Being honest can be scary, right?
Do you avoid telling your partner or friend how you feel because you’re worried you won’t say it right and end up hurting their feelings? Or worse still, they’ll fly off the handle and throw things? Who wants to deal with the drama, right?
My wife Ange is fiery. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her. She’s an amazing woman. I have such admiration for her, but, she’s fiery so I have to pick my time carefully if I have to bring up something that I know is sensitive and might cause a reaction.
But it’s not just Ange’s reaction I worry about. I also worry about whether I’m going to say the right words. Am I going to be able to clearly articulate exactly how I feel in a loving way? Am I going to get the outcome I want? What if I say the wrong thing, or I don’t say something in the right way and Ange misunderstands my meaning? I don’t want to hurt her.
Okay, so I’m still worried about Ange’s reaction.
What happens when you bottle things up?
When our feelings are exposed we feel vulnerable and it’s hard to find the right words at that moment. My pattern is I tend to let things slide, little by little. Ange might say or do something that triggers my feelings in some way, but I let it slide. I choose my battles. I might feel a little slighted, sure, but I can handle it, I can rise above it. I’ve got this. It’s all good…
The little triggers don’t seem important enough for me to confront with Ange, and actually, with most people I have a relationship with. It’s a pattern of behaviour, after all. I’m also trying to avoid feeling the pain of what Ange or someone else might feel, think or say. I want just the good bits. I want the pleasure and not the pain. I want the plus but not the minus.
Do you know the other part of this pattern of mine? All the little things I’ve been telling myself I’ve let slide, it turns out I haven’t really let slide. They’ve been quietly accumulating, building, burning, swelling underneath.
Until one day, Ange might say or do the slightest thing, and I unleash the beast!
Everything I’ve wanted to say comes out of my mouth like vomit, like an emotional vomit dam has burst and made a stinky mess of the living room. All the feelings I’ve pushed down and tried to avoid are now displayed in the most unarticulated way (my worst fears made manifest). I rant and rave and carry on. I get everything out that I’ve wanted to say since the time the last vomit dam burst.
Which of course leaves Ange completely perplexed and unable to comprehend what has just happened.
“What did I say? What did I do? I don’t understand why you’re reacting this way.”
Of course she doesn’t. Why would she? How could she possibly know? She sure as hell couldn’t make sense of the vomit rant.
Did you notice what happened?
I avoided confronting my wife because I was worried that she would react badly. In my mind, all I could picture was me not getting the words right and Ange getting fiery.
And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
But what if I pictured things another way?
Our brain can change the future!
Have you ever heard of the Recticular Activation System, or RAS? It’s this cool part of our brain (at the base), that acts as a filter against all the “data” around us.
By data I mean everything we hear, taste, see and touch. It doesn’t include what we smell since our smell activates the part of our brain that deals with emotion.
There can be up to 2,000,000 bits of data at any one time for our RAS to process and filter. After all, how much can we handle all at once, right? That’s why the RAS is so cool. It filters out anything it decides isn’t important, and lets in the things it thinks we need.
So how does the RAS know what’s important? How does it know what to filter out and what to let in?
This is the key to everything!
The RAS works out what’s important by what we focus on most.
Have you noticed people who say, “I’m not very confident” are not very confident?
Or what about people who say, “I can’t lose weight”. Notice they can’t actually lose weight?
In the case of my pattern of bottling things up because I think there’ll be drama afterwards, or that my words won’t come out right, that’s exactly what ends up happening. My RAS keeps showing me what I already think is true and therefore what I think is true becomes a stronger and stronger belief.
Your RAS will show you things to prove what you say or think is true. It will filter every other completely possible potential out, and give you what you tell it is important – what you focus and think about.
The more proof you see, the stronger your belief that it is true. The stronger your belief is, the more you’re likely to tell yourself that story. Do you see how round and round it goes?
Now that I know how my Recticular Activation System works, I’ve been practicing focusing, or visualising a different outcome when I have to confront Ange, or anyone I know I have to have a slightly uncomfortable conversation with.
Don’t avoid uncomfortable conversations. They are a vital part of any authentic and enriching relationship. Tell your partner or your friend how you feel.
If you’re worried about whether you’re going to say the right words or start world war III, take some time beforehand to visualise the outcome you want. Tell yourself that the right words will come with love and the person you’re talking to will hear the intention behind your words and be grateful for your honesty. Picture the harmony and deeper connection that will follow once you’ve shared what’s on your heart.
You can practice this in every single situation. It doesn’t have to be around tough conversations. It can be around creating wealth, landing that amazing job, or going on that big holiday you’ve had on your bucket list.
Remember, your RAS only discriminates based on what you tell it to, both consciously and unconsciously.
What you focus on truly grows.
Live your life inspired!
Being aware is the first crucial step for meaningful change.
Bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Discover how your inner thoughts might be affecting your outer reality.