Learning how to understand my experience has been a huge part of this process. Healing requires clarity and it means learning how to interpret the experience in a way that doesn’t cause pain. Here’s the thing - the truth doesn’t hurt. The truth is a neutral point in any experience.
Abraham-Hicks kind of skims over this idea a bit in what she talks about. She suggests that if it’s causing you pain there is something wrong. She’s right. But what’s the problem? Your perception of what’s happening. You see you can’t change the experience, it just is. You can change your perception of your experience though because that is the thing you have control over. How does this work in real life? Indulge me for a bit and I’ll give you a very real-time example of how I manage this in my own life.
I needed to have a conversation with somebody and tell them about a choice I had made. I wasn’t asking permission. I had simply made a choice and I needed to communicate that choice to this person. Sounds simple enough right?
My experience of powerlessness and insecurity causes me to run away from my choices when other people object to them in any way. I have a fear of abandonment and punishment from others if my choices aren’t accepted by them. This isn’t a lived experience for me. I never actually had the experience of losing a relationship based on choice I’d made that somebody didn’t like, but my insecurity caused me to believe this would happen. I took this idea on so much so that I never allowed myself to stick to my own choices if somebody objected to them, even slightly.
I’ve since done enough work on myself that I had the power to successfully have a conversation and tell the person about the choice that I had made. Go me! But the old pain meant that when they weren’t necessarily happy with the choice, it immediately made me feel like there was going to be problem, even if that wasn’t true.
Suddenly I found myself reacting to something that hadn’t happened. The other person hinted that they weren’t necessarily happy about my choice, but they didn’t give me a big argument about it. We didn’t have a massive blow out. So everything I was feeling was my own stuff; it wasn’t based on reality. This is where separating yourself from your reality matters. Can you see that you’re reacting to things that didn’t happen?
Most people inject all those feelings into their experience and it creates a wild story about what happened. The mind takes that and suddenly adds a bunch of drama to the experience that didn’t actually occur. The experience itself was relatively neutral. It was my own cycle of pain that was the problem. It had nothing to do with the other person. I need to keep my reaction to the experience separate from the experience itself. I can’t blame the other person for how I feel.
When you blame the experience for how you feel it presents you with a problem. It stops you from understanding what you’re actually reacting to because the vast majority of the time you’re reacting to old pain, not the current experience. When you make up that story of blame it doesn’t allow you to get by the feelings. You can’t see the experience clearly from that vantage point and it will send you down a rabbit hole of pain.
I contain my feelings. I don’t project them and I don’t blame anybody for them. Yes, I can get annoyed just like everybody else. I just choose to recognize that as part of the human experience and I keep it contained to that. If I’m bothered by what’s happened, as I was in this scenario, I just allow myself to see that as my human response to things. I don’t identify with it. I don’t take it on as true. I don’t connect it to what happened. The emotion or the human reaction are self-contained and they do not get to become part of the lived experience. I don’t color in the experience with the drama of my human emotion.
My job is to figure out what the human reaction is all about. The emotional reaction is happening because the human is bothered by something. It’s my job to figure out what that thing is. I have to separate my human reaction from the experience itself and I also have to be able to see myself within the experience. I’m actually thinking on multiple levels. I’m being very human on one level. On another level I’m containing the human emotion so that it doesn’t interfere with my perception later. On yet another level, I’m watching myself within the experience so that I can gain clarity and understand what the pain point actually is.
I do all this intuitively with my tarot cards. My tarot cards get all the projecting of pain that I do. I toss everything at them (and they love me for it). They tell me off and they wait for me to catch up. I have to allow the human to be human. I can’t override that immediately all the time. I have to allow it to happen. We’re not trying to squish things so we allow the human moment, but at the same time we contain it so that we don’t have chaos. I contain the projection of pain to my cards which is awesome for them! Hahaha
In my conversations with my cards, they throw in bits of clarity. They are telling me off and showing me where the problem is at the same time. This allows me to think on all the different levels. Somewhere in that I will figure it out. I see the human pain which automatically tells me I don’t have the clarity yet. I keep moving through ideas that are still causing pain until I get to the one that doesn’t. Now I’ve found it! From there it quickly unravels because then I can see the cycle that I’ve created for myself.
