Ok, “ancestral” living. There, I’ve said it. And some of you will be more than familiar with it. I couldn’t bring myself to use the word “ancestral” in the heading because I abhor the nature of popular usage of buzzwords. Buzzwords cause progressive thinking to be labelled as trends, ultimately belittling paradigm shifts which are potentially beneficial. But the word “ancestral” has become synonymous with nutrition and diet, and that’s an area I’m not qualified to enter into. I really want to talk about the wider aspects of our ancestral capabilities and how we’re doing ourselves an injustice throughout life.
So, this post isn’t about nutrition?
Nope. It’s about losing the habit of listening to your gut, ending up in a situation wondering how you got so far from what matters to you. And, of course, pressurising yourself into accepting it. Terms regularly used in relation to ignoring your gut: “growing up”, “being a good friend”, “square peg, round hole”, “must practice gratitude”, etc.
So, where am I going with this?
I know I’m not alone in looking back at certain things in life and questioning where my presence of mind was in making some decisions – maintaining unreciprocal friendships and relationships; applying for jobs which I just knew were a complete step away from all I’d worked towards and completely wrong for me on every level, but calling the move “a step up”, or a “a real job”, or entering “a thriving industry”; dismissing perceptiveness as paranoia, ultimately leading to some miserable situations.
I can see where I’ve strayed from my preferred path, and on pretty much every level attribute all deviations to outside influences lording-it over intrinsic motivation. My fault. I let it happen. I can’t point fingers. And I’m not saying it’s all turned out for the worst, far from it. But, there is always an unapologetic niggling feeling of having become sidelined from how things were meant to be.
**Plus, intrinsic motivation shouldn’t be confused with selfishness. I really wish I’d acknowledged that little gem of truth years ago!**
How many of us can honestly say that we live (…oh no, my ultimate dreaded buzzword..) authentically? I mean, really true to ourselves, questioning what we truly need, or need to do, based on our physiology and our innate drive. Do we acknowledge our ancestral make-up which served us so well in getting here?
We have an ancestral built-in survival system
We’re designed to perceive danger and escape from it without having to think about it. Our hearts are designed to move our body at speed when required, and recover quickly to rejuvenate. We communicate with far more than words on a subconscious level, which is instrumental for survival. There’s a reason we have a visceral reaction to shaming or rejection – historically, we would literally die without our social and familial connections.
Our emotions serve a purpose…
….other than making us feel good or bad. Guilt makes us question whether we’ve honoured our own moral standing in our actions and our words. Regret makes us learn and avoid repeating actions that are bad for us or others. We’re one of many species of mammals who retain our desire to play and curiosity to learn throughout our lives (Neotenous), possibly why we have evolved successfully and survived as a species. I could go on forever…..
But what about the more subtle nudges?
Have you noticed that those stomach issues seem to flare up every time you’re volunteered by management to go to a two-day training course for your department? Do you realise that you feel more stressed since you stopped taking that one hour walk in the forest every Sunday morning? Are you wondering why you’re feeling anxious all the time, when you thought that that promotion would sort out your money problems? Why do you feel slightly on-edge when you walk into that cluttered room in your flat? What is it about your sister’s new partner that makes you feel uncomfortable? Why do you feel empty when your friend tells you about her latest travels?
Getting back on track…
Cultivating awareness of my internal reactions to life’s experiences has been the key to change for me, on a physical and psychological level, especially over the past few months. Now that I’m paying attention, I’m seeing that I have a pretty reliable built-in compass. There’s nothing other-worldly or “wishy-washy” about it, it’s part of my design and I’ve ignored it to my own detriment.
I’ve now stopped questioning, or trying to disprove, what my instincts tell me. I know now that I react to things on a more basic (subconscious) level, and that it’s worth monitoring. But remembering to check in on yourself takes practice. Your gut will shout in some circumstances, but mumble in others, probably because you’ve berated it in the past for “being silly”. I have more trust in what I now perceive to be a sensible jury within that quietly absorbs what is happening around me and reacts accordingly. Not stupid, over-thinking monkey brain logic.
It’s a shame that this ancestral awareness, inherent in all of us from birth, seems to recede when entering adulthood, and at the mercy of outside influences. But you can get it back if you pay attention, it’s that easy. Trust yourself x
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