Let’s begin this 12-week adventure by tuning in to the instinctive skills we all possess, and thinking about how they can help us stay safe. Our senses and subconscious provide useful information about potential danger, but we’re socialized to ignore much of it, or tune it out. This week’s activity will put you back in touch with your “gut”—the intuitive reactions that are often our first line of self defense.
You’ll need a partner, so ask a friend or co-worker to try this with you.
- Stand 8-10 feet away from your partner, and have them walk slowly towards you. When your partner is as close as you’re comfortable with—the normal distance you like to maintain during a casual conversation—tell them, “Stop.”
- Take a moment to experience what this distance feels like.
- Then, have your partner take one more step towards you, inside your comfort zone.
- Again, stand quietly for a moment and let yourself experience that distance. What does it feel like?
Here’s a very short (14 seconds!) video of my friends KJ and Doris Ann demonstrating the exercise.
Next, switch roles, so your partner can explore their comfort zone. It might be larger or smaller than yours; different people are comfortable with different degrees of closeness.
- What physical cues did your body send when your partner stepped inside your comfort zone (maybe flushing, shallow breathing, elevated pulse, sweating)?
- What was going through your mind? Most of us (especially women) have been socialized to ignore or stifle our gut reactions. We tell ourselves, “Don’t be silly,” “You’re imagining things,” or “Don’t be rude.”
For the rest of the week, try to notice your physical and emotional response when someone reaches the edge of your comfort zone—or crosses it (for example, on subways or busses, or anywhere you have to wait in a line). Practice listening to that response.
The sensations you experience when your comfort zone is breached are early warnings about a situation that could become unsafe. Most of the time, it won’t. But you want to hear that little voice when it says, “I’m uncomfortable; I don’t feel safe.” That’s your gut speaking. Don’t ignore it!
By Friday, I hope you’ll be more familiar with the boundaries of your comfort zone, and more likely to notice violations of it. “Listening to your gut” should feel like a normal activity—one that you’re good at!
Want to know more? Try the Extra Credit!
Let’s use the next five days to make ourselves safer and more powerful! Check in on the website to share how things are going—or Tweet your responses to @SusanSchorn, hashtag #FearLessFridays.