Crowd It Out — A Manifesto
On a recent flight, I decided to try utilizing some of the tools I’ve developed over this past year. I started all sorts of new self-care practices: working out, eating better, deep breathing, meditation, reframing certain limiting beliefs I’d held. Typically when I fly, I medicate. Even just a little, but something. Something to calm the nerves of being at 34,000 feet, going 600+ mph. It’s funny, sort of. I feel compelled to travel (working on some long-term, long-distance goals), and yet hate flying. Or, so I’ve told myself.
This time, I decided to try something different. All of that self-care stuff had worked when it came to on-the-ground stuff like career direction, communication skills, and mental endurance. Could it also work to replace other coping mechanisms? Could I use those tricks and tools to keep myself calm and light in a situation that typically brought me fear and anxiety?
It made me wonder about the process of learning and unlearning fear. If we can unlearn certain habits or change certain thought pathways, couldn’t fear be one of the things we changed?
I recognized that I’ve been afraid of flying, essentially since 9/11. This fear hadn’t stopped me from flying, but it sure has made the experience pretty miserable. That’s 16 years of holding onto the same fear, for hours at a time, over and over. I’ve flown a lot in the last 16 years. I’ve flown a lot in my life; my dad works for the airlines, so I practically grew up between airports and exit rows.
I wasn’t always afraid of flying, so how much time had I spent in the last sixteen years holding this fear close to me, only to always end up safely on the other side of where I started?
Then the question arose, what could I have done with all of this brain space and all of this time if I hadn’t spent it on fear? I believe we can unlearn old things and relearn new ones — but how?
Crowd It Out — Of My Diet
I made some health and fitness changes to my lifestyle this year. I committed to losing weight, to eating cleaner, and to moving my body more and more often. I’m not one who functions well when I feel as though I’m restricting myself or if I’m not allowed to do something, so a method that worked for me far better than “cutting back,” “cutting out,” or “avoiding” certain foods, was the Crowd It Out method (not an official title).
This method suggests that rather than cut things out, you crowd them out with the good stuff. For me, this meant meals that were comprised of mostly vegetables and protein, so that I wasn’t relying on carbs and starches to feel full. It meant finding sweet substitutes in coconut ice cream and fruit and dark chocolate; so much so that I wasn’t craving as many cookies and cakes. It meant having the cookies and cakes and carbs and starches when I wanted, just making them the 20% of my intake, rather than anything higher.
It worked for me. So, I figured if that worked for diet and health habits, why couldn’t it work for my mental processes?
Crowd It Out — Of My Brain
I decided to take this same approach on this flight. I opened my laptop and started furiously typing positive statements of gratitude and affirmation, so as to push out any possibility of holding space for the negative, fear-based ones.
I am supported.
I am safe.
I am capable.
I am able.
I am grateful.
I am here.
I am loved.
I am loving.
I am safe. I am safe. I am safe.
I started writing notes of gratitude.
I am grateful to have spent this last week with my family. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to move about the country, and to see the parts of the world I’ve seen so far. I recognize that there is more for me to see, and I won’t let these little anxieties stop me from realizing my full potential.
I am safe.
This writing exercise, positive affirmations and statements of gratitude, they started to lead me in a new direction. I started asking myself questions.
What could you do with your life if you’re not afraid? What will you do? How will you spend your time if it’s not spent in worry?
I want to break through my own ideas of everything I know. I want to question what I believe. I want to unlearn bad habits and limiting beliefs that hold me back.
I want to unlearn fear. I want to unlearn skepticism. I want to unlearn mistrust and defensiveness and jealousy. I want to understand where it comes from.
I want to understand why I feel as though I am missing some memories.
Am I blocking something out or am I just that forgetful? How can I improve my memory?
Then I started wanting to go deeper. Why not utilize every tool?
At this point, I was kind of on a roll. I started seeing this as more than a personal pep talk, but as the start of a personal manifesto.
Then we hit a little bit of turbulence.
Use your tools. Use what you have. You have your breath, always. You always have your breath and it is this that gives you strength and power and connection.
I also had a glass of wine (again, see: use your tools). So I drank that and meditated. Eventually I was giggling a little. I felt a little silly, writing this entire document full of affirmations and questions and answers. I acknowledged that I went into the whole thing with determined skepticism — I was scared. But I was determined to figure out how to unlearn that.
I’m sure this is an exercise I’ll do every time I fly until there isn’t room for fear any longer, and that’s just fine. It’s my tool. It’s my process.
What do you think about fear? About other negative thought patterns or limiting beliefs? Do you believe we can unlearn them? What’s your process?