“I take everything so personally,” my new client said. “Can you help me become more confident and not so paranoid when it comes to what people think of me?”
“Do you think we are all judging you?” I asked.
“Yeah, I am always wondering what people think of me and I worry that I am doing something wrong all the time. I know it’s not rational but I can’t help myself.”
“ I bet you hate being criticised don’t you?”
“Oh god yes, I can’t stand it, makes me feel really shit for days if someone puts me down in some way. I play it over and over thinking about what I can do differently.” He said clenching his hands together.
So here is what I told him and I watched as it created the shift needed to move forward from this illusionary prison the caveman had put him in.
The caveman is a metaphor for the limbic system or primal brain. The caveman’s job is to protect your wellbeing, he thinks in black and white, judgmental and cannot see the bigger picture and he is very over reactive at times. See more here and here. This is all to be safer of course which was the biggest lie going as it was leading down a very dark dangerous path, that’s what anxiety often does. It should not be indulged.
I will call my client Dan to protect their details.
“Dan,” I said, “It’s never about you and in all honesty you have become too important as you are making it all about you.” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat wondering where this would go next. “
“If you were to walk in a bar Dan, you would be lucky if anyone in the bar notices you at all to judge you. This is not because there is something wrong with you, it’s because like you we are all most likely lost in our own little bubbles of reality to notice you. We are all chatting away to ourselves in our heads which means we are very busy when you come in to the bar. But in your head we have all noticed you and are making various judgments. This is a lie from your caveman as he wants you to get out of there, hide away in a corner somewhere or do something that makes you feel safer. He has made you so important that you cannot possibly deal with any judgements, rejections or embarrassment as he feels you cannot handle it. That’s a lie as you are more than capable of dealing with the ups and downs of life, the problem is you keep forgetting quite conveniently how strong you are
“If I were to notice you then Dan, then something else has to happen which is not about you at all. When I look at you my mind has to go through all associated memories to create a judgement about you. Everything about you is processed by my subconscious from the clothes you are wearing to your hair, eyes and body posture. My subconscious will flip through the library of my mind for any relevant memories which are similar to you. It has to do this to assess whether you are safe to be around or a risk to my wellbeing. For example you had blonde hair and blue eyes, my subconscious will look at anyone who was like that in my past. If it finds memories that are favourable with blonde hair and blue eyes then I am likely to see you in a more positive light. If the memories it finds are negative then for some reason known or unknown I may not quite take to you as it is safer not to. My caveman says you are dangerous by having those features.”
Dan looked up, I could see he was really processing this deep within his mind. I continued to help his mind get through this illusion that he was subscribing to. In reality Dan has no issues with criticism, judgments or anything else that was negative. He knows deep within that it’s not about him and so do you too. The caveman in your mind is very good at convincing you and Dan that you are in danger from what people think of you. This makes you too important to experience such a possibility and therefore you try to hide, stand back in the shadows, over compensate, or just leave feeling bad about yourself. This is not about being too important in status it is about being too important to experience what everyone in life has to deal with.
“My mind will create a virtual you in my head based on my memories, it will then add my morals, values and beliefs which are influenced by my version of reality. My version of reality has been created by my culture, parents, schooling, social peers, religion, media and many other factors.” I continued. “I have been programmed to see the world this way and that means I am programmed to see the virtual Dan in my head a certain way.”
“This virtual you is who I believe you are and will interact with, the reality is though that my virtual you is not you at all. It is who I think you are and it’s how I will relate to you.”
“Any judgements I have about you are not about you at all they are focused at my virtual you floating around inside my head. This means that anything I think about you is not about you at all, it is all about my virtual you my mind created to interact with.”
“This can be very empowering to realise as anyone who has negatives to say about you is simply not even talking about at all. Whilst you might be upset at their version of you, if it’s a negative it can really help take the sting out of taking something so personally. You do have choice as it’s really not about you unless you make it so. If it is helpful for you to subscribe to part of their version of you then you can assess that and act on it.”
“A good example is this session. You see the virtual Dan in my head is stronger, more confident and capable than he thinks and can be free of this illusion. Now I have told you, you can choose to subscribe to a section of my virtual version of you or not. Keep the insecurities or not, the choice is yours.”
“So when you think of me Paul, you are seeing a virtual me in your head and that is not me at all?” Dan asked.
“Nope, the same goes for everyone you know, we are all interacting with who we think you are, not who you are. Also this virtual version of you changes the more we interact.” I confirmed.
Your Virtual Self
“To take this one step further Dan, you also have a virtual Dan in your head. This is your self identity and who you say you are, this self changes in different areas of your life. How you see yourself is vital to how you interact with the world. Most clients who come to see me have an identity crisis and are not seeing themselves in a healthy way in various areas of their lives. “
“So Dan who are you?” I asked out of the blue.
After a long pause Dan answered. “I don’t know.”
“What if I asked you a better question that is more relevant? Who do you want to be?” You see Dan, asking who are you? Is always going to be a past tense question. You want to move forward so isn’t the best question; Who do you want to be? This way you can focus on a future you and make that you happen right now. For example if you said you want to be more calm and peaceful then went home to listen to thrash metal, we know you could listen to something that reflects what you want to be more of. If you want to be more calm then you have to act that way right now, there is nothing stopping you.”
“The illusion a lot of people fall for is that they have to wait for something to happen to be another person. No you don’t, simply begin acting more like that person right now. As each day continues you will do it a bit more and it will spread into more areas of your life. Just remind yourself each day who you enjoy being and do something that day that reflects that.”
“I think I see myself as quite weak,” Dan said looking ashamed.
“Dan you have subscribed to that idea and are cherry picking negative memories to make it real and act it out. To keep this lie going Dan you have to ignore all those great memories about you being stronger, more confident etc and keep on focusing on the memories which reinforce this idea that you are weak.”
“The caveman only does this when it believes it is safer in life or certain areas by being weaker. The mind will always choose what it believes is the safer option no matter how it is judged by you or others.
I asked Dan to seek out memories of being strong and after a bit of digging I could see his body posture changing as well as a nice big smile.
“Dan you need to remind your mind as it creates your newer virtual you just what you are capable of and keep showing it over and over so it forges a stronger self identity. The newer you needs to be able to see the future in a healthier way with confidence that whatever comes your way you will be able to handle it. If you feel you are relaxed, resourceful, capable person then your mind is likely to not be so uptight and anxious about the future. The more relaxed you feel about the future the more relaxed you can feel in the now.”
“Lastly remember that anyone interacting with you is only really interacting with their virtual version of you and not actually you. That could be one of the most empowering things you could ever get your head around and remember.”
If you would like any help with the contents of this article then please contact me. It could be one of the most empowering changes to your life you could ever make. Life’s too short not too. Why not make 2013 the year where you are being the version of you that you deserve to be?