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“I wish you were better at this.”

That was the feedback I heard, in the most loving way possible, while guiding someone through a new-to-me somatic/emotional technique on a support exchange call.

I was showing up tentatively. Trying not to make a mistake. Holding space, not sure where I should interject or how.

But when I heard his words, something shifted. Excitement flooded my system as I felt myself rising to the challenge. Those words were not a condemnation, but an invitation. An invitation to play bigger.

Free from the uncertainty of trying to do it right, I leaned on what I do best. I listened. Not for a problem that needed solving, or even a way I could help, but for my intuition to guide the way.

As I listened, thoughts would arise. If my whole system lit up I’d share the thought. If it didn’t, I’d hold space and listen more.

The result was a night and day difference. Instead of feeling stuck, we found all sorts of clarity. And I went from not knowing what I was doing, to giving him an inspired homework opportunity by the end of the call:

Feel what it’s like to be fully met, and listen for what emotions get in the way of you having that.

Him: “Where’d you hear that one from?”
Me: “I intuited it for you just now.”

Instead of trying to guide him through something I’ve never done before, I followed the guidance that’s been available to me all along and remembered that the magic is within me. But if he had been polite and never challenged me, I would have had some felt sense of not showing up fully and would have left unsure of what I did wrong.

Challenge destroys edifices built on faulty foundation, like an earthquake that topples any structure not built to withstand its force. With enough earthquakes, the whole city will be built on solid foundation, because everything else would’ve crumbled by now.

I want to seek out more challenge. I want to let all my false premises falter. I want to stop trying to do things right, and start discovering how to do them my way.

Want to help?

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Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another.

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

At the beginning of my Support Challenge, every time I asked for help I would get a vulnerability hangover. The first few days were spent in almost non-stop anxiety, because I had so many uncomfortable feelers out there, all of which could have come back rejected.

All of that anxiety was a problem, but it’s a better to be anxious about being rejected than it is to be anxious about wondering if I’d ever live up to my potential.

Before I would numb to avoid looking at all the ways I procrastinating or failing to live up to my full potential. Now I numb from being more vulnerable than I can comfortably sit with in the aftermath. I could look at that and say, “I’m still doing the same damn numbing despite all this effort!” But the progress I’ve made is equivalent to the difference between an addict recreationally using painkillers to get through my everyday life, and someone using them prescriptively to recover from surgery.

If I’m not careful, it’s easy to lose perspective. It’s easy to get discouraged by the ways in which all these problems keep cropping up despite my efforts. When in truth, these qualitatively better problems cropping up BECAUSE of my efforts.

And the fact that I’m writing about all the things that I’m learning now that I’m getting plenty of support, instead of writing about asking for support itself, isn’t a sign that I’m straying from the challenge. It’s a sign that what’s challenging for me has evolved. And I’m following that evolution.

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I recently had an epic communication meltdown. Two people, pouring tons of hours working toward a goal we each thought the other wanted. In my post mortem, I realized I had two shortcomings: I didn’t take responsibility for checking my assumptions, and I wasn’t vulnerable enough to risk offending someone else by revealing my truth.

Since then, this theme of responsibility and vulnerability keeps popping up everywhere I perceive I’m falling short. Probably because it also holds the key to propelling me forward.

Responsibility and vulnerability are the Batman and Robin of my superhero self.

Responsibility focuses on what I can do. Vulnerability allows you to help me. Responsibility causes me to speak up. Vulnerability shares what I truly want. Responsibility ensures I finish writing this post. Vulnerability publishes it even though it’s not perfect.

Communication is a muscle. Responsibility contracts it. Vulnerability relaxes it.

Too much responsibility can lead to achieving the goal at all costs. Too little responsibility can lead to achieving nothing at all. Too much vulnerability makes everything all about me. Too little vulnerability can lead to others taking it personally.

When things get tense, bring more vulnerability. When things go limp, take more responsibility.

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“Fear does’t bluck us, unwillingness to feel the fear blocks us.”

I have a tendency to favor feeling good over feeling fully. To intellectualize or tell stories instead of feeling the parts of me that are hurt and afraid. To shift my perspective on a dime so that I can feel hope and excitement instead of grief and despair.

My unwillingness to feel fully leads to pain and numbing. When I’m afraid, I rush to problem solving to not have to feel the fear. That rush creates pressure. That pressure feels bad, resulting in more pressure to do something to feel better, fueling a vicious cycle.

