Self Preservation

Episode #64

Self preservation is something every living creature does. From human beings all the way down to a single cell organism. We all share this unique God-given ability to preserve our life. It’s a matter of survival. However, it can also be the very thing that holds us back from living our best life because, oftentimes, experiencing discomfort can feel like life or death. Today, we talk about ways you can keep this survival instinct from running your life and finally step out on faith and be all you were made to be.


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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Ashley
This is Episode 64. Self Preservation. You’re listening to the rise up and shine podcast with Claudine and Ashley as an empty nester and a mom with young kids, we have both shared very similar and very real struggles. From chaos to coaches, we now help other women live an authentic and meaningful life. So tune in weekly for girl talk and tips on how you too can rise up and let your light shine bright. This is the rise up and shine podcast.

Claudine
Welcome back listeners, I have a question for you all. What do you beautiful, talented, gifted, smart women have in common with a one celled living organism. That’s right, self preservation. We all do it. It is a set of behaviors that ensure the survival. And all of us, a mature amazing women have in common with a one celled organism. It is innate, and it’s built into us to survive, to be safe to be comfortable. So today we’re going to talk about self preservation, the ways that it harms us the ways that it’s good for us and how we can make sure that our self preservation, the instinctive part is not keeping us from rising up and shining and living our best life now. So Ashley, what are your thoughts on self preservation?

Ashley
You know, one word came to mind, fear. I have become all too familiar in the last three years with fear and the effect it has on my relationships, my life, but even more so my body. I think there is such a lack of understanding about, about self preservation about how our body works about how I mean, really, our brains are wired for survival. That’s the oldest part of our brain since we were in utero, you know, developing for survival. So it makes perfect sense why we tend to go back to live on survival mode. You know, I mean, we hear that all the time. I mean, there I’m sure there’s a lot of memes going on around the you know, the last year almost, with a pandemic about just being on survival mode. We’re all in survival mode. Well, what does it mean? How did we get here? And what can we do to get out of it and really thrive? Because I, you and i had a great talk, right? This last weekend, it really helped me because I was doing the same thing. Oh, yeah, I know, I’m back on survival mode. And no one wants to live there, right? We’re still living there. And it’s so normal, but we can really understand how it’s hampering our life, being able to rise up and shine and live our best life and feel true joy and peace. And that’s what probably all of us are striving for right now.

Claudine
Right? Okay. peace and joy? Absolutely. Well, it’s so true fear is one of the motivating factors and self preservation is our brain, our primitive brain is always seeking safety and survival. And another one that’s involved is pain, right? Because if something is painful, we want to instinctively withdraw from the damaging situation. So those are healthy things to a certain extent. Now, when they start affecting our lives in a negative way, that’s when it’s time to discuss it to get some tools and practicals to help us so that we can live our best life and not stay stuck in fear or in avoidance of pain. Because if we want to live a life with no pain, we basically just better just sit in our living rooms on our couches and do nothing, right. Don’t have any social relationships, although that’ll create its own pain, because we are actually wired for social relationships, what we think if we’ve been in a painful relationship, why better not do that again? Right? Right, I’m not gonna fall in love again, because that hurt, and I want to survive, and I want to preserve myself. So I better not do that. Again, we know lots of people that get into their 40s or 50s, and have never been married. And I would bet you that there were a failed relationship, a very painful relationship early on. That kind of got wired into the self preservation mode.

Ashley
Oh, absolutely. I know. Another one is abandonment. You know, that is something that I dealt with, personally, throughout my life. And that still plays a part in my relationships. And I realize there’s times where, because sometimes I’ll just sit and ask myself, how come we’re not so close? You know, we used to be so close, how come we’re not so close? And I contend it just come to the conclusion that well, I kind of keep my relationships at arm’s length. I don’t fully invest and fully go after the way I want to, I think, right, you know, probably from the outside looking in, some will be like, really, you know, I think you’re great and it’s like, but I can feel it on the inside just because I’ve become aware that a sense of self preservation because I have felt abandoned at different times in my life. You know, I felt people left me for various reasons. And so that still can keep me in that self preservation mode. Well, I don’t want to be hurt. Sometimes it’s even a friend just moving away. You know, nothing. I mean, yeah, like super hurtful in our relationship, but still pain that I don’t want to experience because here you develop this friendship for 5-10 years, and then they end up moving away. It’s like, well, that’s happened a lot. So I’m just going to kind of keep you at a distance. And almost I can keep things in my mind, I’ll keep that thought in my mind, like this person had has the possibility, they might move away, who knows, they might move away. So I’m just gonna keep our relationship like this, and not get too close. Because I don’t want that happening. And then I feel devastated that I lost a great friend, you know what I mean? So we do that in so many different areas of our life.

