Disengaging to Self-Protect


I experienced some really rough flights recently. The type that are so rough that they ask the flight attendants to stay seated for the entire flight. Turbulence is not my favorite thing. I find it quite unnerving and think of all sorts of scenarios that could possibly occur do to the abrupt and unpredictable movements of the plane. I feel very out of control. I have to really practice active anxiety management.

As I was sitting there on a seemingly never-ending flight being thrown around the skies, I was practicing my deep breathing and trying to maintain my energy to avoid that adrenaline release that happens when I feel anxious. Breathing, closing my eyes, and talking myself through it attempting to remain calm, I said to myself, “I feel afraid.” As I’ve learned previously, naming the emotion I am feeling and finding exactly where I feel it in my body, which is usually in around my stomach, takes some of the power out of it. I also recently learned about practicing self-compassion when feeling these types of emotions, and I continued to approach it with curiosity and talk myself through it playing with the words. I said to myself, “I am afraid and it’s okay. Turbulence makes me feel afraid. It’s okay to be here and feel afraid. I can be afraid, be myself and remain present.”

This made me open my eyes. It was an Aha moment. This was a huge and ultimately life-changing realization.

For the majority of my life, every time I have felt the slightest amount of fear or discomfort I have retreated to my head and removed myself mentally from the present moment as a way to self-protect. This means I have spent most of my life not existing in the present moment because I have lived with constant fear and anxiety. I have spent most of my life disengaged with the present. This was me automatically pushing my easy button as soon as I felt fear or discomfort, which has led me to spend much of my life hiding in my head.

Wow! This was astounding. I cannot believe I never understood how this impacted my life before. I can't believe I've lived my life with the belief that it's not okay to feel fear and the present moment wasn't safe when I felt it. No wonder I have felt so disconnected from reality and those around me. I'm never really there existing in the moment with them. I now see how this manifested into making me feel irrelevant in my life. I was constantly self-protecting and retreating from the present.

Now, I feel like I'm alive for the first time. I've really become present in life. I notice things around me: the colors, the sounds, how I feel, which is not filled with fear constantly, and I'm so grateful for noticing. When I take a moment of appreciation for the present moment without feeling fear or like I need to escape, I often find myself thinking, "I am a real boy!" just like Pinocchio. :-) This makes me laugh and smile but that's exactly how I feel. 

Continuing to remain curious and explore our reactions to our vulnerability and fear allows for realizations that ultimately create transformation. Discovering my automatic easy button, allows me to notice that I use it whenever I feel afraid or uncomfortable, and now something different can be done. I don't have to automatically push that button anymore. I don't have to always feel afraid. A step has been taken from the darkness and the light can be seen and felt instead of the fear and shame that used to cover up that light and create darkness. Existing in the present moment creates enhanced connection, gratitude for life, and fulfillment over fear.