Note: This article was sent to all participants of the Caring vs. Caretaking, a Living Ubuntu Body Group series currently in progress.
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I saw this article this morning, The etiquette gap: From Newt and Mitt to Facebook and texting. While it might seem slightly off topic for our series on Caring vs. Caretaking, I see much within it that highlights the struggle of our times.
In a society that has lost its civility, it is a given that our nervous systems are over-charged. If we are stuck there, civility might be out of reach. We need an ongoing mind-body strategy for calming down. Rule books for good manners might give us a guideline to aspire to, but in reality, it won’t suffice. The reason being, bodies read bodies. If you are faking it and merely going through the motions, even the correct, well-mannered response is not likely to feel genuine to the person on the receiving end.
It can be quite challenging to find the balance between being well-mannered and adhering to self-honoring authenticity.
Part of the key to finding this balance is maintaining groundedness in our own body. If we are grounded, we are connected to our self and reality. We will not as easily be blown this way and that with every change of the wind. Our reactivity is lessened. Our capacity to be emotionally present is increased, as is self-awareness and the ability to read the cues of others. We will be more in touch with our limits and thereby increase the odds that we can find a way to honor them.
Groundedness requires consistency. It is not an “extra” to be squeezed in when we have the time for it. It is an ongoing way of life, day in and day out. It can no more be put on hold without destructive consequences than to think that food, water or breathing are optional. Being ungrounded in this world is dangerous.
We have gotten off track from our natural state. Our mind-body well-being is not well-supported within the cultural norm. We cannot afford to be passive as the stressors are too pervasive.
Stress shifts the bio-chemical markers within us. Chronic stress is a recipe for disaster. It pulls us away from being in touch with our selves. It diminishes our capacity to be genuinely caring toward others. It puts us at increased risk to become the caretaker. Our stress response activates the fight-flight response. It is a self-survival response, a non-relational state of mind. It also wreaks havoc over time on our physical health.
In a society that is more and more stressed out, it is not surprising that we have lost much of our civility. It goes hand in hand with reacting to others, instead of compassionately responding to others. Under stress, our capacity gets smaller, so we have less that is genuine to give.
You have been learning grounding exercises in this group: do them often. If you find yourself avoiding them, don’t judge yourself. Instead, with self-compassion, try to uncover what the block is.
When we are not used to living in our own skin, the increased feeling state can be frightening at first. After long-term stress, we might find it hard to go through the withdrawals after adrenaline addiction. It can put us in touch with our exhaustion, or makes us feel depressed. And when our body is full of tension, it is plain and simple, more difficult to feel the impulse to do something to change our state.
Be gentle and kind with yourself. Be caring toward yourself. Over time, this is your best strategy to increase genuine care toward others.
I am looking forward to seeing you on Sunday, March 11, when we will once again be together for Caring vs. Caretaking — Session #3. :)