TLDR: it all comes down to creating new neural pathways.
Keep reading for the long story.
I wrote a blog post some time ago talking about the phenomenon of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” You can read that post here if you’d like. That post, though, leads to a new question. How do you let go of that other shoe?
In that original post, I talked about how so many things happened to me in my life, I kind of got used to the idea that anytime things were going well, it was only a matter of time before things wouldn’t be going so well, again. It created a lot of anxiety for me, and I always waited for “the other shoe to drop.” Through various spiritually and mentally healing things, I did over time, that anxiety improved. I found that I could accept good things happening in my life and not always wait for things to go badly again.
I shared that post on my social media, and a friend who read it asked how I managed to do this. What were the things that I did to let myself relax enough to let go of that anxiety? So, I thought, if my friend had that question, perhaps others might, too. I thought it might be useful to write some of the answers down here.
Healing that Helps
For a long time, we, as a species, thought that our brains were pretty well fixed at a certain age and that healing and meaningful change couldn’t really occur. Or if it did, it was an extremely slow process. In more recent years, science has proven that our neuro system, including our brain, is relatively plastic. Our brains are smart little cookies, and we can heal by finding new pathways for our system to use when certain areas have become damaged or otherwise don’t work optimally. And with the right kind of healing assistance, this can happen relatively quickly. This is called neuroplasticity. And because of this amazing neuroplasticity, we can effectively heal areas of our brains and neuro system that have been damaged by trauma, stress, sometimes physical injury, and other things that cause anxiety, depression, panic attacks, etc.
I have experienced a lot of trauma in my life, as have so many others. Because of this trauma, I struggled significantly with mental health issues that medication and typical therapy were not helping. There came a time in my life that I knew I needed to address these issues in a more expansive way. I’ve tried many different paths to find healing that helps. By finding the healing that helps, I’ve also found that I can more often let go of the feeling of that other shoe waiting to drop.
Making New Neural Pathways
Through my experiences and from what I’ve learned through scientific and medical resources, I’ve found that the very key to emotional and spiritual healing is the creation of new neural pathways. Our neural pathways are essentially like grooves that get worn on a dirt path. We get habituated in our responses to emotional and spiritual, and physical stimuli because of these pathways. We literally almost can’t travel anywhere without staying in those grooves. But if we want to change anything about how we respond to emotional, spiritual, or physical stimuli, one of the first things we need to do is change how we travel on that path and make new grooves. We need to habituate new responses, and that can be challenging because of the grooves that we follow that are already well-worn. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop is an excellent example of one of these grooves (for some) that we seem to have difficulty not traveling.
There are myriad ways to create new neural pathways. This creation can be approached through physical, spiritual, and/or emotional practices. There are many different disciplines that have ways to help one create these new pathways. There are people that will tell you that they have THE way or that there are only certain ways you can do this. There are people and practices that think they have a lock on the best ways to heal or the only way to heal. But the truth is, we each are individuals, and different people will respond better to certain things than others. I will provide a list of things I know of that have either helped me or helped others I’ve known. It will be up to you to decide what to try if you want to start working on this. I’ve also found that sometimes it works well to utilize several different approaches. But again, you have to find what resonates most for you.
Modalities for New Neural Pathways
- Hypnosis. Yes, hypnosis can be an excellent tool for making new neural pathways. Hypnosis gets both sides of your brain talking to each other more efficiently. Hypnosis is a great modality for changing habits. It’s also good for seeking out things from the past that have contributed to the making of our current pathways and healing them so that the old grooves can more easily disappear or lessen so new pathways can be established. Just be sure to find a really qualified hypnotist who knows what they are doing and whom you resonate with. Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis isn’t necessarily a quick fix, but with the ongoing use of this modality, real change can be made.
- EMDR, Brainspotting, etc. The formal emotional therapeutic world (psychology and therapy) has modalities like EMDR, Brainspotting, and probably others I know nothing about that can help to heal old pathways and create new ones. In my personal (layperson) opinion, these work very similarly to hypnosis. Make sure you are dealing with a qualified psychologist or therapist if you go this route.
- Self-hypnosis, Guided Imagery, Meditation. Again, I believe all these things work similarly to hypnosis, but it is a more self-guided journey. I wrote an article on meditation if you want to learn about different ways a person might pursue this modality. Click here to read Dive All The Way In With Meditation.
- Neurofeedback, Biofeedback. Biofeedback has been around for a long time but has become more sophisticated. Neurofeedback is a cousin of biofeedback, but your brain does the work instead of you. Biofeedback and neurofeedback help you rewire the brain and change the neural pathways to allow you to change your responses to stimuli.
- Spiritual Practices. Many spiritual traditions have practices that can help you heal old pathways and create new ones. Just to name a few that I know of: Some Christian sects practice “turning it over to Jesus,” which appears to me to be a way of letting go of old pain and hurt and making way for new responses to form. New-age spirituality has practices such as using affirmations to let go of old patterns and create new ones. Some spiritual traditions use prayer beads, which, again, is another way to name old patterns, heal them, and replace them. Many utilize different forms of prayer and meditation. Whatever resonates is the thing to do, but the key is to use these practices regularly. It takes time to create new neural pathways.
- Mindfulness Practices. Not having much experience with this one myself, I’ll give you this quote from the Mayo Clinic website: “Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind…” It seems that mindfulness practices would work much the same as other meditative practices.
- Somatic Therapy. From Forbes: “Somatic therapy, sometimes known as body psychotherapy, is a therapeutic approach that places importance on what we experience in the mind and the body and the connection between the two. “Somatic” itself means “of or relating to the body.” There are various modalities within this category, but somatic therapy can be useful in healing old wounds and creating new pathways.
- Yoga, Tai Chi, and other mindful exercise. These types of exercises seem to combine some of the benefits of meditation and somatic type therapy. They can help stored trauma cellular memory to move out of your body and then create new pathways that are less anxious and more calming within your person.
- Journaling. Writing out your feelings can be a good way to get out feelings about past trauma and experiences. Including writing practices like affirmations or gratitude work can help to create new neural pathways that will train you to see the positives instead of only focusing on your anxieties, fears, and pain.
There are certainly many more ways to create new neural pathways. There are likely dozens more that I’m not even aware of. I just wanted to give a sampling so that you can recognize the qualities of a modality that will help in this way.
Letting Go of That Other Shoe
Essentially, the answer to letting go of waiting for that other shoe to drop is to heal the neural pathways that habituated our thinking in that way and then make new pathways of less anxiety. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is an anxiety response. At least, it was for me. Healing a lot of my old trauma, or at least making it so that I could live with it more easily, was the first step. Then, creating new pathways through gratitude work, meditative practices, affirmations, and so on was the second step.
Of course, it was never this neat and tidy two-step process but a sort of back-and-forth endeavor. Letting go of old patterns, making new ones. Rinse and repeat. I did so much of it through trial and error, relying on my own research, experience, and exploration. If I started with all that I know today, maybe it would go a little easier. I don’t know. I think it’s a big maybe. Our growth is never linear. It is more like a spiral. Always with the trajectory going upwards, but often having to revisit the same themes in new ways. With new eyes.
In any case, I really don’t wait for the other shoe to drop anymore. I’ve learned that life has ups and it has downs. In Tarot, there is a card called “Wheel of Fortune.” Different people read it differently, but I learned to regard its meaning as “what goes up must come down” but also, “what goes down must come up.” It’s a Universal law. I remind myself of that all of the time now. I think, in some ways, it really is just learning to live in the moment. Enjoy things when they are good, and manage the best that you can when they aren’t. I think when you live like that, a lot of the time, you find that things are good more often than when they aren’t.