By Judy Zehr
Guest writer for Wake Up World
What drives our anxious mind? One of the keys can be found in our “default circuits” or the neural circuits — the thoughts and feelings — that incessantly run as the semi-conscious backgrounds of our inner lives.
These default circuits are “wired” into our inner lives by repetition and experience and resemble a mental virus we pick up from our culture or family. Our default circuits are like the little man behind the curtain running the great and powerful Oz. They might run the show, but they are fueled by implicit memories: unconscious or barely conscious fears, lusts, hostilities, passions, cravings, repulsions and the like.
In myth and fairy tales, our default circuits show up as the bad guys, the evil ones, the spirits and energies that will seduce or bully us off track, deep into the woods, and then abandon us or eat us alive.
Default circuits can keep us in a mysterious trance, and one of the key trances we all share is the one of “not enough”.
Do any of the following sound familiar?
I am not enough…
He she or it is not enough…
Life is not enough…
I don’t have enough…
I need more, better, (fill in the blank)…
This unconscious or semi-conscious inner phenomenon can keep us locked in stress and anxiety — over spending, over eating, never feeling quite satisfied, balanced or happy.
The brain is reward driven, dopamine is the driver, and this seeking, seeking, seeking behavior for more, more, more whether that be money, food, clothes, information from websites, relationships, etc. can show up in many ways.
It can show up in vague disgruntlements with our spouse and kids or a general dissatisfaction with our house or apartment or yard. It can show up as a low level stream of envy or negative comparisons with others, or as an unquenchable need to fix, improve and control the people and things around us.
This seeking and “not enough” is built into the human condition.
The truth? Of course we are enough. And usually we have enough too. Enough support, resources, and ability to solve whatever the problem or difficulty is that we face.
In brain-retraining we work on helping people move from that feeling of “not enough” to a sense of plenty. At one point we explored the suggestions of some of the coaching experts we’ve studied who suggest focusing on “abundance”. But interestingly, we found over time that turning your thoughts and energies toward abundance had the potential to keep you on the wheel of trying too hard and being dissatisfied.
We came to realize that abundance can actually be a stressor in the human brain — too many choices and too much “stuff”. The over-indulgent patterns we can fall into are just as stressful as “not enough”.
So it’s the simple sense or feeling of “enough” that we move toward (or “plenty”, or you can substitute any word that works for you).
The idea is simple. You can practice right here as you read this. Just feel your feet on the ground. See if you can feel the texture of your socks, or shoes, or the carpet or floor beneath your feet. Notice how the floor completely supports your feet.
Feel the breath in your body. Feel the rise and fall of your belly with your breath, the coolness or warmth of the air as it enters your nostrils.
Notice how in this moment, you have enough air, or plenty of air, you have enough support, in fact plenty of support from the ground itself.
You can ask yourself, what is holding me now? Perhaps you notice the sounds of the birds around you, or the stillness of the room. Perhaps you notice the color of the sun landing on the leaves outside your window.
Keep your attention on the breath in your body. Ask, again, what is holding me now? Notice that in the holding there is enough, there is plenty.
When you bring your attention back to the senses, to the felt experience of the present moment, you are disconnecting from the default neural circuits that will fuel your energy toward “not enough” and help down shift you to “plenty” or “yes, simply enough”.
When you begin to notice that you are held, that the nourishment of the air is all around you, the life force streaming in and out of your own body, the present beauty of life entering into your senses in this moment, nature itself, when you become aware of all of this in the present moment, you return to “enough”.
Our true happiness and well-being lie in this experience of holding, plenty and enough. Any gratitude practices you embark upon will grow from this experience, and your relationships and general sense of calm and love will also be served each time you return to the feeling of plenty or simply enough.
Off the wheel of seeking, accumulating and trying, off the pattern of frenzy and fear, there lies a very pleasant experience of simple love and joy, resting in the field of plenty, the field of “enough”.
Previous articles by Judy:
- No Hopeless Cases: We Can All Rewire Our Neural Circuits Toward Peace, Balance, Joy
- A Whole Body, Whole Being Approach to Healing and Cleansing (with Jenn Jessup)
About the author:
Judy Zehr, LPC, MHRM is a mental health therapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon. She is a Certified Emotional Brain Training Trainer (trains other health professionals in the method) and past Director of Clinical Education at the Institute for Health Solutions, UCSF.