I love this picture! He is standing on top of the world and taking in everything. The picture reminds me of the first time I realized I really wasn’t who I had believed I was throughout my entire life. I felt a kind of freedom I had never experienced before.
I struggled most of my life because I had twisted what happened in my past into my self-image. I think a lot of people do that. They program themselves like you program a computer. It took me a long time to discover that what happens to me does not define who I am at my core. When it finally hit me, it was like a bolt of lightning, but of course, knowing something cognitively and believing it are two different things! I kinda had to re-program my mind to stop the old way of thinking. My experiences so coincide with Martha’s advice, so here is part 3 of her post.
Never Stop Learning
Getting bogged down in old stories stops the flow of learning by censoring our perceptions, making us functionally deaf and blind to new information. Once the replay button gets pushed, we no longer form new ideas or conclusions—the old ones are so cozy. But becoming present puts us back in reality, where we can rigorously fact-check our own tales.
Try dredging up one of your favorite stories—maybe a classic like “I’m not good enough.” Treat it as a hypothesis. Research it. Is there any evidence that contradicts it? Have you ever, in any way, even for an instant, been good enough? You may need to ask someone for coaching at first. Evidence that contradicts your hypothesis will be hard for you to see, while to an objective observer, it’s obvious (“Well, you’re good enough for me, your dog, and everyone down at the bingo hall, you dumb cluck”). However you get to it, the moment you absorb a fact that disproves your hypothesis, you’re half out of the mire.
Insist on the Truth
Whatever terrible things may have happened to you, only one thing allows them to damage your core self, and that is continued belief in them. Kristin’s mother may have been Stalin in a bra, but by the time Kristin got to my office, what was silencing her was the conviction she’d formed during interactions with Mom: “It’s no good to speak up; no one will ever hear me.”
Kristin couldn’t redo her past, but she could change that belief. In fact, the loop she replayed in her head was the one thing standing in her way, since evidence disconfirming her hypothesis was everywhere. Lots of people listened to Kristin. Once she acknowledged that, she couldn’t be a tiny victim, waiting haplessly for her chakras to open. She was just a woman with a scary job to do. I know how much this realization bummed her out; it always bums me out. But then, it’s also the doorway to freedom.
by Martha Beck