“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?