July 27, 2011

What's the Meaning of This!? Part 2

Last week, I shared the concept that we are all meaning making machines. Today, as promised, I’ll share the four steps for challenging the interpretations you come up with in response to something someone does or says. But, before we get to the how, let’s spend a little time on the why?

The first reason to begin challenging our initial meanings is because, more often than not, we are reinforcing old neuronal pathways rather than accurately interpreting the situation. This keeps us locked in patterns of thought that prevent us from connecting with others or experiencing new things. Secondly, when we solely trust our interpretation, we are not only deciding for ourselves but for the other person as well what is going on. This stifles connection and communication – no good.

Okay, on to the good stuff…

A client of mine recently shared with her husband that she wanted to travel more. The husband responded by saying he needed to do some research before he could make a decision. Immediately, my client made it mean that he wasn’t willing to change or make sacrifices for her, which reinforced one of her other false beliefs, “I have to do everything on my own.” Uh oh! She’s fallen into meaning making, reinforced a false belief, and now, created a frame with which she’ll return to the conversation with him about traveling (in other words, next time the topic comes up, she’ll already be set to interpret what he does/says as further evidence that he won’t make changes or sacrifices for her). So, now comes the work of challenging the meaning.

The first step is to identify the bare bone facts of what happened – strip away emotions, interpretations. So, in the example above, what happened is, “He said he needed to do more research.” Period, end of story. This is a critical first step because it forces you to step away from your meanings and play close attention to just what was done or said. As Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

The next step is to figure out what you made it mean. Usually, being quiet for less than a minute will allow the false belief to bubble up to the surface. The meaning in this story was, “He’s not willing to change or sacrifice for me.” Often times, the meaning we come up with in one situation shows up in lots of circumstances. So, more globally, my client has a general false belief that “People won’t change or sacrifice for me.” If it’s important to you, spending some time reflecting to identify the first time you had this thought will give you some insight as to when this particular meaning was “born”, but it’s not a necessary step.

Now it’s time to challenge the initial interpretation by looking for other possible explanations. Ellis, recall his Rational Emotive Theory I mentioned last week, would describe this as “disputing the belief.” In this example, my client and I brainstormed some other possibilities – “He needs more information before he can make a decision – after all, his personality type is such that he does look for facts and details before making decisions”, “He’s nervous about traveling more since it’s not as comfortable for him, so he needs to read more to feel solid about his decision”, “He was watching football and just wanted to get me out of the way.” You see, there are a ton of different interpretations – all of which are possible (and, by the way, her initial interpretation is also a possibility). What’s important to notice at this step is that the initial interpretation is not the end all, be all interpretation, which creates room for the false belief to be challenged. In doing so, by challenging the initial false belief, you are actually weakening the neuronal connection rather than reinforcing it! This opens the door to new behavioral and emotional consequences (the final step in Ellis’ theory).

With this understanding about what you were making the other person’s words or actions mean, it’s time to get into a conversation about it. By going to her husband and sharing what she had made his response mean, she is giving him the opportunity to share more about what’s really going on for him and to get on the same page. This step is often the hardest, because we are revealing a bit of ourselves. Additionally, it’s within the realm of possibility that her husband could say that she’s right, he doesn’t want to change for her. Well, him saying it out loud will be much harder to deal with than to just have the thought running around in her mind, right? Actually, if your goal is to lead an authentic, fully expressed life, being clear about what the people who you are closely connected to want is crucial!

Disclaimer!: I’m not advising you to ignore or completely distrust your interpretations. I am advising you to hit the pause button and check in with yourself. For example, if someone says they are going to call and they don’t – you may initially make it mean something like, “I’m not worth their time.” In that moment, do the steps to shut down the meaning making machine. If it’s the fifth time that the person has failed to follow through, well now, it’s time to notice that you’re initial interpretation might not be so far off the mark. The only way to find out though is, again, to have a conversation. You may find that they have indeed been avoiding calling you because they’re not so interested in continuing the relationship or you might find they’ve lost their job and so are avoiding any social interactions. It’s very important that, if it is the former, you don’t globalize the experience to mean “I’m not worth anyone’s time.” That’s a false belief that will cause lots of trouble if allowed to take root.

So, the next time someone says or does something – particularly if you have a high emotional response to it – pause, take a moment to do the steps outlined above and see if there is a meaning you’re making that needs to be challenged.

P.S. My amazing "4 Free Sessions" deal for all new clients ENDS THIS FRIDAY! Don’t miss this opportunity to sign up or share coaching with someone you know. Schedule a FREE Discovery Session today to get started.

July 25, 2011

Recording of Introductory Call Now Available!

This past Saturday, Abigail and I conducted the introductory call for Building Bridges to, and Communicating from Authentic Self. We had a great time and are happy to share this recording with anyone who is interested. Listen to the call!

Read more about the upcoming teleseminar and register soon!:

A unique teleseminar workshop, developed and taught by:

 Abigail DeSoto, Transformational Coach & Psychosynthesis Guide,
Rachel Grant, Trauma Recovery & Relationship Coach

Together they bring over a quarter century’s experience accompanying people to living happier, more authentic and fulfilled lives.

