I looked at the blinking cursor. I felt anger and disappointment coursing through me. Losing trust in a friend felt like a rejection, and I almost closed the window down, wanting to just move on and not delve any deeper, like I had done so many times before. But for some reason, this time, I let my fingers start typing. It was painful, and at the beginning felt too much like hard work, but the more I wrote, the more my view started to expand. New words made way for forgiveness, new sentences rewrote my reality.
I’ve always considered myself pretty good at being able to see the bigger picture, but recently, I’ve come to realise that there’s still a LOT for me to learn on this front. I’ve been dealing with a situation with a friend where my values and limits have been pushed, a situation where in the past I would have given up and turned away, but this time something in me decided to push through and see whether there was a lesson to be learned. And boy, was there ever! I've prided myself on being able to look at things from different points of view, and yet, what I learned is that the scope for growth is infinite, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of seeing all the options that could change the trajectory of my life completely.
We create our own reality
One of the things that has really helped me through this experience has been writing. Writing letters, writing a journal, writing and writing some more, and seeing what I can learn about all these thoughts and feelings laid out in black and white. And what I’ve come away with is an absolute faith in the fact that we create our own realities. Life is not set in stone to be experienced in a certain way. The way we react to anything dictates what our life turns out to be. I’ve believed this, and always loved quotes that hint to this, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it quite as fundamentally as I have since starting to explore all the options when I write.
Try these steps next time you are writing your journal
1) Overall view
Imagine that you’re all seeing, watching yourself and everyone else from above, like tiny dollhouse people going about your lives.
2) Write it down
Think of a scenario that you’re finding hard to deal with, let it play out in your miniature world, and write down what happens from your all seeing point of view. Be as detailed as possible, but not involved. Just write down the course of events. This is the point where miniature you felt things were going good, here’s when you got frustrated, this is the point where you got sad about what another character said or did.
3) Interpret from your point of view
Once it’s all written down, allow yourself to interpret what happened from your point of view. Who do you feel purposefully made you feel bad, how did the universe conspire to make you fail, does it feel like you’ll never live down the shame.
4) Change perspective
Then, try to write down at least four different interpretations to the same situation. From your point of view as all seeing spectator, did the main character, i.e. tiny you, overreact because of something that they had experienced in the past. Or did another character say or react in the way they did because they had different information, or had something you couldn’t see happen to them just before the interaction? Imagine different scenarios, how would these tiny people react if you set something else in motion that might not be seen by the other parties (including tiny you), if your original interaction with a crucial character happened just after they had tripped over and hurt their toe, were shouted at by someone else, or found out devastating news you weren’t aware of.
Would any of these other interpretations make you feel differently about the situation? Would the knowledge, whether factual or not, affect the outcome of the situation, and crucially, would it change your experience?
6) Create a framework
Try to come up with a framework that you could use to test yourself in every situation, so that you are not just reacting on auto-pilot based on old hurts or fears, but actually allowing yourself a chance to react to any situation in a way that is most healthy for you.
‘The world is what you think of it, so think of it differently, and your life will change.'
~ Paul Arden
Learning to re-interpret situations at your own will is an incredibly powerful tool. The funny thing is, we are actually already very good at doing it, but usually in a negative way. How often have you been dreading a situation where there’s a possibility of failure? Say, a speaking engagement, which is something that it still slightly nerve-wracking for me. No matter how prepared I am, I always feel that cold fear that tries to get ahold of me just before I need to get in front of people. Previously, even if the talk has gone just fine, afterwards I would pick it apart in my head and find all the possible things that could have been seen as embarrassing, the way someone coughed when I forgot a word, or looked at me funny when I pronounced something in a silly way, and then flog myself with those thoughts.
Nothing about that situation is a fact, it’s all my interpretation, and one that makes life a lot less enjoyable. It also teaches me to be fearful of these feelings the next time, even thought they were all my own creation. Learning to be more gentle with myself, to not barrage myself with the negative interpretations when a more productive interpretation would make my life so much richer, is one of the most freeing things I’ve ever tried to teach myself. And even if there was a sideways glance or a badly timed cough from the audience, I have the power to create my reality for those and interpret them in a way that isn’t detrimental to me and the way I experience life.
Go on, give it a go. Take out a notebook, or open a word processor or journaling app, and get writing. How are you going to rewrite your life?
All images by Marianne Taylor.