Tempering the Pursuit with a Soft Power
Often we think of power as something very strong, potent, full of energy, and driven. When we pursue our dreams and goals, sometimes we think of going after them in this way, with a lot of energy and attack. But this can be exhausting. What would it be like to pursue our dreams with more of a balance between intensity and a relaxed focus. What if we used a different kind of power?
A soft power.
You may be driven, focused, hardline, restless, on the hunt with your career or in other aspects of your life. How is this working out for you? For your mind and your body? Perhaps the secret to restoring your sleep, health, and mental power is actually found through a softening to relax, rather than a constant pushing to drive harder. Tempering the pursuit mode with a soft power to balance the body and mind.
Traditionally “Soft Power” has referred to a theoretical approach in politics. Instead of a hard intense line of attack, the political strategy of “soft power” refers to having such an attractive way of life that others want to engage in this way of life, and thus you bring others into ideological alignment with your lifestyle and values.
In practice, I notice how driven we can be. We want to achieve, achieve, achieve. Go harder, faster, stronger. In wellness for our minds and bodies, this can mean more training, getting rid of more negative beliefs, pushing the dark things away and coercing parts of your beliefs to stop, drop and roll out of your self improvement line of fire.
But what if, instead, you used a Soft Power to help you succeed.
A NEW DEFINITION OF SOFT POWER
When we think of soft, we often think of more feminine or young qualities. Traditionally, many of us have been surrounded by the idea that we need to be masculine in our approach to succeed.
However, there is a shift in society, where appreciation for feminine ways and values is growing. You may have heard this quote, which is quoted often this year in 2019:
It’s fascinating to live in a time where this phrase has taken hold like wildfire. Pink is the new IT colour. A feminine touch is being cultivated. Women are speaking. Men are supporting. A shift in cultural ideology is occurring. A shift towards perhaps a more soft way of having power.
What does this shift mean for you?
As a man, as a woman, or otherwise?
What traits in you do you find more “female” or “soft”, and which traits more “hard” or “masculine”?
SOFT VERSUS EDGE
From a non-biological perspective, and one that is not specific to either gender or any gender, I think it’s interesting to ask, where is the softness and where is the edge, within us.
To ask, what character traits are more soft. For you, this may mean nurturing, vulnerable, quiet time to connect, contemplation, patience, gentleness, kindness, allowing. Deepening the breath. Stretching. Yoga. Meditation.
Then ask, what character traits are more edgy. For you, this may mean attack, athletic vigour, being aggressive, dominating, clear boundaries, hunting down what you want, being relentless. Keying up the body. Running. Climbing high mountains. Driving projects forward.
So then, could this dichotomy between softness and edge bet used to help you find a biological homeostasis - a balance - in your brain and body and in the way you live your life?
So, if you are feeling more on edge, maybe balance into softness. Stopping the constant thoughts on how to improve your career or your role in a team to instead sift gently without a goal or outcome into relaxing time with family and loved ones. Or, allowing yourself to gaze out at the trees, the waves on water, something natural. Taking a moment to do nothing. To receive the beauty of the world. To observe. These are some of the ways to balance your brain into alpha brain wave state, to recharge your mental power. Connecting with loved ones generates more oxytocin. The parasympathetic nervous system tones and becomes stronger, thus more available to suddenly automatically kick in when stress builds too high.
And, if you are feeling ineffective, listless, off focus, and have been wasting time recently, maybe balance into more edge. Go for a strong cardio workout. Analyze something, trying to see it from different angles, dive into problem solving and boost your beta brain waves. Key up your sympathetic nervous system with something exciting or highly responsive like raquet sports, debating, challenging analytical articles, working with a team to problem solve. Be direct about something that has been bothering you. Learn how to communicate more clearly for better conflict resolution. Key it up. Power up to get your dream life in gear.
Although this is somewhat of a tangent, the balance between soft and edge, feminine and masculine, does bring up a point that I find very useful to apply in my discussions with clients. This point is the interesting difference between the male and female brain, that leads to different styles of communication.
THE MALE BRAIN
Even if you don’t have a male brain, please read on. I think more difficulties in communication between men and women can be helped with some of the key information below.
THE PURSUIT CENTRE
For example, male brains have a larger “Pursuit Centre”. This area of the brain linked to going after what you want, is 4 to 5 times larger in men than in women. So men often have a drive that women don’t understand as much. Studies have shown that men feel more alive when this centre is active and happening. So this may explain that “restlessness” that occurs, the seeking for something more, the quest for more information, physical agility, a new place to travel, that may happen more often in the male brain than in the female brain. So perhaps the next time you feel restless or discontent as a man, it may be useful to either go full on into a project or pursue some specific knowledge, or choose instead to “balance out” and soften into relaxation and cultivate some more reflective and contemplative “soft” qualities, or spend time with a woman you know to balance out the edge. It depends what your lifestyle and balance requires.
Before men are even born, testosterone affects the auditory system and its connections within the brain so that the brain “inhibits” unwanted noise and repetitious stimuli more than the female brain does. So, as a man, when you hear “You aren’t listening enough,” maybe you can interpret this as someone’s frustration that you don’t listen as much as a woman would. And then maybe you can explain that you prefer less sentences, more dialogue. And, as a woman, you may want to take less words to communicate, notice if the man you are talking to, is tuning in or tuning out, be curious what he listens to and what tunes him out to understand more of what is happening in his mind and inner landscape.
INNER WORK WITH A SOFT POWER
When we decide to do the inner work to shift our mind set, perhaps sometimes it is useful to balance into a softer power.
For example, instead of pushing away negative thoughts, self doubt, blame and shame, consider “sitting down” patiently with these thoughts. Listening. Getting the one clear sentence that summarizes the negative thoughts. Ask what that negative sentence is interested in conveying, in terms of a needed state of mind or feeling state. Identify the need. Listen to it. Instead of thundering down the door hot in pursuit of finding happiness and lassoing it and tying it to your horse, try sitting by that negative thought for a bit. What is it trying to get you to do? Is there another way for you to get an actual, real, here and now need met instead of being pessimistic about something that happened in the past or that you worry will happen in the future?
Maybe beneath that negative thought you hear a little whine for attention in some area of your life. See if there is perhaps a positive, doable, and realistic way to get that need met in the moment, simply by shifting how you view the focus of your mental eye.
Take a pause.
Feel the feelings.
Wait patiently for that little message that at first seems almost impossible, then grows into being perceptible, then grows a bit bigger . . . of that feeling, or dream, that you want to attain. As if that is happening now. Feeling that you are deeply and completely loved by another. Realizing the success of your career. Bering proud of your talents and gifts. Forgiving of a “mistake” you made that perhaps was actually an opportunity for greater awareness and knowledge. Deepening your acceptance into the current rhythms and timing of your life.
Embracing your soft power.
Wishing you the best, always,
~ Dr. M.