Shakespeare’s Hamlet got it spot-on when he said that “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”. As humans, for our brains to make sense of anything, anything at all, we must put labels on it, and process it within our realm of current understanding. This means that all our beliefs, experiences, upbringings, interpretations and assumptions will go into giving whatever we have just experienced meaning. And, as everyone has different beliefs, experiences, upbringings, interpretations and assumptions, every single person’s interpretation will be slightly different.
Neuroscience shows us that the brain has so much awareness going on at any time – survival, sounds, temperature, hunger etc – that to save energy it tends to compartmentalise every experience and perception into a “known” meaning, rather than asking us each time how we should interpret something. So the brain is actually trying to do us a favour, but is actually making our lives just that little bit more difficult by making us react to situations, instead of responding.
If we allow ourselves to purely react to information then we will fall back into old patterns, and nothing will change – nothing comes from nothing. With awareness through coaching, we can start to make decisions about how we respond to information and events. Johnathan Gottschall observed that “To the conspiratorial mind, shit never just happens”. When we allow our brain to automatically and freely make assumptions or interpretations, we will never think that someone just wanted a 5 minute discussion about the project at hand; we make it all about us and our failures, and blow it up into a massive story, and begin catastrophising in our mind. It’s never simple, or not about us.
With awareness, we can stop ourselves before this happens, or as its happening, and actually respond, rather than react. Catch yourself mid-assumption, mid-interpretation, mid-storytelling, and really ask “What is the story I am telling myself here? What has actually happened, and what am I making up?” Your intuition may be telling you to be cautious – listen to it, but also think holistically, with your head (logic) and your heart (emotions) and get the full picture, before coming out with your measured response.
TLDR: Stop making shit up, and get out of your own way!