Failure to Thrive

Categories: Blog, Survive to Thrive, Pressing RESET, Fight or Flight, Dan John Apr 28, 2024

I had a wonderful time teaching with Dan John over the last few weeks in England and Denmark. Our course is called Survive to Thrive. We teach the idea of establishing a lifestyle of habitual movement to fully realize the lives we want to live—lives of strength, joy, and meaning. We are, after all, meant to thrive. 

But then I came back home. And I was tired. That’s an understatement; I was so jet-lagged that I could hardly think. Instead of heading what my body was telling me, I blindly tried to insert myself back into my normal day-to-day operations as if I had never left. This was a mistake. I failed at almost every interpersonal interaction I had with the people I loved and worked with. Instead of thriving and giving the best of myself, my true self, I was barely surviving and allowing the worst of myself to take over. 

My body was trying to survive. It needed rest, and I needed rest. But instead, I refused what I needed and pushed myself deeper into survival mode. As a consequence, my normal, caring, and thoughtful self was replaced by my fleshly surviving self. I failed at my communications, I failed at my best intentions, I let people around me down, and I let myself down as well. 

I now understand Paul’s desperate plea in Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” I was clearly acting out in a way that I did not want to, but I was incapable of acting in a way that I did want to. Why? Because my body was trying to survive and it was unable to thrive. 

I was stuck in fight-or-flight mode—I needed rest. My mind was incapable of higher thoughts, and my emotions were incapable of compassion and empathy. The me that I know that I am was not there because my nervous system did not feel safe enough or stable enough to allow myself to thrive. Instead, my thoughts were small, selfish, short-tempered, and rude. I was reacting instead of responding. I was stuck in fight-or-flight mode. 

It is possible to act as or be who we do not want to be, and it is possible to react as someone we are not. If we are stuck in survival mode, we cannot and typically will not be our true, loving, and abounding selves. We can actually be a “house divided” within ourselves when our nervous system feels threatened. 

All of this to say. Last week, I failed. I did the things I did not want to do, I said the things I did not want to do say. I may have hurt my friends, but I definitely hurt myself. I let them down. I let myself down. But I know, I am certain, my actions and reactions last week were not who I am. I know that person is not me. 

We are human. We are complex. We are capable of being divided within ourselves. We are meant to thrive yet built to survive. And we cannot thrive unless our survival needs are met. Food, shelter, REST, acceptance, love, safety, and security - these are our deepest needs, and when these needs are met, we are free to thrive and be our true, authentic, selfless selves. But when these needs are not met, we get sucked into ourselves - not on purpose, but through our nature. 

If you ever find yourself not being who you want to be, who you know you really are, you are likely reacting due to a survival need that is not being met. Your nervous system is likely feeling threatened for some reason. The best thing you can do to return to being who you want is to acknowledge that you are surviving and then FORGIVE yourself. Then, if you hurt others, ask for their forgiveness. Then, try to address the survival need. Maybe you address it through sleep and food. Maybe you address it through exercise or therapy. Or, maybe you write about it to process it and allow forgiveness to wash it away. 

We have to fail to learn and grow. I think I just wrote a book about that. It’s funny how the lessons keep coming to deepen the learning. Last week’s failure is an opportunity for my growth and development. It is also a lesson to listen to the cues my body is desperately trying to give me. But it also deepens my understanding of the complexities of being human. It is a beautifully wonderful, robust, and wildly delicate design for sure. 

If I was curt to you last week, I apologize. That wasn’t the true me. Thank you for your forgiveness! 





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