If You Feel Like A Boneless Chicken, There’s Hope

The other day I was listening to a lecture in order to earn Continuing Education Units for my counseling credential where I live. Chicken

I had exactly .25, one quarter, of a credit short before my birthday in a few weeks when all my credits were due. I hunted down a lecture online to learn from, something short.

A long-term psychotherapist, J. Eric Gentry, was offering a lecture. He has worked in the field of trauma for over 30 years.

His message?

Being in a repeated stressful situation, without inquiring, can leave you complaining, unhappy, and very numbly stuck.

You feel irritated and you say “this is a stressful job, a stressful situation, because of _____.”

You have your list of reasons….

….but you might be like a frog who’s been put in a warm pot of water where the heat’s slowly turned up, just slowly enough that the frog doesn’t leap out, but winds up getting boiled to death instead.

You aren’t moving. You can’t move.

So find a place where you feel repeatedly like you’re stuck, and you’ve almost given up.

We perceive something is an ongoing threat….

….and we lose brain functions like reason, clear judgment, fine motor control, speaking up clearly. Dr. Gentry said the sympathetic nervous system is activated and goes on major alert and you freeze (and consider flight).

THE WATER IS BOILING! But I’m too weak or unhappy to even jump out!


You say “I can’t take it anymore”!

Martin Seligman, a very famous psychologist, gave dogs electric shocks through the floor, randomly. Eventually, the dogs gave up and lay down, allowing themselves to be shocked, hopeless.


(Picture a teenager holding a “W” up on their forehead for “whatever”.)

Now…lying around like a boneless chicken isn’t necessarily the best experience, right?

One might think “I need to get motivated, I need to get fired up!”

But even an Olympic Athlete doesn’t say “I wish I would be MORE anxious about my upcoming competition.”

Relaxation is valued, interesting, comfortable, and good.

Somehow, we all know there’s a place of relaxation AND joyful action put together, without a big feeling of danger, fear, threat, stress.

I love what Dr. Gentry suggested.

Who would you be in your same stressful situation without tensing up? Without believing it is stressful?

Who would you be with the belief that your situation is hopeless?

Without the thought that it’s dangerous to speak up, try to make changes, or ask for what you need and want?

What if you no longer thought you were trapped, that you were a victim, that you’re stuck?

What would that look like?

“Burnout is a perceptual disorder, a perceptual issue. Nothing is ever demanded of you again. You have no demands upon you. You are free. Yes, your actions come with consequences, but you get to choose…” ~ Dr. J Eric Gentry


Sinking into that place where I am truly, deeply free, without any expectation or demand for the outcome, without the clutching, without hoping, without pushing, without feeling stuck that there’s a *right* way, without feeling bossed, without feeling like a victim…..

…..I soften.

“Believing in a solid, separate self, continuing to seek pleasure and avoid pain, thinking that someone ‘out there’ is to blame for our pain—-one has to get totally fed up with these ways of thinking. One has to give up hope that this way of thinking will bring us satisfaction.” ~ Pema Chodron

I turn the thoughts around:

This situation is not hopeless.

I am not trapped.

I am not stuck.

Only my thinking is stuck in a loop-de-loop of no-way-out thinking.

But I myself am free.

Can you find how this is also true, or truer?

Even if your new ideas frighten you….question this. Don’t fall back on the floor again and give up.

You can do this.

“When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind and fearless.” ~ Byron Katie

Much love,


4 Replies to “If You Feel Like A Boneless Chicken, There’s Hope”

  1. I absolutely love this reminder Lisa, about the same dynamic of power and relaxation in martial arts! Thank you so much for sharing it…fabulous. –Grace

  2. Good morning Grace! I love when I get to read these in the morning and start my day with your notes and my thoughts about your notes :-). I tried what you dedcribe in real time real life for the first time two days ago. It kind of just happened… Bubbled up in me. I suspect your notes play a part in it. I can’t quite remember if what thought got me, but I remember having a really great day and suddenly not having a great day, and thinking what if I just let this go? What if I’m still having a great day? Yesterday was a bit more of a struggle, but I did better. I didn’t let the thoughts write nasty emails, or cry, or keep me from having my own little dance party at night. Could I be getting better? Your notes, and the work in general, precisely mirror what I’m learning in tai chi. No not the tai chi people do in the park for soft relaxation, tai chi for power circulation… And if necessary for striking and defense. Time after time i i i train to go against that initial freeze. The idea is when someone grabs me, or is about to hit me, I’m training myself to first relax. The idea is the more relaxed I am, the more power I can use. Kind of like unkinking the hose so the water can come through. Only then can I throw a man twice my size on the floor very calmly, naturally, and effortlessly. It doesn’t come from muscles or strength. If it did he would win. So the idea is to go from fear to relax… Fear to relax…and then eventually skip the fear together and just livr in a relaxed state. Apparently this is the root of power in internal martial arts. But I suspect you knew this already

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