It's 2020. I’m sitting in my bed. My girlfriend lies down next to me, her back turned to me, sobbing in her blanket.
We had a deeper discussion around one of her fears and it started turning into an accusation.
I said: “It’s 1am, I don’t have my head clear and you neither. If we continue talking now, we are going to say things we didn’t mean. Let’s take some rest and have a nice breakfast tomorrow, and talk about it like adults. We can solve this.”
She didn’t quite agree, but I had to impose a boundary. So she turned away, and stayed in her own bubble.
What could I do?
The worst thing in these moments is the inability to do something. She wanted attention, but I didn’t want to engage in a conversation in which someone wasn’t in a problem-solving mindset. It is impossible to talk to people who are in the position of a victim if they don’t ask for help. The only thing it leads to is being garbage for emotional trash, and I didn’t want to take on that role that night.
To me, it affected me deeply. If there is one thing I have a harder time tolerating, then when people are rude to one other. I don’t understand why people would ignore others, treat them badly, see them as a problem. We are all adults who can solve problems from the real world without getting emotionally negative.
So I decided to follow an advice that I often reject: to create my own story.
The Meditating Snowman
I sat into the bed and imagined myself to be a snowman.
You know, one of these little, cute snowmen from the children movies. I had my three-ball body, full of snow and holding myself warm in my own bubble. I felt my carrot nose being long and knew: as long as I have this one, nothing can happen to me!
Monsieur snowman sat there and imagined the scene from outside: a snowman sitting in the bed next to his girlfriend, who was doing her solo-trip at less than a meter away. “How ironic that I am a snowman!” I thought. “This truly doesn’t happen often!”
As nothing happened from her side, I decided to meditate. I sat upright and started to focus on my breath going into my nose, my upper lungs until deep into my belly, and coming out in the same smooth pace as it came in.
Sometimes my thoughts wondered again towards what just happened: “Why does she think this way? Why can’t we just have normal conversations? I never accused her of anything, why can’t she take her part of responsibility or explain to me calmly how she feels? Why am I considered part of the dark side instead of the teamplayer that can solve problems together?”
But then I stopped. It doesn’t serve me to ask myself these questions if it doesn't help to unlock the situation. I have other things to do than to judge, self-doubt or enter a rabbit whole of thoughts that don’t bring me forward.
So I focussed back on my snowman boddy and on my breath.
In, and out.
In, and out.
In, and out.
And then I thought about something.
And then back to focussing on my breath.
In, and out, again.
She then passed out. Then, she started snoring. And I realized: wow, I survived!
Not only did I survive the situation, but I went through it smoothly.
I stopped worrying. I stopped being annoyed at the situation. I took care of myself and my own emotions. And I could be back in a loving, present state that is the foundation for any type of progress.
When Stories Become Powerful
We often forget to tell ourselves stories.
Our parents told us: “Stop telling yourself stories, look into the real world!”
We lost the ability to think like a kid. Where everything around us is new, neutral, beautiful in its own messiness.
We enter loopholes into our problems, have pity for ourselves, become victims of circumstances and feel completely disempowered.
Because we don’t tell ourselves the right stories.
Every event in life gets intepreted through the lense of a story, which then triggers a reaction of behavior.
Let's make it concrete:
- An event happens. For example, me telling my girlfriend that I want to have the conversation when we are emotionally grounded.
- And then you interpret the event. For my girlfriend, she took it like I didn’t want to engage in her problems and felt rejected. For me, it was wiser to come to a common solution the day after because the last twenty minutes of conversation just kept triggering us more deeply. “The same event can mean two completely different things based on two people’s individual belief templates” as David Foster Fallace correctly said in his speech “This is Water” (one of my favorite speeches, which I mention on several blog posts). For her, this event meant rejection. For me, it meant groundedness and peace.
- Then we entered the next phase: action and reaction. She decided to not engage with me, to ignore me and stay in the role of a victim. For me, I decided to take care of myself and focus on my emotional state.
At first, I took her reaciton personally. It affected me. It was now me who felt rejected!
This was my default reaction based on my own trigger - the trigger that I don’t like when people physically and emotionally reject me because they think that I am hurting them and that I am the only source of their pain.
So I invented myself a different reality. It doesn’t have to go that far - instead of turning into a snowman, I could have also just created a reality in which I wouldn’t get affected by her rejection. But it was easier to just become something really out of context - and it worked.
Stories can be powerful in so many ways.
If you think you’re a superhero who can fly while running a marathon, you will have more chances of succeeding than if you think that you are out of fitness and that you are condemned because your feet hurt.
If you think that life is a game like monopoly and that you are trying your best to go through it, you will take the angry neighbor as one of these times when you're locked into prison and just waiting until you hit two sixes in your dices! “Just patience, my friend” would you say and move on with life while listening to Jimmy Hendrix.
If you are in a meeting that totally bothers you and where you are completely wasting you time, imagining that you’re under the invisible blanket of Harry Potter will give you refuge. You will be able to sit there, unseen and in your own bubble. How cool is that!
Stories are powerful in any way. Everything we tell ourselves is a story!
And while we don’t have to create alternative realities like becoming snow-wo-men, having a Harry Potter cap or being superman, we can still create a different story of our realities - like not being someone who gets emotionally affected, like being someone who trained a lot for his marathon and knows deep down that we will succeed, or like someone who is going to have fun during this hour of meaninglessness.
Ultimately, stories have their limits. They give you the advantage of creating a different reality. But if they take over reality, your bubble will create a distance between you and reality. Make sure that you're aware of the stories you're telling yourself.