You can probably count on one hand the pivotal moments in your life when you decided to make a change. It’s not easy, so the number is few. But oh, those few — how they stay with you and peck away the plaster to reveal the soul inside.
The past two days was one such moment for me.
I hoboed around my mind on Friday evening, feeling destitute, betrayed, ambushed. I’d like to say that the way I felt was someone else’s doing. Come Saturday morning, I knew it was my own.
I was sitting in a lecture about the transtheoretical model of behavior change. Heard of it? I hadn’t. The model lays out five steps during the process of making a change.
- Precontemplation (Not Ready)
- Contemplation (Getting Ready)
- Preparation (Ready)
First up, precontemplation. In fact, I didn’t get far beyond precontemplation because as the professor read off the bullet points I realized she was talking about me.
People in this stage:
- Resist change
- Are defensive
- Deny they have a problem
- Won’t take responsibility for their behaviors
- Want to change the people around them
- Can feel demoralized because they have come to believe that whatever they’re dealing with is a hopeless situation
“Precontemplation is a safe place to hang out for a long time because there is no risk of failure,” said the psychology professor. How did she know that the night before I spent denying, defending, resisting and feeling hopeless because of that exact risk?
Before the lecture was over, I had my game plan. I’ve never been keen on following steps in order, so I decided to skip 2 and 3 and head straight to Action.
I have selective sound sensitivity, or misophonia, and I finally decided to do something about it.
An ultimatum — to yourself
A funny thing happens when you decide to take Action and change your life — like, now. You almost never feel ready.
Since adolescence, I’ve held irrational anger and annoyance in my body around sounds like chewing, breathing and spoons clicking against bowls. These triggers mostly bother me when it’s relatively quiet and the sound is predominant. I get a strong desire to leave the room — and I often do.
The limited research and knowledge about this uncommonly discussed, yet common behavior, identifies it as a neurological glitch — that in my brain there’s a strong connection between the auditory and the limbic system, the fight or flight center. I don’t go into rage as some do, but I can make myself and those around me uncomfortable.
When you discover others suffering your same suffering, it’s bittersweet. It changes your perspective on your own suffering but then amplifies your own.
You could hang around in the Not Ready, Getting Ready and Ready stages as you commiserate. Or, you could give yourself an ultimatum.
The thing is, when you or someone else brings attention to a behavior that’s not You, you can’t deny it anymore. You can hide it just as well as you can hide whether your hips are tight in Bound Angle Pose.
Once you realize you’re in precontemplation, you’re back to the start of what it is to honestly face yourself. This is when you take your dog for a walk and let the tears stream because you are ashamed it took this long to confront something right in front of you.
But you’ve realized it now, and that’s the important part.
Yoga teaches us that there is little time to be spent believing a situation is hopeless.
We’ll feel it all the same, especially as we fathom what it will take to change. But you know what’s worse than failing? Spending a lifetime in discomfort.
On the yoga mat, triggers surface. The tension deep in our hips; the crunch in the side bodies; the back, seemingly immobile to backbends. If we keep doing the work in our bodies, if we take one more breath, and then another, eventually they yield.
It’s when we stop doing the work that we’re most upset by — and stuck within — ourselves.
If you’re hanging out in precontemplation, meditate on this: Do your current behaviors match up with your personal goals? Writing and seeing the disconnect (or having someone else help you to see it) can nudge you along to Action.
Just as we learned to touch our toes, tie our shoes and eat with a spoon (without clinking the bowl, thankyouverymuch) we can unlearn behaviors that cause us pain. It might not happen right away.
But it definitely won’t happen if you don’t take action before you are ready.
Try it: Wild Thing, Camatkarasana
I popped up into Wild Thing today and my heart knew that I could make this change, even if my mind isn’t ready to yet. Backbends push the energy up, up, up and renew hope when you feel most hopeless. Compassion for yourself and your struggles rests in this buoyancy.
And if you’re lucky, sometimes, without invitation, someone else will jump up and share in your joy as you make a change. In my case, a curious little dog named Willow.
- Come into Side Plank Pose, Vasisthasana (instructions here), left hand planted in the middle of your mat, right hand on hip and feet stacked right on top of left. Inhale and elevate your hips.
- Root firmly down into the left palm, fingers spread wide. Exhale and plant your right foot behind you, knee bent, while keeping the left leg straight.
- Inhale and lift the hips once more. Reach your right arm straight up, then draw the shoulder blade onto the back as you extend the arm and fingers behind your head.
- Breathing smoothly, curl your upper body back, with the head the last to loosen toward the ground. Hold for six breaths, then lift your upper body back into Side Plank Pose and finally into Downward Facing Dog or Child’s Pose before doing the other side.