In a weird way, the shame of not fighting back was always worse than the beating I took.
I lay lifeless on the floor, as fists slammed into me. I was just an observer of the physical assault.
I did nothing.
After the event, I would - ironically - beat myself up about not having the courage or the masculinity required to fight back.
That shame was the worst part.
Partly in a quest to destroy this shame I joined the military. I then started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I saw myself as a fighter and thought I was beyond it.
And at least physically, I was.
But, when I was confronted with a challenge at work, I saw a familiar pattern. I shut down.
It looked like procrastination. It looked like laziness. It felt like fear and numbness combined.
I would look back at the day and wish I had acted differently. Just the same as when I was lying in bed as a teenager…wishing I had fought back.
Why could I logically know what to do, but physically not do it?
Why couldn’t I break free from these invisible chains?
This plagued me for years. I worked on my beliefs. I trained my character, but something was always missing.
18 months ago, I finally found the answer. It changed my life. It changed the lives of hundreds of high performers I’ve trained in this skill.
Today, I’m going to share it with you.
Top-Down Vs. Bottom-Up
You don’t see the world like you’ve been taught. You think your mind is the thing that’s interpreting the world for you..
That’s why you try to use willpower to change the way you act. And it’s why you try to control your thoughts.
This is called a Top-Down view: you believe your conscious mind is the thing that’s always in control.
And that’s wrong.
Which is why willpower and conscious control have never helped you in the long run. And it’s why you haven’t managed to change who you are, despite knowing better.
Your body unconsciously interprets the world around it before your conscious mind is even aware.
It’s constantly scanning for threats.
Your nervous system is the real driver of your vehicle. It interprets every sense you have before you’re aware of them.
That’s why you jump at sudden sounds without deciding to.
But what does that have to do with breaking your performance barrier?
The Safety Switch You Can’t Turn Off Keeping You Stuck
Above all, your nervous system wants safety.
It will sacrifice anything to keep your genes moving to the next generation.
“The human nervous system is on a quest, and the quest is for safety.”- Dr. Stephen Porgres
When safety is threatened, the first thing your nervous system sacrifices is the very thing you want more of: creativity, social connection, and generative acts.
So that’s basically everything that brings you the freedom and lifestyle you crave.
When those things are sacrificed, the fight/flight part of your nervous system is activated.
This creates action above all else. You will fight, or you will flee.
Imagine yourself under extreme threat, you will flail your arms and physically freak out in order to get out of that environment. You will run in any direction, without fully assessing if it’s a good idea.
Sounds a lot like your panic hustle that happens when a deadline is looming, your business is plummeting, or your tax bill is due, doesn’t it?
Finally, if that fight/flight mode still doesn’t free you from the threat, your nervous system will play dead. You will shut down.
Just like I did on the playing field. Just like assault victims and those with PTSD do.
Maybe, just like you’ve learned to do.
Some people get stuck here. Even when the threat disappeared a long time ago. Your nervous system becomes attuned to threat.
For years if you’re lucky, decades if not so. Your entire lifetime if not.
If your nervous system is trying to play dead, creating the business of your dreams is unlikely to say the least. Same goes with having a loving relationship with your spouse and kids.
So while you rationalise your limiting belief through a conscious-mind lens, your true limit is in your physiology.
Stoicism won’t touch it. Listening to podcasts won’t touch it. Even therapy won’t touch it.
Your limit is in your body.
Finding Freedom From Shutting Down
Fortunately, there is a way out of this. Unfortunately, the answers are things the world has forgotten how to do very well. If you struggle with having your Shut Down Button continually switched on, they’re things you may have forgotten how to do too.
The best way to turn off your Shut Down Button is to press the physiological levers that make your body feel safe.
Remember the body is always seeking safety. So if you can teach it to feel safe, you will be able to access the parts of your brain you need for creativity and exploration.
Three tools stand head and shoulders above the rest; breathwork; social engagement; and creating an environment you physically feel safe in.
I worked with this wonderful woman, R. She initially came to me for help in her mindset specific to her athletic development.
Soon, we talked about a history of trauma she had experienced. It became clear that while she had cognitively processed this, physiologically, her body was still shutting down. It was stopping her from showing up as her best self at work.
She felt frustrated and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t help herself.
It’s important to note that it was years since the traumatic event, and she had since sought professional psychotherapy.
Through a Non-Sleep Deep Rest protocol developed specifically for her, she soon developed the capacity to confront the situations which were keeping her stuck. Particularly the people-pleasing which stopped her from truly leaning into her success.
Two other clients come to mind, J & T. Both had experienced an environment that while wasn’t obviously traumatic, led to them both constantly scanning the world for threat.
As such, they both found themselves consistently limited by a tendency to withdraw from situations which they found threatening. This happened the whole time in their demanding jobs. They knew they had the capacity to thrive in their careers, and desperately wanted to do so. But they found themselves consistently underperforming and retreating from challenge.
They both used breathwork training and forms of play. These helped regulate their nervous system and access the parts of their brain they needed. Both have recently found new levels of freedom - both financially and in free time.
Your limits don’t reside solely in your mind; they are entangled in your nervous system.
If you’re ready to access your next level of performance, and create the freedom you desire, drop me a message with the word “Interested” on my Instagram now.