I am at my pilates class. I can say that I am at the beginner level. My trainer shows me a move, I try to do it quickly in my own way. She says “Don’t hurry. Slower…” I slow down a bit. I hear my trainer’s voice saying “Even slower… Let yourself go. Just feel.” I slow down a bit more. I become surprised by how my muscles work once I slow down. They were not working this way when I was fast. Then I remember how I try to slow down my clients in our sessions. I remember how they feel their bodies and emotions once slowed down. “I should write about it” I tell myself. Then, realizing that the necessity of taking care of my other tasks fast is in fact not a necessity, I slow down and listen to myself. I wonder myself and enjoy exploring myself. And here, I’m writing this article.
The Consumerist Society
As we drift apart from nature, we become distant with our own bodies and souls, too. Unfortunately, we were born in the consumption culture and we live in it. Life has taught us -especially to the ones born and raised in big cities- that in order to survive in such a life, we need to be fast. It is as if being fast has been imprinted on our cells and automatically settled in our bodies and souls.After all, Capitalism needs us to be fast. That way we can consume more in less time. And the system goes on… When fast, we cannot understand ourselves. For example, instead of figuring out our anxieties in natural ways, we go shopping…
Directly or indirectly, most of the things around us tell us that we need to consume. And we consume… the time, the money, even people and loves. We consumed this, next one! Always fighting for the next step… Without realizing what you experience at that moment, how you feel, what you sense in your body or what you actually want… Next thing you know, you’ve become old. But that’s okay, in the end you’ve lived for 70 years, right? But have you actually lived?
People Alienated to Themselves
When they first come, some of my clients try to tell me as much as they can within the session by talking fast and nonstop. For them, the more I know about them, the more I can help them. First, I slow them down a bit: “Can we stay here a little bit? How did it happen?” Then they slow down and keep on telling. I slow them down a bit more. Their bodies suddenly change at certain points while telling. For example, their pupils deepen and some parts of the body strain. However, they try to continue telling without realizing the changes. “Just a minute… Let’s stay right here for a while, shall we? Can you check what are you experiencing in yourself at this exact moment?” This surprises the clients at first. “What do you mean by experiencing in myself?” they ask most of the time. So distant from their own bodies and souls, both of which they have been ignoring for so long, they are not aware of what is happening in their inner worlds. I give them detailed examples. Surprised, the clients turn their awareness into their bodies. That’s the moment the change begins. It’s the moment which they begin to explore themselves; tune their bodies, feelings and thoughts; get rid of the oppressed tension and regulate their nervous systems.
Unfortunately, the moments we experience this are almost nonexistent. Therefore, most of the people don’t get to know themselves. They know that there is something going on wrong but they feel desperate. They cannot make healthy decisions. They feel like they belong nowhere. They live, but they do not completely feel it.
Psychology and Anxiety Based Physical Disorders
Just like the nature’s and the universe’s, it is impossible not to admire the human system. Because, it has the capacity to heal itself. Of course, as long as human beings don’t drift apart from their own nature. By “not drifting apart from their own nature”; I mean noticing and tuning their own bodies, feelings, thoughts and bringing out their energies healthily on their own. If a human being becomes a whole from a to z, then most of the systems can repair themselves. However, if there are serious traumas, the tension is accumulated and the nervous system is damaged, then visiting a therapist immediately is necessary.
A person away from the sensations on their body cannot hear the alarm their body gives. In such circumstances, the alarm turns into a constantly-felt anxiety and/or various symptoms. Then come panic attacks, fears and physical disorders…
People Living Solely on Thoughts, without Feeling
Sometimes I think that the necessity of being fast is not only a cause but also an effect. When fast, we can put our bodies and feelings out of action more easily. That way, accumulated tension and sorrow don’t make us feel bad and we do not take the risk of falling apart by losing control.
Therefore, most of us live fast and superficial lives. Usually, even when telling someone how we feel, the things we say are degraded into just words. After all, what we think is more important than how we feel, right?
It is very difficult trying to live in total control of thoughts. Especially in control of unhealthy ones… Because when the body and the feelings aren’t enabled, the system does not behave and this situation returns as anxiety to the person. When the sympathetic or the parasympathetic nervous systems are at the extreme, the person loses the ability of thinking reasonably.
