Swimming in Your own Sauce

Synopsis: we spend too much time in our heads, swimming in your own sauce.

…a good cigar is a smoke.

Back from Nicaragua, and thinking it was a good trip. We took a couple of tours, and saw a nearby volcano, some craft markets, and the old part of Granada. Got some great cigars, too! The company is part owned by a Canadian, and the building they are in is amazing.

drowning in our own sauce

I was planning on writing an article about getting lost in our minds, and came across the image to the left, (from a free image service I like.) I thought to myself, “Self, this is a great image for the article, providing everyone gets that it’s a metaphor.”

I suppose I’m a bit stuck on this topic, as I do spend a lot of time examining what I’m swimming in.

And letters, I get letters, from others, who seem to be doing a bit of deep diving themselves. And not, I suspect, with stunning results.

My recent favourite non-helpful “swim” is being executed by a dear friend, who describes herself as the “girl who doesn’t say ‘no’.” Now, elevate your thinking for a bit; she mostly means that she chooses to say “yes” to every request that comes her way, so that she seems “nice.”

Then, she calls her mom and complains about how nothing is going her way. And then… next request, back to saying “yes.”

Others are caught in what I think of as the “danger of cognitive therapy.” Sort of. Now, one exercise that can be helpful is to examine your way of thinking about a situation, or about yourself. But only, IMHO, as a means to seeing the fundamental silliness of much of what we think.

It’s easy, though, to make a religion of self-examination

By this I mean endlessly re-hashing the contents of the sauce‑y swimming pool of our minds. Round and round we go, and nothing changes.

Take the first example above. She says “yes.” She means “no.” She thinks others will think she’s “nice,” so she continues to say “yes,” while meaning “no.” She gripes about it to me, to Dar, etc. But because the contents of her mind tells her, erroneously, that yes=nice, and that (the hidden agenda) if she says “yes” to others, others will say “yes” to her, she swims, she chokes.

And she repeats it, again and again.

This is what happens if all you ever do is to look at your mind–your judgements, your beliefs, your prejudices. You can persuade yourself that you are actually doing something beneficial. But you’re not.

Because… doing

The purpose of self-examination, whether from a psycho-therapeutic or Buddhist perspective, is to learn to go inside, look around, and… get this! say, “Yup, that’s me, crazy-making again.” Period. Because the “logic” of our internal theatre is definitely tilted toward maintaining the status quo. In our example, our friend “wants” to believe what she believes, even though her “game” gets her lousy results.

She’s stubborn, and will go so far as to say, “I’m not going to change, because that’s the way I am, and besides, I’ve decided!”

So, think about this, and think about yourself. What things are you aware of thinking about yourself that get you caught in your own sauce, but that you feel all righteous about, because you’re “working on it?”

Except, you’re not.

In other words, how often are you stuck in your head, endlessly going over the same stupid stories, and therefore, doing the same stupid things?

My example person, were she wise, might consider experimenting with “no.” She might decide, say, for a month or a year, to say no when she means no. Not once or twice, but as a full blown experiment.

Now, when she does this, her inner voice is going to go nuts, and start screaming, “No on will like you if you are not a nice little girl!” She would need to acknowledge, then ignore, that voice.

After several months, she will discover that everyone still likes her (or the ones that dumped her were not worth keeping around) and she has not done things she didn’t want to do. Or better put, she has done the things she wanted to do.

Each of us has something we can experiment with.

  • If you get angry with your kids “for their own good,” spend 6 months stopping your mouth, quieting yourself, and then having a calm discussion.
  • If you think your partner is the one to blame for everything, have a breath, and invite your partner to talk about what’s really going on.
  • If you can’t move on from a toxic relationship, just move on for a month or six, and see what else emerges.

In other words, instead of swimming helplessly in your own sauce, do something geared toward doing your life differently.

Give it a bit of time, laugh at your head games, and see what switches.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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