More contrived nonsense ;)

Last fortnight when I sent out my very first email, I shared that I would be writing from the heart, not overthinking or planning my emails and that I would be writing without selling anything as I’m not currently in business. I had incredible feedback, thank you. The excitement I felt by conversing with so many of you reminded me of my early days on Instagram. It felt meaningful. If you missed the email, you might still find it in your inbox; the subject line was ‘Hello at last’.

Among the dozens of replies, one said, ‘Please go away. What a load of contrived nonsense. The person who sent it may still be on the list. Hello friend.

What a load of contrived nonsense.

One piece of negative feedback can outweigh 100 pieces of positive feedback. It’s simply how our brains are wired; they call it the negativity bias. As a mammal, I am hard-wired to fit in. From an evolutionary standpoint, standing out can mean rejection and death. So that simple message has sat with me over the past fortnight. And amazingly, I’ve gleaned something powerful from it. 

Before I share, I have a short side story. (I seem to have short side stories often, haha) Late last year, I read a book called ‘Stolen Focus’. It was a compelling read; if you’ve been following my Instagram stories, you’ll know more about why. The author pointed out that our collective attention span has gotten so bad that few of us can read anymore or at least start and finish a book. That resonated with me deeply as I had always been an avid reader, and it had been a long time since my attention span ran to anything more challenging than a Victorian romance novel. And there are only so many dashing dukes I can stomach.

My Instagram Story ‘iPhone Addiction’ shares more.

After reading Stolen Focus, I made drastic changes in my life, including the decision to give up my iPhone, and found myself reading again. Really reading! I finally started mining the gold in my impressively stocked home library. (I must have believed I would learn by osmosis before then, as I have at least 100 unread personal development books). The way that I choose what to read next is unorthodox. I stand before the bookshelf, allowing my intuition to point me to the right book. Last week I simultaneously finished ‘The Power of Now’ and ‘The Awakened Woman’ (I do occasionally have two books on the go at once) and found myself fixated on ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Wishing I could absorb all of this by osmosis.

The interesting thing about this book is that I picked it up many years ago, before I started in personal development, and hated it! I got a few chapters in and thought it was a load of woo-woo shit. This time around, I had the opposite reaction. I loved it! In one day, I demolished the entire book and felt inspired to create. She speaks of all creative arts in such a way that I felt fearless after finishing. If I want to write, shoot, create or do whatever I please, I damn well will. 

But the book had one chapter that had me cringing HARD. The author spoke of creators who say they want to create to help others. Now I’m paraphrasing here, and obviously, my interpretation of her words was clouded by my worldview. But, my takeaway was that creating to help others is condescending and reeks of martyrdom. She challenged the reader to consider how much weight a creator would put into their creations if they were doing it for others. How heavy a burden that could become. I combed through the words of my last email, considered how I had been thinking about my blog and email list, and immediately recognised that I was guilty. Contrived nonsense, indeed.

Big Magic was calling to me.

The truth is I’m not writing to help others. I’m writing to help myself. I’m writing because I feel like I have no choice. Pressure is building up inside of me that is screaming for release. I am writing to be seen. I am writing to overcome my long-held belief about having nothing of value to say. I am burning to write. If something I write helps you, I will consider myself fortunate and keep writing. And if my writing moves someone to call it ‘contrived nonsense’, I will explore my motives and keep writing. I am on this journey, and I intend to stay on it. 

So with that lengthy introduction out of the way, I’d love to share an interesting realisation I had this week. 

In my last email and the blog post I published on the 17th of May, I spoke of wanting to do things differently. I have an idea of doing business that feels slower, more joyful and entirely aligned. I am not enrolled in the idea that I can’t have it all. I want a business, to do good work, to have time with my family and freedom, and to be filthy rich too. I want all of that to feel balanced and in flow. But lately, a surprising thing has happened to me, and I finally joined the dots enough to articulate it to you. 

I’ve been feeling anxious and overwhelmed. 

I have quit my business. I stripped away most of my relationships. I have all but given up social media, GIVEN UP MY IPHONE, moved back to my mum’s house and surrounded myself with systems, support and tools to allow me to live a stress-free existence. I’m not even solo parenting. My husband is all hands on deck and working just two days a week from home like I do. And yet, I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

I have so much help at home; this is Pop with my son William.

