We sometimes create what we fear

This is a classic from literature and psychology: We sometimes create what we fear.

EXAMPLES

Here are a few examples:

We fear not being supported, so we push people away before they have a chance to support us. We expect them to not support us, so we get angry and push them away before they can disprove our story.

We fear and expect not to be understood. So we don’t put real effort into being understood, which increases the chances of people not understanding us. We give up sooner than we would have if we didn’t have that issue.

We fear not being accepted so we people-please. This may lead people to keep some distance from us since they notice we are not completely authentic. It makes us question if we are really accepted by others since we present a somewhat fake facade to them. People-pleasing also means we set aside our own needs, which means we won’t feel completely accepted since we don’t fully accept ourselves, we don’t accept and take our own needs seriously.

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

When these dynamics happen, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We set the stage to prove to ourselves that what the issue is telling us is true. It maintains the issue. And it feels familiar and even safe to us because we stay in the same familiar loop.

We reduce the risk of having life disprove what the issue tells us, and get into unfamiliar identities.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

It’s often a circular dynamic. We grew up with certain family dynamics, internalized these, act as if our fearful beliefs are true and our identity around it is who we are, set the stage to get our fears confirmed, and increase our chances for just that happening. We recreate the dynamics we are familiar with, even if they are painful.

Another side of this has to do with motivation and skills. If we are used to not being heard and understood, or not being taken seriously, we may feel hopeless about being heard and understood so we give up early in the process, and we may not develop the necessary skills to be properly heard and understood.

INVITATION FOR HEALING

There is a healing impulse in this, and an invitation for healing.

We get to face our fears more often. The invitation here is to get more familiar with it and perhaps see it’s not quite as terrible as our more catastrophic stories about it. We may even learn to navigate this particular terrain a bit better.

More importantly, we get to face our issue and how it plays out in our life. We are invited to identify and explore the issue and what’s behind it, and find a resolution for it. Life shows us what’s going on and we have an opportunity to do something about it.

OTHER WAYS IT PLAYS OUT IN THE WORLD…

The self-fulfilling dynamic is just one way these issues can play out.

For instance, we may have a fear of not being understood, so we go to great lengths to be understood. Here, we are setting the stage for another experience. We may still have the issue, but we act against it.

It’s healthier in some ways, although it does come with its own challenges. For instance, the stress of the issue is still there. Also, our behavior tends to have a compulsive quality which can lead to ill-considered actions and pushback from others.

AND EVEN THEN LIVING THIS PATTERN

Even here, we are actually living the self-fulfilling prophecy although in a less visible way.

In the example above, we don’t fully understand ourselves. We haven’t completely understood the issue and what it’s about, so we are acting on our habitual way of relating to it.

Similarly, if our issue is to not be supported and we make sure we have plenty of support in our life, we are still living the self-fulfilling prophecy. We are not properly supporting ourselves. If we did, we wouldn’t need to compulsively seek support in the world. If we did, we would resolve the issue.

And as mentioned above, if our issue is not feeling seen, heard, and understood, we may make a great deal of effort in being seen, heard, and understood. This helps our life in the world, but we are not really hearing, seeing, and understanding ourselves. To do so would mean thoroughly exploring the issue and through that finding a resolution for it.

We give to ourselves what we are looking for in the world, and that’s the real medicine for healing.

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I miss out because believe I am missing out

Our beliefs and identities tend to be self-fulfilling. We perceive through the filter of these beliefs and identities. We act as if they are true. And, to some extent, we get the consequences as if they are true.

For instance, one of my core beliefs is of missing out. I am missing out.

If I get caught up in that belief and the feelings that come with it – sadness, grief, hopelessness – then I’ll be less engaged. I’ll be less active in seeking out what I want. And that means I’ll miss out. I believe I miss out, so I miss out.

Visualizations

In my daily life, I am often reminded of the practical effects of visualization. In short, they help organize my mind and actions at many levels and align them with a certain outcome, making that outcome more likely.

I have written about the specifics of this in other posts, although I can repeat some of them: At the mind, emotional and behavioral levels, there is a reorganization and realignment with the content of the visualization, making it more likely to happen. Obstacles at the mind and emotional levels tend to be reduced or go away. I look for small steps in daily life to bring me in the direction of what is visualized. I find more easily in my self and my life the qualities I visualize. I look for opportunities, and are more likely to recognize and grasp them when they arise. I actively engage in behaviors which brings me closer to the outcome. And of course, the more vivid the visualization, the more it seem real here and now, the more all of this tends to happen.

