Gathering information is vital for us all in our survival on the planet. It helps us to decide what is safe or harmful. It protects us by getting us to behave instinctively. It also helps us socially connect, fit in and engenders a sense of belonging. In the beginning, our first experience of gathering information and knowing we are ok or not ok would be from our mother or our first caregiver, later it expands to the rest of our family, our peers, and communities and so on and so forth.

While we are busy doing this, most of us are scanning our external environment for clues that will tell us what is going on so that be in sync with what’s happening.

This external scanning can work for a long time, until one day something happens and all our given information we have automatically built when externally scanning don’t seem to work as well anymore. We start feeling that our relationships with ourselves and others are beginning to have problems. We start having misunderstandings and breakdowns in our world, we start to feel disconnected and isolated. ‘Nobody understands me. I might as well bang my head against a brick wall’, At this point, you might ask yourself who am I and what is Life all about?

I like to think because this actually happens to all of us that we have been given an opportunity to turn the tables on our ability to external scan our environment and start focusing on our internal environment.

So how can you do this?

A good time to start this inner observation is by identifying a recent negative moment or a situation that either made you feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed, confused, frightened, helpless, hopeless, disappointed, protective, and/or mad as a snake etc.

How to Identify – Exercise

Ingredients – These are categories of experiences within yourself that you need to identify

  • Negative Situations – What, When, Where, Who and Why
  • Negative Physical Sensations – i.e. Hot or Cold flushes; Goosebumps; Hair on scalp crawling; Butterflies in the stomach; Nausea; Heart pounding; Shortness of breath; Holding your breath; Hyperventilating; Sweating; Fidgeting; Wanting to run; Muscles bunching; Hands clenching; Jaw clenching; Eyeballs feeling Hard; Blanking out; Leaving your body etc.
  • Negative Feelings – let down; cheated; betrayed; disappointed; guilty; shamed; angry; self-righteous; disempowered; frightened; fearful; panicked; grief; loss; sad; abandoned; small; anxious; depressed; frustrated; murderous; embarrassed; disgusted; distrust etc.
  • Negative ThinkingPredicting a future outcome; Mind-Reading/Assuming; Comparing and Despairing; Putting ourselves down/ Criticizing ourselves; Saying ‘I should, I ought, I must; Making Judgments/Evaluations about events, ourselves and others and the world rather than saying what we actually see; Emotional Reasoning- I feel bad therefore I must be bad; Making Mountains out of Molehills –Exaggerating; Catastrophising – Believing the worst can happen; Black and White Thinking– It is or it isn’t, no shades of grey thinking; Memories – Current situations or events triggering upsetting memories, leading us to believe that the danger is here and now, rather than in the past, causing us distress right now.
  • Negative Behaviour Fought (Kicked, screamed etc.) Fled (Ran away, hid away etc.) Froze (Stood still on the spot, disassociated) Fawned (Became compliant and subservient).
  • Pay Off – As a result of your choice of behaviour, there was a temporary solution e.g. Fought could have meant that people didn’t try to upset or harm you because they were afraid of your explosive temper.
  • Fled could have meant it gave you time out for the situation to blow over and return when things were calmer.
  • Froze could have meant that you blanked out and like an ostrich put your ‘head in the sand’, and when you came to, carried on as if nothing had happened.
  • Fawned could have meant you went straight into trying to fix the situation either by being so accommodating or compliant that cracks were smoothed over.

Cost – As a result of your choice of behaviour there was also a cost to yourself in the long term. With regards to:

  • Others maybe are reluctant to share information with you in the future. You may be lied to in order to keep the peace. You might even begin to feel isolated etc.
  • Your fear of being on the receiving end of that particular type of situation drives you to hide away and only return when you feel safe or not return at all. A feeling of shame that maybe you are not powerful enough to deal with this situation could make you feel not good enough to stand your own ground and give voice to your opinions and needs.
  • This is very similar to flee the only difference is that your body remains at the situation, while your mind and feelings have switched off completely, to the point when asked to relate what happened, you are unable to provide an accurate observation. Frozen emotions get stored up and have a tendency to get triggered at the most inopportune moments and come flooding back in a deluge that we have no control over – sometimes called a ‘meltdown’.
  • Try to fix a negative situation by ‘smoothing over the cracks’ does not solve anything, in fact instead of working through the situation in an appropriate manner that is able to identify the problem and negotiate a solution leads

Any Insights – What did you discover about yourself that you were not aware of before?

Recipe – This is a practical exercise on how to identify these negative experiences

  • Obtain A4 Counter Book with lines and treat yourself to some nice pens
  • Go to the middle of the book and pull out the centre page so that a bigger surface area to write.
  • Turn the pages so that the headings are divided downwards and your answer is across the page.
  • Divide your top page into the first four categories and the bottom page into five categories
  • Repeat this exercise using a few different types such as home, work with friends, children etc. recent situations but leave out the last category Any Insights until you have completed a number of situations.
  • When completing Any Insights, go over your answers and look for patterns of similarity as well as differences. Write these down at the back of the sheet of paper.
  • These Patterns will give you an indication of how you reacted or responded to various situations. Identifying the ones you reacted to is about identifying your triggers

More about Patterns, Triggers Reactions and Responses, next time

As Always

Miranda aka.The White Rabbit