I always thought of blogs as being narcissistic, business related, or as my sister's, a way of keeping in touch or memorializing.

But, by necessity, I am learning a lot about myself. I find I need to get my thoughts out, and it helps me to know that someone else will read them. So I have created this little space for myself, to express the things I have trouble saying (be it emotional or physical trouble), to share what I'm going through, and what I'm learning through it.

I absolutely welcome comments. It's nice to know how people relate to what I'm saying.
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Friday, 15 July 2011

Creating Space for Anxiety

I was introduced to the idea of "holding a space" for someone else when I first began my internal explorations, and I found that I was already doing it quite naturally. Those of us who people call good listeners do it without even knowing we're doing it half the time. Things got more interesting for me when I started to learn to hold a space for myself. Have you ever tried this? It's quite amazing. During the course I was taking at the time, we were asked to "stay with our feelings" no matter how uncomfortable. We learned to be, and to give ourselves the time that nobody else can give us. And the amazing thing was to actually feel my emotions and feeling moving and shifting around, and to realize that they are not static, unless we make them that way.

That experience, of holding a space for myself, has stayed with me, and has become a regular personal practice. Most of the time, going about my day, worrying about lessons and assessment techniques, and what to make for dinner, I would forget about it. Life just gets lived sometimes. But, each time I have sought emotional support from another, it is a practice to which I have returned. And it has been invaluable during my illness.

In Montessori, as in chaos theory, we describe it as observing the observer. David Bohm, physicist and philosopher, calls it suspending a reaction, and in his book about dialogue he talks about literally suspending a thought or a reaction - to see it hanging there in front of you so you can better assess it before you respond to whatever triggered it. Whatever you call it, however you describe it, it's a powerful thing. It has been a powerful a tool that I use in order to help myself be more open and gentle in relationships of all kinds. Between friends, family, students... doesn't matter. In education, it's a tool to allow a clearer vision of the child.

In sickness, I have found it to be a wonderful tool for maintaining my sanity. I've written in several places on this blog about how my nervous system is out of whack. The way it works right now, any trigger will push me into a sympathetic response. It doesn't have to be a real threat to get me going. I live in a pretty much constant state of fight/flight response. My body is always tense, ready to go. Hand-in-hand with this comes a pretty much also constant state of anxiety. Makes sense. The anxiety and irritability are the emotional counterparts to the sympathetic nervous system.

In health I had learned, through experiences I'd rather not, but do, recall, that when there is anxiety in my life, it means that there is tension or danger that I'm not dealing with. It means that I am either caught in a destructive pattern of behaviour, or that there is really some kind of actual danger, be it emotional, physical, social, or even financial. Whenever anxiety popped up, it was a signal to look around in that moment, or in my life in general for something I wasn't really seeing clearly.

Now, I find, it's a completely different experience, and it has taken me these 6 months of so to change my response to anxiety. I am learning to suspend it. To create a space - breathing room - between me and the anxiety, so I can see if there is really something to be anxious about, or if it is simply an overreaction by a dysfunctional nervous system. When I can do that - when I can make that space for myself, then I find quite often that the anxiety lessens or at least, by acknowledging it (and I often do it out loud, whether I'm alone or not) that I can create a bigger space for me to assess what my body needs at that moment.

It takes me a bit longer to recognize what is happening, and another little bit longer than it used to do disengage. But when I can do it, it's amazing. There are opportunities I would have missed, like going out to the park right now to see my son and my sister's children. When the phone rang a second ago, I was annoyed. Really annoyed that it was interrupting my train of thought, and that somebody wanted my attention. But realizing that this is an unfair response, I created that distance, and saw very clearly that yes, I do want to be in the park with the children, that yes, I can handle it, energy-wise, and that yes, my mother did call with love and affection, not to interrupt me and get my attention, but to offer me this experience.

And to think, the thing that set off such a negative reaction actually provided an excellent example of what I'm trying to say here in this post. Please, understand then, that when you call me, I may sound bothered. Sometimes, I may not pick up the phone, but will call you back once I've got things settled in my head (if that's why I didn't pick up...). Whatever I say, however I react, don't take it personally, because I really do love it when you call, and when you want to do stuff. It's just that I have to have that moment - that space - in order to really know what my real reaction is.

And with that, off I go to the park! Have a happy weekend!


  1. For me,life can hold no higher adventure than to see man learn to control his own nature as he now controls the atoms.
    ~~~Walter B. Pitkin~~~

    Andu, you are still such a teacher, Wether you are in a classroom or not.
    I am learning from you, thank you for opening your most private and fragile experiences to me.In life we should never stop reaching for further truth inside ourselves.

  2. Thank-you, Cu. I love you.