By Dr. Stephen Trudeau
Psychologist in Private practice, Motivational Speaker.
Author of the book, Courage to Thrive: Triumph in the Face of Adversity.
Many of us seek counseling as a way of eliminating negativity from our lives, which is often the consequence of feeling unable to balance our desires and urges with what we need to do to function successfully in the practical world. We make decisions or exhibit behaviors that put us at odds with our fellow human beings and/or with social norms.
Yet, simply put, behind every “bad” behavior or choice lies an unmet need or an unhealed wound.
Generally, that unmet need is for validation; the wound is the pain of feeling somehow less-than because we lack autonomy or self-esteem.
If we choose to view the mere fact that we exist as proof of our validity, the need for negative behavior evaporates. We can then use our hurt, our pain, and our challenging experiences to develop compassion for ourselves and for others. Dignity comes from acknowledging that we are here, that we have something to contribute, that we are enough.
We become attracted to both our own flaws and those of others as a way to connect with our individual and collective humanity.
Yet in our search for validation, we humans are by nature too easily elated by external praise and deflated by external criticism. True and lasting self-esteem can only be built by the self – not by others. We create lasting self-esteem through our own meaningful accomplishments.
How can we begin to connect with and power up this solid core self? The first and easiest step is to…breathe.
Slow, deep breathing saturates the body and brain with oxygen. Yet, although controlled breathing is the foundation of many physical, spiritual and mental disciplines, most of us draw breath unconsciously and shallowly from only the top third of our lungs. This deprives ourselves of oxygen and holding tension in ourselves.
To breathe more effectively, start by shrugging your shoulders up so that they touch the bottom of your ears. Rotate the shoulders back so that the blades touch, then let your shoulders drop. This releases tension opens the chest cavity and prepares you for breath.
Next, slowly fill your lungs with air, drawing your breath in as if you are sipping from a straw. When you feel as if you can not draw any more air in, hold for a fraction of a second and then slowly exhale. The entire breath should last from thirty to forty-five seconds.
Breath is life.
Breathing is surviving; controlling our breath allows us to take control of the next right action so that we may not only survive, but thrive.