Fleas in a Jar:

Connecting with Self Energy to Remove our Lids of Limiting Beliefs

This week, I was listening to Cathy Heller interviewing Ozan Varol (I recommend!). She referenced the “flea in a jar” study, which I had never heard of.

Here’s the study: When you try to put fleas in a jar, they will jump out of the jar. However if you put a lid on the jar for three days, when you return and open the lid, the fleas no longer jump out. This new jumping limit is set for the rest of their lives. And what’s even more powerful about this study is that when the fleas reproduce, their offspring, without ever having experienced the lid, will only jump as high as their parents.

When our parents, or the people around us, don’t jump, or if they tell us that we can’t jump, we often stop jumping all together. Life comes with very real limitations, and many more for some people than others. At the same time, our unconscious mind can place us in a prison of our own making.

I recently re-read Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap (I recommend you do too!). And a few weeks ago, I had our team read it and workshop it. As therapists, we can be truffle pigs for sniffing out our clients’ present struggles, challenges from their past and their family and cultural lineage. In my initial training, there was almost no emphasis on the importance of soaking in, and really expanding on, moments when people are feeling most alive and connected, and experiencing their greatest and fullest sense of Self. Yet it is from this place that exists within all of us that we have boundless jumping potential. 

Self, or “Self Energy” is the core of who we are.

Self, or “Self Energy” is the core of who we are. In Internal Family Systems, Self is characterized by the 8C’s: compassion, curiosity, clarity, creativity, calm, confidence, courage and connectedness. It is what we are born with. Nobody can give it to us, and nobody can take it away from us. However, due to our life experiences, or the experiences in our lineage, we build up armor that can cause us to lose contact with Self.

Thanks to the mentoring of my own therapist, and my post-graduate trainings, rooting around and sniffing out even the tiniest of moments of contact with Self has become the primary focus of my personal and professional work. From Self energy, we can see clearly that there is no lid on our personal jar, and the possibilities for expansion are endless

Are you open to getting curious about your conscious or unconscious lids of limiting beliefs?

Do you notice when you are in Self Energy?

Do you notice when you’re not? 

What practices help you connect with Self?