Okay. Here we go! Thank you Crystal.
Chapter Four: The Reckoning
The Courage to Be the Author of Your Own Life
How do we take control over our lives and our stories?
We take a deep breath, walk into discomfort, engage with our feelings and get curious about how our emotions connect with our behavior.
Being Asian American, I grew up in a family and culture that places great value in being able to hide emotions. They call it “saving face.” That means giving off an impression to the world of happiness, success and control no matter what is going on internally. When I would cry out of sadness, I was told to stop and “be strong.” Recently, a very close family member told me that he thought that me writing about my feelings and overcoming my life’s obstacles was a sign of weakness.
He said, “You must not be strong enough to keep it to yourself.”
I knew it was the farthest thing from the truth, but nevertheless, it broke my heart.
The mentality I grew up with was, “If you are going to suffer, do it in silence.” But silence can kill you. I know this from personal experience, because as a young adult I began rapidly deteriorating both emotionally and physically from my lifetime of “keeping it to myself.” Brené calls this “Stockpiling Hurt.”
After internalizing hurt for too long, our bodies are the first to decide that enough is enough and we ultimately suffer from health problems, depression and anxiety.
The term wellness experts use to describe the initial stages of a body cleanse or naturally treating gut problems is “die off.” You suffer from all of the symptoms you’ve had plus additional ones as the toxins and bad bacteria start to die and leave the body. You may break out, become extremely lethargic and feel sick to your stomach. It isn’t pretty, but it’s necessary in order to achieve optimal health and wellness.
In order to live whole-heartedly, I believe we must go through a similar die off when we are emotionally cleansing ourselves. Becoming a professional dancer, and now a writer, has forced me to get curious about my feelings and find ways to express my truth to the world. A great dancer emotes and a successful writer touches the soul. I don’t think it was a coincidence that I chose these professions.
I was starving to feel.
Writing my story and bringing the darkness to light has brought its own challenges. I’ve had to face opposition, risk losing relationships and disappointing family members whom I love. It hasn’t been easy or painless, but there’s nothing more painful than living in the shadows of our stories controlled by someone else.
We all want to be whole. We all want to have the freedom to be ourselves with no excuses. Brené reminds us that we must give ourselves permission to feel, lean in and dig deep. I was inspired when I read these words of hers: “It often takes just a single brave person to change the trajectory of a family, or of any system, for that matter.”
We have more power than we think.
I beg to differ with my family member who thinks what I am doing is weak. Before I could start questioning whether I had made a mistake by following my heart, I firmly told him that what I do is not a sign of weakness. He may never believe me, but that doesn’t matter.
I choose courage as my story.
How do you choose to write your story?
This is the end of Crystal’s post. You can find Crystal blogging here. I encourage all of you to check out her website and sign up for her newsletter.
Supplement on Integration
(This is not part of Ch. 4. I wrote this in one of my comments last week and wanted to put it here again for anyone interested in knowing more about what integration is and why it’s important. If you’re not going back once in a while to check out the conversations going on in the comment section, I urge you to do so. There’s great dialogue happening.)
Details on integration from Dr. Dan Siegel’s stupendous book, Brainstorm:
Integration, which is the linking of different parts of the brain, creates more coordination in the brain itself. We use our intuition to guide our decisions as we aim for positive values, honoring what matters to us. This is gist thinking. Gist thinking helps us develop judgment (the good kind.) The more integrated our brains are, the more effective. What we focus our attention on and what we spend time doing directly stimulate the growth of those part of the brain that carry out those functions. The growth of the frontal lobes permits us to experience our human ability of knowing about knowing. (This is where the idea of the gap I've written about comes in–our ability to know about knowing.) Without proper integration, our thinking can become too rigid or to chaotic. There are 5 separate areas of information flow coordinated and balanced by the prefrontal region: cortex, limbic area, brainstem, body proper, and the social world. When these are linked together, we call that integration. Integration creates the master functions of self-awareness, reflection, planning, decision making, empathy, and morality. Learning to deal with emotions means being aware of them and modifying them inside us so we can think clearly. Taking time to reflect inwardly is the science-proven way to create integration in the brain. Attention is the way we activate specific circuits in the brain and strengthen them.
I wanted to give you some of this information because it's the mechanism by which creativity strengthens integration and, as you can see, proper integration then impacts positively every area of our life. For the longest time, I wondered why I felt better emotionally after creating art. (This is not always true when I write—ugh, writing often frustrates me, but c'est la vie.) This is the answer: The act of paying attention, even if we're not exactly sure what we're paying attention to, helps us link different parts of our brain, moves us away from being too rigid or too chaotic, and makes our brain literally function better.
I've gone on a bit here, but I think this stuff is fascinating and important especially since BB informs us that integration is the engine that moves us through the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution and is what goes into making us whole.
Up Next: Chapter 5 spearheaded by Nancy Glenn