Don’t Mess with the System

[Please note: This is a repost of a post published in September 2013.

It’s been fun re-reading old posts thus far. It’s also been insightful to observe a past-me through what I wrote a few years ago, through what I felt back then, what was bothering me, what was getting my attention and causing me to ramble, rant, etc, about it via blogging, watching that me trying to figure things out, figure herself out by sharing herself the way she did.

I don’t agree with everything past-me said… but that’s in retrospect, a retrospective view which is partly due to her saying it and getting it out of her system in writing so that she (me, myself, I) could see things more clearly by removing the fog inside. The work she did then has helped me let go of some things I’d been holding onto way passed their due date and which were sticking up the fridge, the kitchen, the house of the psyche.

For most of my life I’ve not kept journals or records of any kind of my past, and therefore I’ve only had memory to rely upon if I wanted access to what had happened. Memory is an entity which is constantly fluctuating… although sometimes it holds certain experiences fairly static, like the anecdote of the ‘spiritual guru’ in this post – it’s one I still use and you’ll find me referring to it in other posts and comments later on on this blog. It was one of those ‘AHA’ type of moments and so it has stuck with me, still teaching me stuff.

I’ve chosen this post to repost because at the moment I’m messing with my system, rewiring my mind a bit. A few months ago my whole system went into a fear-based deep freeze – don’t ask me to explain further than that as there are certain aspects of myself and my life which I just don’t share with anyone other than myself (and that can take some work to get me to do that). At first it was awful, but then what was awful revealed itself to be just what was needed. I’m defrosting myself now, and while that happens I’ve been given some opportunities to rewrite my own programming especially those bits which are fear-based.

This article –  The Neuroscientific Case for Facing Your Fears by Ed Yong  – sort of explains what I mean by rewiring my mind.

I’m going through a phase where old fears keep getting stirred up and are in my face demanding a confrontation, but instead of immediately resorting to old fear-based coping mechanisms to make them go away, I find myself pausing long enough to ask of myself – In all the years of you using this coping mechanism, how many times has it actually solved the problem? And how many times has it made the problem worse, complicated matters, or dragged it on for longer than your nerves could handle? So, why do you keep using it? What if you tried using a different approach? That’s scary, I know, but… so is what happens next if you go down the old well-trodden path… since you’re screaming inside either way, let’s try a new way!

There are times in life when we realise it’s time to explore other options in the being, doing, reacting, etc, department… and as we explore, so it seems as though those around us are doing it too.

How we experience ourselves affects how we experiences others, and the world around us. Changes in our experience of ourselves… change our experience of others, and the world around us. More so it seems than vice versa… but vice versa is effective too, but only if the changes in others are ones which inspire us deeply enough to shift out of our comfort zones.]

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Once upon a time I read in some self-help book that starting an affirmation with the word ‘Don’t’ would actually result in the opposite of the desired effect. Apparently the mind does not recognise the instruction ‘Don’t’ and hears it as ‘Do’.

That’s all I recall about that book, no idea if the rest of it helped my self at all, but that bit stayed with me. I liked the illogical logic of it. It explained a lot to me about myself, why whenever I hear or see ‘Don’t’ I feel compelled to ‘Do’.

I read somewhere… may have been the same book… or not… that the colour red is seen by the mind as ‘Go’ and the colour green is seen as ‘Stay a while, take it easy, have a rest’… or something like that. That stayed with me too, and was filed in the same place as the Don’t/Do thing.

Ever since I’ve been aware of my mind I have felt the urge to get to know it, how it works and doesn’t work, and how to work with it rather than against it.

At first it was a struggle to get to know it, it was as hard as I am to get to know when you first meet me. It was cagey. It was not sure what my intentions were in getting to know it. Did I mean to do it harm, to use it and abuse it, or was I truly interested in it. Was I willing to accept it as it was, and as it would become as it evolved, or did I just want to get access to it to change it and make it into what I wanted it to be to suit my selfish desires and feed my needs.

And of course at first I did want to change it because it seemed wrong to me. It knew that it was not, but it also knew that I needed time to find that out. It knew me far better than I knew it.

I believed that I needed to fix it. It wasn’t that it was broken, it just needed fixing… or so I concluded based on erroneous assumptions which were based on comparing myself with others who always seemed perfect or at least they seemed to know what they were doing and I didn’t. Others agreed with me. So obviously I needed fixing and the best way to do that was to fix my mind.

I started out my getting to know my mind journey in a back to front style. I read loads of books about what the mind was, what it should be, and how you could mess with its system until you achieved a desired result. That desired result depended on the book being read. Self Help books wanted to make the mind a positive place with no negativity allowed. Spiritual books wanted to empty the mind until the emptiness echoed inside it. New Age books wanted to heal the mind from all dis-ease. Psychology books wanted to categorise it until it looked like it had been passed through an egg slicer.

I struggled a lot in my endeavour, mainly because I filled my head with the voices of all these mind experts until they were all shouting at each other. The only thing they all agreed upon was the fact that I was an idiot. Eventually their attitude that they were perfect and I was deeply flawed pissed me off so much that I began to look at them more closely.

