Does Your Past Affect What Happens to You Now?
Boy, do I get some good letters. Here’s another one, with my answer.
I’m interested in understanding better why people in general can know that a certain way of life is good for them but continue on a course that isn’t. For example, smoking or being overweight. There is as much information available as we’d care to read on both topics, but people continue to do what is not good. Are they all “unconscious incompetents” even though they cognitively know what they are doing is not good for them. I haven’t smoked in many years but have just lost some weight and want to keep it off permanently. I “believe” being at this weight is good for me. What beliefs do I need to be aware of and guard against to stay at this healthy weight. How do I reach “unconscious competence” on this issue?
You’ve hit on precisely why becoming more aware provides a solution to every human problem that has a solution (some don’t). People do most of what they do OUTSIDE their awareness, which means they do it automatically. What you do with awareness, though, you have a choice about. Awareness creates choice, and what I teach is largely about how to direct your awareness to what YOU DO inside your head that creates:
1) how you feel and the other internal states you experience,
2) how you behave,
3) which people and situations you attract or become attracted to, and
4) what the events around you seem to mean.
Notice that I’m implying that you create these four things (in fact, I’m flat-out telling you: you create these things). If you create them with awareness, you have a choice about them (and you’ll always choose what is most resourceful, for you and for others). If you create these four things outside your awareness, they will happen automatically, based on your past experiences and the internal programming they created.
So, the question is, how do you create these things, and how can you become aware of how you create them, so as to create choice in these four key areas (which, you might notice, pretty much create your entire experience of life)?
You create them by what you do inside what I call your Internal Map of Reality. When I say that you need to be aware of what you do in your Internal Map of Reality, though, I do NOT mean that you “know” about it. When I use the term “aware” I mean the ability to observe yourself as you create these things, to see how you do it, as you do it, and also to see the consequences of what you’re doing.
The most basic thing you do in your Internal Map of Reality is make internal representations: internal pictures, sounds, kinesthetic sensations (touch, balance, hot and cold, physical sensations, etc.), smells, tastes, and internal dialog.
These six kinds of internal representations directly create your feelings, as you make them. The simplest distinction is that when you make internal representations of what you want you generally feel good, and when you make internal representations of what you don’t want you generally create some sort of bad feeling.
This means that if you are aware of how you do this (and which of the two kinds of internal representations you’re creating) you’ll have choice about the feelings, behaviors, etc., that these internal representations create.
Why, then, would you make internal representations of what you don’t want?
Here’s why: When you have a traumatic experience, especially when you’re small and powerless, you develop a belief that something out there is dangerous, or potentially dangerous. This causes you to automatically make internal representations of what you don’t want (the danger) whenever you experience it again—or, even when something reminds you of it.
This happens without awareness for nearly all people, though you can learn to become aware of it. If you do learn how to watch yourself as you a) see, hear, touch, etc.,something that triggers this danger response, b) make internal representations of avoiding that danger, and c) as a result, feel bad in some way—if you can see all of this as you do it—whether or not you make those internal representation (and experience their consequences) will become a choice.
If there really is a danger in that moment, you might take steps to avoid the danger. If there isn’t a danger (which is often the case–something just reminds you of a past danger, but there’s no real danger in the present moment) you’ll clearly see that there’s no real danger and you’ll choose not to make the internal representations of what you don’t want. As a result, the bad feelings and other negative consequences will dissolve.
An example: you were yelled at and punished when you were small by your authoritarian father. A male authority figure is a danger to you (this is a belief). When you experience a male authority figure, especially if he yells, you instantly and automatically make internal representations of the danger you want to avoid, and because this is something you don’t want, you instantly feel bad, which may also lead to certain behaviors.
As a child you were powerless when your father yelled. Now, though, as an adult, you have many more choices and much more personal power. When triggered, though, you’ll automatically feel like a powerless child—IF this process happens automatically, outside your awareness.
On the other hand, if you have enough awareness to see how you create the bad feelings, as you do it, what you create will be a choice and you probably won’t create the bad feeling.
Internal representations are the basic unit of your Internal Map of Reality. Beliefs, for instance, are collections of internal representations about something you think is true. Values (which we will look at after beliefs) are collections of internal representations about what you think is important. As you’ll see, all the other aspects of your Internal Map that we will look at are also built on internal representations.
The most basic skill to be learned, then, is how to observe your internal representations as you make them, and to see the consequences YOU create by making them in a certain way (the consequences being your feelings, behaviors, which people or situations you attract, and what meanings you place on the events of your life).
Beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies. Once you deeply believe something, you’ll unconsciously seek “proof” that you’re right about them. In the lessons in my online courses I list three ways you prove that you’re right about what you believe:
1) You’ll attract and/or become attracted to people and situations that help you prove that you’re right. 2) You’ll interpret what’s happening in a way that supports the “truth” of your belief, even if there are other interpretations. 3) You’ll act in ways that make what you belief come true.
