22 Oct What if…?
What if you simply believed in yourself?
Just think of the times that you doubt yourself, feel insecure, second-guess yourself, put yourself down or even stop yourself from even having experiences for fear of these experiences being pre-determined to be negative. Think of all the times you held back, withdrew or simply shrunk. These are likely not pleasant memories.
Such experiences tend to be pre-determined by how you enter situations or even see yourself regardless of the actual present or future experience. What I mean by that is that we tend to experience what we expect because we look for evidence to confirm our assumptions. Take the following scenario, for example:
Imagine that you are going to an event where you may not know anyone. For many people, that is a very uncomfortable situation. Remember that the situation, in itself, is neither positive nor negative. It simply is what it is. What makes it something that people dread is the layers they put on that neutral situation. “Am I going to be judged?”; “Will people look at me funny because I am alone there?”; “Am I going to fit in?”; “Will people think that I am a loser?”; “I won’t know what to say or do?”; “I am going to stick out like a sore thumb.”; “It is going to be a horrible experience!”
No wonder situations like those are ones that people avoid. Again, remember that the situation, in itself is simply neutral, but that our thoughts, fears, and anxieties are placing a negative layer on it. If it is that simple, then why does it seem so difficult to get a grip of ourselves and lose the fear?
There is psychology and biology behind that.
- The Psychology
What we think, how we behave and what we say all has an origin – an alpha. We believe what we believe because we have made interpretations of past situations that have led to conclusions about who we are, how we think people see us and how we see others. A caring mother who wanted to make sure that her son was always catered to when he was sick, did so because she knew what it was like to not have someone take care of her. As such, she wanted to ensure that her son had a better experience. In the absence of bad intent, the son learned to be a “patient” to his mother so that she could play out the role of a caregiver. The son never learned to be resourceful, resilient or even self-reliant, because he always had a caregiver who needed him to be a patient. Fast forward, the son struggled whenever he was not feeling well. He always looked for someone to take care of him. He developed anxiety around not feeling well. If we take that a step further, it increased the odds of the son sub-consciously seeking a partner that would take care of him. He would measure “love” in his partner’s caregiving ability. If he “recruited” a partner that is a caregiver, he found the perfect match to re-create his childhood. If he found someone who was not a caregiver, then he found someone he needed to change because they were not good enough. The son, in his relationship, would measure his worth in what his partner did for him without recognizing that he was asking way too much of the other person while giving too little. Either way, neither of the people were able to be true partners in a relationship. How the son views himself plays out in how he behaves and whom he brings close. He would not know how to improve his life if he did not know what the “alpha” is.
Sometimes, as children, we go through challenging times: parents’ divorce, unstable home, loneliness, constantly moving homes and much more. As children, we draw conclusions to explain to ourselves what is going on. We have a need to make sense of things. If we are not supported well enough, given enough nurturing, are provided with actual and factual context, we tend to think that situations are about us without recognizing that they are happening to us, but not about us. There is no person qualified to give you factual information about your value, and yet, we believe that we have little value if we are constantly put down. Parents that struggle to be nurturing and supportive are not doing so because you deserve it. They are that way based on their own “stuff” that is INDEPENDENT of you. Yet, we believe that what happens to us is a statement about us. That is NOT EVER TRUE!
2. The Biology
If you believe it, you will feel it. It is as simple as thinking of your experience in a 3D movie. Your body reacts as though you are actually in the movie instead of realizing that you are still only in your static movie seat unaffected by what is transpiring on the screen, regardless of the special effect. Based on what we think and feel, our brain gives our body information to let it know how to behave. Sometimes, the stimulus can come from just the body and then get re-enforced by the brain, but it is typically the brain that runs the show. If you think negative thoughts about yourself, it will evoke a negative emotional feeling. The energy of that feeling manifests itself in your body. Let’s return to the first example: imagine that you are insecure about going to an event alone. You start to feel nervous or even anxious – emotionally. Your brain tells your body to release chemicals (Re. hormones) that match the emotional feelings: if you feel emotionally anxious, your body will match that with physical anxiety life “butterflies in the stomach”, “irritable stomach”, muscle tension, headaches, back pain, sweating and more. These physical sensations tend to reinforce the emotional feelings which then fuel the thoughts and vice versa and we’re off to the races of not feeling good.
3. The combination
We have what is called “emotional memory”. This means that something just needs to remind us of something else for us to feel what we felt at a different time. Let’s say you had a teacher that yelled at you when you were in school. All it may take today is for you to hear a raised voice for you to feel what you felt back at school. You are reacting to emotional memory without scrutinizing the current situation. We call those knee-jerk reactions that are characterized by us NOT analyzing the situation, but simply reacting. The premise of that is emotional memory.
This may sound challenging or even complicated, but it is not. It is something that all of us deal with to different degrees in our lives. The truly sad part is two-fold: either we try to solve the surface issue without addressing the alpha or we come across professionals who don’t look for the alpha and are then only able to provide temporary fixes without a chance of lasting solutions.
If you are struggling in an area of your life with:
- Anxiety or depression,
- Anger issues,
- Low esteem or challenging relationships,
- Feeling that people are taking you for granted,
- Thinking that you are a tough person to get close to,
- Trusting or connecting with people,
please find someone who can help you find your alpha or alphas. You can only solve a problem if you understand it and can see it. I always believe that people deserve to live great lives with a chance to learn, grow and thrive. I hope that you take your opportunity to do so sooner than later…why waste another day on feelings and experiences you do not need to have?
Be brave. Be open. Be honest. As always, be kind to yourself and others. If you have any questions or comments, you are always welcome to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,
Geoff Ayi-Bonte MA RCC
Registered Clinical Counsellor
Mental Health Clinician, Advocate and Practice Leader