What state are you in right now?
Are you feeling tired yet hopeful? Vulnerable but passionate? Do you have to pee or are you hungry? Are you anxious about the future or regretting the past? Maybe you are bored or worried.
We are always shifting through different states.
When you ask someone “How are you doing?” you are ultimately asking them “What is your state?”
Most people respond with a vague culturally accepted response of “good, fine, or ok.” Many people dodge the real question altogether by responding with things going on in their life (stuff) or about the weather (external).
However, a more internal response might be, “I am feeling passionate about work right now, but I also feel worry that feels like nausea in my stomach about my sick grandma.” If you can sense your internal state you are also able to start to observe, accept, and when needed, shift your state.
I am not proposing that we always need to respond with a long soliloquy of internal observations about our emotional or physical states. This would make checking out at the grocery store a long and vulnerable process. Plus, when someone asks “How are you?” they are not generally wanting an honest assessment of your true state. I am just highlighting how most of us go around through life disconnected from how we actually feel on the inside.
As small children we were much more aware of our state (crying when needing something, throwing toys when angry), but we were not able to verbalize it. As we got older, if we had adults in our lives who were able to recognize our body language and behavior, they would have said, “Something seems wrong, are you feeling sad or scared right now?”
We would have then been able to put words to our state and start to build our internal directory of feelings and sensations. Since very few of us had this type of emotionally tuned-in parenting, even as adults we find ourselves underdeveloped and so we employ the same tactics we used as kids when we find ourselves in a difficult state.
Uncovering our state as adults can be difficult since most of us have learned to deny our internal feelings, and numb, cope or distract ourselves from how we really feel. Most of us do this in order to fit in, not cause a fuss, and find social acceptance in our families and world. This unfortunately disconnects us from our body, heart, and our most authentic self.
Here are some common (and less helpful) ways we cope with our ever changing states that reflect tactics we learned in our houses growing up.
In an attempt to get the adults in our lives to notice our uncomfortable state we may pout (passive), or demand attention by throwing tantrums (aggressive), or stubbornly refuse to engage (passive aggressive). These are all ways to get the people in our lives to notice that we are not doing well. This is the way that children act when they need someone to help them with their state. Our decision of what techniques to employ are based somewhat on nature (how we showed up on this earth) and nurture (what worked best in our house.) These techniques might have worked in childhood, but they generally don’t serve us well as adults. If you open your eyes and observe, you will be able to notice your own pouting, protesting, or stubborn inner child. You will find full grown adults all around you doing the same when they aren’t getting their way or they feel bad. While you may get people all around you to cater to this behavior, it is generally a technique that doesn’t feel great and is only mildly effective for full grown adults to employ.
If we stay busy enough we can go through life without having to feel too much. We can work a lot or take care of other people’s needs. We can stay so busy with our kid’s activities that we can mostly ignore our state. We can keep a carrot right in front of our nose and think things like I will slow down and rest as soon as….., but the carrot keeps moving and we keep distracting ourselves from the state of exhaustion, resentment, or fear that is no longer just a state, but has become a way of being in the world.
I once asked someone what she did with her anger and she answered, “I eat bread.” She found if she ate enough bread it helped to push the feelings down in her body so she didn’t have to acknowledge the anger which seemed scary and inconvenient. Some people drink or eat chocolate. Others smoke, watch TV, have sex, exercise, sleep or listen to music. It is normal to want to shift the states that are uncomfortable. However, the question is, are you aware of the state that you’re in and what you are relying on to shift it?
Becoming aware of the state you’re in and how you go about trying to shift it is key to moving out of childhood patterns and into your adult self. In Becoming An Adult – Part 2 we’ll explore healthy and balanced ways for you to shift your state so that you can truly live from your deep self.
Author: Micah McLaughlin is a naturopathic practitioner specializing in the integration of the body and mind. In 2008, he founded Continuum Healing, a holistic health clinic located in Grand Rapids, MI. Micah is passionate about walking alongside men as they work out purpose, power, love and vulnerability in their lives. He is also a co-founder of the Wellness Collective Grand Rapids.