During this two-day workshop, we will explore how we can be the most we can be in life, as well as the thoughts and patterns that keep us from authenticity and our deepest desires.

August 6th & 13th, 9am PST/12pm EST/6pm Continental Europe time

Early Bird Registration (before July 27th): $35
Registration after July 27th: $50           
Sessions will be available for audio downloading. Even if you can't make the calls, register and you will receive the recordings.

We will explore a tried and true process in psychosynthesis which helps clear a channel to tune into authentic self…the sense of who we truly are, beyond concepts, roles or other blocks. We’ll also explore what calls to us in life, and how we can step into our mission or highest calling. To do this we need to explore and practice communication skills that facilitate living this powerful and thriving life!

Before we can open to authentic self, we need to clear away the ‘debris’ of self-defeating or belittling beliefs in areas such as:
  • What we believe we are… in either limited or over-idealized ways.
  • What we believe we ‘should’ be or what we would like to appear to be in the eyes of others.
  • What others project on to us as to what they say or think we are.
We will explore the effect of “survival personalities” conditioned from childhood wounding. Only after exploring one’s psychological make-up and past conditioning, embracing our foibles with love, recognizing our talents and strengths, is authentic self free to emerge…. Self is always present, but often covered over with hardened beliefs and fears about who we think we are.
Carpe diem!  Sign up today. Places are limited!

Transformational Coach and Psychosynthesis Guide, published author, and creator of YinDance Your Inner Dance ™, Abigail has worked internationally over 15 years with clients who are dedicated to “seeing through the illusion”… people who choose to experience authenticity because they understand we are more than our egos with a never-ending parade of needs and fears. These ‘delusions’ are what trap us in a small sense of self. To experience authentic Self, we need to step up and out in life into a larger concept of who we are, to dare to remove the layers of supposed protection, our many masks… which ultimately cut us off from experience of true Self.

Rachel is a Trauma Recovery & Relationship coach. Based on her desire to foster community, intimacy, and connection, Rachel has dedicated much of her time to understanding relationships and communication. For her, how we relate to others is crucial to improving the overall quality of our lives. She developed her Trauma Recovery & Relationship coaching programs based on her learning and personal insights and has been successfully working with clients for the past four years. Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. With this training in human behavior and cognitive development, she provides a distinct perspective and approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models.

July 20, 2011

What's the Meaning of This!? Part 1

“We are all meaning making machines”

I first heard this description of how we humans work six years ago at a workshop I was attending. Today, when I Googled it, I got over 5 million results! Clearly this is an idea that has been floating around and changing the way people interact with each other and frame their experiences for some time. This certainly was the case for me, so let’s break it down and figure out exactly what being a “meaning making machine” means.

We are wired to automatically assign a meaning or interpretation to each experience we have. Whether in response to something someone does or says, we have a craving to explain why things have gone the way they have. This happens without a conscious effort on our part, but takes root and influences the way we feel and react before we even know what meaning we’ve come up with.

Albert Ellis, a psychologist, developed his theory of Rational Emotive Behavior in 1955. According to his theory, we develop irrational beliefs during childhood that influence our feelings and behavior then and later in life. On a neurological level, the “meanings” are often the same in many situations because an old pathway that was wired long ago is “lit up.” For example, perhaps a teacher chastised you for a wrong answer in front of the class when you were younger. Ellis would call this the “actual or activating event.” As a way to explain why that happened, you make it mean or develop the irrational belief, “I’m not smart.” Years later, a boss criticizes your ideas and the meaning you assign is – you got it – “I’m not smart.” As a result, you may feel inferior, inept, lose confidence or avoid taking on new projects (the emotional and behavioral consequences are in full swing!).

We do need interpretations in order to navigate the world and our experiences. However, more often than not, our first interpretation or meaning has much more to do with our own history, baggage, fears, false beliefs than with what is actually going on. As I’ve written about before, the mind likes to reinforce the pathways that are already wired and resists creating new ones. So, when we find ourselves experiencing something that is familiar, the mind likes to go straight to the interpretation that is already wired rather than make an effort to do something different.

So, how do you turn off the meaning making machine instead of greasing the wheels? Well, the bad news is you can’t – we are wired this way. However, you can decrease the frequency with which your negative meanings get first priority and decrease how long you stay “stuck” in a meaning once you notice that’s what you’re up to. But how?

Next week, I’ll share the four steps to challenging the meaning making machine (now, don’t go making the delay mean I don’t care enough to share it now or that I’m just teasing you into returning!). Between now and then, you can get started by noting the meanings you make in different situations. I encourage you to jot them down. Most of us have a few top meanings – our go-to meanings – that will show up over and over again. Creating a list of meanings that keep popping up will help you hone in on the main false beliefs that have taken root and that will require the most work to challenge.

If you’d like to learn more about how coaching can support you in shutting down your meaning making machine, I encourage you to schedule a free 30 minute Discovery Session!

P.S. I'm still running my "4 Free Sessions" deal for all new clients. If we decide to work together, your first four sessions are free - no strings attached! This offer ENDS AUGUST 1st – so don’t miss this opportunity to sign up or share coaching with someone you know.

Sign up for my free guide so you can stop spinning your wheels and instead navigate your way through each stage of recovery with ease and clarity. Get the support you need today