The cycle of pain that I had created was the one where I needed to either change my choice or leave the relationship. I didn’t think I could maintain the relationship if people weren’t completely happy with every choice I made. If I don’t allow myself to make choices when other people don’t like them, then I have to walk away from relationships to be able to make those choices. The extremes here are impressive, but that’s how I used to manage my life a lot of the time - in violent extremes.
Before I had done a bunch of work on myself, this cycle didn’t bother me so much. I was used to just giving up on things because other people didn’t like them. It was a normal part of my life. But suddenly now I had pieces of the clarity behind this. I had the power to make a choice and stick to it. I no longer had to run away, but now I had to understand the cycle from the perspective of what happens when people don’t like my choices. Same cycle, new vantage point.
I had a conversation that didn’t really go that badly. It was ultimately successful, but my frustration came from reacting as though I was blocked again. That wasn’t true. The other person didn’t block me. My reaction was a habit of old pain and trauma. I had to get through the human reaction to be able to see that. Did it take a while? Yep! But that’s okay.
Most people are scared of this process. They don’t want to know. Why don’t they want to know? Because they are scared of what they are going to find. What did I find? My reaction was my stuff. I’ve done enough work on myself that I don’t need to project that anywhere. So I didn’t really put it into the conversation at all. I didn’t hand it to the other person in any way. As far as the conversation went, there was nothing there for me to own. I didn’t add drama or pain to the situation. But if I had, I would now go back and own that. I would now go back and apologize for a crappy reaction if I’d had one.
All I found was old pain. It was nothing I didn’t already know. There was nothing scary there to find. Once I found the ball of yarn it unraveled very quickly because it suddenly made sense to me. I saw how my pain was playing into my choices and how I handled those choices. I suddenly saw an old cycle very clearly and that allowed me to break it. I don’t have to do that anymore.
When you’re scared of what you’re going to find it’s because you’re being too critical of yourself. Self-punishment keeps you in the pain and doesn’t allow you to see the cycles that you’ve created. It doesn’t let you have the clarity that you’re reacting from old pain that you can let go of. You’re scared of a ball of yarn that you created. You wound up the yarn yourself. Nobody did it for you. Now you’re afraid to unravel it because you don’t know what’s in the middle. The old cycle is in the middle. The pain you protected is in the middle. It’s absolutely nothing that you can’t let go of very easily.
If you’re not scared of what you’re going to find, you’re punishing yourself because you think you shouldn’t have the cycle to begin with. Now you’re mad you have the yarn at all. This makes you defend the pain. Now you defend the ball of yarn like it’s made of gold. It’s not but the idea of admitting that maybe you weren’t perfect terrifies you and so you’d rather defend the pain.
I used to have a blog called Random Thoughts that I would write in on a very regular basis. That blog was my outlet for understanding and interpreting my reality. I posted about every cycle, pattern, and habit of thought or feeling that I had. I talked about everything that happened in my life and what I learned from it. I gained a lot of clarity through writing in that blog. I outgrew the blog. I no longer need to write about every little thing that happens in my life. The reason why I’m telling you this is because I publicly admitted multiple times a week in blog form that I was anything but perfect. Not only was I not scared of what I would find, I also admitted openly that I was human just like everybody else. I tried to make being human okay.
There were many blogs where I was literally discovering the clarity as I was writing the sentence. There was a lot of real-time clarity coming through on that blog. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. They were real-time. I was sharing my experience of clarity as I was getting the clarity. I couldn’t have made it anymore real without filming it. YouTube reality TV? Maybe not so much but the blog was a pretty close second.