The woman above with the abusive father will probably attract, and be attracted to, male authority figures who are assholes. She won’t find authority figures who are more kindly to be interesting. She won’t even see them. She’ll also give off unconscious cues that will cause the kind of authority figures she doesn’t like to be attracted to her. Obviously this is not what either person would choose, but this is what happens when you operate without awareness. Such people don’t have a choice. They’re automatic response mechanisms, acting out what their Internal Map of Reality has been programmed to create.
This woman will also interpret events in a way that helps her to be “right.” If a male authority figure is an otherwise kind person, but has a bad day, or in some other way does something that reminds her of the abuse she experienced from her father, she will interpret this behavior as dangerous, even if there are other explanations.
And, she’ll unconsciously act in ways that trigger male authority figures to act in the way she fears they will act, thus accumulating more evidence that she is “right.”
Your job in this course is to learn how to observe your internal representations, and to see the consequences they create. Then, you’ll use this skill to observe your beliefs and see how you use these three methods to prove that what you believe is true. Then, as we get into the other aspects of your Internal Map, you’ll watch to see how you use each of them to create how you feel, how you behave, which people and situations you attract or become attracted to, and what the events around you seem to mean.
If you really apply yourself to doing this, you’ll gain choice about everything that a person can have choice about. There are, of course, things we don’t have choice about. If you exercise choice about those things you can have choice about, though, your personal power becomes huge.
I hope this information allows you to answer the question you posed, and also gives you a better idea of what this course is all about.
Here’s my suggestion: practice watching your internal representations (mostly your internal pictures and internal dialog) for 5 minutes or so three times a day: when you first wake up, when you turn out the light to go to sleep, and perhaps one other time during the day. Just pick something that happened during the day and think about it. Notice what internal pictures you make, and notice what you say to yourself about it. And, notice how your internal state (which includes your feelings) changes as a result of the internal representations.
You can also think of something you really want, notice the internal representations you make (and the internal state that is created), then think of something you strongly want to avoid, notice the internal representations you make (which will be of something you don’t want), and notice how your state changes (it will probably change to a negative state). Seeing how you create your internal state begins the process of having choice over it.
Let it be okay that this watching isn’t easy at first. Just play with it a little bit every day and you’ll start noticing what you’re doing more and more often. You’ll begin to see ways that you’re sabotaging yourself by focusing on what you don’t want. As long as you do this outside your awareness, you can keep doing it, and keep creating bad feelings and negative outcomes. Do it with awareness, though, and what doesn’t work falls away.
Then, another letter from Ellen…
Once again, thanks so much for the insight. I see where you are coming from and I’ve been doing the 3X a day exercise and getting much clarification on the issue. Knowing when to stand up for myself and when not to – knowing how to avoid the “victim” and be the problem solver from a more “power” position is a challenge for me. I’m watching my internal representations about when I am “assertive” and when I am not. My past trauma includes a parent who was very controlling and managerial, who reinforced my dependence and actively thwarted independence, perhaps out of a combo of some fears of her own for me and also out of a narcissistic orientation. So, even in my 50’s I struggle to get beyond that and be visible as the effective, autonomous person I truly am.
I noticed in the visual activity you teach about making a picture that if I am traumatized the picture is a panorama – if not it’s a snapshot. I’m working on making the panoramic situations right-sized (snap shot) where I feel I can manage them.
It’s absolutely amazing to me that I can be this old and still struggle with the same primary issues despite many years of training and therapy. I’m a work in progress and your help has been invaluable. Thank you so much.
Age doesn’t have much to do with any of this. Not many people EVER deal with this stuff and as a result die with it.
One of the main points I’m making is that you don’t have to know when to stand up for yourself, or know how to avoid being a victim. Using will power to do things in a different way doesn’t really work very well because the old unconscious patterns based on past trauma are stronger than your will power. What causes them to stop dominating your feelings and behaviors is awareness–awareness of how you create them.
If you watch to see HOW you create the feeling and behavior of not standing up for yourself and JUST WATCH YOURSELF DO IT, as you do it, you’ll find that if it doesn’t serve you it will become difficult to keep doing it.
So forget about trying to not be a victim or trying to not allow others to dominate you. Just watch to see how you create these feelings and behaviors. It starts with internal representations you make in response to certain outside events. Watch the process. Don’t try to change it. Just watch. It will change itself.
If you’d like to learn how to have this kind of awareness, there’s two things you need to do:
1) Use Holosync (www.centerpointe.com)
2) Learn to be aware of how you use your Internal Map of Reality to create your life. You can do this by taking my Life Principles Integration Process online courses, which are temporarily HALF price. Just go to www.centerpointe.com/life/preview to listen to a free preview lesson.
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