“Before you heal someone, ask him if he’s willing to give up what made him sick.”
Holiday challenges and New Year’s resolutions
Given that most of us are now officially in one iteration or another of “the holiday season,” I thought it might be a good Idea to talk a little bit about the challenge of habit changes.
I’m always a tad taken aback when I talk with younger people and they have no idea who Linus VanPelt is. I grew up reading the Peanuts comic strips and watching the television specials back in the day when you had to catch them when they came on once a year. I was so relieved that by the time my daughter was little, we could access them at any time via video. I’m glad she got to know them all, (and those phenomenal Vince Guaraldi soundtracks!!!!) and could take them in at any time.
Linus is one of the Peanuts’ gang. He is little brother to Lucy, faithful friend to Charlie Brown and Innocent prophet par excellence. When all else elicits a “Good Grief!” from Charlie Brown, Linus will quietly slip in and offer some statement that quickly puts all things in perspective, usually with a Zen-like simplicity and elegance that resounds more in its silences than in its words. Linus makes it all ok.
Never rip away Linus’ blanket
What keeps Linus so grounded? For those of you who have not been nurtured by the Prophet Linus, let me explain. The Peanuts gang are all elementary aged children. Linus carries a blue blanket with him at all times. He typically sucks his thumb. At times he uses his blanket as a fierce weapon. At other times, it is pure comfort. As he begins to age and try on more adulty identities, it becomes at times a turban and even “a nice sport coat.” Linus’ blanket is the quintessential coping technique. (His thumb sucking, BTW, is “Baby Breathing” at its best.)
We watch Linus go through severe angst when his mother takes it away temporarily to wash it. He rocks himself in the laundry room as he watches is spin in the washer, eyes wide as if he is withdrawing from heroin until it comes back to him, warm and fluffy from the dryer. He is restored to peace.
Linus lacks coping options.
The brain between your ears is not enough
As mentioned in previous blogs, human beings have three brains. (Click here for more information.) We often get tripped up because we think that something that is linearly logical, (meaning, it comes from the limited and somewhat slow brain between our ears,) we should be able to do it. For example, we tell ourselves that we really want to be healthier and workout regularly. And yet, when we set out to change our habits, we find ourselves doing everything but working out in the time we eked out for it.
We think, “I must not have really wanted it.” But you did! The problem is that it isn’t the only thing you wanted.
If you had culled the rest of the data from your heart brain and your gut brain, you might have also heard messages that said things like this: I’m afraid I’ll fail at it. I don’t like pain! I love chocolate a whole lot more than running. I’m afraid to look better because it makes me feel more vulnerable. If I get healthier and my partner doesn’t, I might lose them or lose interest in them. This bed feels ssssoooo good! I’m tired of struggling all the time. I’ve tried this a thousand times and it never works. And oh my Gawd, did I mention how good this bed feels???”
The traffic jam within
The web-like, experience-connected gut and heart brains work much faster than the linear mind, so those messages don’t come at us all tidied up and clear. It’s more like a traffic jam of sensations. On a good day, we might “hear” it more like this:
We stay in bed, often feeling defeated, ashamed, and never knowing that we might well have changed our lives for the good that morning.
Hippocrates meets Linus
I’m going to give Hippocrates a pass. His culture was somewhat limited in scope. They had adopted much helpful knowledge from Kemet, (pre-Egyptian Egypt – thought to be the oldest civilization,) but they lacked much. One deficit that’s glaringly obvious in the quote above, is that Hippocrates clearly didn’t know anything about Linus’ blanket or MBraining.
Linus’ blanket is there for a reason, and it’s a really good one. Linus needs something outside of himself in order to feel safe in the world. I’m quite sure that at times, it presented a health risk. He took it everywhere with him. I’m sure it picked up a great deal of bacteria in between washings, and he usually kept it right next to his face while putting his blanket-bacteria buddy thumb right in his mouth. The slow, linear logic mind would say, “I need to give this thing up. I’m making myself sick. I’m probably also not going to get that cute kid over there’s attention if I’m still walking around with a wooby and my thumb in my mouth.”
If it were that simple, he would have done it.
Taking Linus’ blanket away without listening to the data from his heart brain and gut brains was traumatizing. Based on his reaction in the laundry room, it’s pretty clear that his other brains were telling him he needed a sense of safety, some comfort, and a sense that he had internal resources that could do for him what his blanket did.
If Linus had other resources to calm his body like thumb-sucking does, and something else that signaled to his body that he was still safe and free to explore his identity in the world without his blanket, he could have “traded up” for some coping strategies that didn’t threaten his health or social cache.
Where do we find the highest per capita consumption of caffeine, sugar and nicotine in the US? Very likely, at 12-Step meetings. Why? Because coffee and cigarettes are definitely not as bad for us as copious amounts of alcohol and cocaine. That’s trading up.
Hopefully, at some point when one has traded in more damaging coping means for less costly strategies, one can ultimately find ways of coping that courageously considers the needs expressed by all three brains. We deserve excellent, healthy self-care. Sometimes we have to take the long road to get there.
What you want/What you don’t want
When we learn to listen to the data that’s coming from all three brains and consider it all in one place, we have the ability to grow, instead of just changing. When we grow, we become more ourselves, more centered, more secure, and more able to give to others from a place of strength.
When me make decisions based on what we can get away with, (well, just ONE drink… The world won’t come to an end if I eat these cookies…) we not only get poor results, we miss out on the opportunity to get our deeper needs met. We quiet the screaming voice in the moment, only to find ourselves farther behind on our goals, feeling worse about who we are, and often with more negative fallout in our bodies, our finances and our relationships than we would like. Worse, we start to believe the lie that we are just not good enough.
When we instead make decisions based on what we do and don’t want in our lives, we not only make healthy changes, but we also become more resilient, more confident and more whole. It takes more work. It requires us to listen to ourselves and act out of a level on intentionality.
We are aren’t made for” Island Life”
It also, nearly always, requires that we reach outside of the loop of our own thinking to get support from others. >AHEM< That is not a bad thing! When we reach out to others for help, and also reach out to others with the help that we have to offer, we are all healthier. We create community. We make something better for everyone moving forward.
Look at that? By having needs and working towards changes that create your better life, you help everyone else too!
Dream a dream and make a plan
What do you want to see improve in your life? What is your body telling you about the not-so-obvious pieces of that change that also need care and attention? Who can help you figure that out and put some sustainable changes in place? Now is the time! Let’s leave the chaos crazy show that was 2020 behind and build a better future at every level!
If I can be helpful in any way as you build your new life, contact me here!