Ever been so engrossed in a movie that you were reluctant for it to end? When you walk out of the theater, rubbing your eyes to adjust to the bright sunlight, you forget to clear the inner filters that have now invisibly been added in or modified. Unless you have trained yourself to be vigilant to these effects, in all likelihood, you will miss the contribution they make to your daily dose of frustration, disappointment and poor, unconscious choices.
What starts out like a dream sequence from a Yash Chopra movie, soon seems to turn into an incomprehensible, dull, monotonous, confused, stifling partnership. The picture perfect locations are replaced with the grime of the city and the romantic dates make way for routine, monosyllabic dinners. One begins to question whether this was love in the first place, if this was “The One” and why life is so boring/difficult/unhappy/routine/etc… Knowingly or unknowingly, convinced that this is not the ‘soul mate’ relationship you secretly yearned for, you start looking for another actor to play the role you have written in your mind. (Often without even questioning what you bring to the table other than your fantasy version of things). And the cycle continues. Through one heartbreak after the other.
It is almost as though life seems to begin where the movie ends. After the candy floss romance, when the real business of living together, accommodating each other through sickness, health, finances, careers, relatives and the sheer routine of living starts – the star cast wants to become the audience and leave.
Unfortunately, the above is not an uncommon or exaggerated generalization, but the story I hear repeatedly from clients who come wondering at what went wrong. The last client who came with this disappointed Mills and Boon theme said that there should have been some warnings along the way: Not to take the fairy tales too seriously. She had not realized the extent to which she had been influenced by the media’s version of things.
The voices in our head are not only the authority figures we grew up with. Like it or not, however cynical you may feel you are, we are constantly bombarded by these larger than life images and ideas throughout our life. One senior advertising executive once told me, “If you repeat milk is black often enough, people will begin to see it that way.” The modern world is inundated with audio-visuals and texts that can take their toll.
Take another example:
You watch these fantastic television serials depicting super efficient teams of emergency personnel responding to a crisis with methodical efficiency. They seem to know everything, have all the right solutions on hand and invariably demonstrate a reassuring handling of the situation. So the rare occasion on which you have to rush someone to the hospital, when you find the ambulance is stuck somewhere, and you have to struggle through the traffic only to find the endless delays at the hospital, the prolonged waiting for action (sometimes for due reason, but never explained on t.v.) and overall face a growing sense of alarm and frustration at why things have not gone smoothly, it is unlikely that you are going to think of what shaped your expectations.
But I can tell you from personal experience that when I learned not to carry this picture perfect, fictional version of how things are supposed to be in my mind, I became calmer and more resilient to what reality had to offer. The power of this change in awareness is not something to be taken lightly. These misleading and unrealistic expectations are a significant contributor to the stress and helplessness that we face.
Whether it be tragedy, heroism, activism, romance or any other genre of your choice, you may frequently find that our own lives bear no similarity to the points of reference we are unconsciously measuring things to. While I am a great fan of all forms of art and drama, I believe it is useful to be mindful of their influence.
We need to become more conscious of the stories we are scripting in our life. For this, we first need to remember that the same words and frameworks mean completely different things to different people. Have you ever studied your own inner language? Inquire into what some key words really mean to you personally – what you expect them to look like in your personal life – success, failure, love, soul mate, marriage, commitment, romance, forgiveness, health, fitness, wellness, spiritual growth… Ideally, one should have a clear awareness in all matters, but to begin with, at least examine your definitions in the area you are facing a challenge in. Whether that be your vocation, relationship or health. You may find that your definitions, archetypes and role models are what cause your confusion, repeating patterns or regrets. Articulating these is only the first step to freeing ourselves from their hold.
Would you then be willing to engage with the reality of your own life?
To drop all the known and unknown benchmarks of comparison and meet life as it is happening right now?
To see people as they are being right now?
To meet yourself and others wherever they are on their journey right now?
How much peace and joy would become available to you by doing this?
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