Embracing yourself, embracing your inner child, be at peace with yourself, deal with your fucking “pain body”. It has not worked for me yet. I read the stuff and simply do not “click” with it, nor do I allow myself the time to decipher the fluff and get to the practical side of it. So let’s get to business.
My main goal for years is to get “unstuck”. I know I have much more potential than I show now (and fuck the Tony Robbins-es of this world milking this by claiming “OK is not enough” and that I should be “on the Edge” That as well does not work for me). I see myself holding back on issues where there is no risk except for maybe to get hurt.
So what is keeping me back?
One thing I use to get unstuck is the assumption that my brain heavily leans on pattern recognition to interpret my “reality”. It is a handy and very clever shortcut my brain applies by using already interpreted stuff from my memory instead of re-interpreting what I just experienced. In programming we would put this under the label “optimization”.
Illustration 1: Matching situations with patterns via pegs and hooks
Simplified it looks like the above image: a “square” situation is matched with a (memory) pattern already available and when our brain finds a matching “square” in our memory we can assume it is similar to something we already know.
But what if this pattern has some gnarly emotions attached to it: fears, anger, desperation, sadness, you name it. A new (possible) situation will recall and trigger these emotions we might have experienced and attached to this pattern. So every time I move into a new social environment I might experience the same anxiety I experienced once as a toddler or teenager since the situation of old times might repeat itself again.
Why do we do the irrational things we do? – Kids are not the best people to write complex software
A 1,5- or three year kid is not the best person to write the often complex software of responsive patterns. It simply misses the experience and broader view you (hopefully) develop when growing up. Looking back at your own creations from when you were that age, there is certainly a significant difference in style and quality. And some simply do not make any sense any more and may even seem irrational to us from where we stand now.
Still: as a kid we are actively programming all kinds of patterns to be able to respond to new and old situations in the best way possible at that moment. And all this programming grows and is tweaked and adapted as we learn and grow. But still old remnants remain active. Jumbled up code. Weird response patterns that make no sense anymore now that we have become more experienced teenagers and grown to be adults.
Enter the world of broadly defined filters and new connections
People who state: “it’s how I am” or “this is what I am” are talking bullshit when you take the following into consideration: We “are” not our response patterns. We merely created them as a response to our environment.
Our mind already starts programming response patterns and pegs and hooks to be able to respond faster to new situations which resembles situations we already have stored in our memory. Let’s say one of these pegs is our “square” in the image. Now suppose we forgot to be very specific of the matching criteria of this square. So instead of only squares, any form small enough to fit will be accepted as a match.
Let’s assume I have been repeatedly publicly humiliated by the class bully. Since there was no other options shown to choose from, at these moment I went through the emotional states of shame, angst anger and sadness. Most of the fights I started I lost. So on top of the first humiliation the second of physical defeat was added, combined with a deeper hurt. And repeated.
A new pattern takes form. The main message is: when you show yourself in public, you take a risk to be humiliated.
But how specific is the filter I use for this pattern?
- Any situation?
- Any situation in public?
- Any situation in public where I think people are watching me?
- Any situation in public where people are actually watching me?
- Any situation in public where males or females are actually watching me?
- Any situation where I might wear the wrong combination of clothes?
And who is marked to be hostile in my mind?
- Only males?
- Only females?
- Within a specific age?
- Any age?
When the filters are to wide, any seemingly similar situation can be linked to this one specific pattern.
In the worst case: anyone could be hostile and out there to humiliate me.
Illustration 2: Mismatching judgmental pegs and hooks
Brief: “Five and six sided situations are the same as square ones”. The result is that I will be limiting my own options more than I really need to because I assume that “Square is the same as five- and six sided” where they are not. It is the result of bad programming.
But hey: I was 1, 2, 3, 4 years old at that point.
Narrowing the filters, re-evaluating and re-matching patterns
First: any pattern I created had it’s value in the past. It helped me to cope with the situations I was in at that moment the best I could.
Step 1 is to disconnect the situations that actually are different from the situation related to the pattern.
Instead of assuming that my judgment is right, I become inquisitive. “Is this situation really what I assume it to be?” It might not. I might be totally wrong when I take a better look at things. And yes: it takes courage to look beyond my assumptions. I suddenly have to open my mind, take a look at things I have learned to avoid because they might inflict pain or hurt. I have to re-learn that not all things I am trying to avoid or attack are a possible threat to me.
Step 2 is to define new judgmental pegs and hooks and to create openings for new patterns to evolve.
The question is: “if it is NOT-A, what COULD it be otherwise?” The only way to find out is to stay open, broaden my vision, observe and discard my assumptions as best as I can. Reality proves 99.99999999% of all my fantasy futurama assumption escapes into “WHAT COULD HAPPEN WHEN..” wrong anyway when I am brutally honest, so there is hardly any loss into neglecting them and try something new instead.
Step 3 is to reconnect situations to new matching hooks.
It simply makes it easier to re-evaluate a situation every time I do so. The school bully is not around any more to humiliate me. The people around me are no representatives of this bully: “out to get me… even now”. And if they are I can respond in many more ways than I could image when I was that kid because I learned some new tricks. Responses I previously perceived as attacks might even be positive critiques outed from a loving place to help me grow beyond my current state. I can stop repeating specific behavioral patterns.
Any situation is different and with different actors.
Why I think “positive thinking” does not work…
There is a lot of old hooks and pegs and response patterns in our brain. They produce all kind of responses to our day to day situations. In my case it sometimes seems like I have an entire crowd of people with sometimes contradicting agendas in my mind all talking at the same time without getting to a productive result.
To override these patters with “positive” thinking is like adding a new person to the crowd. It is really hard work to make this new “thought” loud enough to get the others to stop. And what if this “positive guy” fails? Some of the others are constantly ready for the kill. And they will make sure I understand that I have failed in yet another attempt to make a change.
..and I think opening your mind and aiming for a neutral state does
You first need to clean up.
Instead of working hard, try for a change to do nothing. Sit back and let the crowd speak their mind in your mind until they get bored from getting no response from you at all. It is already such an advantage to get a loud and noisy mind to calm down. It is like moving from a busy street to a calm meadow. Suddenly you can hear your own thoughts again, relax. Be you instead of an internal response machine repeating over and over again all the fears and doubts you already know for so long.
Like stated before, to develop new pegs and hooks for new response patterns, you first need to understand what the situation is. In my experience the best position to do this from is where I am calm and relaxed. In an argument, or when receiving critique, it is good to actually hear what is being said without immediately responding to it. To let things sink in without immediately connecting it to yourself or to your possible failure.
A neutral state is simply “observing situations without the need to have any opinion at all about it”.
“And the price winning solution is?”
I have no clue. (Fuck me if I knew. I could make millions.) My best guess for now:
- To challenge yourself to assume that your current judgmental system is flawed. Non-stop.
- To start with observing and learning to see things from multiple angles.
- To re-evaluate any current judgemental system and build new ones where you feel it will help you
Until next time.