“If you could get rid of yourself just once, the secret of secrets would open to you. The face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe would appear on the mirror of your perception.”
There are a lot of things we tell ourselves all day each day, both consciously and unconsciously. Everything we do and believe about ourselves is the result of a narrative we’ve adopted. And this can present some problems for us, especially when it comes to a rigid or negative narrative.
Here’s an example:
As a kid, I was always told to go sit on someone’s lap or talk to someone on the phone who had just called my parents or visit with someone because it would “make their day.” My parents’ intentions were good. They wanted to socialize me and share me with others however, the story that was forming was that I didn’t have a choice about who I interacted with, that I must interact with people whether I wanted to or not, and that it was my job to make other people feel better about themselves whether or not that worked for me. I carried this with me for years, and it meant keeping relationships I didn’t want and committing to responsibilities I didn’t want or need. I had identified so deeply with this way of being that I was afraid to let it go. I’d repeated this story for so many years that I’d unconsciously trained my threat response to activate with even the slightest stimulus. For years I had perceived both interaction and disengagement from interaction as dangerous. I conditioned my threat system to see relationships as precarious, and I needed it to be on high alert. I was familiar with this pattern and didn’t question it so, I kept doing what I had always done. When I realized how much it had been holding me back, I wanted to change this narrative/core belief. I had to acknowledge my attachment to the story and identify the other beliefs I’d held that had been bred by that narrative.
The more I delved into this work, the more I started feeling more in control of who I invited into my life, which relationships I maintained, and my level of engagement with people. I didn’t feel trapped anymore, and I accepted my limits.
Our Threat/Self-Protection System has evolved in such a way that it automatically turns off our ability to take an interest in anything aside from the perceived threat. This is useful when we have to evade a predator or save a life. In fact, it does us one better! It takes over for us, shuts down our executive functioning, and overestimates danger for us. This is how our species has survived for so long throughout so many dangers and threats. The problem is, it doesn’t know the difference between a predator hunting us and a conflict or phobia or anxiety. It only identifies what our brain has programmed as threatening. Many of us get activated around spiders, public speaking, making a mistake, driving, etc. because our brains have programmed threatening associations with them. As if that didn’t make it challenging enough (and then some), since this system only has eyes for the perceived threat, we have to work much harder to shift gears and successfully manage our anxiety. We have to work against a part of our own brains that has had millions of years to become stronger and more efficient if we want to self-soothe and de-escalate ourselves.
What we believe about ourselves + our emotion regulation system + conflict = our life patterns
So the longer we tell ourselves things like, “I don’t deserve it,” “I can’t have it because (I’m alone, poor, don’t know how…),” “This is just the way things have always been and the way they always will be,” “This is who I am,” “I deserve love as long as I give more than the other person,” the longer we condition this pattern and the longer we condition ourselves to associate any upset in this pattern with threat. We can literally train ourselves to feel threatened by success. We can also unlearn and rework these core beliefs.
Take the first step in changing the narratives that aren’t working for you anymore:
- Train yourself to be more aware of the core self-beliefs you hold by assessing what is going on in your life right now.
- What patterns do you notice?
- Can you see any narratives reflected in your patterns or in what is happening in your life?
Love and Be Loved,