I got my hair done last night. And I’m feeling so refined! There would have been a time in my life when I would have balked at any type of beauty services as vain and superficial. Thankfully I’ve grown in understanding and examining my own judgements so that I could start to explore what I want beauty to mean for me.
I’ve had some huge internal shifts this summer that have led me to desire some refinement on the outside. I think when we do lots of work and change on the inside we often crave an expression of this on the outside. I certainly have.
But I’m a girl who even though my beliefs around beauty have changed, I rarely ever make it a priority to get my hair done. I didn’t really understand why. Until last night.
My extremely talented friend gave me the gift of her expertise last night. As I sat in her chair feeling her attention and loving energy, I started to realize why I only chose to cut my hair twice a year.
When you sit down in a stylists chair they put a cloak over you and you’re asked to sit very still, while literally staring at your own reflection. Being someone who for many years had a natural bent towards anxiety, these experiences didn’t help my mental health. In fact, I would say they would cause me to spiral quite quickly. I never really understood why. In the past I would judge myself harshly for having so much anxiety with such a ‘normal, casual’ experience that ‘is no big deal’. However, regardless of how I tried to convince myself otherwise, shame and fear would dominate. Not only would shame visit because of my having the feeling of anxiety, but also because of all the societal expectations that come with beauty and the beauty industry.
The really confusing part came when I knew I didn’t cognitively buy into these beauty expectations anymore but still I would be plagued with anxiety.
What I realize now in understanding the interplay between the body, trauma and unconscious responses is that the simple request for me to sit still was incredibly triggering for me.
Peter Levine says that “for every one message that’s sent from our brain to our body, nine messages are sent from our body to the brain”. Our body sends unconscious signals that create a feedback loop of meaning and emotions. For me when my body is still, there are associations with fear and being in ‘freeze mode’ because of my body memory around traumatic experiences. Just the very act of holding my body still signals to my brain fear without me even knowing it, and thus creates anxiety.
Last night being surrounded by two of my friends who I know love me dearly fear came to visit again but this time it had a different experience and I didn’t spiral. This time it could be safe and comforted and I could have a new, redeeming experience.
Most of our unconscious fear cycles develop out of injuries or trauma that happen in a relationship, and because of this we now know that the HEALING of these cycles happens most effectively in relationships that disconfirm the belief systems that develop out of these injuries. In other words – we are injured in relationship and so we heal best in a relationship. Peter Levine says it best “To heal is to touch with love that which was previously touched by fear.” I share this because there are many areas in our lives where we receive these unconscious feedback loops from our body memory. Our body holds our story, it is wise, and a vast resource for healing, especially when held in the safety of a loving relationship.