What are the costs of going emotionally flat? I lose my sense of empowerment, engagement, and vitality. Many of us can get a little flat in our affect and engagement, and cruise onward without noticing. We function ok. Others may not notice. We feel “fine,” and tell ourselves that we are fine.
But, flat is not fine. Damped down is not a place I want to live any more than necessary. I want to play a conscious part in the journey of my life!
When I catch myself going flat, I have to remind myself that flatness is just as much a threat response as high activation. Going flat is like flicking off our aliveness, as if it were a light switch, and then pretending that the switch doesn’t even exist!
Going flat can happen for a number of reasons: intensity, complexity, or having too much to handle and not expecting help with it. The pandemic provokes great complexity in many of our lives. So does political polarization, unstructured vacation days, and financial pressure. Complexity can be too many decisions and details to cope with, the challenge of an uncomfortable social environment, or being alone when we need help to face difficult experiences.
Going flat and engaging less can be a relief. It is often a well-worn path deep in the nervous system, because it works. I honor the wisdom of the nervous system to ensure survival, AND, I like feeling alive. Personally and professionally I want to be present and engaged, vital and empowered.
Noticing when I go flat is essential if I do not want to stay stuck!
We can practice asking: How can I tell I am flat? How does my body tell me I am “online,” engaged, and vital? Look for body up clues. What are yours? Feeling warm hearted? Noticing tingle flows or a bubbly feeling in your chest? Awareness of your sitz bones or a solid sense of feeling grounded in your pelvis ? Noticing aliveness in your spine or a sense of readiness to take on the world or the task at hand? When we notice those cues have gone missing, we can do something about it.
Feeling is the key to re-animating ourselves. Feeling/sensing* our bodies is one pathway back to vitality. Our bodies and body awareness literally and figuratively give us dimension. When I include my body up awareness in my life, my choices are more completely informed by my whole being.
To reanimate, some may choose mindfulness practices, exercise, risky behavior, drug highs or martial arts or other embodiment practices. Body Up Co-Regulation is a quick, healthy way to enliven yourself in the company of another person. I like using the following practices in life and with clients when I/we go flat: Back Stack, Piezoelectric Arms, Breath Wings and My Safe Bubble.
What works for you?
*Feeling/sensing in this context is not necessarily about experiencing emotion in the body. Body-up sensation can be about emotion, or can also be about tension/relaxation, pressure, pain, pleasure, stretch, weight/lightness, sensation on the skin and internally, “gut knowing,” breath, taste, touch …