Why do we humans do this? We learn a lesson, and then promptly forget to apply said lesson to the next issue. Or, better still, we learn the lesson and then proceed to live the opposite of the lesson while preaching the lesson itself.
I started to have bad stomach pains around 2015. The pains were bad enough that I was evaluated for appendicitis and other severe ailments. All conclusions were negative and I began a journey of trying to figure out what would make me feel better.
One of the lessons I picked up on that journey was from my husband. When I would get worried, I would get to thinking about all the things that could be wrong with me, the WebMD spiral of symptoms… He would always tell me not to think that I had cancer as if such thoughts could cause cancer to appear where none had been before.
I was skeptical of his words at the time, but he persisted in giving the advice, and I eventually managed to reprogram myself not to go right to those dire thoughts at the first sign of pain.
Part of the reason I didn’t immediately adopt this particular advice is because I considered such sentiment to be ‘magical thinking.’ As if I could cause illness with the power of my mind alone. I came around to understanding it in a different way.
It’s not that I could give myself cancer by thinking I might have it. More like that by dwelling on those negative thoughts, I was committing to live in that mindset. Eventually, everything I experienced would be colored by that shade of perception. Kind of like an Eeyore attitude.
When I was a teenager, I had a lot of sadness going on. I thought to myself, many times, why can’t I just be happy? And now, as an adult, I choose to be happy most of the time. I seek it as a default mode. I enjoy my life a lot more when I’m more inclined to smile than frown.
They say, “you are what you eat.” I say, “you are what you think.” Not in a magical thinking mind of way, but in the way that your approach to the world defines, in part, your experience of the world. It comes back to the 4 agreements, in that I am choosing not to make assumptions that things (any things) are bad.
And I’m not talking about a Pollyanna type mindset. That attitude ignores reality in favor of a predetermined outcome in the same way the Eeyore mindset does, just in a different direction. I’m talking about trying to observe before rendering judgement. And that includes self observation – am I judging someone based on what they are doing or based on how I am feeling?
In the moment, it’s quite difficult sometimes to remember that my judgments and reactions are not solely due to external stimuli, but also are affected by my internal state of mind, whether or not I’ve eaten sufficiently, if I’m well hydrated, where I’m at in my hormonal cycle… I’m practicing taking that step back and pointing my powers of observation towards myself. But not to judge myself – it is all about observation, because if I let my inner judge loose, then I have a hard time reining it in.
No doubt, I’ll be writing another blog about this in ten years, wondering to myself why I haven’t yet learned my lesson…