New Year, New Goals
I am not keen on making resolutions. Not annual ones and not seasonal ones. And, my husband often says that I am one of the most disciplined people he knows. That used to feel like a familiar and welcomed description. The last year really kicked my butt. Any sense of rigor, regiment, or plan was tossed out the window in early February. That tracks with what most gyms will tell their regulars: “Come back on Feb 15, all the wannabe’s will have quit.” That was me, though not in the gym. Last year was filled with invited and uninvited guests to my hearth: health crises, the addition of a new puppy, the grief and loss of a sibling, more health concerns for family and friends, general aging of self and others, the ongoing trauma of war and the ruptures caused by disagreement and differences.
Aspire and Dream
Rather than resolutions, I am generally inclined toward aspirations. This year I have an idea about doing one thing at a time. As I write this I have to laugh at myself, typing while also playing a movie in the background. I am inviting myself to welcome the slowing down that the last year demanded. I am longing to be truly present with who and what I am doing at any given moment. And to also send and seek indicators of warmth, engagement, and connection. This is the year of my ANS (autonomic nervous system.)
Speak to yourself with your inner parenting voice
This year, I practice regulation as if my life depends on it, because it does. When I strengthen my neural pathway towards with compassion, I stand with my feet firmly grounded. I welcome whatever my ANS has to bring.
- Ah you have arrived, sadness. What brings you here now? What job do you have to do that I might greet with curiosity?
- I see you, my sorrow and fear. You are caught between my eyes and in my throat. I carry you with me in my shoulders and my neck. You are the subtle fragile balance of my back weak and unsupported and my abdominals showing up to support my pain. Hello, I welcome you with warmth and stretching. I breathe. I exhale. I expand.
- Hello to you my sweet delight. Thank you for arriving to sit with my wounded and trampled parts. You remind me to smile and look for the light in the eyes of others, friends and strangers. When my nervous system holds the both/and of connection and survival, there is hope.
Pick the one you want to grow
We cannot pursue connection and safety while at the same time, we reach for survival and defense tools. Our natural default is to protect and defend. My favorite way to protect and defend is to make a plan, never divert, advance, advance, advance! If I have a plan I can control all of the unknown, unpredictable, unwanted intruders to my life. Right? Control is my tool and denial is my superpower. What’s yours?
Making a plan has value, it is something I adapted as a child to give myself a felt sense of control. One thing I can do differently, is wear my “plan” loosely and check in regularly to see if it is actually moving me towards my aspiration or not. It is hard for me to just stop it. When I replace an old, nolonger-useful, adaptive behavior with a new, kinder and more loving one, I might pick up new tools.
Dream a little dream
Instead of resolutions, try dreaming this year. How do you hope to be? What do you long for? Make a list of the ways you aspire to be wholly YOU. What does your most authentic self desire? And, if you were able to experience these things then, what would change?
No Ventral, No Change
Change is the gift of the prefrontal cortex, specifically the Left Prefrontal Cortex (LPC). Without engagement, strategy, language, and a felt sense of ease, there is no change; no healing, no growth. Blending safety and connection with our reactive or shut down parts in a both/and manner, opens us to the possibility of change.
Context, Choice, Connection
Aspirational indicators include: possibility, curiosity, turning towards others, grounding, understanding what is here and now versus what is familiar but old. When these indicators are on board, your LPC is accessible and firing as needed. Our autonomic nervous systems crave context: what is happening to me, in the world, and between us. This leads to the narrative that we carry with us. ANS also thrives when there are choices. An ANS that has a felt sense of safety turns towards others and the world, even when there is a threat of danger.
The narrative we write from safety is one of connection, hope, and aliveness. What do you aspire to this year? How will you befriend this amazing autonomic nervous system that is working for you without you ever lifting a finger? You will get better at whatever you practice. Practice seeking warmth and welcome. Beam out your message of delight, appreciation, and engagement.
93% of social messaging occurs unspoken. It is in the language and nuance of your face, your tone, your body language. Safety and connection is so much more about HOW you say things, than WHAT you say. Be the beacon of compassion you long to see. Stretch the muscles of your autonomic nervous system to strengthen connection; soften survival. Be gentle with yourself when you notice those old familiar behaviors showing up, uninvited. Greet with curiosity, turn towards others, make eye contact, lean in, wonder why. Hmmm.
As for me, I dream. And while life continues arriving with the full range of ups and downs, I aspire. I savor moments when curiosity meets my anger, frustration, irritability, objections, and sadness. I am willing to wonder and learn new things about why I am me the way I am. I offer compassion to my amazing and brilliant survival tools. I look for new ways to replace them, or thank them. I let control and distancing arrive and stay as long as they feel needed. I speak to them with warmth. I turn towards: myself, the world and other people. I seek and offer connection.