What are your past and current models for what it means to be a woman in today’s day and age? Do the past and current models align or conflict? Do you own all the behaviours, thoughts, opinions and judgements you have of what it means to be a woman, or have they been passed down to you? Have you created your own inner representation in reaction to what has been modeled or out of empowered choice from all the possibilities available?
If our life experience permits, the above comic, taking about 10 seconds to read, can be fully assimilated and understood in almost the same amount of time. The reason: It visually articulates a common emotional experience of women in the first world political climate. We may in fact have had role models of strong, independent self-sufficient women on one end of the spectrum, models of dependent, reserved, and shy models on the other end, as well as all those models in between. Truth is, we have all observed various models, have witnessed benefits to and the appropriateness of all the aligned behaviours. Sometimes they conflict. It is here, in this conflict, that our neurology, the part of our brain that is responsible for sending and receiving messages, sometimes triggers the fight, flight or freeze response, interrupting or outright arresting our journey to our goals. Our survival instinct, in response to an actual or perceived threat, that is the perceived conflicting messages to action, is to do one of three things; run, fight or freeze. Either one may be effective in removing the threat, but may sabotage our commitment, our overall goal. I will explain.
MASLOW'S HEIRARCHY OF NEEDS
Above, you see the renowned pyramid of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs. If you notice, at the bottom of the triangle are our physiological needs, the foundation to all other needs. The understanding behind this model is that each sector of needs must be met in order to fully and effectively move to the next. If we do not have the basic needs of food, water or sleep (Physiology), taking on our long term savings and investments (Safety) might seem rather irrelevant. Further, if we cannot secure an income (Safety) to cover such things as food, shelter and clothing, developing confidence in our achievements (Esteem) might be something available to us in our future but not a current concern. So what does this all mean? We have needs!! In order for us to fully actualize, that is to reach our full potential in any given lifetime, we must meet our needs, one level at a time.
Taking for granted, at least in our sector of the world with current social welfare structures in place, let us assume that our basic physiological needs can be met. In my professional experience, the second and third stages of safety and love/belonging are still needs some struggle with. This doesn’t mean that higher needs are not being pursued, however, some say that they have been trying to meet those needs/goals for far longer than they wish to acknowledge, and feel stuck at that stage. So they come for therapy and/or coaching to get “unstuck”.
As reviewed in my September newsletter, safety and security needs are fundamental to the foundation for pursuits involving independence and self-sufficiency. As the comic above exemplifies, our current thinking is that we must be independent and self-sufficient, and that success in this pursuit involves denying ourselves the equally fundamental need to be “pampered”, or allowing others to help us, nurture us, and give to us, which creates healthy attachments, and meets the need for safety and security. So you see, being vulnerable enough to allow ourselves to be pampered by others, creates healthy attachments, which sends messages to our brain and body that we are safe and secure, and then we can independently and self-sufficiently pursue all our other needs for self esteem, confidence, problem solving, creativity and ultimately being “at the cause of” our lives, instead of “at the effect of” our lives. We actually get to create the very lives we dreamt about. How cool is that?
However, if we have competing messages, that is “its not safe to be dependent, to need, to be vulnerable, to let others help us” and “I can have peace of mind, financial security, a thriving career, a healthy relationship” (which require safe dependency, vulnerability in expressing our needs and having them met), then we stay stuck in the pursuit, instead of reaching our goals, reaching achievement. We become frustrated, angry, feeling disempowered, which erodes our self-esteem, our confidence, and our motivation. Can we really be creative under these circumstances?
The first step in unravelling this ‘seemingly’ complex state of affairs, is to begin with deconstructing or exploring the competing messages, limiting decisions and beliefs about ourselves and our intimate world, as well as understanding the motivation and purpose/benefits to staying “stuck’. As contradictory as this sounds, there are in fact benefits to staying stuck. When we understand the purpose of the part of our brain that actually works in our favor, the part that keeps us safe, then we understand its motivation. Subsequently, we find alternate ways to meet the safety need that then propel us towards our goals.
In summary, and simply put, the most powerful part of our brain is programmed to keep our bodies and our minds safe (otherwise we cannot exist). When we have messages, “responsibility is a scary thing, i can really screw up here”, that conflict with our goals “I want to be an independent, successful entrepreneur” or “I am afraid people won’t like me” with “I want to write a book so I can send my message out to the world”, and finally, as the comic up top illustrates, “I need someone to take care of me” with “People will judge me as needy, dependent and weak”, then we ourselves are in conflict, we retreat to safety, we stay stuck, we beat ourselves up for it, and ultimately, dreams stay dreams.
If you find yourself moving through the same revolving door, and would like to leave it behind; see yourself moving through the corridor, step by step, safely and excitedly toward your goals and dreams, I can provide you with the safe space to discuss what's getting in the way, the tools and exercises that will have you smiling your way through, and ultimately, reaching your goal.
My contact information is at the front and top of this newsletter. I would be more than happy to talk to you on the phone to discuss your questions and thoughts.
Testimonials from Lillian's Clients
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