Claudine
So true. And that’s what we’re talking about today, just really examining the behaviors that keep us from living our best life because like you, like you just shared, I mean, that fear that someone could move, and you would experience that pain, again, keeps you from really loving people fully and experiencing the joy, right? Those people while they are with you, right? It’s like, Hey, we cut ourselves at the knees like, I don’t want to feel this. But we’ll take this other kind of pain, right kind of discomfort instead. Because for some reason, that’s not as bad, right? So funny. It is funny. So self preservation, there’s some good things about it, because we are a society. And we’re organisms that seek to preserve ourselves. That’s how we get some laws and regulations, like things like seatbelt laws, those became laws because people were dying without wearing their seatbelt. So some good comes from it. A lot of our laws and regulations are based on preserving life. The bad part of self preservation, if it’s, you know, done, from a subconscious level, and not from a mindful, intentional level is that we can live in fear, we can be stuck, we can struggle with anxiety or depression, right? Right, we can both relate. You know, and, you know, it’s so true about relationships. And I shared this in one of our earlier episodes, but when I experienced pain from friendships, whether I felt betrayed or hurt, I’ve just cut them off. Like, I didn’t understand reconciliation. Oh, that was the episode we did it on. Like, I didn’t understand how to forgive and reconcile. So I would just cut it off, because I didn’t want to feel that pain anymore. It’s like, Oh, well, this person create pain. So I will just exclude this person from my life. The problem is, when we live on this planet, we are all going to hurt each other. I can promise you all this shocker. will hurt someone else. during our lifetime, not only I believe in the goodness of people’s hearts, but just misunderstandings and unripened expectations and a lot we hurt each other as as humans and in social relationships. So we can’t live in that place of fear. And that, again, is so much part of this is fear. But it can lead us to unhealthy relationships. Right? That’s what we’re talking about. Like you’ve shared before with codependence like you just say yes to people, which could could be part of an unhealthy relationship, just because you’re trying to preserve yourself. Well, I don’t want to have an argument or, you know, I know for me a lot of times I just said yes, because I didn’t want to have an argument. So you just say yes. And now I’m betraying myself. My values and my desires in order to preserve the peace.

Ashley
Well and that’s where my depression came in. Because I wasn’t being true to who I was, you know, I wasn’t, I had absolutely no idea who I was because I was living for other people all the time. And it took, you know, being in my mid 30s, to actually finally sit down and work through all this, oh, this is who I am. This is what I like, this is what I don’t like, this is what I need, you know, I mean, all those things I just never knew. And it it was it was, well, I’m going to avoid this pain. From what maybe what I’ve gone through in the past, I want to prevent it from happening again. So I’m going to behave this way. But then inwardly not being true to self, then you just feel so much shame. And there’s this inner conflict because Gosh, I want to make them happy, but I’m not happy and but I should be happy and I deserve to be happy. And you know, you just enter turmoil and yeah, but then you just get stuck in this pit and feel lousy, you know, so that there’s no good on either side. When you try to live that way. You know,

Claudine
What I believe is women, all of us deeply deep down in our core, we want to avoid failure, embarrassment, humiliation, rejection, right? Those are the things we want to avoid. It’s going to happen, but we want to avoid it and our primitive brain is working hard to help us avoid that. Unfortunately, it can lead to the safety of playing Small for example, like even in a job, you could be in an unfulfilling job. But oh man, I don’t want to put myself out there and get rejected. I don’t want to be embarrassed if I quit. And then I don’t have another job for eight months, or, or the fear of lack of finances, there’s so many reasons. And so we say stuck. And we play small because it’s safe. And we have this constant whisper in our head, don’t do that. Stay safe. You know, if only or you should, or all these little whispers. That is our primitive brain trying to preserve ourselves. But it really isn’t helping us it’s not helping us grow, expand and live life to the full.


Ashley
Right. And the basis of it is I mean, this was God given right. This is a God given matter of survival, our brain, our primitive brain, how it was developed, which is incredible. However, we, we have a hard time distinguishing between what’s really a matter of survival and just what’s just uncomfortable. Just comfort versus survival. If I see a bear coming down the mountain for you, when you’re out on a hike, yeah, you’re probably just not going to stop and think, gosh, what should I do in this moment? You’re just gonna take off, right, you know, and sometimes it’s even the worst mistake.

