Everyone at some point in their lives dreams about what could have been or should have been. They look back upon their life and say things like, how in the hell did I get here and with these people?
The answer is simple to say, but hard to accept. For the most part, they chose the elements of their life that brought them to where they are currently. (This is not to state catastrophes and events thrust onto someone are chosen by the victim! No, no, no, but everyone has choices concerning the aftermath of such events. That’s a different topic.)
Why do we make the choices we do? We think it’s in our best interest at the time, that’s why. The problem arises when we make choices without examining what truly is in our best interest. Many of us wander through life, dreaming, but never taking ourselves seriously enough to invest time into evaluating our choices with the life we really want. Then one day, we turn around and wonder how we got where we are and why do we feel so miserable.
As we grow, we develop a picture of what our perfect world would look like. Then, hopefully, we spend our lives making choices to get us as close to that perfect world as possible. We do this because when our real world closely aligns with our internal, ideal world, (quality world) we feel good.
So, okay, here you are in a relationship that does not match your ideal world. You work in a job that is so far off base from your interests, talents and desires that you hate getting up in the morning. You look at yourself in the mirror and say, who is that person looking back at me? Now what?
Step one: Do you know what your ideal life is? If not, start figuring it out. Play with the idea of having a magic wand and there are no limitations. Forget the idea of, why do this, I can’t accomplish this anyway. Just do it.
Step two: What does this ideal world say about you? Do you see patterns? Do your dreams show you feeling powerful, more accepted, more creative? This is important because while you may not be able to get your exact ideal life, you can find good substitutions to get those same needs and wants met. Let’s say, you want to be a surgeon, but you don’t have the education or time for medical school. You realize you want to be a surgeon so you can help others in the field of medicine. Become a phlebotomist, a Red Cross volunteer or first aid officer at your company.
Step three: Look at the choices you are making in your life. Do they line up with getting closer to your ideal world? Why or why not? Identify the areas in your life or choices you are making that push you further from your ideal life.
Step four: Get more information about other choices you could be making. Talk to people who appear to have similar ideal lives. Read books and cruise the internet for more information. The more information you have about what you want, the easier it is take steps to make it happen.
Step five: Set goals for yourself. Remember not all goals are external. For example, today, instead of dreaming I was married to Johnny Depp and being pissed at my spouse, I’ m going to find out what qualities in Johnny Depp I admire and see how my spouse lines up. Or, deciding – my spouse has great qualities and my ideas about Johnny Depp are based on fantasy and not reality. I really wasn’t that crazy when I married my spouse. He’s pretty special. These are internal choice changes.
An external choice change might be, my spouse ridicules me, threatens me and I don’t want or need to live like this. I’m going to investigate what it takes to get a divorce or what is in my community to help people like me.
Think of goals as the set points. They are your rudders helping you steer through life.
Step six: Evaluate! Evaluate!
What is it you really want?
What are you doing to get it?
Is it working? Why or why not?
What can I do different?
Set goals and do it!
No one has to spend their lives sitting in a rut. We create the ruts and put ourselves there. Choose to get up and wish upon a star. You have what it takes. Just do it.
I like to watch reruns of Comedy Central’s episodes of Colbert and Jon Stewart. Last night, like every night, I ate dinner and curled up on the couch to watch an episode of what I call the Colbert/Stewart hour. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, they make it better.
In this Colbert episode they spoofed the theft and black market of Canadian maple syrup comparing it to a Mexican drug smuggling cartel. The reporter, a staunch maple syrup virgin, continued refusing offers to taste the luscious, feel good Canadian maple syrup. He knew if he had just one sip, it would be his demise into a life of addiction, seedy living, underworld crime sprees and the loss of all he claimed as good.
Finally, temptation was too much and as suspected, he couldn’t stop at just one taste. The result, pancakes, lots of pancakes rolled just right in order to deliver the sweet, dripping, tantalizing, golden liquid into his mouth. Life as he knew it ceased and was replaced by the horrific decline one can only find in syrup addiction.
It happened all at once. The cravings, forgetting to go to work, forgetting to bath, secret meetings in dark streets to get more syrup, brushes with police, arrests and attempts at all cost to get more syrup. As Star Trek actor George Takei would say in a way only he can say it, “Oh my!” That is what I felt and wondered if I too had a syrup addiction. Nonsense, whoever heard of such malarkey? But what was that feeling I just couldn’t shake?