I don’t share quite the same way anymore. I’ve outgrown the need for the blog. It served a very useful purpose for me for many years though. The whole point of that story was to show you that there truly is nothing to be afraid of. If I can get clarity publicly on a blog in real-time, then you can certainly figure out how to gain clarity when you’re at home alone on your couch.
Self-punishment is a cycle all by itself. It’s a story that’s messing with your ability to heal yourself. If you can understand the surface level of that story enough to be able to start healing yourself, you’ll unlock it. You’ll be able to move forward.
The fear of what you’re going to find is also a self-contained story that’s messing with you. Work on understanding the surface level fear that you have so that you can unlock it and allow yourself to heal.
You may connect both of those to some deeper trauma and that’s totally okay but don’t allow that to distract you. Don’t allow that to make this level of healing into a major renovation project. What we’re going to do is narrow the focus. The only thing we want to be able to do is start the healing process. That means we don’t need to go down the rabbit hole of all this deep pain. We only need to understand how it’s affecting us on a surface level and then remove that layer.
The problem with going down the rabbit hole is that it triggers the fear. It triggers the problem you’re trying to solve, so you can’t go there. That means you have to limit the scope of what you’re doing so that it doesn’t trigger the fear. Yes, I’m suggesting you tiptoe around it at first because if you don’t, you’ll never get started.
This idea is the same as what I would say to somebody who was scared of their emotions like I was. I would tell them to stay in their head. Likewise, I would tell somebody that was scared of their mind to stay in their heart. From those places, slowly begin to poke the proverbial bear and work on the other thing. We just do it slowly from a place that we feel reasonably safe. At the beginning we kind of heal within our own comfort zone. We don’t want to challenge it too much because if we do, we won’t do it at all. If you can’t jump in the deep end, then you go to the shallow end and you stand on the top step. You just do it slowly. You don’t need to dive in at first.
Writing came later in my journey. I didn’t dive in at all. When I started healing, I stayed in my head. I had to heal from my comfort zone otherwise I would never have done it. I started with things that were internal to me. I didn’t share them with anybody. Eventually I found a group or two on Facebook that I did share some things with, but for the most part it was a very solo internal journey at first.
One of the first major things I did that challenged my comfort zone in terms of the external world, was writing publicly via blogs and books. I was at least two or three years into my journey before that happened. I wasn’t ready for it up until then. But when I did start writing, it unlocked a lot for me. Writing taught me how to see experience differently. If I wanted to share I had to find a way to write about my experience that wasn’t just drama and pain. I had to be able to share the experience in a way that would be useful to me at the very least. It challenged how I saw my experience.
One critical component of my writing journey was that I had to take other people out of my experience. I couldn’t project blame on a public blog without being sued for slander. It didn’t take me very long to figure out how to filter out the stories of blame, shame, guilt, and victimization. The desire to continue writing was stronger than my need to tell the stories, so I changed how I talked about my experience. That was a massive shift that changed my life because ultimately it stopped me from telling those stories at all, whether I was writing or not.
Writing helped me learn to make my experience about me and for me, not about what was happening or who said what. That completely changed how I saw and interpreted my experience. I no longer had to tell stories about what was going on, but there was more to it than just that. If I’m no longer telling stories that means I’m taking responsibility for me fully - every thought, feeling, action, and word was mine and I could no longer blame my experience for it. That meant being really committed to finding the truth in my experience.
I needed the truth in my experience to be able to explain why I was acting or feeling the way I was. I also needed the truth to be able to learn how to control my reaction to what was happening around me so that I wasn’t just throwing more pain around. If I was going to take responsibility for every thought, feeling, action, and word then I needed to understand what my human self was doing and why. That meant healing myself. That meant changing my behavior. That meant committing to understanding my crappy reactions to things and then owning that behavior after the fact and subsequently changing it. It meant making myself accountable to myself all the time. It wasn’t about other people. It was about me.
