Did you know that most people have difficulty telling the difference between an actual threat and an imagined threat?
People often have a difficult time telling the difference between an actual threat to the body’s physical survival and an imagined threat to the ego or identity. Put another way, when we perceive a threat to our sense of well-being, we go “below the line.” We don’t choose this on a conscious level. We just do it. Well-worn neuropathways at work. We get defensive and double down on being right.
What does being right have to do with being below the line? For most people survival is a matter of protecting the ego or identity or image. The ego firmly believes that if it is not “right,” it will not survive. Being wrong equates to being dead. This is especially true as the level of perceived threat rises. The higher the stakes, for example, we could lose our job, or lose the love of a significant other, or lose control of something we deem important, the more the ego will try to survive by being right.
For this reason, we say that knowing when we are below the line is more important than being below the line. People are in real trouble when they are below the line (closed, defensive, state of threat and committed to being right and keeping their ego alive) and think they are above it. However, once people develop self-awareness and locate themselves accurately below the line, they create the possibility for shifting, a master skill of conscious living. Shifting is moving from closed to open, from defensive to curious, from wanting to be right to wanting to learn, and from fighting for their perceived survival, threat to living from a place of security, safety and trust.
Why is everyone so serious?
Hey, have you noticed how everyone is so, so serious about absolutely everything in life? What I and others have discovered is that at any given moment you are either in a state of trust (safety) or in a state of threat (fear). If I’m in a state of trust, I am open, curious and I want to learn. I don’t feel any part of myself needing to defend myself. I’m not trying to control an outcome or seek approval from outside of myself. I feel like I am open to feeling my emotions and my body is open to feeling any of the sensations that are arising inside of me.
If I’m below the line, I get constricted at least a little if not a lot. I get scared and my ego identity perceives a potential threat to its survival, so I get constricted, my breath might get shallow, I might put on a show. I might show up in a way that is not accessing my full IQ, EQ (emotional intelligence) and my BQ (my body intelligence) because I’m in a state of threat so I don’t get to have access to all my centers of intelligence. Because of that threatened state.
If we are in chronic pain, persistent pain, or symptoms, we are living in a state of threat, a state of fear. To heal and heal completely, meaning healing from our pain but also healing our life, we must have access to all of our centers of intelligence.
Many people ask me why it is important to be above the line? The answer, which might be obvious to most of us is, having access to our creativity, innovation, collaboration, and wellbeing, which occurs best when we operate above the line. In fact, access doesn't occur at all below the line where our wellbeing is threatened, and we need to fight, flee, or freeze. In such a situation, survival, brain on high-alert, hyper-vigilance takes precedence over trust, safety, creativity, and collaboration.
When I say this, and we reflect on how much time or how many times in the last day or week we have spent time in a state of threat or fear, we will, for a moment, be blown away. This is part of the game, so don’t despair. This is part of being human. But if we can learn to have fun with that fact, the easier it is for us to learn, to grow, heal and shift our pain and shift more into a state of trust.
So, there are other articles, like “The Drama Triangle” and “The Empowerment Triangle” to follow that will take us on a journey through many different aspects for learning whether we are living from “below the line” or “above the line.”. Like they say in the world of real estate, location, location, location. We will then have the power to manage our chronic pain, persistent symptoms and our life in a way that can create a sense of wellbeing, empowerment and basically a heck of a lot more playful and fun.
You’ve got this!