Claudine
I was gonna say, I think you’re not supposed to run if you see a bear.

Ashley
But instinctually our thinking brain is like, I’m out of here. And you’re just like, I’m just that adrenaline’s pumping, I’m out of here. Right. Exactly. And you know, when you’re under that tremendous stress, and there’s you have to think in a matter of a second we don’t we that’s the thing. We don’t think it’s instinctual. You just write up and do it, you know,

Claudine
It’s fight, flight, and freeze. Those are God given and it’s instinctual. It does help us when we are to get to safety quickly, if, if I touch a hot stove, or there’s a fire, I’m gonna run or I’m putting my hand on the hot stove. But these other times, they’re for comfort. It’s the truth, but we’re not aware of it and our brains like No, I’m just trying to keep you safe. And no, really, you’re not. You’re just trying to keep me comfortable. You know, I don’t want to feel bad feelings. So let’s just stay safe.

Ashley
And let’s distinguish Claudine. Yeah, comfort is not survival. Like I mean, I know we discussed that just right now. But yes, it’s really important to keep that in mind. Because there, we do need that survival instincts. I mean, we absolutely need it. There’s definitely times we we need that. But just how understanding how did we get here? And how did this comfort that we seek so much, and which causes so much harm in our lives? How did we get here? You know, it’s really important to start focusing, how did I even get here? Like, what right? Why am I doing this? This is not, you know, as we talked about last week, within decisiveness to many of us, that feels like a matter of survival. I can’t, I can’t decide what’s for dinner or bigger things I can’t I don’t know where to move to, you know, we’re supposed to up and move our family, what do we do, but just knowing it’s uncomfortable, that’s part of life, you know, but using the other parts of our brain, the thinking parts, the rationale, the logic, to be able to plan and think through those things. And just to be able to distinguish between those two is power, it’s really power.

Claudine
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. While I was researching for this episode, I was looking at the story of Abraham and Sarah. And that was a great example of Abraham doing some self preservation there because he encouraged Sarah, his wife to lie about being his wife, he was like, tell him, you’re my sister, because otherwise they’re gonna kill me because you’re so beautiful. And he’s gonna want you for yourself. And it was interesting, because, of course, Abraham is well respected and a prophet and, and did many great things. But in this particular instance, he chose to lie to self Preserve. And he didn’t honor God and he didn’t honor his wife for sure. But he he decided to lie, let her lie so that they would spare his life. But what’s interesting is, once Pharaoh found out immediately, he was upset, like, why would you do that? Why would you put me in that position? Why would you, you know, put me in a position to be with your wife. That wasn’t what I would have done. So it’s just interesting to me that we have examples of it even in the Scripture. Even Abraham participated in self preservation by having his wife why, and it didn’t benefit him. I mean, it really didn’t in the long run and didn’t honor anybody. And so many of us do that we do things like lying, or cheating. I’ve shared this before, I think but one of the things I used to do for many years, but it’s been years since I’ve done it, is I would always run late and my husband would get on me about running late. So he’d say Where are you I’d say, Oh, I’m at so and so St. You know, thinking he’ll think, Oh, I’m two minutes away. So he’ll be okay. The problem was I wasn’t it so and so St. I was miles away. But I wanted him to think that I had left on time. And somehow the last two or three minutes, I was just going to catch every light. I was trying to preserve myself, I was like, Oh, I don’t want them to be frustrated by right again, I don’t want to hear that talk again about being tardy. So I would just bib about where I was. And then eventually I got convicted about that was very deceitful. And then I thought, you know, one day, I’m gonna, my car’s gonna die, and I’m gonna say, Oh, I’m on a street, and then my car’s gonna die, I’m gonna be on z street, I’m like, I better stop all this nonsense, and either learn how to leave on time, or just face the consequences, which I think after quite a few years, he just realized she’s tardy wherever she says she’s going to be. Now of course, we’ve advanced of cell phone. So I use my timer all the time. I love it, I use my timer, I have turned around from being tardy. And my timer and my reminders are such helpful assistance, but we do it all the time. We are trying to self preserve in all kinds of ways. So actually, let’s talk about some practical How can we what can we do to help us keep ourselves preserved, keep us surviving, right. But really, still living our best life and, and, and rising up and shining?

