2021 has arrived. For many people the beginning of the year is a moment for setting good resolutions. Yet more often than not good resolutions last only short. Within ample weeks everything is back the way it was. Smoking, dieting, drinking less, spend less money… Changing habits is a challenge I often hear.
How come that so many resolutions are doomed to fail? I have a thought about it..
Do you ever slow down? Do you ever take a moment to really honestly feel your body, become aware of what is alive in you, moving through?
Our body knows all of our patterns in sensing, feeling, thinking and action. They all live through the body. Our muscles respond to emotions every little second, giving valuable information about our blind spots; our emotional and physical habits. The pre-thoughts and beliefs that are born out of sight, the little feelings that unconsciously influence our behaviour, a slight muscle contraction answering an emotion that that passed by.
Many of our habits are so old and so long with us that we don’t note them any more. They have become our normal. Some people need a big life changing event to become aware of them.. Some people step out of habits that keep them stuck seemingly effortless.
I think habits are about self care. Strategies that we developed to care about ourselves the best way we could think of when the pain was just too much. Whether it is smoking, eating too little or too much, spending money, drinking too much.. They are all mechanism that have to protect us against pain and unsafety. What else will you put in place when you stop them?
I smoked for twenty years to create a smoke-screen around that part in me that felt damaged and not wanted. Nobody was to meet that part, including me. And how much I wanted to quit the smoking, the fear to loose the hiding abilities of my smoke-screen was much bigger. Smoking was my way of caring for that part in me. And then one day I learnt about the need underneath the hiding. Once I was able to fulfill that need, quiting smoking became much easier..
For thirty years I struggled with an eating disorder. A part of me felt so not good enough and scared I developed a compulsive way of perfectionism.. The rigid tightness in my muscles hide the emotions that I did not want to feel as I controlled myself eating. Perfectionisme and rigid control helped me protecting me and were my way of self care after years of being bullied.
One day I discovered the Feldenkrais method of awareness through movement. In short the method uses movement as a way to help people tapping into their full potential, becoming aware of the habits that keep them stuck and learn how to undo these habits through different choice.
Through slowing down and moving small enough to not fire the habitual muscle-patterns I learnt about the pain and fear to fail and be unloved that was underneath the perfectionism. Gently I explored ways of moving that softened the tensionand invited my muscles to team up with each other and my bones and organs. Through the changing relationship between the members in my body, my muscles began to lower their high tone. And as more of myself was invited to move along with gentleness and ease, the ‘should, must and have to’ thought replaced themselves by ‘like to’, ‘want to’ , playfulness and joy. I moved from fighting myself to loving myself. The eating disorders gradually dissapeared as my fear to not be perfect dissapeared.
Such journeys bring up strong emotions. I learnt that even the most innocent habits come with painful hidden emotional habits underneath. I believe that succesfull change happens when we can be honest to ourselves about our real needs and how we go around them. So often our wishes and good resolutions are a cry for our deepest needs to be met. Yet are we patient enough to listen in and meet ourselves where we are?
I feel that many needs underneath our habits are about loving, accepting and welcoming all of yourself to be and restore our spontaneity and playfulness. About caring for ourselves by loving ourselves instead of wronging parts of ourselves. To stop fighting ourselves with how we should be, what we must do and have to archieve. I feel that self care really is about holding the space for ourselves to breath and be, to be attentive, compassionate listeners to ourselves. Many habits will just stop showing up when the needs that are underneath are met by us.
How do you care for yourself?