As you read this, in the back of your mind there is a constant humming and buzzing. You may not be aware of it, as you’re focusing on the screen, reading this very sentence, but it’s there. You may think about what to eat in the next ten minutes, or where to go tomorrow, or what color matches the outfit you’re going to buy in a week. You’re probably reinforcing constantly a certain meaning you’re attaching to your reality, like your own identity (YOU are the one who is reading this article) or your values (you do things in a certain way, because that’s the RIGHT way to do it). Sorry to disappoint you, but these are all lies. Lies you’re telling to yourself.
Before allowing yourself to be outraged by this statement, take a deep breath. You’ll have plenty of other opportunities to be outraged later on, as you scroll down.
Bad News, Good News And Intermingling Realities
The bad news is you’re living in a fantasy. Most of the time.
The good news is that everybody does, so you’re not the only lunatic out there.
We’re all telling a lot of lies to ourselves, every day, every minute, sometimes on autopilot. Lies like “I am a certain type of person”, or “I have the right to buy that thing”, or “that person behave bad towards me and I am entitled to hold a grudge”. These lies are forming our own point of views towards an uninterrupted stream of facts. The facts are pretty much the same for everybody, but our own lies are different, personal. And so, they are forming our personal reality. Or, to be more precise, our own personal hallucination.
Sometimes I’m amazed how can we even get along in this intermingled chaos of personal dreams. But then again, I remember about the great balls of bandaids.
Let me explain.
Great Balls Of Bandaids
The stories we’re telling to ourselves are a coping mechanism. They help us manage the problems we have with our environment, with other people, with our own unfulfilled needs and, generally speaking, with the futility and inherent lack of meaning of our lives.
They’re basically bandaids we apply every time we get hurt. We’ve been rejected? Well, maybe is the other person’s fault, not mine. Let’s put that bandaid on. I have no money? It’s the government fault. Let’s apply that too. And so on, and so forth, every time we can’t really cope with the pain or just the plain lack of meaning of something, we’re applying another bandaid.
As we cruise forward on our own timeline on this Earth, we keep applying bandaid on top of bandaid on top of bandaid, forgetting that, once we understand how to cope with a specific pain, that specific bandaid must be removed. Instead of keeping ourselves slim (and, truth to be told, also vulnerable) we’re patching ourselves over and over, until our own sense of reality is hidden inside a huge ball of bandaids.
And that’s how we can actually get along, because these huge balls of bandaids running chaotically towards each other are absorbing the shocks, alleviate the pain and conceal reality under a thick, comfortable cushion.
The bigger the ball we created around ourselves, the lower the pain we may experience when we hit an obstacle (being it a wall, or just anther person). But the thicker the ball, also the deeper the fantasy in which we live.
The Outraging Question
I told you, there will be plenty more reasons to be outraged. For instance, this question: is it really worth living outside such a cocoon? If these bandaids are protecting us, if the lies we’re telling to ourselves are supporting our sense of reality, why ditching them? Why not believing these lies?
Well, because underneath this protective space, we can’t really experience anything. If the pain is numbed, so is joy. We’re not really living, we’re deep down dreaming, like a Neo in a self-made Matrix, not really knowing what freedom is. And just like Neo, breaking free from this cocoon will set us free, and piss us off, at the same time. Because outside the Matrix, beyond the protective thickness of the cocoon, life is not pleasant. It’s just raw, whole, alive.
So, is there any way out?
I think so. Because the lies we’re telling to ourselves are so personal, there is no “one size fits all” antidote. But there are a few paths that may be chosen. Here are a few that I tried:
1. Accept Your Own Vulnerability
That basically means getting rid of the bandaid once the pain is bearable. For example, if you’ve been hurt in a relationship and you applied some sort of bandaid to go through the separation process, take it off once you’re on the other side. Just accept that you can try a new relationship. Open up. Many people are still keeping those bandaids well before the separation process ended.
If you take that bandaid off, the scar will be exposed. It’s ok. You may be hit again. That’s also ok. But at least you’ll spot the symptoms sooner and extract yourself from that process faster. You’ll clearly see that what you thought is real is just a bunch of lies you’re telling to yourself. And that will give you time to experiment other situations, other persons, other relationships.
2. Practice Awareness
This is the process of understanding who is thinking what. Most of the times we live in the space of “I’m thinking that”. But is it always true? As our ball of bandaids is heading, inertially, in a direction that’s determined mostly by the way bandaids are laid out on its surface, it’s also true that “this is thinking me”. It’s like we’re “pushed” to repeat the same situation over and over again.
Well, awareness means understanding how these situations are created by previously engrained patterns. And also understanding what exactly should be done, what parts of the bandaids can be removed, so the ball will change direction. It really takes just a bit of attention. The trick is to maintain the attention at the same level, constantly, all the time.
3. Different Circus, Different Monkeys
You know that saying: “not my circus, not my monkeys”? Well, it happens more often than you’d think. As you go along, you’ll realize that the bandaid that helped you go through yesterday’s problem is not going to help you with tomorrow’s challenge. And you’ll also understand there’s really no need to keep it there for ever. Better get slimmer, and more flexible, for the next circus, with the next monkeys.
Truth to be told, nobody can see the world as you see it. And nobody knows the stories building your reality.
So every time you see some advice about how not to believe your own lies, you have all the rights in the world to be outraged (I told you so). It’s ok not to believe such advice.
Starting with this one, obviously.