Who We Are
As a life coach, I am usually on the lookout for anything that has to do with human behavior. The things that make us, well, us. Why we do things the way we do them, how we repeat patterns over and over and over. This is the thing that interests me most of all: that even though we "rationally" know we want to change a pattern or habit, we persist.
It's almost like we're on auto pilot. "Here I am, doing that same thing I keep saying I don't want to do anymore, yet somehow I'm still doing it 10 years later."
What is it? What makes us unable to stop drinking, or having the same argument with our partner, or repeating the same sabotage-y behaviors over and over? We get frustrated and try to change, but then suddenly we wake up and here we are, months later, remember how good it felt to shift for the 3 weeks we managed it.
I have been there. I drank for 27 years trying to forget the pain I felt. There were some "capital T" traumas in there, but mostly my hurt came from "little t's"- pain over time. To me, most of us have trauma, or hurt- to varying degrees, but we handle it differently. I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't have something bottled up inside themselves..and maybe that's just the way being human is: there are things that remain unresolved or unfinished.
But what about the things that make us crazy day to day? The things we've been dragging around as long as we can remember? Are they part of what makes us human? And the things that drive us crazy about the people in our lives, like we step on a stage with them and recite our lines at a certain point, like we're buckled in and no one knows how to get up and move to where it's different.
I've had the same argument with my husband for years and years now. The subject changes, but the feelings remain the same. It's like we go past each other over and over. What makes us think our experience is the only valid one, and how can we feel seen and heard without shutting the other person down?
In listening to Lisa Feldman Barrett and Daniel Kahneman I think they have great ideas that go together: that the energy saving predictive nature of our brain causes a lot of misunderstanding and that by taking the time to remember that "rational" is not that human we can start to understand one another better.
If I feel tension with my husband, I automatically predict where it's going to go: I'll try to explain, he will invalidate my experience, I will feel frustrated and unheard, he will too. Our brains predict the outcome and unless we work hard to change it we spend years having the same problem: we both feel unseen and unheard.
In my work with couples this is the number one thing that comes up: neither person feels recognized as an individual. It's almost like we feel like we're losing if we let our partners have feelings that are different and separate. The whole if you're right then I'm wrong mentality. I've spent hours watching people try so hard for validation by explaining themselves over and over again and the other person defending themselves instead of relating.
I think this also holds true for us as individuals- that the very thing that makes us us is the thing we feel we have to ignore, shutter, hide, or resist. If you see me for who I am it takes time and attention, and biologically we think we don't have that kind of time. Our conditioning has shown us that we are rushed, that feelings and understanding are weak, and that we don't have time for real connection.
It's bullshit. If there's anything that amazes me most about the mind it's that we can change it. That our minds learn as long as we are alive. And that it is worth the effort.
It feels awkward to start listening and talking in new ways. I sometimes feel like an ass when I say "It sounds like you're feeling annoyed with me", like duh. But, the other person feels seen, and heard- then the conversation actually goes somewhere.