So my body takes a shortcut, “If the goal is to not feel the fear, I know a much better way!”

That’s why I have such well practiced numbing patterns. It’s more efficient to numb the fear than to neutralize it. It protects me, at least in the short run. Like my body going into shock to avoid devastion.

Unfelt fear is like an unread warning messages. I know something is amiss, but because I don’t know what, I have to be on guard against everything.

Feeling the fear is doing the work of reading those messages. And when I have the courage to read them, something powerful happens: The warning lights that acted like beacons of fear turn into beacons of clarity.

An unknown fear carries with it a thousand strains of potential devastation. A known fear focuses down into one.

The more I feel my fear, the less I have to be afraid of. That’s how I can feel my way to freedom.

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It’s surprising how easily I feel overwhelmed. I’ve accomplished tens of thousands of tasks in my lifetime. Yet having four things I could’ve easily gotten done tonight (and not knowing where/being afraid to start) was enough to overwhelm me.

As a result of this I’ve decided on a new default response to overwhelm: meditation. No thinking. No doing. If there is too much on my plate and none of needs to be done right this minute: I stop what I’m doing, drop into a comfy meditation place, and slow the fuck down. Stop, drop, & slow.

Expected benefits of the Stop, Drop, and Slow system:

  1. My style of meditation processes unfinished thoughts and helps grow my self-awareness, making tasks far easier to accomplish afterward.
  2. The more I meditate the better I feel when meditating, and the more it feels like a reward instead of a chore.
  3. This breaks the cycle of falling behind and then pressuring myself to catch up (leading to more overwhelm/numbing cycles that only leave me further behind.
  4. If my default response to parts hijacking my system is to go meditate, then instead of experiencing warring parts triggering unwanted behavior inside of me (and then judging myself harshly for said behavior), I’ll be able to listen to and get to the heart of what my parts are really wanting.

I’ll keep you posted as to how things unfold.

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Extreme Support Challenge: Day 11

-“What do you think makes you such a good supporter?”
-“I’m more of a carer than a fixer.”

The best support helps me get somewhere on my own, together. It’s the gymnastic coach that will catch me if I fall, but knows that my muscles have to do the firing. My body needs to find the balance. My mind achieves the focused calm.

The more I experience the effects of good support, the more it permissions me to let go of my own doer. If I can get so much out of space holding and care, how much could I give myself and others by choosing to make that my default way of being? To let go of the fixer and lean fully into the truster.

I used to show up in facilitation and coaching with some sense of, “I need to provide something to earn what I’m being paid.” Now my container is shifting to, “let’s both hold space and trust whatever inspiring thing comes up.” This frees my doer from having to perform, and allows my presence to connect with what truly wants to happen.

My eyes have already been trained to see the depths of who we really are. My felt sense of alignment is already finely tuned to when we’re heading in the right direction. All I needed was permission to let go of who I thought I should be to find who life is calling me to become.

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Extreme Support Challenge: Day 10

Huge day. Lots of support. Lots of insights that cut deep.

At this point, I rarely notice asking for support anymore. Most of it has taken a momentum of its own. What I do notice are all the beautiful and hard hitting insights that come from a willingness to shine a light on previously overlooked areas of my life:

  1. I have trust wounds. My biggest trust wound is with God.
  2. When my wounded parts scream “stop hurting me,” I can invite them to say “start helping me” instead.
  3. My parts will work together if I hold space for them all to contribute and make decisions in consensus.
  4. Enjoy what I have, don’t try to turn it into what I want.
  5. Focus on what I want, not what I think I can have.
  6. Suffering as a sign of devotion is normalized for me. It doesn’t have to be.
  7. Trying to get things to go a certain way prevents me from experiencing them as they are.
  8. There are two factors that prevent me from being vulnerable: historic patterns, and lack of safety in the now. Discern between the two to know when to prioritize healing (historic stuff) and when to prioritize safety.
  9. Overthinking is a form of compensating for uncertainty. My mind is scrambling to make the unknown known.
  10. Enjoying what I enjoy with someone is the most honest form of relating. Prioritizing a relationship over discovering what I honestly enjoying about it is the surest way to sink it.
  11. Q: What’s the most important thing for me in relationships? A: Receiving love and the things I need without having to do anything. Set down the ability to influence or earn. Putting my hand on the wheel denies actual receiving.
  12. Q: How do I fall madly and truly in love with myself? A: Let go of figuring out. Don’t make it into a project or try what everyone else suggests. Set down the trying. Discover the things I can’t help but love about myself. Discover the things that get me to show up for me.
  13. Q: Where will I find fulfillment directing my creative energy? A: Quiet. Slowing down. Creative space to just be. Dropping into stillness and space. “Discipline is naming a desire and then structuring around it.” Structure without desire is tedium.
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Extreme Support Challenge: Day 9

