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The elephant in the room (or why talking doesn't work)

I tell you you're awesome and you don't believe me.

I tell you you're awesome - one thousand times.

Your friend tells you you're awesome - one thousand times.

And even your respected and esteemed colleague tells you you're awesome - yes, one thousand times.

We don't just tell you this, we tell you this in various creative ways, sometimes naming specific things that are awesome, sometimes we are vague. We follow all the self-help tips and communication philosophies found in one thousand blogs.

You still feel like a fraud and a fool.

You KNOW you're succeeding/loved/included, but you still FEEL bad, and if you're honest, nothing anybody says has had the power to change it.

(You've even done a real good Oprah-Freudian analysis of it. You can trace it back to grade school and gender-expectations. You've been to THERAPY.)

You still feel the BAD feeling.

Talking, analyzing, and thinking hard about something, in the same way, over and over again, doesn't make you feel different.

Or, as my dear friend says, trying to figure out the garbage dump of nonsense with the garbage dump of nonsense doesn't work.

And yet we still, like lambs, with our big frickin brains, keep doing it...baaa ing and baaa ing away.

Trying to get to the magical place of no bad habits, no cyclical problems, no stuck-ness, no irrational fears, no indescribable feelings...

If talking worked it would have worked by now...

It doesn't.

We're riding a beast. That beast is our nervous system, our body brain. It's an elephant. It is in control.

The elephant runs the show and it FEEEEELS BIIIIIIIG THINGS. It's programmed before 18 months of age (or at least before 6 years of age). It has BIG FEELINGS based on OLD CIRCUMSTANCES.

The part that talks and thinks things through and has a VERY GOOD (and useless) PLAN is the elephant rider, the frontal cortex in the brain.

The weird thing is that most often WE DON'T EVEN REALIZE WE'RE RIDING AN ELEPHANT. It's just "the way things are," or our "normal."

We must acknowledge that we are riding the elephant.

The elephant:

  • is what acts like a child when you get into a confrontation.

  • is the part of you that chooses the "wrong" person to date every time.

  • is what draws us into a really good performance.

  • is the part of us that can't move forward on a decision because of irrational fear.

  • is the one that draws you into the same kind of relationship with your boss that you have with your mother.

  • is the one that drinks when you've told it to stop.

  • is the one that feels grounded and secure when around a certain person.

  • is what makes you doubt someone with fancy words and completely trust someone who who doesn't sound as fancy.

  • is the part of you that behaves in ways that turns off coworkers or intimidates others without even realizing what it's doing and often without speaking.

  • is the part of you that is desperately seeking approval from everybody.

  • is the one that feels busy and freaks out even though you always get everything done.

  • gets irrationally scared or has big charged emotions whose scope doesn't always make sense in light of the current situation.

  • is often 5 years old.

The elephant is made of sensations and drives. The elephant rider talks, thinks, and has logical & clever ideas.

We must stop thinking + talking and start befriending the elephant.

This changes the brain.

  1. Notice things like clenched fists, hard eyes, tight chest, twitchy body parts, lightness, warmth, easy laughter, nauseous stomach, clear voice, knot in throat, sparkly eyes, heavy chest, unsteady breath - get curious and lay off the judgement.

  2. Recognize that the elephant is feeling things, all the time. As you talk about a problem, your body is feeling the problem. Notice the sensations in your body as you talk about a problem. Bringing awareness to it will start to change the relationship you have with it and often soothe the sensations.

  3. When the elephant rider is looping with thoughts, slow down and bring your awareness to your body, what's happening in your chest, your stomach, your throat, your head. A looping brain is often a sign that a lot is going on in your body - the elephant

  4. When you notice a sensation in the elephant stay with it a moment, lean into it, describe it, pay attention...notice how it might shift as you pay attention.

  5. If you notice the sensation is quite large, larger than you can handle alone, seek help from a somatic based therapist.

  6. Use the acronym R.A.I.N.- Recognize, Allow, Investigate (physically), Nourish. has wonderful information and meditations regarding how to do this. Try this one:

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