I was sitting in the dentist chair the other day, hands gripping the arms, my body tight all over. I was telling myself to breathe, to relaxâ€¦anything to ease the tension in my body. It would work for a minute after I had the thought and then I would steel myself against the anticipation of pain. Which, by the way, never came!
I thought a lot about this as I left the office that day and tried to understand this experience. I remembered that many years ago a dentist touched a tooth that must have had a nerve exposed and I felt a sudden and intense jolting pain that almost catapulted me out of the chair! The pain only lasted a second and I have been to the dentist hundreds of times after that without that ever happening again. Yet, here I was, still reacting to that past experience.
A friend of mine explained how this painful experience, like many other things where we experience pain or fright, is actually physiological. As humans, we are wired to remember those times and, I suppose for innate survival, we recall those experiences when we are in the same situation. This can be like my dentist experience.
What about other behaviors like hate, or prejudice or judgement or even self-loathing? Do they have the same physiological foundation? No! We are not wired to hate others because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. We are not wired to think we are better than others because we have more money, or are smarter or prettier. And we are definitely NOT wired to believe we are bad, or not enough, or not lovable, or worthless! All of these behaviors are learned.
It is not always easy to retrain ourselves, to change these learned behaviors. But we do have the power and the ability to transform our feelings of hate and prejudice to love; to appreciate others for who they are and where they are in their own lifeâ€™s journey; to learn to love ourselves in spite of that inner critical voice.
In The Freedom Zone book, we suggest these practices:
- Awareness â€“ step back and observe what you are feeling.
- Detachment â€“ separate facts from fears.
- Choice â€“ select a new empowering attitude such as courage, adventure, excitement and witness a shift in your thinking.
Try it! Your sense of peace and joy and love â€“ Freedom â€“ will be worth it!