I keep the bar attainable. I don’t have crazy standards for myself that I can’t meet. I allow myself to do the best I can in every situation and I’m entirely willing to own it when I don’t do so well. I’m still human and I can’t argue with that. I can’t make it so that being human becomes the problem I have to solve.
I’m going to react badly sometimes. I’m going to say the wrong thing. I’m going to get stuck in the thing for a few days and not be able to get there as quickly as I would like. My human self is going to tell the stories sometimes. All of that gets to be okay because I have the power to understand what’s happening, gain clarity around it, and not identify with it or hold onto it. I know that it’s a temporary space and that once I pass through it the clarity will show up and I will be fine. I trust myself to get there and I don’t worry about whether I get there quickly enough.
Do you know how many days it took me to get to a place where I was okay with having the conversation I started this essay talking about? At least three or four. Why? Because it triggered the crap out of me. The cycle of making choices and telling people about them was a problem. The trigger was contained in the idea of having the conversation itself, without anything else.
Should I have been able to do that quicker than I did? Who knows. I let myself off the hook though. I knew when it came up that I wasn’t going to be able to do it right away. My mantra these days is very simple; it’s not a question of whether I’ll get there or not, it’s only how long it takes me to do it. I invoked my mantra and went on with the process of figuring out why that was so difficult for me.
I didn’t reject the idea outright, I never do. I understood that I needed to get to it. There was just a space between me and what I needed to do. My job was to figure out how to bridge that gap. That meant figuring out what the argument was and then doing any healing work that showed up. How many times have you rejected an idea because there was space between you and the idea? It triggered a thing within you and instead of figuring out what the trigger was and working through it, you just ran away from the whole idea all together. The trigger is the problem and that’s where your focus needs to go. You want to understand what the problem is so that you can figure out how to solve it. Often though, instead of using the emotions as a clue to understanding the problem, you simply run away because the emotion scares you off.
Abraham Hicks talks about using your emotions as GPS and this is exactly what she means. You recognize the emotion and then you figure out where it came from because that’s the clue as to where you need to go next. When you simply run away from the emotion you don’t get anywhere. You give up on valuable ideas. You walk away from things you want to do. You don’t allow yourself to heal and focus on solving the problem you found. Often it’s a simple case of allowing the emotion to overwhelm you and determine your behavior. The idea behind conscious awareness is that you no longer do this. You become aware of the emotion and then you figure out how it’s affecting your behavior and change that.
Yes, even I get caught with this sometimes. This whole essay has been about how my own emotions made me walk away from making my own choices. Instead of acknowledging my emotions I was blaming other people for them. The story was that other people were stopping me. That wasn’t true. My emotions were the clue that there was a problem with that logic. Now I’ve been able to solve that problem because I was finally willing to look at where the emotion was coming from. I finally saw it in such a way that it allowed me to see the problem clearly and from there I was easily able to fix it. As long as I continued to focus on my story of blame I wasn’t going to be able to get out of the cycle.
The big idea of the entire book is that you don’t have to buy into your own thoughts and feelings. You have the ability to question your thinking and respond to your emotions instead of just react to them. By doing that it gives you the opportunity to shift your behavior because now you’re no longer at the mercy of your thoughts and feelings; you’re no longer at the mercy of your old pain. You’re now in control and you’re making conscious choices that don’t have anything to do with pain and trauma.
When you learn to put some space between you and the crazy thoughts and feelings that you have, it gives you the chance to think clearly before simply reacting. Normally you feel the fear and you run away screaming; the ego tells you a story and you believe it; the mind makes up all kinds of brilliant, award-winning drama and you believe every word. At no point in any of these processes have you intervened with a rational, logical, conscious thought. The mind made it up, the ego told you about it, the emotion was felt and so therefore it must be true. Somewhere somebody told you that you couldn’t do anything about this and so you simply go along with it every single time and every single time you end up unhappy or not doing what you want because you’re at the mercy of the thoughts and feelings you don’t want to pay attention to and do something about.