How many times have you anticipated the worst-case scenario because of a past experience that gutted you?
It happens to all of us: A traumatic event brings us to our knees, and we condition ourselves into a state of fear. We expect that incident to happen again. We even tell people that’s who we are. It becomes a vicious cycle, and ten, twenty years down the road, these events begin to shape us into a memorized set of behaviors, emotional reactions, unconscious habits, hardwired attitudes. If you think about it analytically, these attitudes begin to function like a computer program. Even though you may start doing your “I am…” recitations—“I am healthy,” “I want to be free,” “I am happy”—you’re doing them with your conscious mind. Something has happened that has rocked your world, and remember, your subconscious mind is separate from your conscious analytical mind. All of this trauma is hardwired into your body and affects how you believe you are supposed to think, feel, and react to a situation.
Think about it: You find out your spouse is cheating on you. He was the love of your life, married for twenty-plus years, and you had dreams and plans together. You wanted to travel, see the world. You shared everything personal, your thoughts, your hopes. It was a blindside, and you found out when he sat you down and said, “I’m leaving because I’m in love with someone else.” Now you’re sitting there in that chair, and maybe your ears are ringing as you feel the floor soften beneath your feet. The world as you know it has changed in a few seconds, and you’re devastated, feeling betrayed and hurt—the kind of emotions that gut you and bring you to your knees. That kind of breach of trust can bring everything in your world crashing down around you.
To make it worse, you worked together at his company, so now you’re out of a job. You realize your coworkers knew. Maybe one of them sympathizes and stops by for a drink, coffee, tea, and they say to you, “But we all knew… How could you not know? We saw it. What do you think they were doing when they went out together for those lunches, those meetings behind closed doors?” You just stare in horror, feeling as if someone has taken a butcher knife and stabbed you in the back, right through to the heart. Now you’re second-guessing everything in your life. It’s not just that your trust was burned; it’s that your whole world as you knew it was a lie. Your happy place has been ripped away, and all you want to do is crawl into bed, pull the covers over your head, and cry.
The stronger your emotion and reaction to a situation, the more energy and focus your brain devotes to that cause. It takes a picture and files it away, and that’s called a memory. Then there’s your reaction to the event: crying, swearing, depressed. If it lasts for days, it’s called a mood. Your friends ask why you’re not your happy self, and you have to reply that your world just came crashing down. If it goes on for weeks or months, it becomes a temperament. You become bitter. And when you let it go on for years on end, it becomes a personality trait. Ideally, you want to shorten that period. Unfortunately, what most of us do is recall that emotion. The stress hormones pop up, and you live in survival mode. It acts like a warning: Pay attention, or this could happen again. So you start to expect the worst because your husband cheated on you. You condition your body into a state of fear, and wham! Next, you’re having panic attacks.
If someone asks you why you’re such an unhappy person, why you’re so mean to people, and why you say such awful, horrible things about men, you say, “I am this way because I once trusted a man, and look what happened.” Every time you recall the event, you produce the same emotional response in your body. The body believes and relives the experience. Those emotions affect and influence your thoughts, and you live in the past. The hardest part of change is not making the same choice you did yesterday. The moment you wake up and make a different choice, saying, “Okay, I’m not going to expect all men to be lying, cheating, dirty dogs,” guess what happens? It’s uncomfortable.
The emotion follows the thought. When it comes time to change, your body tells you that you’ve been doing this for twenty years, yet now you suddenly think you can stop being miserable and bitter, blaming others, suffering, making excuses, or feeling sorry for yourself because you’re still alone? Your body says, Whoa, wait a second. Being happy is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I need to return to the familiar. This is where procrastination starts. You say, “Today’s not a good day. I’ll start tomorrow.” You know tomorrow will never come. When it does, you say, “It happened to my mom and my sister. I’m too much like them, and I’m too old and set in my ways to change.” You pile on the excuses for why you need to stay miserable and unhappy and in this headspace. This isn’t going to work for you. It doesn’t feel right.
If you respond to that thought, it leads to the same experiences, the same heartache, the same emotion repeating over and over and over. If you sit down and start thinking about the worst-case scenario, you feel the emotion of that event. Say you’ve met someone new. You’re dating him, and you really like him, but then you get that feeling that he’s cheating on you. You really believe it, because you expect it, because lying and cheating are what you attract. You relive that emotion of ten or twenty years ago, and your body doesn’t know the difference between that event and the imagined scenario today.
Someone recently said to me, “There are assholes everywhere. Just don’t expect everyone to be one.” When it comes time for you to kick that emotion to the curb because you’re damn determined not to live that way anymore, you find that the body is stronger than the mind. How many people like the unknown? Not many, because it’s a scary place. You return to the familiar, the guilt, the sense of betrayal, the anger, because it’s predictable. The best way to predict your future is to create it by closing your eyes and mentally rehearsing what you want to feel, what you want to have. You start feeling that new event replace the old. You shape what you want every single day as if it has happened.
That new event becomes a new computer program hardwired into you. We can’t wait for something outside to change something inside us—like waiting for a new guy to show up and show you that all men aren’t cheaters. Well, you have to create it. You may be living in lack, living just to get by, but the moment you start feeling abundant and worthy and loved is the moment you start feeling whole and your healing begins. It’s the difference between living as a victim and switching that around to become a creator of your own reality.
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