I turned to my hubby who was seated on the opposite couch and said, “Damn, I wouldn’t mind having some pancakes with syrup. Do we have anymore King Syrup?”
King Syrup is rich, thick and teases you as it emerges from the bottle. It is almost tantalizing to watch. Taste buds go into overdrive.
You can’t buy King Syrup in Florida where my retired parents now live. When I go visit, my father’s first request is always – make sure you smuggle some of that King Syrup. My dad knows and so do I.
I didn’t give into the desire for pancakes and syrup. I had a piece of toast with peanut butter and a blue Solo cup of milk. I spent some time writing and then went to bed. Only sleep would not come. I got up. Keeping the house lights low, I fired up my Kindle and played a couple rounds of Bubble Mania, a game where the object is to free little kittens from bubbles and hear them yell, “Wee!” It’s usually very gratifying.
The bubbles weren’t popping in the right order because my brain was not thinking about kittens stuck in bubbles. It was thinking about the two-third empty bottle of King Syrup sitting in the kitchen, waiting, longing to be consumed. I start to sweat. Mark and change that to perspire. I think it sounds more feminine. Anyway, I tell myself, I don’t have to give into a syrup temptation. I’m above that.
I’m out of kitty-freeing bubbles so I returned to the bedroom and listened to my hubby snore and the rumble of the air conditioner. Sleep is slow in coming and very fitful.
At 8:00 am, I awakened violently and the first thing slinking around in my brain is the thought, PANCAKES!
I yanked my sorry arse out of bed and grabbed the Aunt Jemima box. You just add water. Instant pancakes! There they sat, three golden brown, almost perfectly round discs, dabbled with just the right amount of butter. I set the plate on the table pushing aside the work flow for the day and all their distractions.
Pancakes had my full attention. With a smile on my face I picked up the ¾ full of King Syrup and wondered if it was the good stuff from Canada. The label said it’s from Fredonia, NY. Is that close to Canada?
I watched the syrup slowly leave the safety of the bottle to flow onto the golden discs in patterns of my design. I let it soak into the pancakes a little bit, but not too much. It cheapens it when the pancakes are soggy and all that remains of the original syrup is horribly mutated.
I consumed my pancakes slowly, rolling my eyes and trying to convince my mind I was experiencing what the reporter in Colbert experienced last night. It didn’t work.
I had consumed 1,000 empty calories with no real payback. I had to think, where did I go wrong? Oh, now I get it. What I really wanted was not syrup, not pancakes, but the feeling of being filled with joy to the point of forgetting the world. It was a need to feel abundantly loved, treasured, needed and fulfilled.
I could be talking about sex. I could be talking about anything that would fill that need for love and belonging. A part of me knew from the beginning that pancakes and syrup were not the answer. So why did I go through this?
Because I had a need unfulfilled and as I watched Colbert a seed was planted in my brain. A seed that although logically I knew was ridiculous, my needs great enough, other ways failed enough, that syrup made sense.
Is it any wonder sometimes that our behavior can become so wacky? Our thinking so out of touch with the reality around us that we gravitate toward someone, something, to get a need met. Thinking, this is in my best interest but knowing it is not. Thinking, these are my choices, what the hell?
If only we can get our brains to flag us and yell STOP before continuing. Especially when we know what we are about to say or do is not in our best interest. We would all feel healthier.
Sometimes, our situation is one where all our choices will be negative and we have to choose the least negative. Colbert/Stewart, pancakes/syrup, needs/wants was not one of them. My brain for whatever reason did not yell stop! Now I need to figure out why?
Are you self-aware enough to know when to yell STOP? Can you tell before you think, feel, say or do something whether it is in your best interest to do so? If you find yourself gorging on a plate of pancakes dripping with syrup and it’s just not cutting it, re-evaluate why not. You’ll feel healthier in the end.
A sign in an amusement park says; look in peep hole to see a man eating chicken. Now, if you saw that sign what image do you think you’d see through the hole? Is it a man munching out on a piece of chicken? Or is it a large chicken eating a man?
What about these sentences? The man saw the boy with the binoculars. Did the man have the binoculars or the boy? Or, how about, hole found in changing room wall; police are looking into it. Are they investigating the incident or looking in the hole?
These are called syntactic ambiguities. Why am I telling you all this? Because it is a good demonstration of how our brains perceive the world around us. For every person who sees a man eating a piece of chicken there are probably equal number who see a large chicken eating a man.
