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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is Thought for Naught?

“Wiggle your left toe,” my chiropractor typically says at some point during almost any routine visit. Sometimes it’s the right toe, other times she may request a swivel of an entire foot, but I’m not fooled—-all of the movements are just variations of a single psychological sleight of hand, exposed long ago by the good doctor herself.

The only connection the podiatric twists and pivots have to feats of spinal manipulation is the freedom the split second the shift in my mental focus provides for her to pop a vertebra or two into position without the instinctual resistance I create simply because my focus is on the fact that my neck is between someone's hands.

It’s a psychological flip of the switch: a small movement with a big impact. It’s like having a key to one of a myriad of mental barricades we humans put in place for reasons with lots of names but one true identity: fear. During a of moment of clarity of on sheet of ice last night, I determined that there almost certainly exists an endless panel of these mental switches, capable of unlocking any number of mad skills if only we knew the access code.

I stumbled across another one during a pick-up style game of ice hockey at a friend’s 30th birthday bash last night. See, I’m a reasonably good skater, which basically means I can go straight around the rink without falling, and pretty fast, too, sort of like a cut-rate Anton Ohno without the good form or the gold and silver investment portfolio. But ask me to switch directions, execute a 360, or, heaven forbid, go backwards, and I’m suddenly inching along, focusing every bit of my mental energy on performing even the most basic deviation from my straightforward course.

So I have to admit that I was a little reluctant to grab a stick and enter the fray last evening, particularly in light of the bloody skirmishes I’ve witnessed in HD in my own living room of late as my husband watches his beloved Flyers battle their way toward the Stanley Cup. I wanted to be a part of the fun, but I wasn’t about to lose any teeth over it. Well into the game, however, I became aware of no less than two surprises: not only were all my teeth still solidly in place, but I was all over the ice, in a really good way. Turning left. Turning right. Stopping. Starting. Spinning. Without even thinking about it. Evidently, when my focus turned to the soft, family-friendly, teeth-sparing puck substitute, I unlocked the uptight-way-too-cautious barrier I erected that normally thwarts my attempts to try new things on ice.

Now that I know that these keys exist, I want more of them. I want the key to unlock my fear of driving in traffic, or maybe the one that would nix my roller-coaster phobia. I might want to undo my reticence about talking to strangers, or embolden myself enough to jump from an airplane, or eat fish. A world without fear is a pretty wide open place.

The problem? My limited analysis leads me to the conclusion that distraction is, well, the key to the key. It seems the message here might be: if something could be hazardous, your best bet is probably not to think about it. And I just can’t seem to unlock the barrier of the decidedly convincing argument that distraction might just be a bad idea when it comes to scary and possibly dangerous behavior.

So what are your thoughts, Readers? What barriers would you love to unlock? Would we all be better off under-thinking our favorite fears? Or am I over-thinking the power of under-thinking?

7 comments:

Julie Schuler said...

Distraction *is* sometimes good. Sometimes the best ideas come to you when you are thinking about something else.

5thsister said...

I am ready to unlock the memories pushed down deep inside so that I can shed the light of day upon them! They are not cooperating. So I will distract myself...

Food for thought, Cynthia! Thanks!

blueviolet said...

You've got me thinking here now. I wonder if I had less time to over analyze, worry, and stress over stuff if it would go better!

Kathleen said...

I'm not sure if distraction can diminish my fears of failure, but you certainly did provide food for thought!

Plus, you brought to mind a dentist I used to have who would, before she sunk the long needle administering the novacaine into your gums, would flap your inner cheek back and forth rather violently. I of course questioned her after she did it the first time (and with my mouth already beginning to numb). "Just a distraction," she said with a kind of evil grin on her face.

Holly said...

I over think everything...I hate it..it holds me back, but as I get older and try to teach my kiddos to go out there and take on the world, I am finding myself conquering some of my fears.

Erin said...

I have a roller-coaster phobia myself...which I may have begun to conquer. Last weekend we took the girls to New Orleans for my mom's 60th birthday celebration which we had at City Park. There are lots of kiddie rides there, including a smallish roller coaster. I reluctantly rode it and one of my daughters LOVED it, but the other refused to ride it again. I had not ridden any coasters since Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney when I was 9. My dad forced me. I was terrified and screamed/cried the whole way....

But last weekend, I knew I had to let go of my fear for my girls' sake. I have also had to work on my fear of flying. I know if they see my hands gripping the arm rests and tears slipping down my cheeks, they will learn my fear. I don't want that.

I know the chiropractor's tricks as well and this was a terrific analogy. I need to apply it to some things in my life as well....

Gropius said...

What a good point you raise. When I feel like too much is going on in terms of tasks and activities, I can usually put more fears on the back burner. I don't have as much time to be worried about the outcome of things!!! And that's just it--worrying about outcomes that may prevent me from living more in the moment with joy. Now roller coasters...those are for crazy people.

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