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Do you hear your brain?

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

Plastic brain replica with nervous system branch on concrete countertop

Anytime you set yourself up for growth, you open the door to deeper learnings. And often, those learnings take you in wildly (wonderfully) new directions.

I joined a business accelerator program this spring to learn how to bring on more clients, faster. I hoped it would help me define the types of services I wanted to provide. I also did my homework to make sure I had a solid idea of what my boundaries should be, because I wanted my learnings to be durable – something I could integrate sustainably into my business practices.

The accelerator program demands a lot more extroversion than I can give, and for many weeks, I blamed my introversion for why I couldn’t keep up with my own modest goals. But another current ran beneath the surface, and it didn’t bubble up until my chiropractor asked, “What are you resisting so hard in your life?”

“Growing my business.”

She laughed and said, “Wow, your brain is really trying to protect you from something.”

Our appointment ended, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said. Why was my brain so convinced I needed protection? What was it protecting me from?

The easy answers were:

  • It knows I can’t keep up with a robust schedule of outreach that requires a lot of social interaction. As an introvert, autistic and HSP, social engagement can throw me off for days or weeks. I can understand why my brain wants to protect me from overdoing it.

  • It remembers all the burnouts from past jobs. Whenever I’d gain an inch of authority, visibility or leadership responsibility, I would lose myself in the work, neglect my needs and spin faster and faster until I crashed. Yes, of course this is why my brain needs to protect me.

Tossing in bed that night, I reflected on a major meltdown in early 2020 that resulted in a three-week leave of absence from work and the realization that I had no more 40-hour workweeks left in my tank. I reflected on the series of smaller meltdowns that happened in the 18 months prior to that Big One.

Then I landed on it.

I endured a major workplace trauma seven years ago. My mind could tolerate only the slightest recollection of what had happened. I didn’t want to open that door in my memory. But I promised my brain I would journal about it as soon as I woke up the next morning.

As I drifted back to sleep, my mind handed me one more message: Every work-related meltdown in the past seven years has been a reaction to that original trauma. And I knew it was right. I’d just never seen it before.

The next morning, I sat down to journal but still couldn’t get myself to wade into the original trauma. Instead, I pledged that I would seek help with it, address it and heal it. But please, brain, just let me grow my business. Owning my own business gives me the freedom to determine how I spend my time and energy. We’re safe now.

My mind kept saying I wasn’t listening. I tried coaxing it to trust me, but it got louder. When I wrote the final sentence, I slammed the journal shut, barely to accept what came out of me.

This is not where I thought I’d end up today. I thought I’d be writing about clearing trauma to free myself from the weight of the past, but instead, I’m writing about freeing myself from the past by listening to my brain’s warning.

Because here’s the truth: My brain really, truly is trying to protect me. That’s its number one job. No amount of negotiating with it will stop it from doing its job, even if its tendency is to be over-protective to the point of limiting me.

But brains can heal.

And that’s where I’ve been for these past two months. I’m learning to befriend my nervous system. I’m learning to process old traumas. I’m remembering how to sleep. I’m finding wisdom in forests and support from coaches, healers, music, lectures, books and podcasts.

And it’s working. In fact, the transformation is so profound that I want to start sharing it with the world. Because you, too, deserve to know how to heal your brain when it over-protects you. But first, you have to learn how to listen its warnings.


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