Ahhhh the ocean. Nothing feels quite like it for me. I am a Pieces which means I am a fish and therefore need to be by the ocean or I will suffocate. It also means that I need breathing space. Us Pieces are a watery sort. We are not happy in confined spaces and can easily go into downward spirals if we are so. We are creative, artistic, loving and A LITTLE TOO emotional at times. Cap all that off with my cultural background and you will quickly understand that complex nature:) All that explanation to say that if I don’t give myself breathing space, I am not a person that many would eagerly like to be around. Breathing space is a very subjective and fluid type of thing. It literally can mean that I just take a deep breath innnnnnnn and outtttttttt. It can also take a variety of forms such as heading to my favorite beach to sit in the sun and get me some Vitamin D. Given that my nature tends towards being social, my breathing space generally incorporates some sense of alone time. The concept of breathing space came up recently within a conversation I had with someone and caused an interesting conversation on the subtle but important difference between breathing space and isolation. Let’s take a look at this to better understand what that means.
This article in the New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/03/30/hellhole details the science behind humans as social animals. As the article details, Harry Harlow, a professor of psychology at University of Wisconsin at Madison produced seminal work on monkeys and social connection. His research came accidentally as he was creating a primate research lab with monkeys rather than importing them from India. As he didn’t know how to raise monkeys, he was caring for them as babies would be cared for in a nursery. While they were growing up study and strong, they were also mentally and emotionally disturbed as they were not in their own habitat with their mother. Harlow attempted to recreate their mother by giving them a doll made out of cloth and one made of wire. He placed a warming device inside the dolls to make them more comfortable. The cloth doll was meant to be their pseudo mother and the wire was the control. What did he find? They completely ignored the wire doll and went clung to the cloth one. Although they did cling to the cloth mother, even in times of needing comfort, they basically stayed psychologically disturbed. Hmmm kinda like humans, right? No one can replace the mama figure in your life; whether it’s your bio mama or a chosen one. Harlow later studied monkeys that were kept in total isolation since birth. At the end of three months, the monkeys stopped eating and died three days later. The article also details what happen psychologically to people when they are in solitary confinement in jail for an extended period of time. You guessed it, people went bananas. So just as it life would have it, we really don’t need research studies to tell us these things, right? I love my little tree top house up in the sky. It is my cozy nest but in the dark of the winter, if I nest too often, it has the reverse affect. Subjectively, I can say my research from working in the mental health field for approximately 17 years has shown me human beings can not isolate and stay safe or sane. It becomes this place of comfortable uncomfortableness. You are comfortable because you don’t have to confront what most causes you anxiety (social situations) but you are desperately uncomfortable because your world is infinitely small and fear based.
Finding breathing space is that sweet spot right in the middle. Where you are finding time to go within to restore your mind/body/spirit. We all need time to recharge. If you are often “on” so to speak in your life, you must find a way to go within to feed your soul what it needs in order to keep brighting the light forward. It is possible to find that sweet spot wherever you are. Sometimes, like for instance right now, I find it by being in a loud crowded cafe focused on my conversation with you all and enjoying my tea. Cafes help me feel connected but centered at the same time. Oddly the busier and louder they are, the more connected I feel within. The energy of those around me feeds my need for connection while I give myself a chance to be still and quiet within. Sometimes it’s the peace and centering of the tree house that is needed. Other times it’s the beach, the peace of my office at work or something totally different that my body/mind needs. What kinds of things work for you to give you breathing space? Do you find, like I often do, that different things are needed at different times? Are you able to shift and flow following what your body needs when it needs it? Allow your inner knowing to guide you along the path and the journey. Isolation is about fear and rigidity. It may service some needs but it doesn’t service all of you; especially the part of you that needs and craves love.