May and autopilot

May and autopilot

Apologies for the lateness of the newsletter this month. The last couple of weeks have been particularly demanding on my time with 3 college assignments to finish and the temporary ‘nannying’ of a 4-year old. But since I started my studies and got a part-time job to supplement my income after the ‘pandemic’ effects on our work, I feel I have stepped into an excessively busy person’s shoes. 

It got me to thinking about stress and overwhelm and how many of the people I know would consider themselves at capacity a lot of the time. It’s hard to find balance in the current paradigm where modern life seems to be squeezing every drop we have, unable or unwilling to offer us the space or the tools to be still as well as busy. 

We have created (or had created for us, depending on what side of the conspiracy fence you sit) a society where the inner compasses that guide us how to live fully, are totally out of whack with the outer world we are expected to live in. We need some skills and tools to reconnect us to our true, more balanced nature, so we can heal and feel a little more whole.

So as I reflected on my recent busyness and what I have learned about myself in the process, what became apparent was my need to say goodbye to the ‘perfectionist’ part that always wanted good grades and be praised for neat writing! I have been shifted, through circumstance, into a mindset of ‘I am good enough’ and that is just peachy because where on earth did I get that perfectionist label from in the first place and more importantly, why was it still kicking around in my mid life?

It ties in beautifully with the incredible book I am reading (if I had more time!) called ‘Finding meaning in the second half of life’ by James Hollis, a jungian therapist who reflects on what some would refer to as the ‘mid-life crisis’, effectively your soul calling you to reframe the misconceptions established in your youth and re-find yourself again, in readiness for stepping into your eldership role in society. He explains how we lose our truer selves without even realising it.

“Certain core experiences quickly become precepts, attitudes, readings of self and world, and through repetition and reinforcement are, over time, “institutionalised” within and begin to govern how we reflexively function in the world. The key word there is reflexive. 

External stimuli, or internal promptings activate those old “readings” of the world and we respond in familiar ways. How else do patterns occur? None of us rises saying “Today? Why today I think I will repeat the same dumb things I did in the past.” But that is precisely what we do because so much is on autopilot, giving credence to the old saying that we are our own worst enemies.”

So if you were labelled the ‘clever one, the clumsy one, the quiet one, the naughty one’ back in the day, it might be worth reflecting on how well that label reflects who you really are, does it serve you in anyway and how is it showing up still in your day-to-day behaviour.

Whether you believe it is deliberately orchestrated or not, our lives are kept so stressful and busy, we remain firmly in our autopilot mind. Although a genius mechanism, it allows bad habits and imposter personality traits to creep in surreptitiously. Designed to make things easier and more efficient, the autopilot mind takes learned behaviours and responses and recycles them.

It reenacts established patterns which can be helpful in some cases (like driving) but proving to be very unhelpful when it comes to our mental and emotional health because unless we are consciously paying attention to our thoughts, we are often just reacting to life, recycling old patterns of behaviour that may well no longer serve us or in fact, reflect the true us at all.

The current wave of mindfulness techniques are encouraging us to ‘awaken’ in the space before we've attached a narrative to what we are experiencing, so that we might ‘respond’ consciously and thus more appropriately to who we want to show up as, rather than ‘react’ unconsciously often from our childish labelling of self. 

Rituals, such as a mindful drinking of tea, offer the perfect way to start the recalibration process, providing a little room for self-reflection. Instead of looking at the world as if from the wider side of a funnel and seeing only a narrow viewpoint that can be difficult to escape from, rituals offer us a chance to come out of our autopilot and turn the funnel around, and see not only the outside world but also ourselves from a new, less limited, perspective. 

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