Are you "Living" in the Zombie Zone?

Have you noticed our culture’s obsession with zombies? Have you stopped to consider if you’re one of them?

In 1998, I encountered my first zombie on a steamy Summer evening. The air’s consistency hung thick like mud as I walked through the house opening all of the windows, hoping to coax in a breeze. I heard a rumbling in the distance and as it came closer, my stomach tightened.

The door flew open and my husband launched his words like boulders catapulting across a canyon, “I’m  –  not  –  happy  – anymore.” I was crushed by their weight and flattened to the floor.

We then had our first REAL, raw and honest conversation in over 10 years…

That night, I looked in the mirror, horrified to realize that rather than living my life, I had merely been existing as one of the walking dead. I had subscribed to the belief that in order to give my husband, kids, and job what they wanted, I had to sacrifice myself. I had made myself void of personality, desires, and enthusiasm. Without my conscious awareness, I had crossed over into…(cue the music, Twilight Zone style) The Zombie Zone.

Our culture’s obsession with zombies is actually a reflection of what is going on inside many of us. Self-sacrifice and various methods of numbing ourselves leave us empty and hungry. Without the awareness of what will satisfy this hunger, we wander around failing at our attempts to satiate it, much like the mobs of zombies roaming across your viewing screen eating brains and the organs of the living in a futile attempt to come back to life.

I had arrived at the Zombie Zone by putting everyone’s needs ahead of my own and by placing such sharp focus and importance on those around me, that I lost sight and awareness of myself. With more observation, research and experimentation, I also learned that in addition to being introverted and requiring solitude to recharge, my nervous system is also considered ‘highly sensitive‘. Approximately 20% of our population shares this sensitivity and experiences this big, beautiful world more intensely than most. I can easily feel the discomfort of pain or pleasure, the dissatisfaction or discord in a person or in a room of people and I will pull out all the stops to make that person or group more at peace. For the longest time, I thought it was because I was playing out the self-sacrificing pattern, but I was happy to bust my own thinking with a dose of reality. I eventually understood that I didn’t want them to feel better because I was trying to please them. Underneath it all, I wanted them to feel better so that I would stop feeling their pain. In addition to people-pleasing, I had developed methods to dull the sensations and insulate myself from intense feelings, both high and low. The end result for my combination of self-sacrifice and numbing was an extreme disconnection from my body, my life, my relationships, my world, aka the Zombie Zone.

Here’s a quick checklist to help you determine if you have crossed over into this territory (and I promise not to leave you hanging if you find you having been living there. I can help you lead yourself back to the land of the living.)

Have You Entered the Zombie Zone?

Do you?

  • Delay having fun or doing things that you enjoy until… the kids are older, there’s more money in the bank, you look better in that swimsuit, have more courage, _______ (fill in the blank with your favorite excuse?) This is also called the deferred life plan, but chances are good that you’ve heard the saying “time wasted can never be regained” and it’s quite true.
  • Binge on brains… rather food, entertainment, smoking, drinking, Facebook, surfing the internet? These are all attempts to either numb ourselves from the discomfort of pain or pleasure or futile attempts to fill the void left by a lack of connection and meaning.
  • Focus so intently on everyone else’s preferences that you aren’t aware of your own?
  • Spend time with people, but rarely interact with them. Maybe you’re sitting together, but each of you has assumed the pre-zombie position of looking at the smartphone while ignoring the other person.

If you identified with ANY of these situations, you have slipped into the Zombie Zone. Luckily, over the years since that evening, I’ve experimented with many ways to bring myself back to life and eventually, I started helping others do the same.

How to Bring Yourself Back to Life

Out of all of the methods the following rise to the top as time-tested and proven ways to bring yourself, or your loved ones, back to life:

Raw Honesty – What conversation do you really need to have? The conversation that when you think of it, your palms sweat and your gut clenches. It’s one you’ve avoided having, but you know needs to take place. Do it, be honest about what’s going on. All you need is the courage to endure the first 20 seconds of discomfort, then you will have brought yourself and possibly the other person back to life. By expressing the way you see things and being brave and vulnerable enough to have the conversation, you’ll have increased your sense of connection, too. Think of having this conversation as exercising to build your relationship muscles – sexy! It’s worth noting that the person you need to have a raw and honest conversation with could also be the person in the mirror (you).

Follow your impulses with ACTION – If the band starts playing a song you love, follow your urge to get up and dance! Our brains prefer being on autopilot, so when you have the impulse to change your state by starting a conversation, going for a walk, or doing something creative, follow that impulse with ACTION. Make it a practice to follow your intuition or that nudge you’re getting to do something. According to life coach Mel Robbins**, you have five seconds before the impulse fades. Take ACTION, or you just might find yourself back in the Zombie Zone.

Engage with another human being – Do this in person! And NO… sending someone a text or email doesn’t count. This needs to be face to face, where there’s a chance for actual physical contact, either a handshake a pat on the back or maybe a hug. Unlike the raw and honest conversation above, which has a charge to it, this one is about engaging with another person around a fun topic, event or interaction. To spark your thinking, you could play a board game, sit down for a fun conversation, have a picnic, throw a frisbee or meet a friend for coffee/tea. Connection is one of our primary ‘foods.’ It nourishes our deep hunger and helps us feel alive.

Even though you might have some initial apprehension about trying these recommendations, if you truly incorporate them as a matter of practice in your daily life, you’ll end up more relaxed. Rather than moving through life with the weight of a deferred life plan following you every step of the way, you will have taken back your life, in each moment as it is presented to you. Doing THAT has the power to reduce word boulders into pebbles and to bring people back to life!

PS: If you identified with the checklist item “Focus so intently on everyone else’s preferences that you aren’t aware of your own,” I want to make sure that you know about the Self-Full Living™ Group Program. It’s your opportunity to take your mad focusing, caring, and ‘making it happen’ skills and turn them on yourself for once. You already have the skills to do this, but chances are, you just haven’t had the practice of turning your awesomeness inward. It’s an experience that seems radical upon entry, but feels just like home once you ‘arrive’. Limited space to ensure focused attention. Get all the details about Self-Full Living™.

PPS: If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, I just want you to know that you’re in the right place. I’m an HSP and most of the women I work with are as well. Your sensitivity is an incredible gift and through the Self-Full Living™ group program, you will learn what conditions contribute to strengthening, honoring and prioritizing yourself. Trust me, it might not have been easy to exist in this world, but by prioritizing what is good for you, you’ll be able to experience less conflict and more peace. You won’t eliminate discomfort, but you will be able to move through it with more awareness, skill and purpose. I would love to have you join us for the next class!

*What is Self-Full?
**Highly recommend viewing Mel Robbins’ TED Talk