Most of us have goals and dreams in life, and to accomplish them, we have to work in a determined, focused way. But have you ever had the experience of achieving a goal and then wondering if you’ve lost something valuable in the process—that you had to turn off parts of yourself to function optimally in certain situations?
Naomi’s Dilemma—Self-protection or Self-expression
Naomi worked ten years to gain a foothold in a career in the sciences, but once she got there, she realized she had hardened against a part of herself. Something wasn’t right inside, and she felt a lack of both freedom and groundedness in her interactions with the people at work. And in spite of her achievements, she still had doubts about her abilities in relation to her career.
Specifically, Naomi felt a tightening and hardening in her throat, chest, and sternum, all of which have to do with self-expression. The tightening and hardening in those areas meant that she felt a need to protect herself through self-monitoring. She didn’t always feel that way. There were lots of times when she was free and fluid, and her ideal was to be that way in all situations.
Flexibility vs. Extremes
The fact is that life hands us a variety of circumstances, and each calls for a slightly different response. With Naomi, two things were going on: she had an ideal that was based on an extreme vision of how she wanted to be all the time; and she had a subconscious response that was lodged in her body and that worked against that ideal in some situations. The extreme ideal was a cause for stress in itself—our responses simply can’t be static. Instead, they need to be flexible, adapting to each situation as needed. We do this intuitively most of the time, whether physically, mentally, or socially. Do you walk up a mountain the same way you walk on a sandy beach or talk to your kids like you talk to your boss? Probably not.
Conflicting Levels of Consciousness
Sometimes, though, we all get stuck. In Naomi’s case, her subconscious response was linked to her ideal of openness and fluidity, which in turn was rooted in a background that stressed spirituality, bodywork, etc. The problem was that Naomi judged the people in her background as unsuccessful, even though many of her own best moments were linked to just that kind of lifestyle, like when she was meditating or with her trusted massage therapist. By rejecting a big aspect of her background to get to where she was now, she had sent herself a strong subconscious message that being free and fluid was not compatible with her work performance and success. And because she felt uncomfortable with that part of herself at work, she subconsciously distanced herself from it. The result was that she didn’t feel grounded or present a lot of the time, and she had trouble connecting freely with her colleagues. Instead of feeling open and fluid, she felt controlled by a strong need to protect herself. Now she yearned to reclaim her whole self in all situations.
Learning To Choose
What was the solution? The most important thing Naomi learned from the guided meditation was that she had a variety of choices and the power to govern her reactions. This meant first acknowledging that both pure choices—self-expression and self-protection—are useful in different ways.
One is not better than the other, and only rarely are they needed in their extreme versions. Instead of thinking black or white, one or the other, Naomi learned that it was more like adjusting a scale, with different degrees of each for different situations.
As Naomi observed, it’s a simple, rich practice that can lead you to new horizons of both freedom and control, expression and protection—and above all, to the knowledge that it’s your choice.