There’s part of me that wants to stay and part of me that wants to go.
Something in me loves to play, and something in me loves to work.
There’s an urge in me to run and an urge to hold my ground.
There’s part of me that feels at home and a part of me that doesn’t fit.
Part of me is calling for adventure, and part of me wants everything to stay the same.
Part of me is excited to perform in this space, and part of me is screaming, “No!”
Do you ever wonder why you put yourself through it?
The thing that feels deeply energising and invigorating one minute and downright terrifying the next.
What is IT for you?
I played on Friday night at a fantastic Sofar Sounds event at the Daimler Powerhouse in Coventry.
During Luca FD’s beautiful set, before I was due on stage, I noticed my autonomic executive board working overtime to figure out what to do with this situation. The attention of a room focussed on the front. The most precious gift for any performer – a calm and silent audience, primed to be absorbed in the sound.
Transcript From The Autonomic Emergency Board Meeting
“We feel a bit unsettled. What are we doing here? Are we preparing to run away?” The inner voices mutter anxiously. “No, I think he has chosen to put us through this”, another part adds.
“Why, what’s he got planned?” There’s silence for a moment before we turn and look at the stage where Luca is performing.
“Well, you see that guy playing songs with the lights and attention focused on him?”
“Yeah, Luca, I see him. Gorgeous songs, perfect sound for this environment, too.”
“Yes. Well, that.”
“What do you mean, ‘that’?”
“That’s what WE’RE going to do.”
“Don’t be silly.”
“I’m not being silly. We’re on in ten.”
“Oh no? That’s why we’re here? Again? Why does he do this to us?”
“Because I think he might enjoy it.”
“He doesn’t seem to enjoy it…listen to us, we’re making him think twice. He can’t enjoy it. He’s nervous! It makes him vulnerable being up there all on his own – it’s a ridiculous thing to do. It doesn’t make any sense! It’s so much safer here, at the back of the room. Oi, Andy, just stay here…What are you doing? Stop walking towards the stage…don’t you dare sit at that piano…get your fingers away from those keys!..oh no he’s about to sing…ooh actually, this is quite fun, mmmm listen to your voice in this space, it sounds nice. Oh yeah, I like these songs. Keep playing; this is great!”
Part of Me Is Searching For Safety
We might notice the messages that flow through the nervous system and into our ability to connect with the moment. Within ourselves, the task at hand, and the people around us.
The messages may confuse our apparent contradictory desires. Part of us might dread the same thing that brings us great satisfaction and pleasure. In an autonomic defensive state, we perceive the task through the same filter as a genuine threat to our safety and survival.
At times, the defensive state might overpower our connection to what we’re doing. The nerves can get the better of us and lead us away from the stuff we wish we could do. Those things we choose to do when we’re thinking about them from a place of safety and regulation.
One Body, Different Parts
Awareness of our nervous system’s role in responding to perceived threats along chosen paths is foundational to moving towards our creative pursuits and meaningful goals that otherwise get derailed by nerves.
Long-term transformation in calm connection is not about hacking the brain or short-circuiting our neural pathways to trick ourselves into doing scary things. It’s about entering awareness, embracing, and befriending those parts of ourselves that speak through a story of safety. Over time, we can gradually re-route the pathways and create new connections to do scary things a little more comfortably.
This doesn’t necessarily mean those things stop feeling scary. It means that we can navigate scary things with an increasingly anchored sense of connection and be confident in our processes for re-regulating after we’re done. It’s a combination of slowly rewriting the inner story (how we respond to stimulation) and reshaping the outer world (conditions to give our nervous systems the time and space needed for preparation and recovery).
Some things get easier and lose their terrifying sting with time and practice. Other things continue to cause discomfort because of their nature but get easier to navigate because we build conditions and processes around them to help with energy and neural-regulation.
Do you ever wonder why you put yourself through it? What is IT for you?
Is there something you wish you COULD put yourself through, but the nerves seem to get the better of you?
I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below, drop me a message, or mention me if you share this episode on social media.