Friday, 4 July 2014

On 16:26 by Victoria Stanham in ,    No comments

We all anticipate; we prejudge based on our previous experience of similar situations.
This isn’t something bad per se. It is normal and biological. It is the job of our brains to anticipate situations in order to ensure our continued survival.

However, if you’re not awake and aware that your pre-judgments might be a bit (or a lot) off the mark, and you’re not adjusting accordingly, you may be limiting or arresting your physical and mental-emotional development.

Allow me to illustrate how your brain anticipates, and how this manifests in your body.

1. Sitting there where you are now, become aware of the amount of tension or muscular activity that is going on in your neck, shoulders, arms, torso and legs.

2. Now imagine that in front of you is a 30lbs. weight which you are going to lift with your hands.

3. Return your awareness to your body and notice if the degree of tension or muscle activation in your neck, shoulders, arms, torso and legs has changed.

Do you notice a difference? Why is there a difference if it all happened in your mind?

Your brain stores memories of what it means to lift a heavy weight and how much muscle effort it took you to accomplish it before. Therefore, when you gave your brain the order to imagine lifting a weight, it took the instruction literally (brains or not very good at distinguishing fact from fiction) and prepared your body for the coming effort and strain.

Is this a bad thing?

By no means. In fact, this anticipatory activity is what protects you from hurting your back when you lift weights in real life.

And yet, it is not always to your best advantage.

Sometimes we do not allow ourselves sufficient freedom to change our pre-judgment of the situation, even when circumstances contradict our anticipatory action.

When I ask you to imagine lifting a 30lbs weight, your brain makes a quick estimation of what that weight means and anticipates accordingly. You brain does not calculate exact weights, and will generally over-estimate the amount of necessary effort.

If I should then give you a real 30lbs weight, you need to be open to perceive how much effort is really necessary and adjust your reaction accordingly, in order not to waste energy.

This also applies to mental-emotional situations.

When you have a meeting that is worrying you, your brain is preparing your body to go into defense or attack mode. If you notice the amount of tension in your body that this pre-occupation is creating, you may realise that you are preparing for an uncertain situation in the future with perhaps way more energy that the present moment requires. 

If the meeting is tomorrow, and you are already muscularly anticipating it today, how effective do you imagine your pre-activation for the present tasks is?

Anticipating is something our brains do, but we can learn to monitor our anticipatory activities, and thus be able to adjust them according to what the REAL PRESENT situation actually demands, and not what our imagination calls for.


APPLYING THIS IN YOUR LIFE: Learn to recognise your anticipatory reactions

In order to notice when you’re using more effort than is really necessary, you first need to develop more body awareness.

1. A first step in this direction is to get into the habit of routinely scanning your body for unnecessary muscle activation that may have crept up on you unawares.
Check to see how much of that tension you can let go of, how much you can stop doing, what is the minimum necessary tension required to keep you poised upright while sitting or standing.

2. Once you have released (to the best of your ability) any unnecessary muscle activity, imagine the next action (physical or mental-emotional) that you need to undertake. Become aware of how much anticipatory activity this imaginary act has generated. Take a minute to recognise if you are really anticipating the next step, or if you are really anticipating step 4 or 5 further down the line.

Let go one again of any unnecessary tension and reconsider what the next action really is… the immediate next step.

For example, if your next action is to send an email, do not jump ahead to the moment of writing and hitting send, before even lifting your hands to the keyboard. Or if your next action is talking to your boss about a problem, do not jump ahead in your mind to the middle of the meeting when you’re already defending your point.

Stay with the immediate next step and adjust your response to what the present situation calls for.

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See you next week.

Victoria

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