This post is is about how quickly, easily and effectively the mind goes to work to convince us of its fantasies. It describes how believable and how persuasive its constructs are and what we can do to rectify things.
On 6th April I posted the journal entry, ‘Praise Myself’. For quite a while, prior to posting it, I debated with myself whether or not I should publish such an open and personal entry. I wanted to have the courage to do so and thought the entry definitely had its place in this blog, but still I was apprehensive.
I published it early in the morning and then went to my Dutch class. When I returned I checked my emails and found one about a funeral which had been on my mind a lot. The whole subject had been bothering me for some days and affecting my entire mood. When I read the email I felt irritated, annoyed. Then I opened facebook and read the status of one of my friends who had simply written, ‘Praising yourself is crazy‘.
That was it, I was immediately angry. Immediately. After all the worry about posting the entry and the email about the funeral, here was an attack on what I had written. Worse, it was a public attack. Why couldn’t she just have sent me an email? I was livid, and feeling extremely confrontational.
I mailed a mutual friend asking him whether he interpreted her status in the same way. I did this as if there were an alternative explanation. But how could there be? And all the while I was going through revenge scenarios in my head. She’s being deliberately provocative, I thought. If she wants a fight she’s picked on the wrong man. (See this post for another example of a similar reaction.)
An hour later I received a phone call from the mutual friend. He could not explain her status update but he did tell me she was thinking of setting up her own website for her freelance work and had been struggling with the difficult subject of having to publicise herself. Okay, I thought, that could make sense; so to connect with her I posted a simple comment on her status update and included the link to the blog entry. I was no longer angry, but I was still suspicious, and far from calm.
That afternoon I received an email from the girl complimenting me on my blog entry. You’d think that would be the end of it, but my mind had one or two cards still to play: ‘Maybe she only wrote that email because our mutual friend had told her of the impact of her status update.‘ I phoned the mutual friend, who told me he had done nothing of the kind.
Still my mind wouldn’t give in: ‘Maybe he’s lying.‘ So then I had a choice. I could believe my mind which was telling me one friend was out to publicly humiliate me whilst another friend was lying to me. Or, I could believe the scenario that someone close to me was struggling with a similar issue to me and that we could help each other, whilst our mutual friend was doing a great job of supporting us both.
And that is a choice we always have. Believe the constructs of our mind and immediately create a whole scenario around it with conflicts, confrontations and emotional conclusions. Or calmly gather the facts, look at the evidence, consider the possibilities and choose to believe in the good in the world.
As it transpired, posting that original entry taught me more than I could have imagined and, when I think back to the internal dialogue I had prior to publishing it, I see that, even there, I had to overcome the constructs of my mind.