Do you know the feeling when something unpleasant is happening and all of the sudden you feel like you are closing yourself down? The anticipated danger brings out caution and the common reaction is to close down in protection. For many of us this reaction can happen faster than we realize, and often takes place many times a day. Open – close – open – close….
For quite a few years there have been valuable insights about how being open in work and life is beneficial. The evidence is convincing: It benefits performance and relationships, and some claim you even live longer as a result of being more open.
But in the pursuit of convincing us about the relevance of this concept, the most important argument is often left out: being open to the world is the only profoundly good state for you to be in.
When you live and work while closing yourself down, you build an armor against the world and against your own innate power, which keeps you from the two most fundamental human needs: to love and be loved, and doing something worthy and meaningful with your talents.
Why do we close down?
Most of us close down as an unconscious reaction to things that remind us of something that earlier caused pain and danger. The mind and body simply pull out data based on experiences that are in the past. We perceive danger, but in reality we might not be in danger at all. Furthermore many of us have been taught that it is dangerous to be open and vulnerable; that other people are hard to trust and might exploit you, and the only way to protect yourself is by closing down.
Now imagine that you can actually approach most of life being open. Realize that being closed will protect you from harm in the short run, but the pain that arises over time from being closed down is often devastating.
Try for a minute to recall how you feel when you have closed down. You might have a feeling of being powerful and in control. Then try to recall a time when you were actually open… We all know this feeling from things like celebrating with friends and family, enjoying a wonderful view in the mountains and being in love – you might have even better examples from your life. Being open is simply a better state for you to be in.
Many of us think that the closed state is suitable for work, while the open state is more suitable state for the remaining part of our life. I meet a lot of people that are closed down either fully or partially at work only to find out that they are not achieving their full potential. Eventually this creates a work life that is dissatisfying and often stressful.
Being open does not protect us from pain, but the pain will be handled while it is fresh and not build up as stress in our mind and body. Being open does not mean that you are always happy, but it means that you at any time will be able to connect to other people and to your own myriad resources.
But the most important reason is that you can only truly get to know what is important to you when you are open.
In order to work on being more open, you can do the following:
- It starts with getting to know the bodily sensation of being open vs. closed. This is done by observing yourself and the sensation/experience you have when you are closed vs. open. Usually a closed state tightens muscles and shortens breathing, and sometimes you get more aggressive.
- When you experience that you close down – remind yourself of a situation where you know you were open and take a short time-out to stay with this image.
- Experiment with being just a little more vulnerable and open by, for example, sharing more thoughts and feelings with other people. Keep your experiments small to start with!
If you need help to get out of the closed state, a helpful exercise can be downloaded and practiced from www.heartmath.org
Good luck with finding your way to being more open