The Freedom of Allowing Differing Realities
One of my deepest desires is to feel seen, to feel understood and accepted by the people in my life. In my desire for this understanding, I often forget just how individual perspective is. My perception of reality is based on what’s truly happening right now just as much as it’s based on what’s happened to me before. The brain, in a tactic that saves quite a bit of processing energy, “fills in” our sensory experiences with an anticipated reality that is based wholly on previous experiences. These tactics can affect how we literally experience our sensory reality (what we see, hear, feel, taste, smell, etc.) but they are even more impactful on the unseen realms of relationship, emotion, and energy. What does this all mean? It means that you and I can experience the exact same conversation with one another, or the exact same event, and have completely different experiences of them…
…So, were having a lovely conversation and we’re connecting. Then I say something that reminds you of a phrase your mom always used when she was criticizing you, so you experience my words as critical. I was actually trying to communicate how much I admire you. Suddenly, you and I are in conflict. You’re energy and attitude toward me changes. You are on the defensive. I am confused because I’m not sure what brought about this change in attitude. Suddenly, my reality becomes unstable in my inability to predict (or control) an outcome. Now, I’m triggered because I have a history with people that I can’t predict hurting me. I feel unsafe. I utilize a common tactic that I employ when I don’t feel safe. I shut down, withdraw, become quiet. My shutting down confirms your initial (mis)reading of me being critical towards you. And round and round we go...
So, who is wrong here?
Fucking . . . no one! That realization is the one where I’ve experienced deep liberation. I have relationships that suffer from a core misunderstanding of differing realities that have gone on for years . . . and been built upon with years of stories of each of us being wronged by the other. The moment that I apply this realization to those relationships, years old knots in my belly dissolve.
My favorite relationship to apply this realization to is my oldest relationship, the one I have with my parents. My parents are activists working under an umbrella organizing company. From the time what I was born they have always worked 16-18 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. They are very passionate about their work and the ideologies and beliefs associated with it permeated nearly everything about the way I was raised. From my parents I learned to walk a picket line, bucket drive for donations, and cold call companies for sponsorship but never learned from them how to swim, ride a bike, or have a hobby. They chose their line of work in an attempt to create a more equal, just, and safe society. They chose to place these goals above all other goals in life. They made these choices from a place that made sense to them, based on all their previous life experiences. To them, after seeing so many aspects of modern society that felt unjust and unsafe, dedicating their lives to changing these things made perfect sense.
For me, I was born within the microcosm they created. I didn’t experience the injustices or trauma of society that they had. I did experience parents that were highly focused on their work. I did experience a childhood that revolved around this work. I did experience parents that reflected all my personal experiences through a political filter. I was along for the ride that my parents had chosen. Of course, this is true for all of us. Those of us born into nuclear or single-parent households are born into an existence where we are totally reliant on our parents’ plans for themselves and us.
Anyways, as one could imagine, my parents and I felt completely different about their work. They were beyond disappointed, and actually rather shocked, that I didn’t choose to follow in their footsteps after they had raised me within their belief system. And I was baffled for years that, despite all my communication with them about how I felt, that they still couldn’t understand why I was not only not interested in their work, but was actually quite triggered by it.
So, who was wrong here?
Breath of fucking relief . . . no one. We were living a life side by side and living within completely differing realities. And . . . oh my fucking goodness, THAT’S OK. Not only is it ok, it’s an unavoidable truth any time that we’re not living wholly in the present. Such presence is delectable and as long as I don’t live in that state of consciousness all the time, learning how to work with and untwist my stories has been super duper duper helpful for me. Helpful. Healing. Illuminating. Freeing. Annnd . . . actually leads to me experiencing presence reality more often . . . which I take deep pleasure from.
So, I’m applying this learning . . . and reapplying it when I forget it . . . to really alllllll the times when I find myself out of sync with someone. I first validate my own experience, as I have more of a tendency to believe that my experience is incorrect. I tell myself that anything that I’m feeling or experiencing is true . . . that it’s my truth . . . and that it being my truth is enough for me to take it seriously, treat myself with compassion around it, and seek internal or external support in being with it lovingly . . . where I can then see if/how it wants to move or simply be witnessed. (Side note – other big realization – many of my truths just want to be witnessed within me to feel complete . . . and don’t need something to be done about them.) If this truth isn’t being reflected or validated by my environment, I pinch myself to remember . . . ahhhh, differing realities . . . we’re having different experiences. I take a few deep breaths with the intention of infusing this truth into my being . . . with letting differing realities be ok. Sometimes that realization doesn’t immediately feel good . . . it feels unsafe or lonely. But if I sit with it a little longer, through the discomfort, a gentle compassion comes in, and a sense of unity. It is a paradoxical but powerful unity derived from us all sharing these feelings of loneliness, separation, and the challenge of differing realities . . . the challenge of not feeling seen. There’s the untwisting. Now, I’m having my reality and you, yours. And it’s ok. And somehow, we’re now together within our differences. And I’m a peace with it. No longer in resistance, I’m free to experience what is . . . free to be present, which light or dark, is surprisingly always delicious, in the way only being alive can be.
I don’t walk around in this state of being most of the time. I’m not an expert at it. But I love all the healings and realizations that take me to it, and the wild journey getting there.