Ashley
Well, definitely the first one we all I need to do is awareness. You know, to spend time, really understanding and studying yourself, I would say in studying your patterns, studying your behaviors, your coping, some things, some behaviors we do. Many behaviors we do, we don’t realize are actually coping, coping from our circumstances or situations or our feelings, trying to just numb out, you know, we don’t realize that I mean, even still, like, I’ve learned this stuff, I know this stuff. But I it takes sometimes just a conversation with a friend to help point it out. Or when I finally kind of start, you know, the clouds start lifting and I can think a little bit more clearly. Like, oh, wow, I’ve been drinking a lot more coffee. Well, why am I drinking a lot more coffee? That’s I’m coping. Right? earnings are tough. That’s a little pick me up. I have been coping. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, right. But we don’t always stop to think, oh, why am I doing this behavior. And it’s a pattern, I noticed when it’s overcast, or rainy, and the weather changes, I drink more coffee, when the mornings are tough. I get another cup of coffee, you know, I mean, I start is just really paying attention and kind of studying yourself and without judgment, no more with curiosity and just kind of think like, wow, like, almost from a third party right outside of the box. I mean, stand outside of yourself, just kind of watch yourself, do things go about the day and just start questioning? Why do I do that? Why do I drink a whole pot of coffee by 10am? Why do I you know, why do I react like this when my child says this or you know, whatever. But just study yourself with curiosity and try to find the patterns in your day, your day to day of, you know, what you could possibly be coping and self preserving. And you know, what specific situations and then you can actually start changing, right, you can write you know, I love having coffee, and I think it I think it would be better for me if I limit my coffee and then maybe have two cups and then it a glass of water or a sparkling water or just making healthier choices. But you can’t start changing things if you’re unaware, and awareness first and sometimes that takes time. You know, we have to be patient with ourselves. We can’t be like I want to change this right now. I may work with some most of us on the other hand, it’s gonna take time so awareness is key.

Claudine
That’s a great one and I love that you brought up coping mechanisms we almost need to do a whole nother podcast on that on yes less self conscious coping, that we turn to that are mindless we just do it because it helps us to you know survive or to numb out or whatever. One of them that I do is ask myself if these behaviors these somewhat automatic behaviors it’s self preservation does this lead me to the life I desire? Am I currently living the life I desire have I created and living that life? And do these behaviors help me get there? A lot of them don’t. Like I know for me, you know, you talk about the coffee for me. I can tell I start watching a lot more Netflix. Start watching, you know, and it’s funny you were talking about overcast because I’m like, Oh, it’s so cold and dreary. I just want to sit on the couch with a blanket and watch a mindless movie.

Ashley
Right, nice and cozy, but yeah, it’s coping.

Claudine
And it seems and it’s so acceptable, right? Like, no one’s gonna say, wow, you know, cutting took a couple hours off this afternoon and just, but the truth of it is, I have things I want to do. And if I continue to engage in that pattern of behavior, I’m not going to accomplish my business goals, I’m not going to accomplish my social goals, you know, connecting with others, I’m going to get too caught up in me, and just self preservation. So asking myself, do these behaviors lead me to the life I desire? And another one that we’ve talked about is managing our minds, right? the prefrontal cortex, it always starts with our thoughts, like, what are we really thinking? And so much of what we do is subconscious or unconscious, we’re not conscious. And that’s why awareness like you spoke up is so important, we got to get aware, like, What am I thinking? What am I feeling? Let me let me examine these thoughts. Are they even true? Are they noble? They pure? Are they trustworthy? So many of my thoughts are not, they’re bright here. They’re based of avoiding pain and seeking comfort, they’re not really based on anything that I want it as a foundation for my life. They’re not based on that. So managing our minds, really examining our thoughts, really taking them captive, really understanding what that means and renewing them. Because a lot of times we need to renew those thoughts, we need to make new thoughts to deal with the situation.

Ashley
And challenge challenging them, you know, when you really can pay attention to the thoughts around maybe a circumstance that’s going on where that’s leading you to self preservation? You know, and you’re becoming more aware of your thoughts in your head, just challenging them? Again, not with judgment. But just like I said, Well, why do I do that? Why do I always go to this? Is this really as you said, Is this really leading to the life I want? Or is this contributing to who I want to be? You know, I was asked a phenomenal question yesterday, where is like, are you just wake up in the morning? And who do you want to be? You know, ask yourself, who do I want to be today? Are you the mom you want to be? Have you been the wife you want to be? Have you, you know, and it’s, it really takes some of those questions to get you to think like, gosh, no, and not intentionally, you know, it’s not right. Well, I’m crossing my arms and be like, Well, I’m not gonna do this. And I’m not gonna do that. And it’s just gonna be all about me. And you know, nothing like that, but just really paying attention to. Okay, who do I want to be as a wife as my mom, as a woman? How do I want to feel? Don’t I want I feel more peace? Do I want to feel lethargic? Do I want to feel lazy? Do I, you know, earlier, when I was a teen, I loved being lazy.