I’ve sometimes given in to the feelings and allowed myself to wallow in them. But for the most part, I’ve been merely curious. I practice saying in my head, ‘Hrmm, how curious. How is it possible that I feel anxious? I have nothing to do and nowhere to be and all the help in the world.’ I’ve even answered “so busy” when asked how I’ve been. A default? I’m not busy at all. I am literally the least busy I’ve ever been, yet I feel the same. Anxious and overwhelmed.

The least busy I’ve ever been.

When I feel anxious and overwhelmed, I wonder how I’ll manage another business. My mind is boggling that I am doing SO LITTLE, yet I feel so close to capacity. But it all fell into place for me during a coaching session yesterday (a friend and I have a fantastic value trade where we trade my coaching skills for her Pilates skills). These feelings are simply another layer of my unconscious patterning. 

I will write more about emotions and feelings; there is much to explore. But on a top level, imagine that emotions are energy. The energy of emotions is everywhere, and we are all visited by it. Happy, sad, angry, anxious, overwhelmed and all the nuances. When emotion calls, we feel it in our bodies. Usually, there is an important message within. The feeling of the emotion in our body can move us to act. Imagine being visited by the emotion of anger. Anger floods our bodies, conveying the message that we are in danger and stirring us to defend ourselves against a threat. 

Emotions are simple. Toddler simple. I literally have a dictionary of emotions for Makia (my three-year-old daughter) that teaches me so much about my emotions and how to feel and diffuse them. Emotions are not the problem. The problem is that when an emotion visits, we begin to have feelings about that emotion. And if you grew up in a household where you weren’t taught that all emotions are safe and given healthy practices to work through emotions, then you might be in the same boat as me.

If I can explain it to my three-year-old, I can grasp it myself.

Due to my upbringing, which was unsurprisingly quite anxious and overwhelming, I have extreme feelings about my emotions. And those feelings keep me either stuck in an emotion (like anxiety or overwhelm) or have me avoiding them entirely (like sadness or anger). These defaults dramatically impact my life, such as feeling anxious and overwhelmed during this period of absolute calm.  Even more severe than that, avoiding anger and sadness keeps those emotions stored in my body. They often spring out and surprise me whenever I’m triggered. Emotions can also store as pain and sickness in the physical body, as I’ve learned the hard way. (Another story for another day.) 

As difficult as it is to reconcile, I am choosing this. The part of my brain that feeds on certainty LOVES that I feel this way. Feeling this way keeps me stuck, keeping me safe and alive. (Again, fuck you, outdated brain). But with the spotlight of awareness on my emotional experience, I can work on breaking it down. How will I do that? With curiosity, kindness and empathy for myself. And by choosing differently. 

I have a simple practice that I use. I intend to use it more regularly after this week’s realisation. It might interest you. 

  1. When an emotion comes into my body, I turn my full attention to it. I laser-focus on exactly where I feel it. 
  2. I acknowledge it and name it. “Hello, anxiety”. Or, if I don’t have a name for the emotion, I might say, “Hello, heavy pain in my heart”. I also keep a feelings wheel on my wall to consult. 
  3. I ask it what it wants. “What are you trying to do for me”. 
  4. I listen. (This takes practice) 
  5. I honour what I hear (emotions often require some action), breathe deeply into the feeling and allow it to pass.

The Feeling Wheel is a great resource; find it at The Gottman Institute.

This practice comes partly from a wonderful coach called Sand Mew, partly from my last psychologist and partly from a set of resources for toddlers produced by Wildling books. 

I don’t choose to feel anxious and overwhelmed beyond those few minutes of being visited by the emotion, acknowledging and diffusing it and honouring its message. That is my practice. And when I feel ‘busy’ for no reason, I will recognise that my mind is busy and not me, and I will work to quieten it. And throughout this work, I will remain curious and compassionate. The little girl who learned that it’s not safe to feel things will slowly come to see that her emotions are here to guide her, not hurt her.

I wish that this Lauren knew how safe she was.

And on that note, I will thank you again for reading my contrived nonsense, and I’d love your thoughts and feedback. Hit reply if you have anything to share. 

Love Lauren

P.S. If you feel anxious or overwhelmed and understand that you will feel that way no matter how little or how much you do, would you live your life differently?

Would you start that business? Do that passion project? 

How do you feel knowing that working on your emotional patterns can give you peace no matter how little or how much you do? 

Our feelings stay the same until we do the work to change them. I find it so powerful to know that I can have it all as long as I give myself the space to process my human experience as I journey through life.

** Originally shared to my email database on the 7th of June, 2023 **

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Posted to Personal on 5th July 2023