#204 Stop Internalizing

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#204

Stop Internalizing

When was the last time you thought “what did I do”? Perhaps someone close to you snapped a sassy response and your thoughts went immediately to “why are they mad at me?”  Maybe you didn’t get a dinner invitation to a neighbors get-together and your internal voice is wondering why they don’t like you. Or, You see a friend across the parking lot but they keep walking without waving hello.

Internalizing

These are the kinds of scenarios that promote ‘internalizing’ – making the assumption that another person’s behavior has something to do with YOU. My mother often said “what makes you think you’re so important that everything is about you?” It’s a common misperception and one that is dysfunctional to the extent that it interferes with our ability to see things clearly. All too often, the behavior of another has absolutely nothing to do with us!

Check assumptions

Learn to validate your thoughts and feelings. Look for concrete evidence – preferably direct from the source – that confirms your suspicions. If you get the sense that someone is mad at you… ask them. If you imagine that you’ve being shunned from a party because someone is upset with you… ask them “have I offended you?”

Your responsibility

Our responsibility is to work with the information we have but only the information that is accurate. In order to determine accuracy, we have to validate. We can only ‘know for sure’ what we see and hear since we are not mind readers. Even when we ‘think’ we know what someone is thinking – if you find yourself internalizing – validate!! There’s a pretty good chance that you are NOT the center of another’s discontent. Once you realize this you can …

Stop Internalizing.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

Looking Backwards

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

~ Søren Kierkegaard

I speak the essence of this quote almost daily, actually – I live it. It is the premise of my memoir… a journey of understanding who I am – how I became me. It is also the premise from which I seek to understand each of my clients. I strive to make sure that they leave my office with a curiosity of ‘why’ they are ‘who’ they are.

We need to look backward – not to blame or regret… in fact, those are worthless efforts We must seek to understand what it was that designed the framework for the way that we understand the world. I sometimes talk about the ‘fabric’ that shrouds us… comprised of the threads of each of our experiences. A vibrant red one from my first love, a purple one for that time I was touched by a hymn in church, and a blue one for the deep sadness I felt when Billy laughed at me in 4th grade.

Each of us wears a shroud that has been designed through the years very differently than the one that is worn by another. Even siblings – growing up in the same household weave shrouds different than one another based on the precise experiences they encounter. If I believe that I am my parent’s favorite my thread may be pink while my brother, who felt challenged to garner acceptance may have a brown thread. The oldest child may weave white, the middle child – yellow, and the youngest, perhaps gold.

Imagine the diversity of each shroud. We wear them over our eyes and ears. We listen to and see the world through them. How could we ever – ever anticipate that any of us see our environments in the same way? And yet – that does not keep us from the expectation that you might think or feel like I do…

If we consider our shroud and look at each thread – not with judgment – but with interest, just to observe and take note… Oh, that is the thread from when my girlfriend broke up with me and that green one is the thread I wove into my shroud after graduating with my Masters… every experience, good or bad, woven into the fabric of our life.

The way that I interrupt the world depends entirely on which threads the sound is being filtered across. Likewise – how I interpret what I see is dependent on the placement and combination of those threads.

Do you know what thread comprises your shroud? The bright ones and the bleak ones? Do you recognize the patches that exist in your shroud? Are you aware of the contradictions – perhaps twisting that happened during weaving? I am reminded of times when someone told me they loved me but they behaved in a way that wasn’t at all loving.  Those threads may have been twisted in such a way that my perception/understanding of love was disorganized and convoluted.

It’s no wonder that communication can be incredibly difficult between people.  The way that we anticipate or expect someone to behave is directly related to those threads that we correlate to ‘love’ or ‘friendship’ or ‘family’. We develop expectations based on what we know, want, or observe. I find examples of it constantly with clients and in my own life. If I consider the word ‘friend’ I have several examples and each of them is very different. Is it because the word friend has a variable definition? No… the basic definition (per Webster) is “someone attached to another by affection or esteem”.

