do something easier and more fun?  You might think yogurt with blueberries is a really lame snack.  Especially if you're used to black forest cake.  But give up the sugar, and you'll start to realize how many other flavours there are out there other than sweet. 

Try sitting in silence for 5 minutes - turn off the electronics and listen.  You'll be surprised how many sounds exist in what you called silence just a minute ago.  That's what we need to shoot for.  Look at the people in your life, and see if you've REALLY listened.  Listened to their silence.  Look at the struggles in your life - are you avoiding the hard work?  What about that tough situation have you been ignoring, avoiding?  Because I think we end up going through WAY too much of our lives in auto-pilot, because we just never stop to listen for what's really going on around us.  And if we can shut off the auto-pilot, even for an extra half-hour or hour a day, I think we'd be in an absolutely different place in as little as 6 months to a year.

What do you think?  Do we numb?  How DO you shut off auto-pilot?  It's hard to untrain yourself. What is the first step?  Because recognizing the problem really isn't that constructive.  Help me find the solution!  I welcome your comments below.

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