In any given second, you have millions of bits of information coming through your each of your senses. It is said that our brain filters this information down to 7 (+/-2) manageable chunks. I am much more of a multi-tasker since becoming a mum, but I don’t know if I can manage that much! If I get anywhere close to that figure, I doubt that I am doing any of them very well.
Even as you read this blog post, you can become aware of the temperature of your breath leaving your nose, the sensation of your clothing resting on your skin, the rise and fall of your chest. All of these things were already taking place; they simply were not in your awareness until I brought it to your attention.
So if all that info is coming in and yet we hold so little in our awareness, what makes it into our awareness and why?
This is where you – the meaning maker – come into action. You filter the incoming information through your beliefs, values, memories and labels. You distort information, as well as generalize it and even delete it.
This is how we, as individuals, uniquely provide meaning to our experiences. The emotional experience we have depends on the meaning we give – and how we feel about the emotion determines the action or behavior we take.
THE MEANING YOU APPLY DETERMINES THE EMOTION YOU WILL FEEL
THE EMOTION YOU FEEL DETERMINES THE ACTION YOU TAKE
Don’t like the emotion, change the meaning!
And it’s worth doing. Amazingly, most of the material we refer to from deep within the mind was decided and accepted as fact by the time we were 9 years old, which is known as the imprint stage.
Of course, when we experience traumatic events – events that carry high-impact emotions, we can be jolted into looking within and making a change.
For example, when we experience loss, disappointment, or shock, it forces us to question what we think we know, and wonder-what does this experience mean? What should I take away from this experience?
For example, a child raised in a poor environment grows up determined to be successful, achieve financial wealth at all costs, and becomes a workaholic. Perhaps at some point, they tragically lose a loved one. They may start to question whether money was actually more important than spending time with their family. They can decide in that moment that time is the greatest gift they have, and from that moment on, spend more time enjoying their family.
However, (maybe because of old fears, or not knowing we can make changes, or even accepting old patterns as fact), very few people update their thinking habits. It amazes me that we take our car for a tune up, we update our iPads, our phones, we update software on our computers – and yet most of us move into adult life never evaluating whether we need to “update” ourselves.
Our identity is very much built upon what we believe and value, and when we experience internal conflict, when we repeatedly feel unhappy, we should welcome this as a signal that now is the time to evaluate ourselves…to choose to leave behind that which no longer serves us, and to step into being our most magnificent selves.
Our world is moving at seemingly warp speed these days! It’s no wonder that we don’t give ourselves the time and space to explore our emotions and behaviors, and allow space in our lives for the evolution of our souls. We barely have time to catch our breath – yet it is within the breath that we can achieve relaxation and peace. When we give ourselves a few moments of awareness, we can begin to notice our patterns, and start to change how we think about things. When we do that, we can begin to apply new meaning to the thoughts we have, and change the emotional responses to them:
Here are some strategies you can use apply new meaning to your life:
- Accept right now that you may have been functioning on autopilot, and that from now on you will be paying more attention to both the way you feel, and the thoughts that directed those feelings.
- Put a pause in. Take a breath. Allow your reactive, robotic thought to pass. Then think again.
- If you’re experiencing an emotion you don’t want, know that you have the power to change it. An easy way to do this is to have on hand things that always make you feel good: mantras, photos, memories – anything that gives you warm fuzzy feelings – can be directed to change your emotion. Once you make this change, you have already intercepted the habitual path of your thinking and feeling.
- Once you are in a better emotional state, you are in a position to mindfully track the source of the unwanted emotion – what you must believe to feel that way. Ask yourself: as an adult, is this belief still valid? Ask yourself: what is the positive emotion that is trying to reveal its self? Make a mental note of your discoveries – and throughout your day, repeat this updated belief. You can also attach the new belief to other situations where you experience similar undesirable emotions stemming from an old belief. Doing this will make it feel less like you are trying to convince yourself of something you don’t believe, and more like it is confirming what you know to be true.
- With more emotional control, with the belief updated, now you can consider where to focus your mind and energy. To do this you can ask: is there something more important or that I value more than the old pattern of thinking of feeling? What has this old pattern prevented me from experiencing that I can now welcome into my life? What should I be focusing on to help me achieve this?
I have directly experienced exactly how powerful these practices can be. As a child, I lived through some incredibly traumatic experiences – which I will elaborate on in future posts. Growing up in this way, I was caught in an endless loop of negative thinking patterns. I felt so deeply that if anything could possibly go wrong, it would. I believed that life was meaningless. I felt that I was worthless.
Of course, these are lies that I was telling myself based on the programming of my youth. It was merely a habitual thinking pattern that I continued to choose to believe. The day I questioned the validity of those thoughts was the day I found peace. Nothing in the external world had changed – but I had changed dramatically. I began to choose the meaning of things in my life. In that moment, my life changed from a fruitless journey to the beginning of a miraculous life with endless possibilities, boundless joy, and most importantly, a peace I had never before known.
You are a meaning-making machine! I think it’s kind of awesome that we have this creative capability. What meaning will you change today to make your future more rich and fulfilling?