I was away having an awesome experience in New York this week and did not get around to reading this chapter. I will blog about NY in another post. For this week’s entry I reached out to one of my Connections. Mary Ann Lowry is a certified Martha Beck Coach and has written a superb article on Connections for us. I know for sure that I was spending time doing exactly what Mary Ann recommends – connecting to myself. If you do not have the time to read the full length, scroll down to read the fabulous tips in the second half. Trust you will love them as much as I did.
Connecting with the Most Important Person in Your Life: Yourself
by Mary Ann Lowry, M.Ed. Martha Beck Master Certified Life Coach
As Martha Beck reminds us in The Joy Diet, experiencing the “JOY” of forming new relationships and spending time with friends is an extremely yummy part of the diet.
Many people feel lonely, in spite of the fact that they have many friends. They enjoy the company of others, but connecting with anyone on a deeper level is a missing element. If this describes you and the way you relate to your friends, you’re literally missing the dessert of life.
Before the brain research came out telling us that connecting with others was healthy, many of us thought it would be nicer to establish closer friendships. Now, we know that our minds crave that special friend, who we can vent to about everything. Whether you’re the most popular person in your circle of friends or you feel that you only have one friend, both situations can lead to feeling lonely. This feeling of isolation basically can be described by thinking “no one really gets me”.
Surprisingly, I’ve met the most incredible people, who admit that they are very lonely. They make the mistake of thinking that everyone is connected and has close friends. The people, who you see laughing together at the coffee shop, may look like they have great relationships and super friendships. Since I’m a life coach and have been invited to listen to others’ deep longings, I find that many people feel that sense of loneliness even though it appears that they are well connected. Being able to connect with people begins with self-awareness, so the person you may need to establish a connection with is “you, yourself-your true self” warts and all.
Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about a new psychological term called “Mindsight”……being able to connect with our own feelings, emotions and experiences and to be able to see and understand the feelings and emotions of others. When you’re a person, who experiences the world via Mindsight, you can pick up on non-verbal signs to get further info about what type of mood that a friend is in. Most people are very empathetic and attuned to others. It’s possible for you to be loved and adored by everyone, who meets you and connects with you, because you “get them” and they feel free to be themselves with you. However, in your mind you see your loving Barney Beagle, as the only living creature, who really cares about you. You may think that I’m there for everyone else, but they aren’t there for me.
The real issue is that you probably never really learned to connect with the most important person in your life “YOU”. If you were raised by dismissive, yet well-meaning parents, you may have trouble connecting with your own emotions. According to Dr. Siegel, when the emotion behind the behavior is not clearly recognized or communicated, your brain responds by denying the emotions. For example, if you fell and hurt your knee, your teacher or parent may have responded to your tears by saying, “You’ll be okay. Let’s think about something else. We’re going to get a treat in a few minutes”. While that sounds like a very nurturing loving thing to reassure you, that type of interaction totally misses the mark on how you feel.
Actual childhood experiences are less important than how we make sense of those experiences. If the emotions were recognized by a significant adult in your life, this makes a huge difference in being able to make sense of your own thoughts and emotions. Hearing the words, “Ouch! That must have really hurt when you fell down. I can tell, because you’re crying. I’m so sorry that you got hurt”, allows a child to immediately access their emotions instead of depressing them.
The good news is that your brain is designed to change, so you can start today to begin connecting with the real you. The right hemisphere of your brain may not be fully activated, because that’s the part of the brain that processes your intense and raw emotions, non-verbal signals, social understanding, and Mindsight. If you’ve suppressed your feelings for years, then you have a working autobiography that is strung together by events with the feelings and sensory experiences missing.
Writing a memoir of your life experience without including the emotions, sensations and social awareness would probably be a boring read. It would be strung together like a list of events, because the language is processed in the left side of your brain. By ignoring the deep raw emotions and thoughts behind those emotions, you are actually disconnected from yourself. Your self-awareness may resemble my level of understanding about my car’s engine. I know it works, because I can go places, but I can’t tell you why.
Are you ready to get acquainted with the real you and develop your self-awareness to connect to yourself? This is your lucky day, literally. Your brain is designed to make new neural connections, so your autobiography is rewritten by taking the time to make sense of the social, emotional, non-verbal and contextual information that flows into your mind every day. The following activities will give you a chance to connect with yourself, which leads to your ability to become more deeply connected with the friends in your life. If you don’t “get you”, the chances are that they’re going to have a tough time making sense of who you are. They may want to connect, but can’t get a read on you to offer you empathy and the supportive words and ability to be heard….so you can enjoy the “rich dessert” that true connections with friends offer.
1. Take the time to really take in the beauty of life. Savor the beauty of the fall on a sunny crisp day. Note your feelings and also how your body is responding. Do you feel light and relaxed? When you’re having a tough day, note the feelings and allow yourself to feel the pain. It’s okay. The emotional pain doesn’t last that long. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s your road to self-awareness. Reflect on your emotions and thoughts in a journal. If writing is not comfortable, then begin with a list, or better yet draw symbols to represent both the great, the good, the bad and the ugly.
2. Look at a picture from your childhood. There may be a label that says “First Day of School in 3rd Grade”. That’s simply language with no emotional data. Even if you don’t remember a thing about the day, notice your clothes, your lunch box; do those sensory images bring up any feelings and emotions. Our brain is full of implicit memories, which are based on our senses with no language attached. That’s why you may feel a burst of comfort, when you go home and take a drink out of one of your favorite mugs during your childhood.
3. Buy Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Begin writing morning pages about anything. I was so blocked that I actually devoted three pages to writing about my pedicure or my need for a pedicure. I won’t bore you with those details.
4. Read other books by Martha Beck, such as Finding Your Own North Star or Steering by Starlight. These books are written to help you find your right life, and that isn’t going to happen until you take the time to complete the tools and reflect on who you are.
5. Join an Improv Class. As you find yourself in a scene, you have to think quickly and this automatically opens up your right brain, as your creativity is unleashed.
6. Listen to songs that were popular when you were in high school. Music brings these non-language based right brain implicit memories to the surface. You begin to experience the emotions that the song triggers. Any song by “The Beach Boys” especially “California Girls” revs up my right hemisphere. I can be in the worst mood and the song itself pushes my “happy button”. Take the time to savor the feelings that a song brings up. By doing so you’re opening up your right brain and beginning to connect your authentic feelings to the language from memory lane.
When we take the time to make sense of our memories or develop our ability to feel, this may be painful at first, because thoughts can really sting hard. However, by going through the process of making sense of your experiences and sensations, you’re on the way to receiving the joy that comes with connection. Life coaches, like Martha Beck, are trained to help clients make sense of their thoughts and emotions, if you need help going through the process of meeting the real “you”.
You are so close to JOY by taking the time to re-connect with yourself, so I urge you to spend some time letting the sensations come to the surface. You are so worth it, and you and your friends will benefit by your connection with yourself. You have gifts and talents that will enrich the lives of others, so go for it and introduce “You” to “You”.