I don’t know about you, but I have a habit of picking up my oh so smart phone when I am uncomfortable. When I have to write an email to someone who is not looking forward to getting an email from me. When there is something I need to do, but I really don’t want to do it. There it is, my phone. It beckons to me in all it’s electronic glory, look at me and I will not only postpone your misery for the time being, but I will give you a dopamine hit if someone has messaged you or liked your posts. Like Pavlov’s dog I have been trained, and it’s as if our entire generation and younger, the ones who have not known a life without internet and social media, start to salivate at the sound of a phone notification.
Perhaps that's why I have developed a functional compulsion to try to hide my phone from sight. I hide it under pillows, behind my notebook while I am reading, try the tactic of keeping it in my purse at the other side of my office so it is not in my conscious awareness, I hide it in drawers, under the couch, behind the fruit bowl on the kitchen table. My partner will attest to my squirrelling away of electronics. Yes it is an odd behaviour, but unless I am doing it for over an hour a day it isn’t a problem. I swear.
Now, there is something that we need to reflect on. This is not just a social media, having the entire cyber world in our pockets, problem. This is not happening in a vacuum. We live in a society obsessed with productivity as a marker of self worth. Our to-do lists are running our lives, we forget that we created them and not the other way around. We have such high and rigid expectations of ourselves because our value as humans has somehow become intertwined with how much we get done and how well we do these things. We feel we cannot rest, and when we do try to rest we can't because our nervous systems are on high alert, consistently stimulated with screens, multitasking, and the ceaseless attempt to finish the to-do list. We are unable to be still, to have quiet, to relax. The icing on the cake is that the social media that we may use as a vice to cope with all of this sends us the message that everyone else is having the time of their lives while we are alone, struggling to keep our heads above water, and miserable.
What is this doing to our Selves? An entire generation? Entire generations? To return to our Selves will take considerable awareness and forceful action on our part to break the patterns we have created, but the result will be will be a culture that is more conscious of their actions and their place in the world. A realization that we are not our to-do lists, that we are something far bigger than our to-do lists. We are not our Instagram, Facebook, or whatever the kids are using these days selves. Without these things, who are we? Can we have worth if we are not doing but “being”. What does it mean to “be” in a culture that unequivocally values doing?
The vastness that lies underneath the constant doing can be terrifying, but it is a where our greatest potential lies. And perhaps this is the work. To get to a point where we get taken so far outside of ourselves that we need to intentionally practice coming back to ourselves over and over. And in some ways I see this happening. No matter what stereotypes the older generations stamp millennials with, I see conscious movement and openness toward healing not only ourselves, but healing the wounds of generations that have come before.
In my private practice the majority of clients I work with experience this inability to rest, this self-worth equated with productivity, the comparison of themselves with others on social media, the anxious frenetic energy, and they come and courageously ask the question: Who am I if I am not what I do? What happens if I allow myself to rest? How can I learn that it is OK to “be”?
I urge you to be aware of when you reach for your phone when you are uncomfortable, whether that be while waiting in line or before making a hard call, or whatever you may be avoiding and try to sit with that uncomfortable feeling until it passes. Here are some simple practices that may help while feeling that discomfort:
Feeling your feet on the ground- I mean really feeling them! If it helps, gently rocking them back and forth, feeling the sensation as you apply pressure to different parts of the foot. Perhaps imagining roots growing out of your feet into the earth.
Square breathing- Take an in breath for 4-5 counts, hold for 4-5 counts, out breath 4-5 counts, hold 4-5 counts, repeat for as long as needed but give it a good shot-at least 5 rounds.
Sensory awareness- Notice 5 colours you see around you, 5 noises you hear, 5 objects you see, repeat as many times as you need.
Dropping from your mind into your body- Noticing your body sensations and what is arising for you without judgement (ex. oh hey old friend anxiety!- I see you. There you are...) until the feeling passes.
Things you may notice when you are just "being": The space and people around you, the aliveness of your surroundings, how your food tastes, how your body feels and what it needs. You may notice the clarity in your decision making when you are just "being". We miss so much by the distraction, really we are missing our real lives, the life that is happening right before our eyes and our ability to trust our instinctual selves.
Social media has a light and a shadow side, it is my hope through training ourselves to come back to our Selves again and again that the shadow side will not be as dominant and we can have a more balanced relationship to it. In regards to the to-do list, let's take our power back from the incestuous control it has over our lives and reclaim our right to rest, to be still, to have quiet, and to just BE.