Before we dive in, it’s important for me to share something valuable about one of our binary mental filters.
You may have seen me previously invite you to try on certain information as a possibility.
That’s because we have an unconscious (or conscious for some) binary evaluator, where we tag assertions into either the “agreed” or “disagreed” category.
“I agree with you” or “I disagree with you.”
The main concern with processing communication binarily like this is that we limit our capacity to discover insight and thus limit our growth.
What’s more, when we disagree with someone, there’s a high chance that we’ll become attached to being right.
As human beings we have this fierce attachment to being right.
Within this communication paradigm, WE CAN’T GET TO THE DIAMOND DISCOVERIES — the life-altering discoveries that enrich our lives, relationships, and success in authentic and lasting ways.
The wise way OUT of this communication trap is to simply try on assertions offered to us as possibilities.
It’s sort of like “okay, I’ll hear what you’re saying with an open-mind, feel it out, and see what insights I can discover if any.”
So, if you would, please try on the below as a possibility.
Try it on, see how it feels, look around, and see what you can discover.
Why not have a little fun and do a little dialogical dance while we’re at it.
Approach the below as like a space to step into, dance around, do some thinking, and see whether we can mine a diamond.
One other note: WATCH OUT for the “I already know this” listening trap too, even if you do already know this — that listening will have you miss what’s available for you to discover now.
Like a good buffet, take what you want and leave the rest.
At some point in life, nearly all of us experience feeling unsafe (rationally or irrationally).
A stimulus occurs — we perceive a threat — the danger alarms sound — and we feel unsafe.
A simple yet powerful stimulus-response system.
To use a simple example, let’s say The Hulk texts us that he’s going to kick our a$$ (stimulus) and we believe that he’s telling the truth.
We will then likely perceive a threat, our internal danger alarm will sound, and a serious sense of unsafety will result (response).
Even though in this example it would probably be life-threatening, this stimulus-response system happens all the time in non-life threatening situations.
Non-life threatening situations are what we’re dealing with today.
When we feel unsafe, we can get thrust into fight, flight, or freeze mode.
This can be painfully severe at times causing a strong emotional reaction, especially if we’ve encountered trauma in our past.
Interestingly, the high degree of emotional potency exists in part because we still operate from an ancient survival mind that translated feeling unsafe into being at greater risk for violent death.
So we go into fight, flight, or freeze mode.
And I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone into the flight mode and then judged/shamed myself for doing so, compounding the emotional reaction into a not-so-fun ball of stress, anxiety, guilt, shame, and maybe even some anger sprinkled in there.
So, what is there to do?
You’ve already done it 🙂
Thinking that expands our self-awareness IS the work.
It really takes something.
A certain presence, curiosity, and effort.
I acknowledge and appreciate your way of being.
Now you’ll start to notice more and more how this system plays out in life.
And in those moments of new and real-time awareness, an opportunity begins to open up for us to choose a new response.
A response we can practice and grow into.
It’s been said that “self-awareness is the greatest education.”
I would agree.
If you have expanded your self-awareness and maybe even discovered something valuable, please allow me to acknowledge your internal work.
If you’re up for a little more thought-work, I’ve got something else for you.
If not, that’s great too.
A note before we continue. Sometimes this material can stir up some stuff.
If that’s the case and you’d prefer to be complete here, that’s perfectly fine. I love, honor, and respect your preference, and defer to your intuition.
If you’d prefer to continue, here we go…
First, a little terminology.
Cognition = thought.
Distorted cognition = untrue thought.
Next, as you have probably already realized, even in non-life threatening situations, this stimulus-response system can cause emotional responses characterized by high levels of stress and anxiety.
The good news is that we can often trace our painful emotional responses to a distorted cognition (or series of distorted cognitions — aka LIES!) and insodoing dissipate the emotional charge.
Let’s take a look.
Can you think of a recent experience where you felt a heightened sense of stress and anxiety yet nothing life-threatening was actually present?
See if you can discover the distorted cognitions that you believed.
Our cognitions often have distorted meaning or predictions about the future.
As an example, let’s say our boss or client messages us that we made a mistake. Oh no! What does that mean? It means that we made a mistake. That’s it!
BUT… our minds seem to enjoy fortune-telling and adding A LOT more meaning.
And suddenly, we feel unsafe.
Why would something so trivial occur as something so dangerous?
Because of the distorted cognitions (aka bs thoughts) that we believe are true.
Distorted cognitions + believing the distorted cognitions are true = emotional distress.
For instance, we may make it mean that we are incompetent, about to get fired, and will soon be alone on the street.
I’m being extreme to help illustrate, but the mind really can go this nuclear and FAST.
This is clearly a misleading thought process.
Can you see how much of our suffering exists in the added meaning and future forecasts?
Uncovering our distorted cognitions is a huge part of the thought-work, and that alone can bring about a euphoric sense of relief and inner peace.
Uncovering our distorted cognitions helps unwind our belief in the distortions and restores our sense of safety and peace to a significant degree.
To further unwind our belief in our distorted thought(s), we can consciously produce a positive thought that’s 100% true, such as:
“I’m safe. I’m human. We all make mistakes. I can create this as an opportunity. I can learn from this and move forward a better person and professional.”
Eliminating our belief in the distorted thoughts is key to inner peace.
I had some more to share but this email is getting long so I’ll complete it here.
Expanding self-awareness and learning new tools provides us the opportunity to consciously generate and access a new possibility for being.
Thank you for your generous presence.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend.
Much much love.
Believing in you,
This article is a fusion of cutting edge psychology and ontology. And here’s a little spirituality for you too (an inquiry I think through during tough times):
Do I believe in God?
Do I believe God is with me and helping me?
Do I believe God is with them and helping them?
If yes, then let’s let go of all our worries and place our trust in the power of Grace.