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Integrating Ways of Being
Consider the different ways we can experience life – different aspects of our being that help us function… until they don’t. We can be cerebral and goal oriented, for instance, or we can be predominantly kinesthetic, placing the emphasis on our body and the five senses.
There are other ways we can segregate our experience. Think about the person who leads with emotion versus the friend who is highly logical. Compare your neighbor with a rich inner life, who barely seems to interact with anyone at all, with your outgoing former roommate who was always throwing parties.
There are times in life when you have to lead with your head, be practical, and get the job done. On the other hand, you may have had to be very emotional to get yourself heard and your needs taken care of. These aspects are all important tools for survival, success, and happiness. Problems arise when we let one of these aspects dominate our lives. In doing so, we run the risk of becoming inflexible, stuck in one way of being, neglecting to explore other aspects that are often the key to letting go.
When we are split into segments, we are often closed off to the heart, yet the heart is where the process of letting go begins.
An Integration Exercise
Try the following exercises to help with re-integration:
If you are spending too much time in your head planning and not enough time in your body, you run the risk of ignoring basic self-care. Ask yourself, “what kind of nourishment does my body need now, in order for my mind to stay clear. On the other hand, too much time focused on sense-pleasures (or displeasure for that matter) can cause long-term negative consequences.
To find mind/body balance, get up and move at least every hour when you are working on a cerebral task. If your tendency is to get caught up in too many body-based activities that reap short-term reward or distract you from keeping order, let go of this trap by setting up some long-term goals. Remember we need both short term pleasure and long-term goals to stay balanced.
The right side of the brain governs, emotions, visual cues, and story-telling, It’s great when we are bonding with someone, but left unchecked and on its own the emotional brain can lead to feelings of chaos and anxiety. The logical left brain helps us get stuff done, stay on task, and apply reason when emotions or impulses are running amok. But lopsided logical thinking can leave a lot of important information out of the picture. To find right brain/left brain balance, apply the opposite.
If you are a creative person who is sometimes prone to chaos, find a mentor to help you with the practical details of your next big project. Absorbing some organizational skills from a mentor will help you make the most of your creativity. Are you a master at logic? Do you find yourself being frustrated with emotional conversations? The next time you feel helpless in the face of difficult emotions, practice compassion by just listening. Emotions cannot be quantified, and they are not right or wrong. They just are. As long as everyone is safe, listen to emotions, and stay open to a creative idea of at least 24 hours before you apply logic.
Research shows that when we have a good sense internal motivation and values, we are less susceptible to the ups and downs of success and failure. However too much of an inner focus can leave us feeling isolated. Externally focused people are good “connectors” and can have a healthy curiosity and willingness to join important causes. But too much of an external focus can leave you vulnerable to the perceptions of others, which try as we may, we can never totally control.
To find internal/external balance if you tend to be inwardly focused, consider taking a class in something new. I have had many shy and introverted patients who benefit from improvisation classes, dancing and volunteer activities. If that’s too much of a leap, start by building taking a second or two to notice the face of your local barista. Say good morning and thank you to your coworkers. If you feel you have an external focus and would like to balance this tendency with more inner motivation, try to taking the VIA signature strengths survey to get a better sense of your core values.
If you have experienced trauma, you may have had to make a real split to survive. If the trauma is behind you but you are still struggling to let go of the tendency to split, ask for help. Likewise, seek professional support if substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorder, or dangerous behavior is keeping you from integrating.