I’m going through old issues of Harvard Business Review to make sure I read all the articles before I get rid of the magazines, and I came across an article about how metaphors have real influence on our actions and perceptions.
That’s excellent news, because I love metaphors.
One part of the article discussed a study, from CUHK and Peking University, which evaluated strangers sitting next to each other on the train.
They concluded that if I, for example, get on the train and choose to sit next to a stranger, it’s because I perceive a level of attraction to that stranger.
By contrast, if I’m sitting on the train and a stranger sits next to me, I perceive that the stranger is invading my boundaries and constricting my freedom, and subconsciously I go on the defensive, sure that the stranger will continue to assert their authority over my space.
Have you ever been in that situation, literally or figuratively? *
It’s very frustrating to think, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Didn’t sign up for this weight. Didn’t sign up for this seat partner. Didn’t sign up for these food allergies. Didn’t sign up for this chronic dieting. Didn’t sign up for this calorie counting. Didn’t sign up for low energy. Didn’t sign up for depression. Didn’t sign up for this job. Didn’t sign up for this kind of marriage. Didn’t sign up for these terrible friends. Didn’t sign up for it to be so HARD!
Like the stranger on the train, these symptoms are pushing into your space, invading your borders, piercing your boundaries. Now you have to fight to maintain control. Because if you don’t, if you yield, the outcome is uncertain. (But it’s probably destruction and death, right?)
But is that true? Can you really be sure of a terrible outcome?
Trust is hard. Uncertainty sucks. Our instinct is to resist uncertainty, to shore up against it.
But uncertainty precedes wisdom. Rigidity blocks wisdom.
You DON’T always know the outcome. You DON’T always know what’s going to happen. And usually if you’re trying to control an outcome, you’re limiting it.
All we have are choices. And trust. And faith.
As Caroline Myss so beautifully states,
The truth contained within the paradoxical nature of dualism is this: It is not what we choose that matters; our power to influence an outcome lies in our reasons for making a certain choice.
So focus on reasons and motivation. Trust in yourself and your choices.
You’re on a train and someone sits next to you. Obviously there are 200 other seats this person could have chosen, but now you’re the one stuck sharing a seat. What are your choices? Stay? Go? Chat? Fume? What are your reasons?
You’re tired. You’re hungry, but you don’t have much food in the house, so you eat ice cream for dinner. That was your choice. What are your reasons? What are your reactions? Can you believe that this ice cream was the absolute perfect choice for you when you were feeling sick? That dairy is the very essence of mother’s milk, of being cared for, of safety? Can you trust that no matter the outcome, you made the best choice for you and your body in that moment? Can you revel and enjoy that ice cream, trusting that it is nourishing you?
Because the truth is, there’s nothing wrong with you.
Another truth is that healing is very often a complete mystery. We don’t know what the proper length of time for a symptom is. Can you respect that there’s a deeper wisdom that does healing?
You don’t have a food issue. You have a control issue. You have a trust issue. You are an incredible human being, and you make excellent choices.
Stay present. Stay embodied. It will all be fine, beyond your wildest dreams.
* If we ever go out for drinks I’ll tell you about the time I was on a train and ended up sitting next to a bookie for the mob (he chose me). It was a very enlightening trip; I learned what happened to people who stole from the mob. Hint: they “run away with their girlfriends.” (That’s a euphemism.) He also turned out to be an excellent book and movie discussion partner, and a friendly face to give me directions when I went the wrong way out of the train station.