I wanted to write about this as there’s been a couple of things that in the past year have completely changed the way I view the world—ST being one of them.
I first attended Kit and Olivia’s workshop last year in GWP, doing the 4-day workshop. I had been doing yoga for about 3 years but had made minimal progress in the sticky areas (I still was nowhere near touching my toes).
At first ST seemed like magic. Suddenly I could do all of these things that I couldn’t previously, and I felt so much more relaxed and mobile. But then as time went on it was like—well this isn’t that different to yoga or other stretching methodologies? I couldn’t really understand the fundamental attributes of ST vs. other methodologies. It still worked, but I didn’t understand why.
Late last year I discovered Jordan Peterson. He’s fairly controversial at the moment, but putting that aside, this video is most relevant to what I’m talking about now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOgSqHtTtHY
Jordan Peterson talks about the world in terms of Order and Chaos. Order being what you know, can predict, are comfortable in, your map. Chaos being what you don’t know, the unpredictable, anything can happen, the Abyss, reality.
Cherie talks about “replacing your apprehension with curiosity”.
I’ve found that these two concepts are really the same. Peterson explains it psychologically and ST embodies it. And I’ve found that it seems to apply to almost everything I try to apply it to. It’s really incredible.
Our bodies can move in all sorts of ways, but while we’re conscious we’re very limited in our movements. Kit explains this in terms of us having a map of where our mind will “allow” us to go. Step outside of that map and there’s instant panic, fear, the fight-or-flight response. But having one foot outside of the map and one inside the map means that we can extend our map a little bit.
I think the absolute key difference here between ST and other stretching methodologies—and the thing that can then be taken and applied to any other aspect of life—is the aspect of relaxing and taking in, when you’re in Chaos.
For a long time, I used “exposure therapy” to reduce my fear of things I was afraid of. This is essentially the same approach I used with yoga. But that wasn’t very successful. Why? Because I would enter into Chaos, and then vehemently defend myself against it. I wouldn’t let anything in, because it was too terrifying. I would grit and bear it until it was over, then heave a sigh of relief. But then the next time I went to try it, I was no less terrified. It simply didn’t work.
My approach now is different. It’s not enough to enter Chaos. You have to enter Chaos, take in accurate sensory data so that you can write your map, and then come out of Chaos. First you need to be relaxed, and then you need to receive. How can you write your map if your eyes are shut and your ears plugged?
In a practical sense, I’ve recently been applying this same methodology to my lifelong fear of public speaking. I’ve done public speaking a fair amount throughout my life and I treated it the same way I did an intense stretch. I would get up there, be incredibly nervous, rush through the speech, constant um-ing and ah-ing, not look anybody in the eye, and relax only when it was over.
I’ve started attending Toastmasters to get regular practise at this now, and approaching with the lessons learnt through ST and Jordan Peterson. I noticed that when I’m um-ing and ah-ing, that’s me filling the gaps so that I’m only ever giving my speech, I’m never receiving feedback. I avoid looking anyone in the eye, again to avoid receiving. But by never receiving, I never write my map and learn.
Instead, if I pause while um-ing and ah-ing, and I force myself to look people in the eye, a funny thing happens. I relax. I start to have a dialogue with the audience, not just a monologue. And I start to actually look at this completely terrifying territory with open eyes, for the first time. And guess what? Not only have I found it easier, but I’ve started to enjoy it. I never thought I’d say that.
Now pausing instead of saying “um” is hardly revolutionary advice, but I’m the kind of person that needs to know why something works, not just that it works.
Another quick addition. Ido Portal talks about practising with detachment from the result. Peterson talks about telling the truth. Again, I think these are the same thing. Chaos is reality, infinitely complex and unpredictable. Order is your map, which is never going to be 1:1 to reality because our brains can’t handle that complexity. But if you’re entering into Chaos with preconceptions, or with anything else but wide-open eyes, your map is guaranteed to be incorrect in some fundamental way.
The only way you can write an accurate map is by entering into Chaos without preconceptions, without a desired result, just presenting yourself as honestly and as raw as you can, and seeing what the result is. And then whatever that result is, that’s the truth (or as close as you can get to it, for now).
Whether you’re after a certain result physically (I must achieve this position because I did yesterday), or mentally (I must confirm this result because not doing so would invalidate my beliefs), if you're aware on some level that your map is false and you use it anyway, then reality is very likely to hit you in the face. You still have a chance of getting hit in the face with the most honest map you can write (no map is 1:1 with reality), of course, but far less.
So that’s just a short story about the way Stretch Therapy has completely changed my approach to fear, and life in general