I want to share a story with you about a former client I worked with that I find to be very transformative. (Yes he gave me the okay to share his story and encouraged me to write about it if I felt it would help others).
When my former client was 14 years old his family moved and entered a brand new high school in a brand new city.
It was a large public high school of a few thousand kids. The boy did not know anyone as he started on the first day of school.
He experienced a lot of fear, anxiety and apprehension being at school. The most difficult time of each day was lunch time.
When the bell rang, hundreds of students gathered around cafeteria tables.
However, each day he sat alone at the same table in the corner. He looked around at all the other tables.
He saw all the other kids engrossed in conversation, laughing and having fun. Sometimes he would catch the eye of students sitting at other tables.
He would see other kids glance in his direction and he immediately experienced a feeling of being alone. He felt worthless and humiliated.
He would see other students laughing and assume that they were laughing at him.
Every day at the lunch table he felt rejected, ostracized and like a complete outcast.
Eventually the boy made a few friends and gained some sense of normalcy at his new school.
He no longer sat alone at the lunch table in the corner or felt isolated in class.
However, as the years passed and he entered adulthood, this difficult and (even what some might call) traumatic period in the boy’s life continued to impact his life.
When he would walk into a room his attention would look for and narrow in on how he could get rejected and who could hurt him.
He would see someone look at him and it would take him back to the same cafeteria where kids at the other tables would glance his way.
Even worse, this conclusion had him believing that he was already rejected and that there was something inherently flawed with him.
This belief created an unconscious perceptual filter or in other words- a lens in which he viewed the world through.
He unconsciously viewed the world or other people to be a threat. He avoided certain people and situations because he believed rejection, humiliation and pain were right around the corner.
This created a story in which he lived out each day. And each day he gained more and more evidence to support the story.
The cycle continued and his belief that he was in some way different, inferior and defective became more and more solidified. It had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The worse part of all is that this perceptual filter and belief system was invisible to the boy.
Just as one forgets that a pair of glasses is resting on their nose, the boy had no awareness of how he perceived and filtered his experience and saw the world.
His brain had created a protective mechanism that helped the boy safeguard against future threats and possible hurts.
The only problem was that the boy was no longer sitting alone at the high school lunch table.
He was now a man and wanted a life beyond getting his basic needs met. He wanted to grow in his career, develop new friendships, have a fulfilling relationship with a woman and explore new hobbies in his spare time.
However this old programming would not allow him to open up to these new possibilities that he so desperately and secretly wanted.
He truly was living what Henry David Thoreau called “a quiet life of desperation”.
I tell you this story because in some way we can all relate to the boy. In some way we are all seeking a new experience and our old programming makes it impossible for us to have it.
Often times we struggle to notice the pair of glasses that rests on our nose and see the perceptual filter in which we experience our world through.
In my work with clients, I help them to build awareness around their unconscious story and help them take steps in shifting the way they experience the world.
In some ways one might say that I serve as a mirror- helping to build awareness and move beyond one’s blind spots.
Time and time again, it becomes evident that more knowledge is not the answer.
And doing more and ‘trying harder’ always seems to create more of the same.
Rather, awareness is the key to living the life you want. Awareness alone is curative.
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