Reading (listening) to the book, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”, it talks about only being able to use past experiences to form habits – and it’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard adopting new habits and thought patterns. If we’re trying to do something we’ve never done before, we don’t have the “muscle memory” ingrained into ourselves – and this is why it’s so easy to “fall off the wagon”
He also talks about the power of memory. Living in the past is so easy to do – because that is what we know. Especially if we repeatedly experience the same situations – those situations reinforce our thought patterns, beliefs, and memories. And the stronger the memory, the more powerful our physical response is to those memories.
The other day, I saw a heart breaking video of a dog that had faced unknown abuse. While awake, he was wary and avoided people, but when he slept, he would cry and scream and it would continue for minutes after he woke. It was heart breaking that this dogs only memory is abuse. Those memories would take him, repeatedly, back to the abuse because that was all he ever knew. Thankfully, some very patient people rescued him and he slowly recovered and after repeated exposure to love and kindness, he was eventually able to show the same.
The same is with people. If we are repeatedly exposed to the same negative environment, it’s what we expect, and eventually it’ll become the “normal”. It’s what we expect. Abused women stay in abusive relationships because it’s what they expect. If they’re told they’re “fat and useless”, they won’t believe they’re capable of anything except that. If a child growing up is constantly told their grades aren’t good enough, they will believe they are stupid – and when an adult, even the smallest mistake pointed out to them will make them believe they’re stupid because that’s their conditioned response.
As a child, I was compared to my brother and had teachers comment “why can’t you be more like your brother?” – he was a year ahead of me and we often had the same teachers throughout the years – he was a great student and athlete. My parents, to my recollection, never compared us, but teachers did. I’ve never been a strong runner or athlete and I remember my brother commenting how I wasn’t a good runner – we were arguing like siblings do, and though I can’t remember exactly the exchange that happened, I can see how as a child and being told that my brother was smarter than me, that his comment about my non-athletic-prowess would be taken to heart. So for 20 years, I professed that I hated cardio and hated running – probably trying to protect myself from trying and failing – because, obviously, I was terrible at it!
And yet, training for the 10k in early 2016 showed me that, yes, I may not be a strong runner, I did actually enjoy the process. Now, I’m still not a strong runner, but those comments from my past no longer stop me from trying. I try, I struggle, but I feel accomplished and stronger than I did before because I accomplished something I didn’t think I could do previously. Now, as much as I would love to do a half or even full marathon with adequate training, it’s hard to say if that will happen. Unlike my husband, I’m not a natural born runner – but I know that I CAN run a 10k!
So how can you change your limiting beliefs? It’s not as straight forward as changing your thought patterns – especially if they’ve been there for a while and suppressing emotions are the “norm”. You can think as long and as hard as you want, your body may still be hanging onto those emotions attached to your negative thought patterns. What you need to do is move forward with positive memories – memories that are stronger than the negative memories. And for me, that can be done through music and the arts.
Songs and music have a way of speaking to my soul. I find joy, sadness, anger, and inspiration with music – and if there’s an emotional response to the music, the deeper the reaction.
Last weekend we went to see Cirque du Soleil, Alegria. It’s been a very long time since the last time we saw a show – I can’t even remember. We almost didn’t go – I’ve known for at least 7 months it was coming to Ottawa/Gatineau and we hummed and hawed about it until the last couple weeks it was in town. We couldn’t believe we waited so long! I think because it had been SO long since the last time we went, we forgot how much we loved it! When it got to the end song, I didn’t hesitate – I was up on my feet, clapping and cheering, fighting the tears from pure joy, wonder, and amazement at the beauty and inspiration… if you’ve never seen a Cirque performance, I highly, highly suggest it! We then spent the following day watching every cirque performance we could that the day would allow as we own many different DVD’s… though nothing compares to a live performance.
The thing with Cirque is that they have world class athletes performing in acts that they make look so effortless. The music and costumes and performances are awe inspiring – beauty, grace, power, strength, sensuality, joy, humor, amazement, disbelief… Whenever we see them live, it invokes an emotion in us that can’t be described or denied. Seeing them live makes us want to push our own fitness game up a notch… or ten! Seeing what the human body is capable of inspires us to get more active and do things we want to do but are too scared of trying – or we simply procrastinate about. It makes me want to get stronger and more flexible and face some of my fears. It makes me want to take care of myself and find joy in moving my body.
Now, I definitely know that there is no way I would ever look or perform like these athletes as most of them, I’m certain, have been training in their art, probably, since they’ve been old enough to walk! However, I can certainly take inspiration and motivation from them!
So how, as outlined in the book, can I use those principles in this scenario? The way I see it, if I am having a negative physical response to something, then a stronger memory could trigger a stronger physical response to a positive memory. For instance, the morning I am writing this, I was in a bit of a bad mood. My bus was over 30 minutes late and I was frothing at the mouth as it put me late getting into work. This pisses me off to no end – as, from what I can tell, there is NO reason for the bus to be late. It’s a short route that is done, start to finish, in about 20 minutes. Last week we had a wonderfully friendly and extremely punctual driver – but the driver before her – and now it appears after as well – was habitually late. This usually sends me spinning – especially on a Monday morning – certainly sets the week off poorly! All the way in, all I wanted was candy as this is my normal response to this type of reaction. Instead, I fired up Spotify – as yesterday we discovered there were about 8 Cirque music albums on Spotify – including Alegria – the show we saw on the weekend. As soon as I put that last song, it took me back to the big top – the awe and wonder, joy and amazement could be felt almost like I was there.
I didn’t go and buy any candy… as much as I wanted to. The new, positive body memory outweighed the negative body reaction of old memories. I know this won’t happen every single time. I know I’ll struggle and will probably lose the fight on some days… but until then, I have Spotify at my finger tips to, hopefully, continue to direct my body memory towards joy.
Because who doesn’t want to live in a state of joy?