Scrolling repetitively through social media feeds, losing your patience, feeling judgemental and perfectionistic or simply overwhelmed, but too anxious to rest. These are early indicators that you may have a defense barrier to completion.
The signs of a barrier
Most of us find ourselves doing these things in fleeting moments throughout our work day: scrolling repetitively through social media feeds without really paying attention. Losing patience with ourselves, colleagues, friends and family about things we’ll forget in a day or so. Feeling judgemental about our own or other’s responses, actions or job performance, allowing little room for error. Or simply overwhelmed, but too anxious to actually sit down, take a breathe or take a break.
The primary signs that your mind needs a rest include:
- Tuning out
- Impatient, irritated or judging
- Sense of overwhelm
But even more, these signs are all early indicators that you may have a defense barrier to completion.
How can I tell I have a barrier?
Ask yourself: are these experiences fleeting for you? Or are they starting to impact your work and personal life?
Let’s visualize some example use cases to help clarify behaviors that are impacting your work and personal life versus just fleeting behaviors:
Co-workers, friends, children and romantic partners have started to comment about your time spent on your phone. You have your phone with you at all times—from the toilet to the dinner table—and you notice an unexplained loss of minutes and hours while scrolling blankly through your phone. The object of your tuning out could also be a television, cocktails or beers or other substances that create distance between you and the racing feeling in your mind.
You’re noticing a critical voice in your head more frequently, and you may even speak the words aloud: “Geez, nice move, idiot.” Or, “did you REALLY have to drop that, again?!?! Ugh.” Losing patience with others typically starts with a loss of patience, and grace, for ourselves.
Feeling judgemental and perfectionistic, no one else at work—or at home—can “do it the right way.” So, you either end up re-doing a task or not allowing others to help you. You’re cutting off collaboration and delegation because you frequently believe others can’t complete a task to your expectations.
You frequently have so many things to do weighing on your mind, that you’re starting to feel a sense of overwhelm—like they’ll never get done. But, instead of stopping and doing something to calm your thoughts or nerves, you refuse to sit down, lie down, take a walk or even take a few deep breathes for fear that all of the burdens will come crashing down upon you.
What’s a defense barrier to completion?
So, the above examples sound like you, a co-worker, or someone you know. But, what does it mean to have a defense barrier to completion and why should anyone care?
“The emergence of a defense is related to existential needs, which were poorly met, often early in life. These core life issues, show up as typical barriers within a … process,” writes Jaci Hull in the first edition comprehensive guide to Hakomi Mindfulness-Centered Somatic Psychotherapy.
The process being referred to is a four-stage cycle of human experience the founder of Hakomi method, Ron Kurtz, conceptualized in order to provide “a theoretical map of optimal life functioning emphasizing the need for sensitivity to one’s internal experience in relation to four essential stages.”
The four stages create a cycle that Kurtz terms The Sensitivity Cycle, “which suggests that for a satisfying life an individual needs to:
- (Awareness / Clarity) be aware of, or sensitive to, one’s own essential situations and needs,
- (Effective Action) take appropriate action based on this clarity,
- (Satisfaction) experience satisfaction as a result of successful action, and
- (Healthy Rest / Relaxation or Completion) be able to rest and regenerate in order to become aware and clear about what is needed next (start over at Step 1).”
But, “when sensitivity is impeded via a barrier, the loop is either stalled or becomes a shallow or unsatisfying journey,” describes Kurtz in his 1990 book on Hakomi Method. “The sensitivity cycle is a process and barriers are its interruptions.”
Kurtz describes a barrier as a habitual way we block increases to sensitivity in each stage of the cycle. And what might blocking this look like? Let’s compare a healthy rest / relaxation stage to one that involves a barrier to completion:
Easing into healthy rest
If you’re feeling stuck, struggling with a barrier to completion of your own, a simple first step is getting out of your head and coming back into your body. The simplest way to practice reconnecting with your own body is to breathe mindfully. Next, try scanning your body for sensations like tightness or pain. Begin to notice the microcosm of sensation within yourself.
For those who want to connect even more deeply, begin noticing the connection of the micro to the macro. The Sensitivity Cycle is a reflection of the macrocosm, or larger cycles and rhythms of the planet. In the norther hemisphere, we are just moving out of the satisfaction stage, which is symbolized by Autumn, the harvest, the waning gibbous moon, the color red.
As we move into the rest stage (symbolized by Winter, repose, the new moon, the color white), it’s the perfect time to understand where we are in relation to The Sensitivity Cycle and our connection to the macro cycles of life including:
The Four Directions: East, South, West, North
The Four Seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter
The Four Stages of Life: Birth, Youth, Adult, Death
The Four Times of Day: Sunrise, Noon, Sunset, Midnight
The Four Elements of Life: Earth, Fire, Water, Wind
The Heavenly Beings: Sun, Moon, Earth, Stars
– Jamie Oxendine, Native American Liaison and Education Consultant for Ohio University and author of “Native American Medicine Wheel Comparison to Life.”
Now, ask yourself:
What is preventing you from resting?
What stops you from completing things in your life?
What can’t you consistently let go of?
Want to explore a healthy resting phase, or your own barriers to completion?
Curious to work with someone who can help you explore where you are in The Sensitivity Cycle? Want guidance on getting familiar with your relationship with you, your barriers and how you organize the phases of your experience? Schedule time for a Consultation or a ReConnection™ session with me.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carolyn Elder is a published writer and digital project manager who’s been writing and consulting for a decade with nonprofits and conscious businesses, digital agencies, and fortune 50s to 500s in the Top 50 list.
Beginning in 2011, she invested more deeply in her own mindfulness practice and education as a Sahaja yoga/meditation guide and two-time apprentice of spiritual teacher and humanitarian, Vanessa Stone. Carolyn is an Ayurvedic Kitchen Sadhana Consultant, having completed training in 2018 under her teacher, Maya Tiwari. Maya served for two decades as a Vedic monk belonging to India’s prestigious Veda Vyasa lineage, and is founder of Wise Earth School of Ayurveda.
Founder of Conscious Content, a mindfulness movement for business that serves the greater collective good, her intention is to bring ancient mindfulness technology first to individuals, and then their teams and organizations to connect them more authentically with themselves, one another, and their tribe.
Conscious Content’s guiding inquiry is: what would business look like if work became our sadhana—our personal growth practice?