Everyone does it. Something happens, it feels like a slight, and you dig into it. Picking at it all day like a scab that’s about to bleed and you know you shouldn’t touch, but you do anyway.
Just the other day, I made an offer to someone who looked like they needed a favor. They declined. I told myself that they hate me. Leap much?
Come on. Think back on your week. How many times did you fill in the gaps with a story that pushed you into the corner? The virtuous person who was snubbed.
What happened: Benji didn’t return my email about finding a time to talk.
The leap: Benji hates me. I should have known. I’m a dumbass. Should have seen it sooner.
What if?: Benji’s on a plane? In the hospital? Was waiting until he was in front of his calendar to respond?
What happened: My client put our work on hold.
The leap: They hate me. I’m doing a terrible job. I probably should never have taken them on in the first place.
What if?: Their circumstances changed? They weren’t ready for the work?
What happened: I got lousy fruit when my groceries were delivered this week.
My leap: I’ll bet they’re told to pick up the bad stuff for the deliveries, so the better fruit is left in store. It’s a terrible way to manage stock – stick online orders with the bad stuff.
What if?: The person who picked my order was zoned out, or just didn’t care, and there was no conspiracy?
What happened: The kids down the street walked past my car as I was waiting in line to pick up my children. I waved; they gave me the cold shoulder.
My leap: They hate me too! It’s not just Benji or my client! On top of it, it’s so rude… they’re so rude…
What if?: They didn’t see me? They’re shy? Simply didn’t want to pressure me to offer them a ride if they caught my eye?
The worst part is, I think about Benji for days, kick myself over the lost client, grimace every time I walk past the crappy fruit in my fruit basket and stop waving at the neighborhood kids since they hate me so freakin’ much.
We all make things up and tell ourselves stories about what’s real and what’s notwithout a moment’s hesitation.
Stop Making Things Up
Ok. Here’s the test part. Good news, it’s multiple choice.
When you start going to that dark place, sure that the world scheming against you, what else can you do?
a) Drink heavily
b) Get back in bed and cry
c) Break the Frame
Feel like a trick question? In truth, it’s the only choice worth making.
When I was in high school, my boyfriend introduced me to one of my all-time favorite words: solipsism. One definition for solipsism is that the only thing you know that exists for sure is your own mind.
Freud wrote: “Without any special reflection we attribute to everyone else our own constitution and therefore our consciousness as well, and that this identification is a sine qua non of understanding.”
It’s a very self-centered way to live. As if the way you see the world is the only way the world, and the people in it, operate. It’s also very human.
The only way to change the story is to break the frame.
How to Break the Frame of the Stories You Tell Yourself
Try the BAGEL method the next time you’re making things up and making yourself miserable in the process.
Break down your story.
Where are you filling in the gaps? Making things up that make you feel awful? Attributing the worst possible motivations to others?
Ask yourself “what if?”
Maybe you’re right, maybe your not. Play “What if?” and brainstorm for heartbeat some of the other possible explanations.
Give permission for people to be imperfect.
Have you ever been less than perfect? Zoned out? Forgot to return a message? Didn’t wave? Thought so. It’s ok.
It’s easy to get caught up in your negative views and emotions around a should-be innocuous event. Empathy lets you relate to someone else’s experience instead of living a solipsistic life.
Let go and move on.
The world does not revolve around you, and nobody is out to get you. Even if they are, you have better things to do in life than let them get to you.
It would be remiss of me to ignore the one other thing you can do, not always, but in many circumstances – ask. Ten seconds of bravery can transform a relationship and change a life.
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