This will probably be the first of many articles reflecting on the teachings of Dr. Pat Allen. I've been attending her workshops and seminars over the last couple of months, and as of this yesterday, I completed my fourth live workshop with her. I'm starting to feel comfortable with navigating the tools she offers, so I now feel I can begin to write about them. While there are so many topics to discuss, I'm fascinated by the effects cortisol has on our emotional well being. If you're familiar with cortisol, you may know of it as the "stress hormone" or what's responsible for your body storing belly fat. While we may not like what it does, it certainly serves its purpose. It's released by the body when we sense a perceived threat (ie. stress), so that the survival "fight or fight" instinct is fueled up, and ready to go. What this means is...we store fat (if the body has to go without food, it needs reserves), we produce adrenaline (strength/energy to fight or flee), and we stop digesting/conducting other bodily processes that require energy. We go into energy saving mode, so we can mobilize our stress response. This is super effective when we truly do need it, but if we're in this state all the time, or too often, it can drain the body, and wear us down.
These are 5 beliefs or mentalities that Dr. Pat Allen references (original reference: Taibi Kahler) that trigger cortisol in the body:
- Be perfect
- Try harder
- Hurry up
- Please others first
- Be strong
Typically, these are unspoken rules with which we're raised (if we even are), but sometimes they are also explicitly communicated.
To counteract these 5 beliefs, there are these 5 "allowers":
- Be excellent
- You're enough
- Work easy
- Please self first
- Be open
Being perfect is impossible (though that doesn't discourage some of us :P), though one can be excellent. Trying harder means there is always more to do. Knowing you're enough allows you to be. Hurry up suggests you're taking "too long." Work easy suggests that you're fully capable of what you're doing, and expected to do. Furthermore, I'd suggest that when you're in your Zone of Genius, you are producing excellent work with ease.
Pleasing others versus pleasing the self requires at least its own paragraph. It's not that we can't do both...what's more significant is what we prioritize the MAJORITY of the time. If we're always pleasing others first, there's an inevitable loss of self. If we're always pleasing ourselves first, there's an inevitable disconnect from others. We need both; however, a healthy individual makes decisions from a place of respect for themselves.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we arrive at: Be strong and be open. I'm an innate "be strong" poster child. It has served me in a majority of ways throughout my life, but it has also caused unwanted tension and a longstanding disconnection from feeling, expressing, and processing my feelings. Without that experience, I wouldn't be guiding others through their process of learning how to navigate their emotions, so for that and many other reasons, I am grateful. Nonetheless, one of the consequences has been the need to reduce the effects of cortisol on my body.
Being open requires that we be open to possibilities. There is a magic in the unknown once we realize that it can create space in our lives for things beyond what we ever imagined for ourselves. If you're like me, letting go of the idea of control can be absolutely terrifying, but accepting that which is beyond our control can eventually become liberating...as do the moments when cortisol isn't running the show. I like to often remind myself, "If I let go of this, I could create the space for something even better. Loss isn't the only outcome.
So, with that in mind...I invite you to reflect on this question, "What is running your show?"
What are you ready to let go of? What are you ready to have more of?
I'd love to hear your responses, so feel free to comment below and share where you're at.
To grace, love, and understanding --