I recently watched this video on You Tube where Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski discusses stress. He describes how a lobster grows (it outgrows its current shell, gets uncomfortable, goes into hiding, sheds the shell and grows a new one) and uses it as a metaphor for why stress can be beneficial and lead to periods of growth.
I agree that sometimes stress can make us stronger and help us grow. But the part of the story that really stands out for me is that the lobster seeks refuge during this time of change.
Somewhere in our modern story the idea of pursuing safety in times of stress has been devalued and possibly lost. Hiding under a rock isn’t really an option for the kinds of stress that we have to deal with (thankfully we are not often physically threatened in the modern world). But, we still experience huge amounts of stress – so what kind of hiding place can we find when our stress comes from demands on our time, pressures at work, family difficulties or the high expectations we place on ourselves?
We can find shelter inside ourselves.
What on earth does that mean?
It’s simple – we can seek shelter by giving our minds and bodies a bit of ‘time off’ and doing things which nourish and protect us.
I’m not talking about getting drunk or taking drugs or running away from problems. I’m talking about doing nourishing, productive, relaxing things which you know make you feel better. For you that might be doing cross-stitch, or slamming it out on the squash court, or going to see your old friend who you never get to see but it just feels SO COMFORTABLE with! It might be going for a massage and remembering that you are a living breathing human with a beating heart and a repeating cycle of in-breath and out-breath. It might be making a cake…. It’s whatever you feel are the things that protect and nourish you – the things which leave you feeling more positive, more able to cope. These are our modern places of safety. After you’ve been to those places you come out stronger – with your new shell on – ready to take on the challenges.