Feb 06, 2023
When I was a kid, I walked into the living room where my dad was watching The Marathon Man with Dustin Hoffman. I came in at the scene where this dentist kept asking Dustin Hoffman, “Is it Safe.” I don’t know what answer he was looking for because every time Dustin answered him, he would drill into Dustin’s teeth without any anesthesia or novocaine. I’m not entirely sure what the movie was about, but I do know Dustin didn’t have the right answer to the question, and Dustin was not safe at all. I also know that I’ve never felt comfortable with dentists since that movie.
Is it safe?
Like the dentist, that is the question that our brain is always asking. It filters through all the information it receives, all the information we supply it with, and determines whether or not the information is safe or not safe. If the information is safe, there is no threat, and all systems of health and ease are a go. If the information is not safe, it is perceived as a threat, and our systems of survival and unease are set on red alert. This is constantly happening every moment of our lives; our brain is sifting through everything it can to determine our threat level or our safety level.
If our brain determines we are not safe, it kicks our nervous system into a sympathetic state so that we can fight, flee, or freeze to survive. If our brain determines we are safe, it keeps our nervous system in a parasympathetic state so that we can rest, digest, love, and thrive.
It sounds like our brain knows what it’s doing; it’s trying to protect us. The problem is that we actually create much of the information the brain is determining to be a threat when there is actually no threat present. We are accidentally creating perpetual emergencies keeping our bodies in a sympathetic state of unease so much that we end up in disease. Chronic stress and fear lead to chronic health issues that eventually weaken and threaten the body. This means that our very own survival mode can eventually actually threaten our survival. It’s not our brain’s fault; it’s doing what it’s designed to do. The fault is ours. We are the ones generating the messages of fear and threat.
How do we generate these messages?
We generate messages of fear when we don’t breathe properly. We generate messages of threat when we don’t move our bodies often. And we generate messages of fear and threat with our thoughts. It’s all information. How we breathe, how we move (if we move), how we think - it’s all filtered to determine if we are in danger or not.
Unfortunately for many of us, almost every breath we take tells our brain we are in danger. This kicks our nervous system into survival mode, and once we stay there long enough, we start to feel like “blah.” Once we feel like “blah” long enough, it can affect how we think; our thoughts lean towards the more negative, pessimistic, melancholy side of things - this is a real threat to our brains. Soon, we get stuck in a perpetual loop of poor breathing, poor thinking, and poor movement. All hands on deck! We are at war within ourselves, and we are losing.
For most of us, as far as our brains are concerned, it is not safe. It is never safe. And because of this, we don’t really know what it’s like to thrive, what it’s like to truly feel good, to feel amazing in our minds, our bodies, our souls.
And that’s the shame of it all. We are designed to thrive, to feel amazing on the inside and the outside. We are wired to survive in the case of a true, TEMPORARY emergency, but our default way of being is to thrive. Again, we are the ones sending the messages of doom and gloom to our brains. We are breathing with our necks and chests instead of our diaphragms; we are listening, watching, and believing the news, we are thinking defeated thoughts, and we are static for most of the day. We’ve created the perfect storms of perpetual survival, thus hastening our endings and dampening our abilities to enjoy any of the joys of living.
We can change all of this. Unlike Dustin Hoffman, we can give the right answer. We can proclaim that YES! IT IS SAFE! We can remember and return to the way we are designed to breathe. We can remove ourselves from negative sources of information. We can regain control of our thoughts, if not direct them towards the positive outcomes and realities that we want. We can move our bodies often to let them know we still need them and want to enjoy them.
This is how we can learn to thrive and enjoy our lives the way we were actually created to do.
Remember how to breathe. Close your mouth. Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Relax your belly and let your diaphragm fill your lungs up from the bottom to the top. Let your belly expand with your breath. Let your chest, neck, and shoulders relax as you breathe. This is the ultimate message of safety. This is also the foundation of establishing all the other messages of safety that you can generate.
The point is we are meant to thrive and feel amazing. That’s supposed to be our default state. We can return to that state by controlling and influencing the information that our brains are constantly sifting through. The “keys to the kingdom” are largely in our hands.