Over the past couple of months we have discussed the concept of adversity and how to embrace resilience. Recently I had a couple of conversations with people about resilience that really stuck out. What increases our ability to bounce back from adversity? Within this concept also arises the topic of trust. At the Harvard Medical School Coaching Conference I went to recently Barbara Frederickson spoke about the science behind positive emotions. Within her lecture she also touched upon the concept of how having an increased level of positive emotions allows us to expand our “circle of trust.” She actually described it that way. She was the second speaker in the morning. This was the second day of a conference that starts at 8am. I am not a morning person. You do the math. I heard circle of trust and immediately I envisioned Robert De Nero on the stage speaking to Ben Stiller. I actually think I giggled a bit and then I put my studious hat back on and listened. She spoke about how positivity broadens and builds our awareness. It makes it so that we are capable of seeing the big picture. It all makes perfect sense. When you are feeling more positive, your outlook on the future is brighter. This will then bring about more hope and allow you to lower your defenses. The lowering defenses allows you to trust more people. As I sat there listening with my tea trying to keep my eyes open something also clicked. I had experienced just what she was talking about and if I could then maybe this is possible for others as well.
Prior to jumping off the cliff of leaving the 9-5 to take a part time position and begin my journey with you all, I went on an adventure. Prior to stating what now is my job, I gave notice and booked a trip to a place I think of as my second home: Ireland. I lived in Ireland when I was in undergrad and it immediately became home to me. I have returned several times since so it seemed that in closing one chapter of life for another I would celebrate it with a solo trip around my favorite country. I share this background as it sets the tone for what I think was, in part, responsible for my experience. This particular trip to Ireland was unlike the others as it opened up a part of me that had been closed down for a very long time. The Irish are a very friendly and warm bunch. They are very connected to the earth and to people. I have never heard of anyone who has visited that country who didn’t automatically feel a part of the community. It’s just their way. I am from Boston. While we have a lot of Irish here as well as many other cultures, we are not known to be a warm and friendly bunch. It could be the driven intellectual nature of the East Coast, the weather or just a shortage of happiness but generally we are not cheery; great people just not super friendly. This time in Ireland, I totally turned myself over to the culture much like I did when I lived there. By the end of the trip I was so open and had met so many people, I was amazed by the transformation that occurred over those ten days. This background info is important because I believe that my ability to feel safe and supported there helped me open up my circle of trust. My circle of trust became so big that I couldn’t help myself from speaking to random people in Boston when I got back. Some thought I might be insane for my friendliness, others appears happy as a clam to talk. Feeling safe though, that seemed to be the key to open up the Pandora’s box of positivity.
Those of us that work in the field of psychotherapy know that the circle of trust is very small for those with trauma. We sometimes talk about trauma like it’s happened to a small subset of the population. We have all experienced some trauma on some level: some people less so than others. Feeling safe and supported is key in beginning to open up to trusting others. Safety doesn’t come from other people though: it comes from within. We need to choose to put ourselves in safe places where we have a greater chance of gaining support in order to receive it. We also need to learn how to create a supportive environment within in order to feel safe enough to open ourselves up to receiving support from others. Frederickson spoke about how inflammation in the body turns down the dial of positive emotions. Therefore lowering inflammation through eating a healthy diet, exercising, practicing meditation and other stress management techniques will help positivity flourish. Yes! An integrative approach to healing. Love it! Creating a safe relationship with yourself means you begin to treat yourself like someone you love. This can be done by shifting out of abusive behavior of all types including harming yourself through diet as well as relationships, jobs, etc. Now that I eat healthier and have moved into a nurturing career for myself, positive feelings flow far easier than they used to. I also get to share that with others around me which helps spread the love around further opening up the circle of trust. Things have changed since I came back to Boston. Some of my Bostonian ways have crept back in. But I also remind myself that the option is there for the taking. I can choose to close down because that’s what we do or I can choose to be my authentic friendly self. For today I will choose the latter:)
How can you increase positive emotions and open up your circle of trust today? What is one way you can decrease your inflammation to allow positivity to flow?