When Mind Over Matter Doesn’t Work

January 24, 2019

“You’re just thinking too much,” she said as I sat there crying and shaking, unable to move. The big event was in the other room, but I couldn’t bring myself to open the doors and go back inside.

“It’s not that simple,” I said, fighting for air.

It was the second panic attack I’d had since my loss, but I didn’t know that’s what was happening at the time. I just knew I couldn’t get back inside the room, and everything around me seemed to be spinning.

Mind over matter they say…

Except not always, not with trauma.

I remember when I first started trying to lean back into dating. I knew better, but I still tried to tell myself it was just in my head. That maybe if I was present enough and chose to be okay, I would be. I barreled forward with determination, and those were the worst panic attacks I ever had. I learned quickly that regardless of how hard I tried to ‘mind over matter’ with presence and positive affirmations, my body was working on its own timeline and healing at its own pace.

As Pema Chödrön writes: “Affirmations are like screaming that you’re okay in order to overcome this whisper that you’re not. That’s a big contrast to actually uncovering the whisper, realizing that it’s a passing memory, and moving closer to all those fears and all those edgy feelings that maybe you’re not okay. Well, no big deal. None of us is okay and all of us are fine. It’s not just one way. We are walking, talking paradoxes.”

I had to slow down and get present with all the hurt and trauma my body was holding, in order to finally move it through. In order to actually, truly, deeply heal. I had to really embrace that it’s okay to not be okay. That my body would sometimes have intense reactions to perfectly normal, lovely things… at least until the wounds were addressed, tended to, and processed out.

I’m still healing, and I’m also so very good and happy. I still can’t ‘mind over matter’ with certain things, but I’ve learned to slow down, tune in, and listen… rather than ‘power through’ or try to ‘be strong’… which has made all the difference in the world.

Listen to the whisper, friends. It’s laced with more wisdom than any polished affirmation could ever hold.


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