Who’s in my head?

Never ceases to surprise me when a client says some version of “last week you said X, and I can’t tell you how much that helped me. As a result, I’ve made shift Y in my thinking/behavior. I feel completely transformed.”

As I try to control any visible chin-drop-mouth-hanging-open expression, I conduct a search of my memory, to retrieve what I thought I said. Too often, I recall nothing. I remember what the client said–just can’t pull up my own words, the nuggets that my client has so eloquently restated and imbued with wise meaning. Maybe I really do deserve the credit. But I think it’s much more likely that my words clicked for the client, activating some inner wisdom based on his/her own experience.

The process of therapy, just like life, is not the same for me as it is for my clients. The way our brains work leads us to believe that everyone around us is experiencing the world in the same way. Think back to the ancient (okay, 1960s) kid game “telephone.” Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the first child whispers a phrase in the ear of the second child, perhaps “dogs don’t bite.” By the time the words have worked their way around the circle, retold through progressive whispers, the phrase has been transformed into “frogs don’t fight” (though often much more hilarious than that meager effort on my part to recreate the process.)

Who is in my head? Only my unique collection of world view, lessons, and beliefs that color my perceptions. I was comparing notes with a friend about our shared yoga class and the passage of time. She related how it drags on and on, with constant clock-watching and exasperated repetition in her head of “aren’t we done yet?” My experience, on the other hand, engaged in one of my favorite activities of the week, is “wow, an hour gone already?”

It’s often a matter of selective attention. We tune into what fits with our internal framework, or the instructions we have, whether from the brain or externally, as illustrated in this fun video:

Consider this with wonder. While we are all connected and share numerous experiences, each moment is processed through the filters of meaning in our heads. There’s no one in my head but me.

Remembering this allows me to extend greater patience and grace with others, rather than frustration over a pile of “shoulds.” Next week, I’ll say more about avoiding the pain and anger of that particular pile of expectations.

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