I can safely state that I have a great number of ‘friends’ based on Webster’s definition but then there is my ‘expectation’ of what denotes friendship (the quality or state of being friends). You see – we all have a thought or a vision of what constitutes a good friend or friendship – much of it dependent on the construction of those ‘threads’ that are woven into our shroud. I may experience disappointment if my ‘vision’ of a friend is different than that of some I consider a friend.

In any regard – seeking to examine your ‘threads’ so that you glean an understanding about yourself that is rich and precise is worthy, albeit perhaps a bit daunting. We probably are unable to examine each and every fiber of that shroud in an unemotional manner, thus allowing for maximum acceptance… but we can take a good look at the thick ones. The ones that tend to shape or instruct the bulk of your perception and understanding.

Using my own experience, I notice a LOT of threads that are woven from the experience of people I love – leaving me. It’s not always on purpose and hence, they may not be identical threads but they are common nonetheless. I realize that I tend to see the world from the perspective that if you love me – you will leave me. This isn’t a universal truth – just a common theme in the shroud of my life. If I am looking at it objectively – it is just something I notice.

If I look at it emotionally (which is where most of us do our observing) then I must pay attention to how it directs my emotions and consequently… my behavior. I would be doing myself a great disservice if I allow myself to forgo love because it ‘might’ not be there at some point. It would be a sin to harden myself against love because there is a historical precedent… what progress has ever been made with that inclination?  In my years as a financial advisor, I was trained to tell people that ‘historical precedence does not indicate future results’… that can apply to us as people too!

Our future may depend on how well we understand the composition of our shroud. It’s certainly possible for us to twist, turn, and/or position the fabric in a way that more accurately allows us to interrupt what comes. For example, I don’t have to allow the experiences of lost love in my past to dictate how I will engage in love going forward. I can choose to pull threads when appropriate… eliminate their influence in my future. I can choose to experience love and be in-the-moment rather than anticipating loss and living in fear of losing.

Looking back is ONLY for understanding. We don’t live there anymore and so going forward… pay attention to what was learned because of having lived and keep what worked. If there are threads that exist in your shroud that prohibit you from seeing – cut them out. Purposely and with intent… weave in a new thread that is woven from positivity and pleasure.

Stay aware and intentional so that only the threads of experiences that are meaningful become dominant in your shroud. Today… even though the pain and uncertainty of cancer are appearing in a variety of colors throughout new weavings, there are thicker – stronger threads that represent intention – awareness – and coping; positive traits that will continue to serve me regardless of the others. Going forward, I am paying attention to the threads that I allow to dominate.

Such Diffidence

Continued from Going to the Mountain

“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are
not.” ~Denis Waitley

The experience seeing one’s self, intrinsically knowing it is ‘you’, but not because you look like what you do in the mirror, but because there is a sense of familiarity that only comes from seeing your reflection, is surreal. There was no doubt in my mind that I was experiencing this vision in the first person. I sensed that the hands I was looking at were mine even though they were smaller and denser than the ones I was used to seeing. I was dark skinned, the color my mother would turn after a summer by the pool, a rich brown color. I was standing in the sand, outside, and the air was warm. I was wearing something rough in fiber but I couldn’t really identify what it was. There were small round buildings in the background with thatched looking roofs. In the distance, I could see a tall, dark-haired man and he was walking toward me. Again, I felt a sense of recognition, a realization that the large hunk walking toward me was my husband, my mate. He didn’t get close enough for me to look in his eyes but I knew that he protected me, that he loved me. I felt it. And then it was over.

In a group, large-scale regression you don’t get much more than short blips before the hypnotherapist is bringing everyone back to current time, to reality. There isn’t an opportunity to investigate the memory, only to experience it. It was the second time I had been regressed and I was absolutely amazed at the explicit cognizance it evoked. The vision in my mind was as genuinely real as the memory of what I had for dinner the night before. And yet, there was a part of me that was skeptical; a small part of my psyche that wondered about its validity. I stayed true to my self-promise that I remain open to all possibilities and allowed the doubting thought to pass by.

