The Next Four Years Part Two: Beware of the Numbing

One of the most powerful coping mechanisms we’ve developed as human beings is the ability to adapt. One of the most dangerous coping mechanisms we’ve developed is the ability to adapt. In times of crisis-war, natural disasters, failure of economies, sickness, loss of loved ones, property and goods-we have demonstrated time and again a remarkable adaptability and resilience. This is the virtue of our evolutionary thrust. At the same time we’ve also adapted to the poisoning of our water, polluting the air, violence and war, poverty, racism, inadequate health care. This is the dark side of adapting. In a convoluted turn of evolution, we adapt to and normalize the abnormal, the unspeakable, and the immoral.

As we enter into the first 100 days of the Trump Presidency it’s imperative that we stay alert to what we normalize. The hope that there might be a difference between the campaign Trump and the governing Trump has clearly been exposed as a mindless fairy tale. He continues on the path of propagandist, bigot, and liar, making decisions that have the bitter taste of authoritarianism. Tyranny does not begin with violence it begins with agreement, normalizing the abnormal. Read what Miklos Haraszti reports in the Washington Post as he experienced this first hand in his native Hungary.

From a somatic point of view normalizing means that we anaesthetize ourselves.  We numb our capacity to feel and sense.  This pertains not only to sensations and emotions but also numbing our capacity for clear rational thought.  Perhaps we feel shocked and helpless in the face of this new administration so we escape by deadening our capacity to feel.  This process of tranquilization creates a barrier between ourselves and feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability. We generate narratives that create a numbing complacency: “It’s just the beginning, he’ll change.”  “Congress won’t pass these ludicrous legislations anyway.” “He’s like your ageing Uncle who just says whatever is on his mind.” “He’ll only shoot himself in the foot.” “We can wait it out.”

Yes we concede that there’s a particular intelligence in compartmentalizing feelings so we can carry on with our lives. We also know that these sequestered feelings find a home in our tissues as a held contraction. This contraction requires effort and energy to maintain, which drains us, and more often than not explode out of us in untimely ways. As important, we by pass an ethic to take action for what is true, beautiful and good.

To stay awake to this drift we can invoke our somatic intelligence in these ways:

  • Commit to your practices.   This is the glue that maintains the connection to your aliveness, what you care about, what you stand for, what matters to you. What we practice is what we become. We can cultivate right thinking, right feeling, right speech, and right action through the discipline of our daily practices.
  • Commit to notice when you begin to anaesthetize yourself. This will take the form of contractions, squeezing, holding the breath, micro clenches, and our attention drifting into the trivial. When we bring our attention to the life of our body we have immediate, direct experience of how we guard against feeling and perception.
  • When you notice the numbing return to the present moment by engaging the breath, centering, mindfulness, commend to the practices that restore aliveness. Connect with your networks of support. Don’t isolate. You are not alone.
  • Taking action is one of the best medicines for fear and helplessness. Take a stand, literally, for love, justice, equity, and peace-that which moves us towards life. Find a group that is active in letting their voices be heard. Remember that democracy is an effort of participation and action.

Together we can make a better world.

Take It Easy But Take It

Richard Strozzi-Heckler

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