2 Great tips to calm your FIRESep 08, 2021
Human beings thrive on stories. We love them – action packed, dramatic, romantic, informative, truthful, fanciful – we don’t care, we just want more.
Why Story matters in our life
Stories are how we make sense of the world and our lives, because we love connection and associations. We are all characters in our own stories, having parts in the stories of others - popping in for a cameo or having around as supporting actors.
It turns out there is a whole bunch of science about why this is, but the point needed right now is that stories invite us to connect and as human beings, social creatures that we are, we long for connection.
Sometimes this connection is healthy, and we feel safe, loved, and welcomed. And sometimes this connection is toxic and causes us to shut down into protection mode, get defensive and be on our guard. If it goes on for too long or is too intense it can transform into trauma, which creates a story in our minds and bodies is being unsafe, unwanted, and unloved.
Stories are powerful. They are not simply fanciful escapes we engage in with popcorn in a dark theatre for entertainment – they define our lives and how we identify with ourselves and the outside world.
The stories you tell yourself tell your body whether or not to be healthy, happy and prosperous, or whether to sit down, shut up, and know your place. They are the source of power – your personal narrative – and caring about the story you are telling and sharing with others can mean the difference between growing, expanding and achieving all you desire – or being mired in misery, feeling not good enough and unable to break free from the crapfest you call your life.
Changing your Story
Did you know you can let a story go? I ask because loads of people either don’t know it, or don’t believe it, or just really don’t know how to do it.
And it’s easy to understand why – the story you tell most often gets embedded into the body and becomes like a default program, creating chemical connections that start to tell their own story. So when an experience begins to take shape in the outerworld, the body has already gathered its data and decided how think, feel, and act – then it starts shooting off chemicals which create physical reactions which catch YOUR attention.
Then you start asking yourself – am I safe? Do I need to freeze? Or perhaps get my energy going because I might have to fight or run away? If I am safe, I can remain calm and open to what’s happening. But am I safe? I’m not sure I feel safe. Better to get in a defensive mode – just in case.
And as soon as decide to get defensive – you begin to operate in an entirely different part of your brain, a part that traps you and has you focused only on problems, and how things can fall apart and why you need to be afraid. This might be overwhelming really quickly and before you know it, your feeling like you need to lash out in some way, because all you want is to feel safe, but your don’t and you don’t know how to fix it, so you’re upset and looking for someway out, someone to blame, attack for hope will rescue you.
The good news – you can rescue yourself!
This is a story, don’t forget and even though those chemical reactions feel pretty “real” in the moment, there are some things you can do to create enough space to “be” long enough to decide and choose whether or not this is an old story or an actual situation developing that requires you to go into protection mode.
Tips for creating a story of Safety - Calming your FIRE
Here’s what you can do – some of these things need a bit of practise beforehand, because while they are easy to do – they can be hard to remember to do when the adrenaline and cortisol are pumping through veins, firing you up for defensive action. This is when your FIRE element gets our of control and throws you into full reaction mode.
- The first is a deep breath and a proper exhale. Practise this now. Inhale deeply, like you imagine it going into your toes. Feel your ribs flare out like wings, giving more space for the diaphragm to move deeply into the low back, pushing out the stomach, filling the lower lungs first before spilling into the top and closer to the neck. When we are activated in stress, we often take quick, shallow breaths, which only make us more aware of the stress and confuse us into thinking, “it must be real” when it may not be. The body responds faster than the mind, so we have to get back in control of the body to see and understand why it triggered. Next, the exhale, a full connected breath requires a deep exhale of everything in the lungs. Empty it right out, allowing the diaphragm to come to its full height upward, massaging organs, including the heart, as it goes. This complete exhale is like a reset, sending a signal for the whole body to calm the F down. Only when in safety can the body exhale fully and so many of us are in a chronic state of low grade stress, hardly any of exhale completely – AT ALL – unless we are thinking about. This is an air element technique which redirects the flow of fire, calming it and refocusing it onto something more productive.
If you can master this one thing – and remember to implement it often – in and out of stress states, then when you get triggered, you will provide yourself a much needed buffer that allows you to think about what is actually happening and decide what is the best course of action, instead of being swept away in the nearly uncontrollable reaction that has most of all ragey and flying off the handle only to feel guilt and wonder what the hell just happened , and why can’t I get a hold of myself.
It’s not your fault. We all have deeply embedded stories that make us/made us feel unsafe and those have been in there a long time and are automatic or instinctual at this point. Only practise, patience and awareness can help to untangle them from our stories.
And each time you successfully implement the “hold on a second, what’s really going on here” breath, you successfully rewrite the story about what safety means to you and how you like to handle it.
The next can be combined with the breath, but also should probably be practised beforehand. Because, again, these things are simple enough to do but can be challenging to remember to do in a fiery moment, if doing them is not yet embedded deeply enough as part of the story of your reaction to a trigger. The more you practise, the more it will become part of the story and the easier it will then be to remember.
- Activate your Safety Associations Anchor List. This is a list of who, what, when, and where items, people, places, animals, experiences that have happened over the course of your life that embedded the feeling of safety in your body. Each time you vividly recall one of these associations, your body will respond and go into the feeling of safety. Why? Because we love stories and over the course of your lifetime, you have landmark stories around all the emotions you feel. Try it out – think of a time when you felt safe – I bet you something, someone, somewhere and/or somewhen popped into your mind and your body relaxed even a tiny bit. You can strengthen this feeling and association by compiling a list of what SAFETY is to you. It’s like charging the word with all the landmark stories to create an anchor feeling in the body – then you can learn to draw on the reservoir of this feeling to calm the body, stopping the flood of adrenaline and cortisol caused by the stress and initiate the good feeling chemicals caused by the feeling of being safe. This is an earth element technique which dampens the fire.
Whether this makes sense, or you agree with me or not – there is one way to find out 😊 Try it our for a few weeks, Practise the breath. Make your list. Play with both, separate and together, with smaller, controlled triggers and during on the spot “tests” that arise in your every-day life. See how it works for you. It’s free and let’s be honest – what harm can it do? The breath is something we all ought to be doing as often as possible anyway, and playing with the idea and feelings of safety just feels good.
And if you are interested playing more with your FIRE element, which is your story of how you feel about life, your passions, your desires, and how you desire to direct your will power, then consider checking out this mini-class on working with your FIRE element.