And with a mental flourish that feels like the withdrawing of a table cloth from under the cutlery, I see the lie that had been hiding in plain sight within my view of the world …
I have a problem with the way I respond to NOT recieving prompt acknowledgement that validates either my contribtion to a shared dialogue or my being who I am (want to be?) in the world.
The fact of the matter could be (for example) that I text a friend with something important to me and I get no reply. My response is often to react as if I’ve been told by that friend that what I sent in my message is either worthless or possibly even worse – something unlikeable. So, somehow I make a leap from no reply -> I am worthless / unlikeable.
Sticking with my self imposed theme of little things that make a big impact: I learned a really useful distinction recently (as part of my participation in the Landmark Forum, more on which you can read here) and it really helps in this situation or others like it.
My usual interpretation of events doesn’t hold, isn’t true. Unless I make it true for myself. And if I do that I make it true for others and then I end up making it so that they have to live with the consequences of that lie sitting in the middle of my world view. Typically I come across as being a little (or a lot) emotionally volatile or someone that demands a lot of attention from the people around me.
This makes any kind of human relationship more difficult. As I value connections with people over everything else in life, over the years I’ve learned to mitigate the effect of this tendency on others. This has involved rather spectaclar feats of mental gymnastics to plan, build & prepare a set of internal mental rules that govern my behaviour so I can tell what would be “going too far” in terms of asking for reassurance from other people. So that I can regulate my “neurotic” fear-of-abandonment-driven impulses and ensure that only a safe percentage of them make it out into the world of what other people can see.
Honestly, if anyone reading has had the dubious pleasure of listening to me explain my rationale behind what I do, what I don’t do, what is fair, what is unfair to the people in my life, you’ll know what I mean. It sounds exhausting and that is because it is! It is almost like a form of mental OCD.
As I learn the discipline of separating what happened from how I interpreted what happened I gain so much mental space it is unbelievable. As I learn to just look my emotional reactions in the face and sit with them I find I can deal with them instead of having to create ever more elaborate traps to capture them. Who’d a thought life could be simple, eh … ?
It is that simple and also that hard to spot something you’ve learned to live with every day or your life so that it filters down to a place well beneath your awareness. That is the other thing that strikes me – often I don’t even realise my emotional reaction to an event is governed by some unmarked and spurious interpretation of bland events.
I am reminded of reading about Lukacs’ theory of second nature as a meaning-of-life-seeking undergraduate student. Something that is not ‘natural’ but has filtered into our social agreement so deeply that in practice, it has become as immovable as the essential as nature itself. The changing of it is easy, the trick is in allowing yourself to see it as something you can change in the first place …
And finally – this: this track. This resonates with me, or rather who I’ve been.