When we had backyard chickens we collected the eggs when the hens were out clucking around the yard. Sometimes a hen would stay in the coop and brood. If you don’t know what that means, it’s when a hen will not leave an empty nest. There are no eggs. The hen sits on nothing. She stops eating. She stops socializing. And she posts up with a biological urge to protect potentials that do not exist.
We humans also brood; sit on something that isn’t really there, imagining our massive responsibility that’s holding us back from life. We are stuck and argue for why. The ‘eggs’ need us, we are sure. But they do not exist.
In our nervous systems this is akin to a parasympathetic freeze response. We call it “depression”.
The sympathetic arousal wing of our autonomic nervous systems can become so overwhelmed that we crash and dysregulate beyond healing into stuck depression. In this case the body is not using the parasympathetic branch to heal, instead it is sludgy and stuck.. When our physiology is here we mull, brood, stagnate, and argue for limitations to hold us hostage to our nest.
Trying to solve problems from this state in our physiology is akin to trying to convince a hen that there are no eggs underneath her. She isn’t hearing that.
To help a brooding hen, we would gently move her from the nest and shut the coop door. Nervous and uncertain she would pace and roam aimlessly around the door. Drop some fresh compost in front of her, let her find her senses, and she would reluctantly loosen her grip and start eating. After a few days of doing this, she would return to a healthy pattern and join her fellow hens each morning by leaving the coop to free herself from her nest of false problems.
If you’ve ever felt the kind of depression that makes you brood in place without a way out, you’ll probably notice that it doesn’t help when people tell you that your worries (eggs) aren’t real and that you should get out and lift yourself. Instead, don’t think. Just get yourself out of your ‘nest’ (bed, recliner, kitchen you are looping around) and go outside without a goal. Be uncertain. Let your senses take over gently. Walk. Your body will start to inform your mind that you don’t need to sit on those perceived problems. They are in the past and only exist if you brood on them.
I know, those ‘eggs’ seem real. But often they are figments of physiology. Meet the body first, and the mind will often follow. When the door to the coop opens again, you’ll be fed, full of sunlight, and prepared to face the reality of the emptiness of old problems.
NOTE: Depression is a complex experience that may require larger interventions. Please see our disclaimer in our footer and if you feel depression that is not resolving seek support from a skilled Dr or Therapist along with your physical practices to recover.