Wayne C. Allen's "Works in Progress"
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Things are not as they are. Things are as YOU are.

I saw this played out with a 28 year old client. This young woman walked away, with nothing more than whiplash,  from two car crashes in the last twelve months. Both crashes destroyed the cars. 

As she told me about her life at our first session, she said, "After the first accident, I thought, 'Boy, God is out to kill me, but he missed.' After the second one,  I knew he was trying to get me. He's just got lousy aim."

From that point on, a pattern emerged in our sessions. She'd walk in, sigh, and announce she'd had a lousy week. She would then go on to describe an incident that took place the day before, usually a discussion (read fight) with her father, in which he has criticized her.

I find interesting two things:

  • that she is still amazed when her father criticizes her, as that's what he almost always does, and 

  • that she thinks that a fight with her father the day before means she had a lousy week.

Now, of course, what's going on here is a projection of her internal self-view onto the world she sees. She describes herself, graphically, as a failure, a dope — a poor excuse for a human being. She not only assumes this internally. She says it aloud when she describes herself to me. Her life, her "reality,"  is given her own, personal spin. She assumes she lives in a universe that is conspiring to "get" her. Even God is out to get her. As she sees it.

Like most people, she's bending the world
to match her pre-conceived notions.

One session , when she described how lousy her week had been,  I said,

"I don't get it. I see a young woman who appears healthy, shoes on the right feet, doing her job, raising her kid, and who also has a dad who loves to criticize. All that had happened yesterday was that your dad was busy being your dad."

I suggested that she take the time to think about what she was setting in motion for herself. I suggested that she look at how she was seeing things — what judgements she was making. In short, I asked her to begin taking responsibility for her own world view.

 A look of shock crossed her face. She said, 
"If I buy what you are saying, I'll have to change everything I believe, everything I've been taught, and all the rules I've been given."

I said, "How happy are you with your life?" She replied, "I'm miserable." I said, "You are who you are, and your life is what it is because of your beliefs. There's nothing defective about you. You might want to consider changing what you believe."

What we actually see of life is a perfect mirror of what we already believe (our preconceived notions.)  I once had a client who wasn't able to get pregnant. She and her husband were heading for the fertility clinic. She asked me if I hadn't noticed that all the women in Guelph (the city we were in at the time) were pregnant. She was serious. My office was in a doctor's suite and I had trouble remembering the last pregnant woman I'd seen. I was filtering out pregnant women; she was only seeing pregnant women. We were each seeing what we'd decided we'd see. Things are as WE are.

In my book, Living Life in Growing Orbits, I present 52 weeks of lessons, along with daily exercises. The very first is "Rock." (You can read the text in the sample on my web site) ) Rock beliefs are foundational beliefs — the very first things we were taught by our "tribe(s)." We learn how to be us by what is emphasized by our culture, country, ethnic background, faith (or lack of same), and especially by what our parents teach us. They look at us through the filter of their experience and subtly (or not) encourage parts of our personality while teaching us to repress other parts. 

In the "Rock" chapter, I suggest that our first "job" is to unpack the beliefs that form our self-view and world view. This is often a painful process, as we begin to strip away the veneer of "truth" — the meanings that others have given to the concepts that we use to define ourselves and how we view the world.

For instance, many people, right into late adulthood, believe that they are obligated to do what their parents want them to do. The thinking is: "If only I get this right, they'll let me alone to live my life, or somehow give me their blessing."

Of course, it doesn't ever seem to work out that way. 

Once, a client said, "I only want my mother to love me." Her mother had criticized her every move, telling my client she knew nothing. 

Six weeks later I discovered that her mother had been dead for 6 years. My client was still living and acting the way her mother had told her she should live and act, still hoping her mother would change her mind and act in a loving way.  

Her mother had been dead for six years. 

Her mother had been dead for six years.

This is why we need to explore the rules we may not even know we operate under. Many of the rules we live by were inserted by others in an attempt to control us or socialize us according to what others thought was "right.".

If we don't look at what we believe and see if what we believe makes sense for us now, in terms of our own contentment, we are doomed to live out someone else's life plan for us. And be totally miserable in the process.

Things are not as they are. Things are as YOU are.

Whom, then, do you CHOOSE to be?

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