I could write a really long post about how complex the human condition is and how messed up we can get because of stuff that happens to us during our lives, but I’ll get right to the point.
There is about 100% chance that sometime today, perhaps even while reacting to this post, you will do or say something that you think is perfectly normal, but is in fact a way of coping with something you feel because of something that happened to you while you were growing up.
Nice, right? But of course, we all want to say "Not me, I’m over <fill in name of event that hurt you here>". Sometimes we can’t even think what to put in the < >. We picture ourselves free and clear of the past, in control of our lives, and we just are the way we are.
But what if we’re not? What if I’m not just the way I am? What if I’m really better than I am? What if I’m coping with hurts from the past and I don’t even know it? And here’s what can really start your wheels turning.
What if other people can see what I’m really doing even if I can’t?
Where it all began for me
My unraveling began several years ago when talking to Rob, someone who saw right through me. I was telling him, half-joking, about how when i get on the phone with a company who has acted shady, I want to rip them a new one and MAKE them remember me. But then I tell myself "Who do you think you are? Nobody cares enough about what you say to make it worth while.".
As I told this little story to him, I assumed that he would chuckle and agree that it’s not worth unloading on a customer service rep. when they don’t really care what we have to say. But Rob pulled a 180 on me and got really, really serious, really really quickly.
He held up my car keys, and his car keys side by side. He said "Don’t you see that you want to tear into this person." as he moved his keys front ahead of mine, "and then you say ‘nobody cares what you say’", pointing to my keys, which represented what I thought came second. "But in reality, it’s the other way around. You feel as if nobody cares what you think, and that makes you want to tear them a new one, and MAKE them know who you are". At this point he swapped the keys to reflect the reversal or order, and I completely lost it. I burst into tears like a little girl and wept for at least 10 minutes straight.
That was my moment. That’s when I realized that I had been walking around like a puppet on a string. I wasn’t simply calling up AT&T and yelling at them because they suck at customer service. What I was REALLY doing was much deeper. Inside I was terrified that nobody would listen to me, that I’d be taken advantage of, and that they’d all sit there and laugh at how badly they ripped me off. So to make sure that didn’t happen, I called and tried yell my way to a position where they’d remember me and think twice before taking advantage of me again. And I just thought I was reacting to an errant charge.
Right now, what are you doing?
You’re eating lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, you’re talking too much. What are you doing? Making small talk? Maybe, but what if you’re not? What if you always do this every time you feel as if you’re unsure how a situation will go? Talk, fill space, keep it moving. You think you’re just being conversational, but you’re really being fearful and controlling the situation.
You’re at the basketball court waiting for a chance to play. You think you’re being polite and waiting to be asked to join a team. But what if you’re deeply afraid of calling "next game"? What if by waiting to be asked, you’re really trying to fill a need for being needed?
What, Why, and Why
I have found that in the years following that event, there is a pattern that has emerged from the times I realize that another part of me is still being controlled like a puppet. It involves 3 little questions:
- What: What am I doing?
- Why: Why am I doing this?
- Why: But why am I feeling this way?
Here’s an example from above:
What am I doing?
Calling AT&T to complain about a bill they sent that I already paid.
Why am I doing this?
Because I’m furious that they’d try to rip me off.
But why is that?
Because I’m terrified that they are ripping me off and that no matter what I do, it won’t make a difference because no one cares about what I say or do.
Answering that second ‘Why’ is an entry point into some uncomfortable areas. The real kicker is that it starts a series of "Yeah, but why?" questions that would make any 2 year old jealous.
The other side of why
If you allow yourself to ask those questions, and don’t accept that everything you do just is the way it is because you are the way you are, you will find deliverance, freedom and peace beyond anything you’ve ever experienced. And a lot more strings attached than you ever imagined 🙂