Let’s assume you’re in a tough situation at work. At that exact moment, certain activations (such as quick heart beating or contraction on the upper leg) occurs on your body. In order to deal with the situation right away, ignoring your body and feelings, you force yourself to think reasonably. Therefore, your sympathetic nervous system passes the threshold and consequently your thoughts drift apart from reality. Your state of anxiety based on fear and despair increases. Then you catch yourself doing something you actually wouldn’t want to. You don’t feel like you belong in that act.
Let’s write another scenario now. You’re face to face with a tough situation at work. You stop for a moment. You slow down. You notice the quick beating of your heart and the contraction on your upper leg. You feel desperate and scared. You breathe fast and you’re on edge. Before making any decisions and losing yourself in thoughts, you get your feet on the ground strongly to calm yourself down. You look at your co-worker who makes you feel safe and meet their smile. Then you watch that long tree that you see through the window. How green its leaves, how beautifully it blossoms. You calm down a little bit. You realize that life goes on. Then you look at the task before you again. Your sympathetic nervous system has been activated, you are alerted but it hasn’t passed the threshold. It gives you energy so that you act reasonably. Feeling excited yet competent, you take care of the task.
Our Fast Lives Harm Our Children’s Nervous Systems
Another issue I’d like to touch on about speed is the fact that the necessity of being fast affects our children. Every baby is born with an incomplete nervous system. In time, it develops by tuning with the mother’s system. Just like adults, children react to events in a particular order. First, they try to understand what is happening. For example, if they hear a bark from behind; inclining their ears, they gently turn their heads. Second, they react depending on what is happening. This reaction can be fighting, running or freezing in more complex ways. Last, releasing the physical and the emotional reaction the event brings along, they relax and go back to their lives.
Let’s give a daily example. You have to go to work. You will quickly feed your child and leave home. Your 2-year-old acts naughtily while eating and rubs the fork against the table. Abruptly saying “don’t do it” to the child, you grab the fork. Without even realizing what is happening, your child decreases to the lower levels of the parasympathetic nervous system from the upper levels of the sympathetic nervous system. It happens so suddenly that the child’s nervous system has to skip the first step (understanding what is happening). So, the excited and curious child turns into a crying and desperate one. In such a case, pretending to rub another fork against the table as slowly and explicitly as possible and saying things like “ouchie” prepare the child for the situation. It helps the child understand the situation. If he/she continues to act the same way, you explain the possibility of getting hurt again. If it happens a couple more times you tell you will take the fork and you do it. That way, you wouldn’t harm the child’s nervous system. On the contrary, you help it gain flexibility.
In my opinion, this situation is the biggest reason of the impatient state and the sudden crying fits of today’s children. We play with their nervous systems for the sake of being fast. We consume them, just like we consume everything else.
Incomprehensible People Unable to Comprehend
How can a person unaware of their own pain and unable to show themselves tenderness understand other people’s pain and treat them with tenderness? A person aware of their own nature -which is possible only by slowing down, wondering and not fearing what they might face- can tune with others a lot easier. Of course, there can be traumatic experiences. However, instead of running away from pain, this type of people suffer and send the pain away. They do not let past experiences affect the present. Yet, most of us are unable to understand neither our own pain, nor others’. After all, most of the clients comes to therapy because those around them don’t understand them.
Well then, what is slowing down good for?
- People notice what they experience in themselves. They get rid of the accumulated tension. Their bodies, feelings and thoughts tune with each other. They have a sense of belonging.
- They understand that they cannot control everything all at once. They take care of controllable things calmly and one by one.
- Once slowing down the experience, they look at both their inner worlds and the events outside from a broader perspective. They become open minded.
- They realize where they should pay attention. This realization makes problem solving easier.
- They see the events with a more open and clear vision. They catch the big picture. They don’t make quick and impulsive decisions.
- They understand other people better and empathize with them.
- They gain self-confidence.
- They remember that everything is temporary.
- Feeling their own affectivity, they express themselves in a healthy way.
- Looking at the experience from an outer perspective, they calm themselves down.