How many times have you heard the same old story from different mouths? How often have you encountered situations that feel like the same-old ones over and over again?
SEEING THE TELLS
Gamblers and scammers call them “tells.” They say these situations and those moves are the signs that something or other will probably go wonky or has already gone aglay. Often the “tells” do work because most people are not that different from each other. We all react similarly to many everyday situations we might encounter.
So you jump one way or maybe another, and then you discover that you were wrong in the assumptions that you made. Your feelings are leading you down some old road that you know is a dead end.
What you thought was happening is not even close to the real. Because of the old stories that you’ve lived, you’ve attributed motives or agendas to other people that are just not so.
But, because of your erroneous reading of a situation, you have shaped this latest encounter into yet another iteration of your old story, the one that has happened before, the one you see happening again.
And things do go wonky in exactly the same way they did the last four or five times you’ve done this dance. The players in this new game are different. The circumstances are similar enough, but they are not the same. Somehow, you are getting sucked into the same crummy story again and you’re making the same old moves again that you know are not going to work.
STOP, LISTEN, FEEL
If you will stop and look at your reactions to the various situations you encounter that you invariably handle badly, it’s likely you’ll be able to see the emotions and the assumptions you are carrying that encourage the same dilemmas to develop that you find hard to resolve. These stories keep happening in your life over and over again for a reason. Maybe that reason is you.
Your old emotions and assumptions color how you see any situation. They are filters that you look through, like colored glasses that cover your mind’s eye.
When you find yourself “recognizing” the start of yet another junk old story, it could be that you are really looking through the filters you’ve developed over time that are affecting how you are looking at the situation you are facing. Maybe what you are seeing is not what is really there.
ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS
If you do not like where your old filters have taken you before, if you’d like to see a different ending to the same old story, it may be time to question HOW you are looking at this new situation.
Questions you might like to ponder are these:
- Are these emotions I am feeling and these assumptions I am holding valid? Are they appropriate?
- Are the reactions that my feelings and my assumptions produce in the other people in this game helpful in solving this problem we are having?
- If not, then what other emotions and assumptions might I want to explore with these other people instead?
- What reactions would those new emotions and assumptions engender?
Questioning your default settings is a valuable exercise that may produce other, new-to-you ways of seeing. In order to explore these new thoughts, however, you will have to let go of your old way of standing. This is a very hard thing to do.
Your old dinosaur-brain is sitting there telling you that danger threatens and you’ve got to fight or run if you can’t win. Dinosaurs probably were not so good at sitting around thinking through things and talking things over. Mostly they stomped the other guy or they ran like hell. (There aren’t too many dinosaurs around any more.)
Challenging your habitual reactions to a situation can produce more interesting ideas. What has to happen, though, is you have to question your old assumptions and challenge yourself and your set patterns.
These old patterns are powerful. You will have to challenge that power. They are authoritative, perhaps distilled from years of experience. You will have to challenge that authority.
Your motivations when your old dinosaur-brain is in charge are all about keeping yourself from getting hurt. That old brain turns everything into life-and-death and do-or-die. It’s really good at running panic scenarios in your head. You have to challenge those old stories and look for a new perspective: What if this situation isn’t life-and-death? What if nobody has to die?
Deconstructing your core beliefs helps you see what’s under there and what makes you fight or run. It’s a hard thing to do because you’re revisiting old thoughts that make hard-to-break loops in your head and then there’s the panic that rises up whenever the loops start happening. It is not a fun place to be.
TALK TO THE HAND
One great way to challenge your calcified old thought-patterns is to write out your thoughts with your non-dominant hand. (If you’re right-handed, use your left hand to write about some thought pattern you are challenging. If you’re left-handed, use your right hand. If you’re ambidextrous, maybe you have to try doing mirror-writing like Leonardo da Vinci.)
Getting your thoughts down on paper helps you see whether your thoughts are actually a true reading of the situation you are facing. Maybe this situation is just bringing up leftover feelings and old fossils of assumptions you’ve made about the world instead.
Doing this exercise and examining what is happening inside you is like being a football player watching old videos of the football plays your team made in other games.
- What moves worked in your past stories? Which did not?
- How is this situation similar to past ones? How is it different?
- Did you like the results you got on your last go-’round?
- If not, how could you do it different this time?
The process does take time. You’re going back over old trails and trying to find a starting place to make a new trail. It is not easy.
MAKE A POEM
My own last step is to put aside all the thoughts I’ve written down with my non-dominant hand. I sleep on them. Just before I fall asleep I ask myself, “What is happening here?” When I wake up, I make a poem that helps to make some kind of sense about what I am thinking and feeling and doing in a situation that confuses me.
When I do that, the way often gets clearer. I can see what is going on in my world and sometimes I can find a better way to deal with it that doesn’t start another round of the same-old. It is a very good thing….
Making that poem is optional. However, the steps for getting to the point where you’re ready to entertain new thoughts is not.
ONE MORE TAKE
Another take on meeting these challenges and dealing with life-situations is embedded in this IPS (Inner Peace Symptom)….
Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): an understanding that you have to DO your way back to feeling. [Challenges that obstruct you help to deepen your convictions if you continue to work your way around them, over them, under them and through them. It’s a good thing.]
Here’s another poem:
WIDE AND DEEP
There really is a difference
‘Tween going wide and going deep.
You have to learn which one to do, when,
If you’re ever going to get some sleep.
Wide takes you wandering
Tasting this, touching that,
It opens up your heart.
It makes you grab your hat.
The noise and the sparkle piles on up
And sends you spinning round and round
It makes you mad and dizzy
And you can lose touch with the ground.
You fly, you dream, you crash, you burn.
You wonder what, why, who and how
As you hoist yourself up by the seat of your pants
And try for yet another wow.
Deep can drill you right into the ground,
Or send you over the edge, all willing,
Ready to free-dive through the void
Even though the temperature’s chilling.
Wide’s the way to do the whirl,
To grab for gusto, shoot the curl.
It’s the baby dragon dance, and as you soar
(Before you crash), the wondrous world will unfurl.
If you go deep, the universe dances
And the lights in Indra’s Net flash and flare,
Responding to the moves you’re making
As you dive into the Everywhere.
You need them both, these strategies,
The wise guys always say,
If you learn to do them well,
They promise you can play.
But, be warned, my friend,
It never ends and it never comes for free.
Expect to get smashed, get shucked and jived,
Expect to wander, lost at sea.
And after all that…
After all of all of that,
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll get some
Small inkling ’bout where it’s all at.
By Netta Kanoho
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