It is interesting to note that this is a process that happens anyway, all the time for most or all of us. We visualize something in the future, and it tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy for us. Often, we don’t realize that this is what is going on. And if we do, may take the specifics of the visualization as inevitable, or something outside of our control. When I consciously visualize, I am just using a process that is there all along, whether I notice it or not, and whether I consciously interact with it or not.

The process of visualization is a tool, and as any tool it can be used for many different purposes and in many different ways. Mainly, it can be used as part of a spiritual practice, as an aid for awakening, it can be used to change the conditions of my inner life, and it can be used to make something happen in my life in the world. Either of those are fine.

Tibetan Buddhism is probably most sophisticated, and at least most complex, in how they use it as an aid for changes in the inner life, and ultimately awakening. But even theistic traditions use visualizations, for instance through prayer. I visualize Christ in my prayers and contemplations, and it inevitably has an effect on me. I bring some of the qualities I see in Christ into my own life. The visualization becomes a reminder of what is possible here now.

And then there is of course those using it to either feel better, for instance visualizing themselves as happy, or to get something in their outer life, for instance a new job, a partner, or more money.

In either case, it is good to keep it all in perspective. Visualizations are about getting something that appears to not already be here, so it is easy to get into the trap of a sense of split here, to identify closely with seeking mind and not finding ourselves so often as non-seeking mind. So it can be good to ask ourselves a few questions. What happens when I believe I need this in my life? What will change if I have it in my life? Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here?

These questions may help us see and feel that nothing is really missing here and now. It is complete as it is. And yet, within that context, it is still fully possible to use visualizations for practical reasons. It remains one of many practical tools, although now not used to fill a hole in me or to get something I believe I really need.

Visualization is just one of many tools we use in daily life, and we tend to use it as we use all of the other tools.

If we believe we really need something that is not here, then any or all of the tools are used within that context. If we look for solutions that only benefit us or our small group, then the tools are used in that way. If we look for solutions that benefits ourselves and the larger whole, the big inclusive we, then they are requited for that purpose. If we notice that what we seem to need is already here, then they are used within that context.

Appearance of truth

When we believe a story, it is our mind’s job to make it appear true, and it does a pretty good job at it.

Some of the ways I notice this happens…

  • The mind looks for evidence, and selectively pick out that which supports the initial belief and leaves out (or explain away) that which counters it. The input is filtered.
  • Supporting beliefs are formed and maintained. New beliefs support the initial one.
  • Behaviors flow from beliefs, and these tend to create effects that appear to support the initial belief. Beliefs are sometimes self-fulfilling.
  • Beliefs have certain experiential effects, such as reactive emotions, muscle tension and shallow breath, and these may be taken as a confirmation that the belief is true. It feels true, so it must be true.

Say I believe that people shouldn’t lie.

I can find lots of evidence to support that belief, including people and philosophies who are in agreement. I can find lots of good reasons why people shouldn’t lie, including practical and ethical ones. I support people who speak honestly, and confront those who don’t, so there is a pleasant relationship with the former and an unpleasant one with the latter, which provides more proof for my belief. And whenever people lie, it feels awful, I get tense, sad, angry, reactive, which is just further proof that people shouldn’t lie.

Or I believe that life is hard.

I can easily find evidence for that in the world and my own life. People get sick, starve, are victims of violence, exposed to natural disasters, die, and much more. The news is full of examples, and evidence, for life being hard.

I have stories supporting the one of life being hard. We are all at the mercy of an uncaring universe. We are all tested in this school of life, and either pass or don’t. Life is red in tooth and claw.

I get so bogged down by believing that life is hard, and all the evidence and stories supporting it, that life really feels hard. Life gets hard with that belief. I also choose to not act on things that could make it easier, because what good would it do?

Believing life is hard makes it feel that way, I honestly experience life as hard, daily. Also, whenever people act as if life is not hard, I feel uncomfortable, and whenever life shows up in ways supporting the belief that life is hard I feel relief. And finally, that belief gives that familiar comfortable feel of being somber, honest, hard working, stoic, hard nosed, a realist, and maybe a victim. And all of those makes it feel true. Life is hard, because it feels that way.