I had up until that point accepted that they were experts and thus knew what they were talking about, I concluded that they knew what they were talking about because they were talking from experience, they had done their research step by step, testing out theories to find the one which worked, and once they found the way to go they shared their story and knowledge. I assumed that they practiced what they preached on a daily basis. That they were the embodiment of their teaching.

One day I was at a New Age workshop being given by two of the prominent figures of the movement. One was a self-help guru and the other was a spiritual healer. Both had credentials which they never stopped mentioning, perhaps they feared that the general public were doubtful and so to convince the doubters they affirmed and reaffirmed how important and genuine they were, and how they had famous people who used their services and teachings. If famous people supported them, then non-famous people should stop doubting and believe.

The workshop was okay. A bit overlong and dull. Dull because there was a sense of us, the rather stupid general public who had paid to be in such esteemed company, and them, the elite who were a bit too elitist in their view of themselves and lectured us a wee bit too much… which is dull to those being lectured.

During a break in proceedings, I decided to approach the podium and have a chat with the self-help guru. They ignored me as they had to deal with a drama of growing proportions. I stood quietly nearby and watched as they reprimanded their assistant rather rudely. Apparently not enough water had been supplied to quench the thirst of the masses, and the self-help guru was furious and extremely stressed out by this. It was a disaster. It wasn’t, but the guru saw it as being one and thus behaved as if it was. Had the guru practiced some of the stuff they preached they would have clearly been able to see that the masses were perfectly capable of quenching their own thirst by going out of the room in which the workshop was being held to the local shops to get drinks and snacks. But they were too caught up in their dramatics to see beyond them to a simple solution to a problem which really wasn’t a problem.

I was shocked by the behaviour I witnessed that day. Sort of. I had already begun to question the expertise of the experts, gradually accumulating data which came together in that moment. It was the shock of confirming a suspicion. The perfect people were flawed. Worse still, they were afraid of being flawed and their fear drove them to pretend that they were perfect and had fixed all their flaws… and they then set out to fix the flaws in others using their system.

I’m not saying the advice of experts in various fields of the mind is not good, it’s just a good idea to check to see if the expert is actually doing what they are telling you to do… and then wonder why they are not following their own advice. Maybe they’ve found that it doesn’t work for them…

From that moment on my relationship with my mind shifted from me trying to change and fix it, to me realising that perhaps I should start from scratch and get to know it in a front to back way. Let my mind reveal itself to me. It had its own system and before I could mess with it, I needed to get to know it inside out… and once I did perhaps I’d realise that it didn’t need messing with.

What was once a struggle has now become one of my greatest pleasures in life… exploring the labyrinth of my mind and getting to know it better. It is also one of my most cherished relationships. These days we work together… and mess with many systems. That’s our system!

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[ps. If it sounds as though past-me or present-me know what they’re saying or doing… that’s just the way it sounds.]

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Mess with the System

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  1. I love how you made the decision to get to know your own mind rather than to shoehorn it into someone else’s idea of what it should be. And after all, you had already had enough shoehorning from your parents.

    My mother also shoehorned me and I also did it to myself as well until I realised it was okay to start recognising the value of my original equipment. 🙂

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    1. Thank you 🙂

      I think there’s value in going through the experience of trying to be someone we’re not, of seeing ourselves as ‘broken’ and trying to ‘fix’ ourselves to fit into other people’s view of how we should be, think, etc, as it gives us living information about ourselves and others. For instance with narcissists, once you step outside of the vicious cycle, it shows you what’s going on with them – they’re desperately trying to figure out how to think, how to be, how to become the perfect person. My mother was terrified of being found lacking in some way, of being in the wrong, of making a mistake – and she made me terrified of making a mistake because of how it would reflect upon her, and because of the hell that would rain down on me from her (a hell which was basically all her anxieties, fears, furies, etc). The nightmare we experience at the hands and mouth of a narc is a reflection of the nightmare going on inside of them.

      Once you ease up on yourself, you ease up on others. By allowing yourself to be as is, you can pass that on. When you’re being hard on yourself, when you’re not allowing yourself to be as is… you pass that on. It’s such a simple formula, but it’s so complicated to get it.

      I still struggle with the whole ‘I’m too weird to live in this world, what’s wrong with me why can’t I just be like everyone else’, but nowadays I realise that everyone else is struggling with that too, that in fact I am like everyone else, and we each have to find our own way to being okay with our weird selves as we are, then pass the being okay with it on, remembering that we’re all struggling with similar issues and it’s an ongoing struggle which resolves itself slowly in bits and pieces, two steps forward, fall over, fall backwards, get scared, keep going 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, trying to be someone else is informative, and certainly with narcissists. When I became a sort of narcissist in order to lever my ex-N out of my life, I did get more of a sense of what was going on with him. I see how explaining Trump’s actions to M for instance, has also rather given me a sense of what it’s like for Ns.

        I agree that when you ease up on yourself you ease up on others. It’s one of those things that you really can wear.

        Yup. We’re all dealing with some degree of self-dislike/hate/dissatisfaction. It’s just the degree.

        Liked by 1 person

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