Don’t Be Afraid to Break Your Shell: You Can Only Improve This Way!

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“Always remember: Whenever there is a choice, choose the unknown, the risky, the dangerous, the insecure, and you will not be at a loss.”—Osho

Have you ever watched a crab changing its shell? I hadn’t until my cousin sent me a video of it. Although I usually can’t stand to watch arthropods doing their thing, I was amazed when I watched it. There’s a simple reason for a crab undergoing such a change: to grow. It has to change its shell in order to develop physically. It outgrows the old shell, so it needs to change it. When the right time comes, it sheds the old shell and leaves it behind. It is simply reborn.

A crab that’s just shed its shell is much more fragile and vulnerable with its soft, pink tissue. Luckily its new shell soon hardens and becomes far stronger than the old one.

So, what about us humans? How do we improve ourselves? Should we hide in the invisible shells we build up over time? Or should we shed them so we can grow further?

Who among us doesn’t have an invisible shell that we think protects us from the dangers of the outside world? Every sad experience we have has contributed to this shell and hardened it, hasn’t it? We’ve become so accustomed to our shells that we start identifying ourselves with them. Yes, I know it feels safe and cozy inside. That’s why we keep carrying them around on our backs, but we need to see the truth at some point: It’s impossible to grow without breaking the shell!

The crab has no choice other than to change its shell. Believe me when I tell you that we don’t either! Okay, we can continue to physically live within it, but simply existing is not living after all. How can we feel alive when we refuse to develop the emotional bodies hiding underneath our shells?

The crab is aware of the dangers that await it after leaving the safety of its shell, but it isn’t deterred by them. Instead, it proceeds with determination. Do its fears come true? They probably do sometimes, but then the soft, squishy tissue hardens and becomes a new, stronger shell.

We’re unfortunately not as brave as crabs in this sense. We’re afraid of showing our vulnerable sides. We think about what if we get hurt, what if we regret it, and what if people see something bad in us, and so on. Yes, perhaps some or all of these fears will come true, but don’t worry. Those things can’t kill us—they will just make us stronger.

So, how can we break the rigid shells we have developed over the years? A lot of books and techniques deal with this, but I want to share the method I practice personally.

1. Clearly set your intentions for your emotional development. An initial step armed with sincere intentions guarantees success.

2. Don’t repress, restrain, or ignore your emotions. Don’t try to dismiss your feelings, even if they make you unhappy. Let yourself feel them unconditionally instead. The key here is to feel emotions “without reaction” and observe their effects on your physical body.

3. Perform the following breathing exercises for at least 15 minutes every day:

  • Inhale and exhale through your nose.
  • Breathe continuously. Don’t pause between breaths.
  • Inhale and exhale at the same rate.

Keep your thoughts away from your mind and focus only on your breathing. (If you find yourself chasing a thought, simply dismiss it and refocus on your breathing.)

Also, I recommend you read Michael Brown’s book The Presence Process, which deals with the awareness and improvement of the emotional body. It’s an excellent guide for emotional integration with a ten-week training program. I’m currently in my 7th week, and I must admit it’s going very smooth, especially since the techniques are applicable everywhere and don’t interrupt your daily life.

As an engineer, I’ve prioritized rational thinking and ignored my emotional nature for most of my life. Rather than caring about what I felt, I cared only about what I should be feeling. Living like this was kind of like trying to hopscotch all the way down the road of life, but all I wanted to do was dance. If this sounds like you, what you need to do is very simple: Stop hopping on one leg and start using both legs instead.

“There’s one thing more painful than losing life. It’s losing its meaning” -Seneca

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