Sometimes, life doesn’t seem to make any sense. Albert Einstein once said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Here’s the funny thing. We will say that line about someone else, have a good chuckle, and then DO THE SAME THING OURSELVES! This time, it’s not that funny, is it? I know. I’ve done it myself.
I will be sharing 3 examples of seemingly paradoxical behaviour from people who have been in my private practice. (Of course, I have changed the names and some of the demographics to respect their confidentiality).
- Tom complains about how he has never had any money and then proceeds to order in for the 4th time that week.
- Bev tells me how there are no more good men out there in the world. However, weeks later, she tells me about laughing flirtatiously when a guy was mocking other people at the party, and who is now mocking her laugh and some of her physical features.
- Alexa, a business owner, spends $3000 on a marketing course but then continues to spend too much time and charge too little for her services and never gets to the new clients she attracted with the marketing methods she learned with the course.
On the surface it would seem like these people are “insane” according to Einstein’s definition. But as I have seen in my psychotherapy practice for the last 12 years, these are not atypical stories. In fact, I have seen this seemingly contradictory behaviour in friends, family, colleagues and so many others that it cannot be insanity. It is indeed a human condition.
So, what the heck is going on here?
Well, things become a little clearer when you look below the surface. There are actually two different behaviours at work here. One, the subconscious, is acting on fears experienced years before, often in childhood. These subconscious behaviours and underlying fears are often maintained through life unless they are dealt with in adulthood. I call these patterns people’s psychological blind spots.
The other behaviour is based on what our rational conscious brain sees. It interprets what it sees or doesn’t see in the present moment and comes to a conclusion based on reason.
Now, let’s go back and review the 3 cases with these two different perspectives:
- Tom grew up seeing his parents constantly living on credit card debt for years and just complaining about it daily. He told me he was seriously afraid of ending up on the streets. As a child, buying something would temporarily distract him from his biggest fear. Tom’s conscious brain doesn’t see what the subconscious brain sees and rationalizes his overspending by saying, “Why shouldn’t I enjoy my life too?”
- Bev was often not even “seen” in her family of six siblings and she grew up believing that she was unlovable. She noticed that when she was dating someone, that fear was briefly abated. So, she subconsciously lowered her standards for the men she sought because any relationship was better than being alone, or so she thought. Bev’s conscious logical brain continues to rationalize or explain away “bad behaviour” early in her relationships. It says things like, he was short with me because he is under a lot of pressure at work.
- Alexa was deeply affected by her parents’ constant arguments and eventual divorce when she was seven years old. She felt responsible for their divorce and believed she just wasn’t good enough as she was. She noticed that when she did things for her father, he would briefly pay attention to her. So, she became the ‘Pleaser’ in the family. She grew up subconsciously feeling that she was unworthy when she wasn’t making someone else happy. This has carried over into her business relationships as she overextends herself and thereby, devalues herself with clients. On the other hand, her conscious brain tells her that she has to treat her clients well or they will tell others about her poor service.
So, now that you understand how to explain the seemingly contradictory behaviour, how do you reconcile these two radically different perspectives? What can you do about it when you get stuck and come up against a pattern you can’t seem to shake?
There is a new way to approach these challenges in life. I call it your True Self way. I define your True Self as the one you are in when you feel inner peace or fully engaged or in the flow. Your True Self sees its own strengths and weaknesses and accepts and loves all of itself. And it is able to be open and vulnerable enough to admit them. It is curious and connects well with others. It is your most balanced self. Everyone has moments when they are in their True Self. It does take practice to learn how to get into this state at will.
Let’s look at how your True Self would approach each of the situations above:
- Tom’s True Self understands his subconscious fears and takes responsible action. For enjoyment, he goes bike riding but also gets on a schedule to start paying down his debt.
- Bev’s True Self appreciates her subconscious fears and begins to love her inner wounded child who feels unlovable. In addition, she starts to watch the actions men take early on in the relationship and assume those actions represent who he really is.
- Alexa’s True Self understands the Pleaser part and aligns with it by beginning to please herself first, and others second. Now, she is not only satisfying her clients in a fair way, she is also satisfying herself and growing her company.
For many people, it can come as a revelation to finally understand why you keep making the same mistake over and over again or keep coming up against a brick wall and can’t seem to take your business to the next level. No, you are not insane. And no, you are not alone. Most people run some sort of “self-sabotaging’ pattern in their life and most of those people can’t see it. It’s often difficult to see your own subconscious patterns. It’s like trying to see your own back.
When you begin to align your conscious and subconscious beliefs and behaviours, your life and business begin to make sense. You will feel like you are waking up from a semi-comatose state. You will feel more energized and connected to others. You will also make decisions quicker because you are more focused and clearer about what you really want. You will get unstuck and begin making real progress, maybe for the first time in your life. And that will probably be the sanest thing you can do.