A client of mine is exploring her alcoholic consumption. She’s committed to not drinking during the week, and is doing great holding herself to that commitment. But once the weekend approaches she often drinks Friday or Saturday night, sometimes both. “It’s just a habit,” she said today. “Are you going to drink tonight?” I asked her. “Well, I’m going to be with some buddies who will have a glass or two, so probably.” “What will it give you?” I asked her. “Relaxation,” she shared.
The session could have gone in lots of directions but something jumped out with that very last word. “Relaxation.”
Ahhhhh. Relaxation. Yes. Who doesn’t enjoy and want relaxation? It’s just an innocent desire, right?
Turns out, not for my client. As we continued to explore she discovered that she’d never really allowed herself to take in how wanting relaxation was valid. She explained to me that relaxing just wasn’t something that was recognized as Ok in her family of origin, or during her adult years. Instead she was focused on working hard and being successful. She hadn’t realized that there was a push/pull dynamic in wanting relaxation- that it was actually a source of subtle conflict for her. As she explored her internal relationship with relaxation her whole system softened, and, well, relaxed.
By the end of the session her system had groked how important relaxation is, how innocent it is to want it, and how valid it is to find ways to give it to herself. Phew, what a relief because our bodies need to relax! Our nervous systems and brains work best when they’ve rested. To help ourselves be efficient, effective, and empowered it’s important that we experience relaxation. As such, it’s kind to give ourselves relaxation. In fact it’s more then kind – it’s a sign of self-love. We are worthy of relaxation.
After my client was viscerally and cognitively able to deeply take in how it was safe, healthy and loving to experience relaxation we returned to the topic of hanging with her buddies that night. At the start of the session it had seemed as if it was the alcohol that would be giving her permission to relax- the alcohol would “give” her relaxation. But post-exploration something had shifted. She no longer saw herself drinking with her buddies as she no longer needed the alcohol to relax. She could give herself permission to relax, groking deep inside that she was worthy of relaxation. Furthermore, it was self evident to her that she didn’t need alcohol to relax, as she’d been relaxing for during the length of our session without drinking a drop of alcohol.
As we continued to journey, we explored strategies that would support her in relaxing without engaging in behaviors that don’t bring her sustained relaxation, and instead result in stress. We also realized that there was more to explore on this topic, including: what is relaxation? What does “relaxation” include/exclude? Is it possible to bring “relaxation” towards discomfort, or the lack of relaxation? These and other questions are all good questions to explore in future journeying.
What is your relationship with relaxation? What qualifications do you attribute to relaxation? Do you think you can only experience relaxation under certain circumstances? Do you overtly or covertly consider it a waste of time to do things to bring about relaxation? Do you see it as a something kind? Are you worthy of it? Can it be a sign of self-love?
Get to know yourself and your relationship with your nervous system and your well being. Get to know what nourishes you and brings you sustained spaciousness. Get to know your relationships with relaxation. I’d love to hear about you! Drop me a note or feel free to leave a comment.