One of the biggest obstacles to our own growth and development is our attachment to our interpretations.
It works like this.
Imagine you start seeing someone and 24 hours after texting them, they haven’t yet texted you back or called.
You might start thinking …
They don’t like me.
They think I’m needy.
They’re ignoring me.
They’re playing hard to get .
They’re probably busy.
They’re intimidated by me.
They’ll call in a few days.
They’re taking some time to come up with the perfect response to me.
How you interpret others’ behavior often says much more about our own past, our own experiences, and our own fears, than it does about what may be true for the other person.
And, the story you make up will directly influence whatever you do next, either recreating the same pattern you’ve always been stuck in or forging a new path forward into a new way of being for yourself.
The story you make up will influence whatever you do next. The question will be whether your interpretation is grounded in your protection-system, or in your connection-system.
Here’s how it works:
1. Something happens.
He doesn’t call you back.
She looks away while you are talking.
They leave their dishes in the living room.
2. Your meaning-making system kicks in, makes up a story and interprets the behavior.
If you are feeling confident, trusting, happy, your connection-system is likely to interpret things in relational, generous, and positive ways:
He must be busy and will get in touch with me soon.
She is so moved by my story and wants to take some notes.
They’re planning to return later and will clean up the whole room soon.
However, if you’re stressed out, under-resourced, worried, or hurt, your protection-system will likely interpret things through a “worst-case scenario” filter that either sees you or them as lacking and unworthy in some way.
He thinks I’m needy and critical.
She’s bored and irritated with me.
They’re selfish and inconsiderate.
We cannot transform ourselves or our relationships if we insist that what we fear must be true.
We’ll simply keep re-creating the past if we keep reacting from this kind of fear-consciousness.
Instead, we need to to learn how to watch our fears, notice our interpretations, and begin to separate out our past from our desired future. Byron Katie, Brene Brown, Pema Chodron and many others have suggested a simple language hack to help you detach:
The next time you see your mind having negative thoughts about something, use this phrase to begin detaching from old perceptions:
The story I am making up about this is that …
The meaning that I am making around this is …
Then ask yourself:
Do I know 100% that is this true? How do I know this is true?
How would I behave if the opposite of this fear were actually true?
This simple language tool (“The story I am making up about this is …”) can help you:
1. Step away from your thoughts
2. Notice how you distort reality and get stuck in old stories
3. Step into new possibilities in your relationships.
Try it out and let me know how it goes!
What else helps you to heal from the past and detach from outdated interpretations?
I’d love to know. Leave a comment below.
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The story I am making up about this is such an important tool for me to increase my own self awareness.
I also really appreciated the protection-system vs connection-system terms. Super helpful for internal clarity of which system I am operating from.
I remember who I want to be in our world; loving, kind, peaceful, respectful, curious, open, adaptable, joyful. I am doing my best each day, always humbled and learning.
I totally agree when there is little/no history in the Relationship, and what about those times that you need to communicate with someone that is objectively hurting you. Like a wealthy ex-husband that’s taking you to court to reduce your child support when they make seven times more income than you are. How do we interpret communication with someone like this as a connection opportunity without feeling the need to operate from the protection system?
This is a great question … in these cases, we may need more empowerment, assertiveness and boundary setting skills!
Sometimes it’s difficult to use the method of asking myself what judgments am I making about this person or myself. It can actually be triggering or initiate a shame spiral. So I like this language asking myself what story/meaning am I (or better yet my mind or my conditioning is ) making up. It depersonalizes it or externalizes it a little bit which reduces the chance of my getting sucked into a shame spiral.