Our days are full of encounters that our nervous system ‘reads’ as perilous…even if our thinking minds do not see it that way. Replay your last trip into the supermarket for a moment. You put your mask on as you entered, and once inside you were surrounded by masked strangers. You might have instinctively sought eye contact with another — this is what our mammal nervous systems are wired for ~~ and been met with an averted glance. Your thinking mind will likely have made little of it. It ‘knows’ that you wouldn’t expect connection with a stranger at Walmart. For your mammal nervous system, however, a different experience is unfolding. It is looking for the safe connection that signals a safe moment and the OK to drop guard and calm. Instead, what it gets is a mask, averted gaze, and a clear message of no-safe-connection here. Doing its job, it signals the body to remain in the vigilance state, in readiness for the shoe to drop. Because this is an utterly commonplace and frequent experience, we have learned to accept ‘vigilance’ as normal. And to screen out the body’s distress messages.
To come back to calm, we must find and ‘undo’ in our nervous systems that isolation of no-safe-connection.
How to do that in an unsafe world? We must take on the work of creating safe connectedness as an experience for our systems.
Operationally, that suggests lots of choices, having one thing in common: frequent, intentional, befriending connection — with our own fears, with the big oak tree in the yard, with our pets, with the humans who help us be at ease.
We don’t change the scariness of the world, but together we can be brave. And that is a powerfully calming message of safety in our systems.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there. ~Rumi