Dr. Weiss taught us that it wasn’t necessarily important whether or not our memories related to literal events, but to be open to what the memories were representative of… what insight they offered about our life here, now. Since we simply cannot prove their authenticity – or lack thereof – it is important to contemplate their relevance. I considered the short recollection I experienced and what was most dominant in that memory was how at peace I was. There was an overwhelming sentiment of comfort and of being loved. Why did that matter to me now? I couldn’t help but wonder and it set the stage for the rest of my week-long foray into regression work.

As I allude to in one of my very early posts Sand Castles, I grew up with relatively low self-esteem. It was masked by my need to please and my theatrical character, the one that believed it much safer to be in the world as someone else… pretending to embody the girl detective character Trixie Belden, the teen heroine of my favorite series of books when I was young. It was a huge oxymoron – I put myself ‘out there’ as confident and outgoing but inside my own mind, I was – always – fearful of judgment, of not being accepted, or more concisely… of being rejected. If I was the one to rule the room, then I could determine who I had eye contact with, who I paid attention to and when I should leave, and under what conditions. If I wasn’t ‘in charge’ or the focal point, then it was possible to be diminished or to be rebuked and that was my biggest fear. If I was leading the conversation or presenting, it appeared as if I could command the room but if I was just there – just present – then my preference was to blend in and go unnoticed. In that way, I could observe and find a safety net; perhaps a corner or a like-minded person, or a connection with the person in command. It is the one thing that most people truly don’t understand, believe, or know about me as I’ve spent fifty years now attempting to hide that insecurity. I am a wallflower inside. This feature about me was validated years ago by an Astrologist; my birth (sun) sign is a Leo (describes my ego) but my moon sign is Cancer (how I feel inside) and my rising sign is Libra (how others see me).  If you have any interest or knowledge in Astrology, and you know me – this will make sense.

With this information, it won’t come as a surprise that the minute we were released for lunch, I bolted out of the auditorium for the safety of open space and anonymity. I kept my eyes down and walked quickly whenever people were around although I do always smile and say hello when I occasionally meet someone’s eyes. The family style dining room was daring me to break through my shy – or avoidant – shell. I made my way quietly through the buffet line with Vegan options (way before I even knew what a Vegan was) searching futilely for something fried and greasy as I also quickly scanned the room for the least populated table. I was cornered into eating healthy or starve. And just so I’m clear… if the choice was tofu or starve… I would meditate through the hunger.

People were nice and I am not ignorant or rude, so if someone sat next to me or if someone was already at the table, then I would at least say hello. I, of course, would be happy to answer questions and keep a conversation going but I wasn’t going to be the originator. It just wasn’t in me and as soon as I finished eating, I’d smile, encourage them to enjoy the day, and leave to find a bench in the sun where I could daydream or read. If only they had served wine with meals…

The rest of that first day was Dr. Weiss taking volunteers and demonstrating full blown regressions. We watched two or three experiences that were completely debriefed afterward and I was almost spellbound. It was captivating and immensely interesting and I just wanted to know more and more. One of the volunteers was a guy that had sat next to me all day. I discovered that he was there for the second time, having attended a year ago. He was a therapist with an interest in using regression therapy in his practice. He seemed like a nice guy, tall and attractive, but wearing a gold wedding band. Oh well. After his demonstration, I was anxious to ask him a few questions but as soon as we broke, he was bombarded by other people. I was just one of a dozen who wanted to know more. Instead of standing my ground and listening as the ‘group’ formed, I backed away and threw on my invisibility cloak, walked back to my room and spent my night alone.

I reflected all evening on how absurd it was for me to be there, in the company of so many kindred spirits and not take full advantage of their curiosities and knowledge. I woke up Monday morning – my birthday – resolved to do something about this quirky ‘shyness’ that I was embodying. I began to be annoyed by it. With renewed commitment, I attended breakfast and asked to sit at a full table with only one open seat. “Is this seat taken?” I asked as I pulled out a chair… it seemed that everyone was involved in conversation intently enough that I was barely noticed. Ok, “it’s ok”, I said to myself. I looked up and kept a smile on my face attempting to make eye contact with people close enough in which to spark a conversation but no one else turned or acknowledged my presence. This wasn’t going to be easy.