we generalise our truth and so make it our truth

Heavy downpour

It always rains at the weekend.

Generalisation.

Of course once we think it, we notice when it does rain, rather than when it doesn’t -thereby reinforcing our thinking. The term ‘always’ might suggest it is never not raining at the weekend. A veritable deluge on Saturday and Sunday, without fail, for a full twenty four hours. Not true of course.

We do this all the time though in our language…
We say “nobody understands me…” – Really, ‘nobody’?
Or we say “everyone’s against me…” – Really, ‘everyone’?
Or we say “they’re all the same…” – Really, ‘all’? And just who are ‘they’?

This occurs not only in our language, but also in our interpretation of action.

For example, if someone you know walks by without saying ‘hello’, what’s your reaction? You might think that they ignored you because you might have upset them? Or maybe they don’t like you really? This might make you feel guilty, hurt or rejected. So you might be tempted not to speak first, the next time you meet; to be more cautious. This could increase the bad feeling or uncertainty between you both and generate more feelings of guilt or rejection. If this occurred several times with several people you know, you might eventually generalise that you are at fault, maybe even that you are an unlikeable person. If this happened with enough people, you might even start to socially withdraw. But how well did you interpret the situation in the first place?

In essence, problems aren’t caused by situations themselves but by how we interpret them in our thoughts. These interpretations have an impact on our feelings, resultant actions and then subsequent thoughts.

We generalise our truth and in doing so, make it our truth.

Image by © Anthony Redpath/Corbis

the tale that may never have been…

A colleague of mine recently copied the team on a document.  They failed to copy me. I only discovered this when another colleague asked me for a view on the work.

This was the third time this had happened.  The team is only six people and we have been formed for about six months and so I have viewed this as interesting. Actually no, I have viewed it with suspicion. I have started to create stories, in my head, about a hidden intent, tales about a potential dislike or disregard for me. I have been telling myself that once is a mistake, twice is careless, three times is deliberate.

I have of course taken an adult approach to this and spoken to the individual directly. (You know I’m lying here, right?)

Yesterday I was in a team meeting and another colleague began a discussion on a topic they are leading. They referred to the pre-read they had shared.  I said I hadn’t received it and they apologised and sent me a link to the soft copy on our systems. I received the email and clicked the link. I didn’t have access rights to the material.

Now my story has legs. It has all the makings of a novel. With characters, twists of plot and an evil back story.  I have trapped myself in a fabrication of my own making. I am unconsciously looking for evidence that my tale is correct.

Imagined dragons. Stories of the mind. Myth and truth.

 

just gathering

image

“I’m just gathering my thoughts”

A phrase we use on occasion. Gathering them, like they might be scattered, lying disconnected from each other? Like gathering the facts, assembling them into knowledge or insight.

Or gathering them like we might gather the harvest? Reap the product of our endeavours. Or gathering them like we might gather the troops? Amassing them so that they might have more power, more force.

Maybe we gather them to untangle them? Or maybe we use that phrase to describe abandoning our thoughts for a moment. Leaving them to themselves so that we might be still. Present in the moment. Not with our thoughts at all.

So much variety in our language. So much room for misinterpretation.

Art by Susan Lenz

 

one world … each

image

He offered her the world.  She said she had her own.

Monique Duval

There is no reality. There is your reality, my reality, his reality, her reality. The simple fact is that what we see, what we hear, what we pay attention to, what we interpret, what we delete, what we distort, what we generalise, what makes sense for us… is all uniquely us, even when we seemingly experience exactly the same thing.

His world, her world, my world, your world.

 

tortoise beats hare at top trumps

Hare-and-tortoise-on-runn-008

At a recent coaching session, my client turned up late.  Having arrived, they immediately downloaded a lot of story.  This, that, this, that.  Fifteen minutes. I was overwhelmed by the speed and complexity of thought.  Momentarily disabled by a wave of recounted experience, judgement and self questioning by my client.

My client has a map drawn on a piece of paper.  We created it several sessions ago. It maps out their pattern of stuckness. The behaviours, thoughts, feelings, values which interconnect to create how they are.