If we want to understand and navigate our behaviors we have to grasp the way our brains see our world.
All around us is the Real World. This is everything that exists; no matter if we realize it or not. The real world contains trillions of pieces of information bombarding us constantly. Our brains are not equipped to handle all this so it selects what is most important and screens out the rest.
It is generally accepted that there are three filters used to screen select Real World information for our use. They are called: Knowledge, Values, and Perceptions.
Whatever information remaining after screening is now evaluated and a decision is made. Either, this information is in-line with our wants and needs and we feel good. This information is neutral and does not matter to us. Or this information is not in-line and may threaten our wants and needs and we feel bad.
If we decide that the information is in-line and we feel good, we keep our filters screening the same way, and continue to behave based on this information. The system is working well. However, if the opposite is true, we feel out of balance and our system goes into red-alert. Depending on how far off balance we feel determines how much drastic action we take.
For example, let’s say you are watching your child on the swing-set at a local playground. The weather is good, the park is not crowded, and your child is having fun. You feel good. All of the sudden, the swing chain brakes and endangers your child. Chances are at this point in time, your brain could care less what the weather is like or how crowded the park is. Instead information such as speed and what angle to leap in order to catch the falling child would be more practical.
Problems pop-up when we feel bad or out-of-balance and the adjustments we make are not the best. Our actions could make things worse. They could fix things in the short-run but not long term. Or the adjustments solve what we think is the real issue making us feel out-of -balance when it is another issue deeper down we have not addressed.
When we feel out-of –balance, we think, feel or do something different to feel better. The next step is, did it work? If not or it did not work the way we hoped, then a change in the information screened through the filters or an adjustment to the filters might be in order.
The filtering system is one of the easiest ways to get from out-of- balance to in-balance.
Knowledge Filter: This is a filter that contains pieces of information we already learned. I don’t think all information learned is actually in this filter. I think we have the ability to alter this. For example, I learned my ABCs in pre-school. This is always in my filter because I read and write daily. I learned to fish when I was four-years-old but never fish. I really don’t think this is in my knowledge filter. But if I pushed myself, I could remember some memory of fishing and probably some terms from hearing others talk of fishing.
If the information we are using to filter Real World information prevents us from acting in a way to feel good, get our needs met and be in-balance, we need to search for new knowledge. We can also reassess knowledge we already have and decide what needs to be added or subtracted.
This is as easy as someone saying, “Hey, remember back when and you had this happen. You did such-and-such and it worked out. Maybe you should try that now.”
Your reply, “Oh, I’d forgotten that. I’ll have to re-pull that knowledge and see how it changes my options.” Now you have added old information to your active knowledge filter.
Values Filter: This is the, how important is this information to me, filter. When information enters this filter a value is placed on it. Is it positive information? Information that helps us become balanced, meets our needs? Or is it negative, something that has the potential to prevent or hinder getting our needs met? Some information is neither and we don’t give it a value.
Perception Filter: This filter is the very selective, how we see the world based on everything that is us. This includes our gender, culture, experience, sexual orientation, parents, age, race, etc. The amount of inclusions in here can be astronomical. Because no one is the same as anyone else, each person’s Perception is different. Like the other filters, it can change. Perspective might be another good word for this area. To change our perspective is to change our perception filter.
All of the above is then evaluated against what Dr. William Glassier called the Quality World. The QW is sort of like the answer to the magic wand question many therapists ask. If you had a magic wand, what would life be like? In the Quality World we have pictures of how we think we can get our needs met in the most satisfying way. All our filters are balanced to provide the Real World information the system needs to best get to our Quality World picture.
For example: If I have a high need for love and a low need for power (see prior posting for more details), my Quality World might have a picture of me being adored by family and friends. There is never conflict. I do volunteer work and always put others ahead of my needs.
It is probably more specific than this. Maybe, I’m a stay-at-home mother with three adorable, cherub-like kids and a dog named Elmo. My husband, who looks like George Clooney, works as a Podiatrist and I go to the Sisters of Perpetual Mercy Church three times a week. I make an amazing meat-loaf. It’s to die for.
That picture is what my brain will use to set my filters and gather information from the Real World. It is through that information, evaluated against my Quality World picture that I will use to behave. I will use it to think, feel and act a certain way. My way, may not be your way.