“Observe how the mind labels an unpleasant moment and how this labeling process, this continuous sitting in judgment, creates pain and unhappiness.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
“My inner dialogue is kind and loving. My thoughts create only good experiences.” ~ Louise Hay
“Expectations are a form of first-class truth: If people believe it, it’s true.” ~ Bill Gates
“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.” ~ Earl Nightingale
What If Everything You Thought About Your Inner Life Was Erroneous?
This is the 3rd and final installment of my 3-part series on how we hold ourselves hostage. Part one was in October and it examined how we hold ourselves hostage with our inner image. Part 2 was in November and it uncovered how we hold ourselves hostage with our inner vision of our impact. So in this this piece we will discuss how we hold ourselves hostage by our inner expectations.
Your Life is a Funhouse Full of Mirrors
We are all very certain of our life. We are sure that the events we experienced happened just as we recall them and that the things we encounter during our day have the meaning we think they do.
But like a funhouse mirror what we think we see is not what’s really there. It just feels solid when in fact it’s fluid. Science has been able to absolutely prove that our memories can be influenced to playback events in a skewed fashion. We are also certain that we encode meaning onto events and then react from that overlaid meaning rather than the event itself.
For example, if your boss walks pass you in the hall and doesn’t speak to you, you might start to wonder if she is angry with you. Maybe you did something that upset her. You then go on to think that now that she’s angry you think it’s not a good time to ask for those days off so you start feeling stuck and underappreciated.
So you have worked yourself up into a lather and the only thing that actually happened is your boss passed you without speaking.
It’s Not Your Fault – You are Wired to Survive
We overlay meaning to events as a survival mechanism. We are ancestrally wired to assess danger, to know when to stay or flee or to know if it is safe to sleep. However, while these traits are still very active they are often not helpful. Most of us are not in danger most of the day, yet our survival mechanism is still working at capacity. It has just turned its focus on relationships, imagined disasters and our own shortcomings.
Unfortunately, since we are never without these things in our daily life, we become totally fatigued because we are never without a heighted sense of danger alert. There is no down time – you are never far from a reaction – unless you create your own safe mental space.
The Easiest Way to Overcome Your Primal Urges
Our minds are meaning making machines but this process is not serving you. But how do you make a change? By disengaging the event from your judgment of it.
Take our above example of your boss passing you without speaking. You know your mind will start firing off reasons why – and most of them will be negative to you in some way. Once you realize that this sequence has begun, stop and ask yourself, “What do I really know to be true?” Actually what you know is that the event happened. But do you know to be true that she is angry with you? Do you know she’s angry at all? Could there be a multitude of other explanations?
This is the key. You don’t have to know what’s really true – you just have to know that you don’t know. It doesn’t matter what’s actually true for her – you just need to open up enough space to let in the fact that it may not have anything to do with you. Once we remove our personal attachment to an event then we are free to observe it without it wearing us down.
The Grass is Always Greener Where You Water It
There is power in awareness. If you yearn for some peace in your life then this is a great technique. By opening up the possibility that there are multiple other explanations for the events that send you into a tailspin, you are using a super-soaker on your green patch of serenity.
To put this into practical terms let’s look at December. It’s a month where we have the pressure of the holiday season and all that entails for us.
Well, here’s what you do. As you are planning and thinking about your holiday celebrations review past gatherings. If your family is anything like mine there are a few constants. Your family members usually act a certain way, there are some topics of discussion that are better left alone and there are the typical family dynamics, all colored by past hurts and disappointments.
The most effective way to utilize this new skill is to practice it before you go live. Rehearsal is your key to success because it is really hard to employ something new in the trenches of patterns that have been dug over a lifetime.
You can either recall past gathering or you can imagine gatherings – either one will work for your rehearsal. Once you call up your scenario then play the most likely way things unfold. As the scenario plays out in your mind’s eye, listen for the soundtrack of your judgments and assumptions. Jot them down.
Now rewind and replay out the same scenario with the idea that you don’t know if anything you thought was the motivator for your families behavior is true. Notice how much lighter you feel.
If you’re the type that likes to go for extra credit, take a moment and jot down either some compassionate reasons or some positive ones that might be fueling your family’s actions. Replay the scenario a third time inserting those reasons in place of your judgments. Doesn’t that color everything in a different hue?
So here is an example. Your brother always ends up in a yelling match with your dad. This exchange makes the whole evening tense. Everyone is tiptoeing around hoping that this year it doesn’t happen and then they are annoyed when it finally does. You think your brother is immature and is always causing the family trouble.
So play that scenario without the judgment that your brother’s a big pain in everyone’s festivities and see if you can witness the exchange without getting emotionally riled up.
Once you are able to see it play out without having an emotional reaction, then replay it thinking that your brother might be in a lot of pain to be that angry. You know that anger is always a front for hurt feelings and so he might be suffering from the idea that your dad never believed in him.
Aim for feeling neutral when mentally playing through your family’s common rough spots. If you can get there and there is still time, stretch a little and see if you can actually input some compassion into these situations.
The most important factor is for you to change your reaction. The event just is, but you control how you relate to it.
Step into your power. You can create the shifts you want. If you are ready then the way will open up. If you get inspired to reach out for help then do it.
My wish for you is that you realize you deserve to take your life to the next level of success, happiness and fulfillment. This year put the Happy back into your Holiday season.