Did you ever get lost in the spiraling your own thoughts can do? When they put your mind on a roller coaster that finally has the capacity to fragment something you have been so sure off? That can put you out at sea in the storm with no captain on board and no compass to find your way?
Sounds slightly familiar? Well, let me be the first to confess I tend to get trapped in this sort of dilemma, especially when it’s about something that – or rather someone who – is important to me.
Let me give an example.
A while ago I met a person. We had a brief chat, brief but intense in a way. In this short span of time, while I acutally lived the moment, I was very sure of certain things like that there was some mutual sympathy, a few feelings about the other one’s character, a certain understanding for what happened… The usual things we grab with our senses while we talk to someone. Things that are communicated by gestures, the color of the voice, facial expressions, attitude, the general atmosphere that cushions the conversation.
During the weeks that followed I thought about the encounter every now and then. In between small things happened. Nothing that indicated that I had been all wrong in my perceptions. No, basically there was some contact that should have assured me but it didn’t. On the contrary, the more time passed the more I was doubting everything I had been so sure off.
So, how could that happen?
I think it’s as simple as that: Judgement got in the way and fragmented my experience. Sounds complicated? It isn’t. Basically, it’s what happens to all of us all of the time and what tends to complicate relationships.
When we experience something, the moment we are in it, there is no filtering by thoughts. We live the encounter, we take in every nuance with our senses. We listen, we talk, we smell, we taste, we feel. Meanwhile our brain processes lots of information in nanoseconds. In this moment it is an experience. Just this, pure and simple.
Later, when we think about it (and when it was important we always do), we start to judge our experience. We look at things from different angles, question this and that, try perspectives, start to doubt, set our minds to find out if we understood correctly, if it meant this or that… As we do that the experience grows pale and sometimes even starts to fade while judgement claims more light and raises its voice. What once was clear, what we were so sure about slips out of our hands and makes us feel insecure.
Sometimes we even make it worse by asking others who have been bystanders. They, for sure, experienced the whole encounter differently and by now have come to their own judgement. If they tell us that, we are even more shaken and don’t know what to think and believe anymore unless we are one of those rare humans who are always sure of themselves (and while this should make life easier, I’m not convinced it turns us into someone likeable).
So, how can we get out of this? What is the solution to that? Is there any? Can we escape coming to conclusions tainted by assumptions based on unrelated experiences, fears, hopes and even old hurts?
To know about that trap might not prevent us from walking right into it but then at least we are able to recognize it fast. Maybe we can learn to hold on to experience and to not listen to that inner voice of judgement. If we keep the experience itself alive in full color and dressing, if we return to the feeling instead of to the thoughts that danced around them and had them chained in their net, we stand a chance for less misunderstandings and better relationships.