David Robert Jones, MS LPC

Take a Step Back (11)

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15 minute writing timer. Set. Go…

“Take a step back.”  This is a fascinating idiom in our common vernacular. We associate it with getting a bit of distance from what is right in front of your face, what is consuming your focus, what is grabbing you, what is connected to your reactivity, and so on.

I’ve been working with this idea for quite some time as part of my practice and I enjoy experimenting with it and testing it out in situations throughout the day.

Connected to taking a step back, I also have been noticing my heart opening and closing throughout the day, trying to be aware of the subtle sensations in the body that are cues that I am closing and subtle sensations that are cues that I am opening. More and more, I can feel myself closing before I’ve completely shut the door, built a wall, dug a trench, created an “other,” and all the things we do when we close our hearts to life.

Watching the Super Bowl gave me a great chance to practice. I have just enough of an interest in one of the teams to root for them and hope that they will win and that the other team will lose. I’m not neutral when it comes to the outcome. So, that gives me the tension that I need for the experiment to carry emotional weight and require effort on my part.

In short, my underlying intention while watching the game, in addition to just enjoying time with family and friends, was to notice when my heart began to close, to notice when I became reactive, and to step back now and then to watch it and watch myself as if watching a movie.

The game was a tight contest the whole way through and filled with tension and drama. And, it was long. In fact, it was the 7th longest game in NFL history. So, lots of tension, lots of drama, and all of that for a long time.


As background, some of the cues I notice in my body when I am beginning to close my heart and become reactive in a competitive setting like this are that my breathing becomes shorter, my jaw tightens, my eyes become laser-focused, my temperature rises, and my body posture closes off.  I also notice that my inner and outer voice become deeper, louder, more critical, more us vs. them.

Now, caring about a team also allows for good-natured fun with my brother-in-law, wife, and kids. We love each other and enjoy the chance to engage passionately over something that we have in common.

For my experiment, I wanted to see if I could notice my body at different points in the contest and “take a step back” into the seat of centered awareness through which the whole scene is passing. 

During one of these step-backs, I chuckled when my mind suddenly remembered that it couldn’t remember last year’s Super Bowl enough to feel anything about it. Or very many other ones. It was fun to think that in a year, this moment will have passed and with it the ups and downs I was feeling in my body.

During other step-backs, I noticed my shortened breathing, tense body, and then responded by enjoying some long breaths, moving my body, and opening my posture.

30 seconds left….Okay, gotta finish this.

As I reflect back on the experience as a whole, I notice that stepping back didn’t take away from the emotional enjoyment and depth of experience in the moment. In fact, it was richer. I was open to more of the experience since I was consciously responding more than unconsciously reacting more of the time. 

It was fascinating and I likely will remember this game even more than others because I was less tied up in reactivity that takes me out of the whole moment, and I was more involved with all that was happening as it happened and who it was happening with. 



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