Last year I went on two dates with this woman I was becoming fond of. I thought things were going well, but she sent me a text saying how she just saw me as more of a friend and hoped I would understand. A rush of emotions came up for me. My autopilot wanted to be angry, feel threatened and lash out at her for dumping me. I felt deeply rejected. She was a cool woman and I had high hopes; I was invested in thoughts of this going somewhere and being loved. When I was rejected, my initial emotional reactions were from a place of pain. But I stopped myself at that moment. I was aware of my painful feelings. I first asked myself what I felt, and not surprisingly it was rejection. Then I asked myself if I was in direct threat right now, basically was there a tiger chasing me at this moment? Okay, so I was safe. In that case, what was this feeling (I got curious)? And believe me, I’m writing calmly about this but at the time I deeply felt hurt and angry at that moment. It was a pit in my stomach and all I wanted to do was burn that bridge and run away. Feelings of spite and revenge are okay, but we must stay calm. We have to recognize that we are not being physically attacked. There is not a direct threat to our lives, contrary to what the brain is thinking.
Look at the facts: she dumped me; I felt rejection. Why was I feeling this so strongly? I discovered it is because I want to feel loved and valued. Those are fair thoughts and good reasons, so I can honor those. But the feeling stuck with me for the next hour and I really felt them deeply. I badly wanted to run away from them. That was a sign to me that I might be out of balance. Remember earlier when I talked about how if your reaction is much stronger than the event that caused it, it might be a clue that you’re telling yourself an old story. In this case, I was feeling a deep rejection, but I had only gone on two dates with this woman. By watching my thoughts I was seeing that my reaction was stronger than it should be.
Stay aware and stay in the emotion, tell yourself you are safe again. It’s going to hurt to stay there, but you are okay. It’s ok to feel this. So, I stayed curious through the hurtful feelings and discovered that I just wanted to feel valued. I wanted her to value me. Why would I want this so bad and feel so hurt when she didn’t? It was because I needed others to value me. The key word in that was “need.” Did you notice that? I did when I thought it. Why would I NEED others to value me…? BAM realization time! Because I didn’t value myself. Oh, damn! Now we have stumbled upon an old story. My reactions and emotions were so strong because I had an old story that I was not valuable.
Okay good one, now what? I was still feeling the strong emotions and now I’d found a big old messed up story. What the hell do I do now? Firstly, I didn’t respond to her text immediately. And secondly, I didn’t run away. Both good things. But I wanted the painful emotions to go away. Stay in it, this is where you will finally get past these things and reprogram your autopilot. If you are really feeling it deeply, remind yourself again that you are safe. Do it however many times you have to. It’s important to note that once we discover an old story we don’t need to try and go back in our history to find out why we feel this way. You feel it at the moment, so honor that feeling and know there is a good reason for it. It’s allowed to be; you are validated in this feeling.
What I did next was to ask myself, “Am I really not valuable? Is this a true story?” The answer was, obviously, NO. And now I had created cognitive dissonance–two opposing thoughts that cannot exist at once. The old story of “I’m not valuable” and the new question of “am I really not valuable… Really? That is not true.” This is where change starts. You can even flip the false statement at that moment if you want. What I did at the moment was to tell myself “I am valuable and loved just the way I am, I don’t need anyone outside me to value me, I value myself.” And at that moment, my feelings of rejection lessened quite a bit. I felt considerably better. There was still a knot in my throat but I was kind to myself and told myself it’s okay to feel this. I read the text again and I had decided to respond from a newly conscious and controlled place. But her words triggered me again. I told myself the new story again, I am safe, I am valuable just the way I am and I don’t need anyone outside of myself to value me. After that, I felt better again and responded from a kind and loving place.
You see, I too had felt more of a friend vibe with this girl and when I went to respond from a controlled space and not my autopilot I was able to notice it. She was correct, actually, and I had felt it, too. It was an honest and fair statement on her part and in no way an attack on me. I didn’t respond from an old story or my autopilot, I was in ultimate control. I also realized something about myself and when that story of rejection comes up again I will repeat what I told myself. This repetition will absolutely, without a doubt, break that pattern, that story, that autopilot. And I now have control of the ship.
Watch your thoughts in the moment, honor your feelings, stay in it even if it hurts, ask questions and get curious, and then tell yourself a new story to replace the old unsupportive one. Repeat the pattern every time you feel that same thing. Rinse and repeat and you are now a master at recalibrating your autopilot. You see, after repeating the new story to yourself a bunch of times, your brain will now look for things in the world to support it. The brain looks for patterns; so, if I now tell myself that “I am valuable” over and over and over again, the brain will not only let go of the old story but look for evidence in life supporting the new one.
Now, with my brain primed to see evidence for my new story, I might notice when a coworker says, “Wow, great job, Josh!” Whereas when I was gathering evidence for my old, subconscious story, that comment might have gone unnoticed. The outside world has not changed, but the evidence in it will highlight itself to you. In essence, your experience in the outside world WILL be very different. So yes, your outer world IS a reflection of your inner world. Very much so. And the key to controlling it is with your everyday thoughts and the stories you are telling yourself. Watch them, control them and your entire world will change around you. I promise. This is not a theory, this is fact. There is science behind it and I have made it work for myself after trying everything else.
by: Josh Ritcher
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