Claudine
It was great. I think all teens do. Teenage affliction,

Ashley
Right? And then exactly like, we grow up, you know, do I really want to be this person still? No. And a lot of times, it’s just our pattern, our neural pathway that has been paved by these patterns by these ways of behaving. And I so met so much. So over the years, where it’s so unconscious, we don’t think about we don’t actually intentionally think about, it is a hard day, I’m going to go do this because it makes me feel better. And you know, it’s just something we do instinctually.

Claudine
Yeah, exactly. And you touched on another practical, which is really dealing with our emotions. And there’s a point where we have to become emotionally mature, we have to become emotional adults, right? Like, we have to accept the 50-50 principle that life is 50% good and 50% not so good. As far as emotions, all emotions are God given we’re not going to be happy 100% of the time, but we can influence our thought, or we can influence our emotions by thinking thoughts, because they create our emotions, right? So part of self preservation starts, part of taking part of acting in ways that help us live the life we desire, is dealing with our emotions, accepting them, like you talked about not judging them, accepting them? Why do I feel this way? What is going on that I feel this way? And also learning to respond from emotional from emotional maturity, not responding from fear or anger or resentment, but really becoming stone I was reading this interesting book that talks about the window of tolerance, and it’s this natural state. Hold on. It’s this baseline state of physiological functioning when we’re not frightened, stressed, overtired or overstimulated and when we’re in that place, our prefrontal cortex is steady and calm. And we can make decisions, we can respond in ways that will benefit us and not harm us or not take us down a path that’s not healthy for us. So, you know, there’s a lot of things we can do with our thoughts and with our feelings and with our actions, and that’s the things that we work with our clients is really working on that thought, training, you know, management of our minds.

Ashley
Yeah, and the last thing I want to mention also, that was really beneficial for me was counseling. And this is for if you’ve had trauma, if you feel like you’re really stuck, and you’re having a hard time getting yourself out, depression, anxiety, a lot of that stuff, you know, PTSD, it’s really important to have someone to talk to, to help dig that stuff out. And counseling was phenomenal with being able to bring out some of that past traumas, you know, that can keep us in that self preservation mode, to be able to move forward. So that may not be for everybody. But if you really feel like personal trauma from your past childhood, is just really keeping a hold on you, then that is a great route to go through to start the healing process.

Claudine
That’s a great point, Ashley. Because as children, if we’ve gone through traumas, or even in our early adulthood, if we’ve gone through traumas, they you might really need some help. just dealing with that and overcoming what may have been wired in your neural pathways and the ways you’ve learned to cope that aren’t healthy. And coaching is great for moving forward. But sometimes we do need to look back and deal with that uncomfortable. problematic past enable in order to move forward. So that’s a great point.

Ashley
Yeah, and sometimes we don’t realize that the past traumas are still affecting us today. A lot of times we feel like we’ve moved on, I’ve made peace with it. But there subconsciously, it’s still there. It doesn’t go away if we don’t properly process through and so that’s where the counseling comes in, because it does a lot of that out to be able to process properly, which will definitely help for sure. So yeah, thank you, everybody, for tuning back in with us today. And we hope these practicals have really helped you. One recognize if you may be in self press starvation mode I think many of us are right now, especially with a pandemic and this big thing that we’re all dealing with around the world. But really to recognize it be aware and to make steps to move forward out of it to be your best self to live the life you want to live and feel good and have more peace and joy and just be who you want to be. So thank you for tuning back in and we will catch you next time.
Alright everyone, thank you for joining in on our conversation here on the Rise Up and Shine podcast. If you haven’t already, please take a second to hit that subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode and while you’re at it, share this episode with a friend who you know it can bless today. If you wanna visit us as well on our websites, you can catch Claudine over at claudinesweeney.com and Ashley at mindoverchaos.com our links are at the description. We also have some free resources there for you as well. So remember ladies, no matter what you are facing in life, it is never too late to rise up and shine and live your best life.