Step One: Breathe

By  Vanessa Webb | 


All of us can relate to having a cycle of thought that has become so settled in, that it sounds more to us, like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon than any logical expression of words.  For some reason or other, we each have an area of our life where our mini-me tags along, dressed in a black cape and eye mask, leaping in and out of our thought patterns as if it’s welcome. This tiny mini-me packs a punch; bringing with it, a shame that can feel debilitating and overwhelming.  This mini-me seems to think it’s welcome to stride along side us whenever we put our best efforts forward.  It waits patiently by our side, ready to whisper degrading words when our best efforts are met with silence, disapproval, or rejection from an Other. The one thing this mini-me knows how to do, is undermine us. Some of us are stubborn enough to pick ourselves up again, only to wait again for approval from an Other, then feel the shame again.  It’s a cycle that we can really get caught up in: “This is what I have to offer, do you approve of me, do you accept me, will I be secure?”.  It’s a terrible cycle to be trapped in and no one deserves to be there. 

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Our deepest feelings and our insecurities are like two sides of a coin, this cycle either destroys us or brings us to our greatest dreams. We equate not only our own value as a human being in this “acceptance” we seek, but also our very sense of security.  It really comes down to the question of: “Will this make me secure?” (whether realistic or not).  Then, if we’re not accepted, our security feels threatened. 

Though I don’t believe there is one pat answer for everyone on how to overcome this, I do believe that a consistent pursuit of a new self belief means we’re far likelier to gain freedom from it’s snare. The culprit keeping us from change is really about unwillingness. Other than maintaining resolve, “unwillingness” is the biggest hurdle to not only overcome, but to identify. Panic is usually how we address the unknown that change puts in front of us. How do we turn panic into courage?


But before Compassion, is the Breath.

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Once we know that we’re willing to break this cycle, we usually need to find a tool that will help us when things get tough (meaning, we get uncomfortable). The following may seem trite, but usually Life’s answers are far simpler than we give them credit for:

Breath. Not only does it effectively calm us, it gives us that sense of control when we’re moving into unknown experiences (even if they’re internal emotional ones). Breathing is essential for grounding us into the now. Don’t underestimate this step of breaking the cycle. Choosing to breathe through an automatic response, rather than act from it is change in itself. It can be enough, it can be all we ever need to do when the nerves of change kick in. So, hoping to rush through the breathing part so you can move to next steps to overcome the cycle is ineffective.

Breathing brings us from neurosis and anxiety to the firmer footing of the here and now. That footing creates a sense of security.  And it’s our job to gradually give more credit to that security within our own thinking (this is where the seed of Compassion is beginning to grow, whether the mini-me likes it or not).  Breathing doesn’t change circumstances like magic, but it changes our moment from being one of overwhelm, to one of calm, and this is what matters. Being calmed by our use of the breath brings us back to our own reality and away from the clinging fantasy of, “pretty please?”. Breath grounds us in to realizing that we are ok, and into a rational understanding of what really matters, whether anything outside of our own self ever changes.  It brings us back to proper assessment of our next steps.  This indicates that when we’re jumping off the horrific fantasy wagon of “will you accept me?”, it’s our own reality that really matters. 

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The breath reminds us of where we are, and attunes us to the intelligence of hearing our own heart and our own voice.  The still and the calm of the moment shows us what really matters.  Once we recognize the value of stillness, we’ll value the breath. Our inner senses let us know that we are secure. Our inner senses let us know that an Other won’t provide that. This is the foundation of breaking the cycle. Mini-me won’t have his tiny legs to stand on and he might actually need to begin whispering words worth listening to.