Regularly receiving support has lots of side-benefits. Here are three standout examples from today alone:

  1. Instead of using all my energy stressing out about asking for help, I effortlessly ask for what would help and then use my energy to actually create solutions. (Today I realized I double booked something I couldn’t change, and immediately asked a colleague to cover. When she couldn’t, I simply owned the mistake, and offered a new date and a way to make up for it for anyone who was inconvenienced. What could’ve seemed like an impossible problem: “I can’t be there and no one can cover!” became a simple act of making peace with what is and exercising my options until I found integrity.)
  2. Stress is no longer something I tolerate, it’s an indicator of when I need self-care or support. (Today I was stressed out about things outside of my control, and in the exact wrong headspace less than an hour before facilitating a paid event. Instead of trying to implement stress-fueled solutions, I put my phone on airplane mode, took a bath, and didn’t take my phone off airplane mode till I was done with the call. What previously would have felt like putting off my problems—which is grounds for self-flagellation, now felt like setting self-care boundaries. And I effortlessly handled everything that was bothering me afterward.)
  3. Equanimity is my new norm. I no longer assert power through emotion, but through my ability to be at choice. (I used to have justifiably strong emotional reactions to things that didn’t go my way. Today I got cut off by a car and met the event with pure equanimous acknowledgment, “I just got cut off.” Then I started laughing uproariously at the fact that it took zero emotional toll on me and instead acted as a testament to all the inner work I’ve done.)

Pretty cool to notice all these changes popping up without me even trying. I’m just living life and letting it get as good as I allow it to be.

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Extreme Support Challenge: Day 8

Today’s big support breakthrough came through being encouraged to ask directly for what I want, and then practicing it in a safe container.

Asking directly for what I want has been an edge since I was nine, but the container felt so safe that it became easier and easier to get more specific about my exact preferences. Somehow I always equated being super specific about what I want with being a hassle, but when someone is encouraging you to share your true self with them, it’s almost an asshole move not to.

Afterward I noticed that the micro-stress I sometimes experience after social encounters wasn’t there at all, and in it’s place was a deep well of appreciation.

Is it really this easy to reverse old habits? Is the recipe as simple as find someone who’s eager to experience what you normally shut off and practice turning it back on?

There’s something about that felt sense of “I did the thing that was supposed to lead to hurt and everything went well” that seems to be more healing than any amount of exploring why the hurt or fear exists in the first place.

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Extreme Support Challenge: Day 7

I experienced two hours of support nirvana today. We dove into a juicy, yet sobering IFS session, encountering a band of marginalized parts that called themselves “the unloved and abandoned.” Meeting them felt like stumbling into a cave of bastard children I’d forgotten I’d fathered.

Since quarantine started, I regularly experience suicidal ideation that voices itself through my system like a band of dissidents broadcasting on pirate radio. It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time easy enough to live with, because I have that felt sense that this voting bloc will never achieve the majority needed to pose a serious threat. But today felt like discovering the source of that radio signal, and putting faces to the voices I’d only ever heard spoken through me in somatic cries for help.

It quickly became clear that these parts were socialized to believe they were unacceptable. While other parts of me were loved and nourished—these parts were left to endure existence with little support. I learned to ignore them like the homeless, distancing myself in hopes of never ending up like them. Thinking that what they needed to do was to change to be more like the rest of us, instead of exploring the possibility that they never received the basic ingredients necessary to healthily mature and succeed in modern times.

While it’s a sad history that got these parts and me to where we are today, the experience of connecting and reconciling with these parts was quite beautiful. My support buddy teared up as I realized that my mission to create a world where anyone can make a living just by being themselves, felt strikingly similar to the creative potential these parts held for me. “They’re my mission,” I uttered. The work I was looking to do in the world was now presenting itself within me.

Reintegration will likely be a month long multi-session process; but I’m excited to dive deep and bring my full potential online, as I reclaim all the parts of me cast away by a society that wasn’t equipped to embrace the fullness of who I am.

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