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13 Exciting Observation From Rock Bottom

13 Exciting Observation From Rock Bottom

In December I could not get out of bed. I would lay and cry wondering how much longer I would have to endure the pain of a hard break up. It was hard. It was rock bottom.

I was in the tunnel and I felt no-where close to seeing the light at the end. I had done a lot of spiritual work the previous months and was left wondering where the magic was when I needed it most.

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There was always a little voice that broke through the pain. “Just get out of bed.” it would tell me. And luckily I listened.

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Day by day the pain came and went, but the gift of time granted my tired and injured heart peace. Gratitude and grounding began to replace the fear and heaviness I had felt. Little things became big victories. Rock bottom changed my life for the better and I look back on that time with gratitude for the compassion it allowed me to cultivate for myself and for others. I do not wish to visit it again anytime soon, but I can see the impactful and beautiful changes that my life experienced because of the hardship I went through.

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Rock bottom is hard. Maybe you have hit bottom after a break up, a death of some you love, or getting laid off from a job. Don’t compare your rock bottom to some else’s. Hard is hard. However you got there – you are there, and it hurts. At rock bottom it feels like there is no hope. I’ve been at rock bottom before, more than once. It is frustrating. It is dark. Here I am to shed a little light on that dark place.

  1. You have nothing to lose.
  2. The thing – the thing you did not want to happen – it happened. Now you can stop fearing that it will happen.
  3. There is no ‘shoulding’ at rock bottom. There is no space for ‘shoulding.’ There is only space for putting one foot in front of the other and getting through the day.
  4. Rock bottom is RAW. Maybe you feel some emotions you have not felt in a long time, if not ever. Raw emotion is intense. Sometimes it knocks us in the face. But raw emotion is pure.
  5. You are cultivating strength. You will come out of this feeling stronger than ever!
  6. Everyday that you climb one step up you are gaining a confidence that will allow you to go out and happen to the world.
  7. The little things become big things. Getting out of bed is deserving of a pat on the back. Waking up to the sound of rain is southing. Life is slower at rock bottom, and we become grateful for things that we may have shrugged away at the top.
  8. Whether you know it or not – your vulnerability is inspiring others. Look at it like that: even at rock bottom you are an inspiration (well, duh! You already knew that right?)
  9. Self-compassion and self-care are no longer on the backburner. They are front and center.
  10. This is an opportunity to shed the BS. There is no energy to pretend to be ok. Destruction and lows bring clarity to our lives.
  11. Ummm…rock bottom is a perfect excuse to TREAT YOURSELF! Heck yes!
  12. Look at the spectrum you have created. Yes, feeling low is terrible. But sometimes we have to feel those things we don’t want to feel – we have to get into the raw sticky mess in order to feel even lighter on the other side. Would you rather live in here (5 inches between palms) or in here (4 feet wide wingspan of beautiful emotion)?
  13. When your life feels like it has shattered into a million little pieces, you can rebuild it however you like.

Featured photo credit: PicJumbo via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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