I asked them to bring it out so that we might look at it again. We notice the pattern repeating in their story that began the session.

I then notice that there is a pattern in our coaching. We have been here before. We meet in the same room. My client, although not usually late, begins with a high octane cognitive download of what has been happening, their difficulties, their thinking and judgements of self. By the end of the session, they are calmer. They are more balanced and more present in what is true for them. Less in their busy head. Then they go out into the world and return a few weeks later so that this pattern can repeat, alongside their mapped pattern of being.

We have talked previously about mindfulness.  My client has a book. They have attended some sessions with a qualified practitioner. My client accepts they are useful, but has found it hard to find the time in their busy world. Irony of ironies.

I tell my client we need to break the coaching pattern.  So I offer the opportunity for them to practice their mindfulness now, without me. They look taken aback. I leave the room.

I return some minutes later.  Already they are calmer.  I invite them to walk with me.  My client sets off out of the building at pace. I walk with them but slightly slower, drawing them back a little. I explain we are going to be mindful walking for just 30 seconds, then talk. Then mindful for thirty seconds, then talk.

We practice paying attention to the physical movement of limbs as we walk. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern. Then we walk noticing how sound and light are around us. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern. Then we walk noticing the sound of footsteps and explore correlation to heartbeat. My client puts their hand on their chest and calibrates. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern.  Walking the talk.

Throughout, my client walks more and more slowly. Bit by bit. Finally we pause and notice this.

Returning to the room to end the session, my client is completely different. Their experience as they reflect on the map, still on the table, is more deep, more profound, more embodied. They remain slow.

They have quietened their thinking. They have more awareness. They can see what needs to be done. They know they can achieve mindfulness in many ways in just a few moments. They discover motivation. And… they aren’t bombarding my senses with cognitive verbiage.

A top trumps victory on all fronts.  Tortoise beats hare.

 

map your meaning

the-map-of-meaning
When did you last experience working well with others, maybe with a sense of unity, even if you were quite different? Think of a time.

In that moment, what did you do that helped others? How were you of service to them?

What did you do that uniquely served you? That allowed you to do your best and express your potential?

How was your balance of doing for self and for others?  In balance? Or skewed, maybe as you would want it skewed, or maybe not?

And in that moment, at that time during that experience, what did you realise about yourself that felt important? What part of that experience developed your inner self, such that you might be more you?

How was your balance here between developing and being more you, with that sense of connection and unity from being with others? In other words, how was your balance of being? Were you being more in service of them or of yourself?

Your orientation to being or to doing, balanced with your orientation towards self or to others is interesting.

Does meaning come in one of those quadrants more easily – being (developing inner) self, being (unity) with others, doing (service) to others and doing for self (expressing your potential)?

If so, are there other quadrants which feel less developed? What would you like to pay more attention to?

Mapping where we find meaning can be illuminating.

http://www.holisticdevelopment.org.nz/

let’s see what the pain looks like

synaesthesia

Someone once uttered those words to me.

‘Let’s see what the pain looks like’.

The context was around an organisational change. I remember at the time being momentarily confused. Don’t you feel pain? I don’t know what it looks like, any more than I can taste it or hear it.

On reflection I realised it was an interesting insight to the speaker’s inner world. I regretted the missed opportunity of exploring with them what pain looked like for them. Did it have a colour? A hue? Was it a picture, a particular image, a personal memory? Was it sharp, blurred? Was it a still image, a movie? Was it 2D or 3D?

Beyond the curiosity about their representation, I wondered what had led them to see, rather than feel, pain. Was it that feeling it made it too real? Was it a defence mechanism, to stay a little removed and observe the pain rather than taking it into the body? Was it safer? Were other feelings also seen? Did they feel anything and, if so, what was ‘feelable’ and what wasn’t?

Was this only related to pain and other feelings or did they ‘see’ everything? Could they see smells or see tastes too? Did they see freshly mown grass when the smell wafted into their nostrils? Did they see musical notes as they listened or played? Did they have other synaesthesia, such as hearing smells, tasting sounds or smelling images?

A missed opportunity, but one that still serves as a learning, one that stays with me as a curiosity about the uniqueness of our human experience.