As the session begins, we’re asked to consider what we are thinking about, how we feel and what our impressions are of the first few hours. I’m feeling very impressed with the day so far. I’m well fed, have drank a few coffees and I’m feeling good about the exchange at lunch. People give different answers, most are what you would expect – running from satisfaction to confusion. The member of the walking dead in front of me raises his hand and when call upon says that he’s “not getting it.” “That doesn’t surprise me” is my thought and the leaders comment is “good, keep trying it on.”
It doesn’t surprise me because the walking dead doesn’t look like anyone I’ve ever seen before other than one of those fellows from the Thriller video. His frustrated response is silent body language that screams WTF?!?!?!?
The next session covers something called Rackets which are persistent complaints or fixed ways of being, the notion of “already always listening” (AAL) which is the internal self talk that seems to narrate everything and the notion that human beings existence is in language. These are lumped together because they are the foundation for reflective human experience.
I consider the scripts that we run to be the same sort of thing as AAL in that we enter into every interaction with a lot of knowledge about the world and a strong desire to predict / win every interaction. Given that we have notions in our heads already, we perceive everything from the stand point of what we know. When all you have is a hammer, everything you see is a nail covers this. The rackets are related in that they are the outcome of the AAL. For example, every relationship I have had ends and it is usually the girl who ends them so my AAL would tend to direct me to perceive anything that isn’t positive about an interaction with a GF to mean it is about to fall apart. The racket is that I’m unlovable, not worthy of the love of a female, etc…. It’s some BS I’ve made-up based on my small sample size of maybe 15-25 relationships.
These rackets are noisy in our heads and they taint the perception of anything we believe is related to what what we’re presently experiencing. The language component is critical because without language we don’t really have a way to keep things going – experiences become memories which we can recall but tend to engage linguistically to created useful / accessible lessons.
It was pretty heavy, but my psychology degree, conversations with Des, experience with therapists / life coaches and independent learning had created most of the understanding I needed to accept the lessons quickly.
There was some sharing with the people beside us, I asked a bunch of questions to my partner and kept them talking because it was both interesting and what I like doing. It was fun to push the rackets back onto my partner as my observation of what they had told me. Their awareness of themselves was improved and it was good practice for the performance coaching I planned on doing.
My mind got completely blown again about 45 minutes before dinner when we covered actual impact of and cause of rackets; the stories we tell ourselves about what happened. For a while I had been holding considerable anger towards one of my best friends for something that she did. What happened was she made the decision to spend more time with her children and less time with me. The meaning I applied to it was that she had abandoned me. It’s silly to look at now because I really respect her decision to focus on her children but since our experiences linger on in language (the stories we tell) I had scripted a meaning that was great at maintaining the racket.
It was at this point that a lot of my past just disappeared. First off, I stopped feeling really crappy about my dad dying. My dad got cancer, he died, I was sad and grieved. That is what happened. The story I was telling myself that I had lost the 33% of my support structure, my primary male roll model etc… just ended. It’s fine to be sad, but he was content with his life and our family had lived our hearts out for the time between his diagnosis and death. It was actually the best 6 weeks of my life to date; or at least 6 of the best weeks spent living. The same applied to my friend. I loved her, she couldn’t continue the intensity of our connection, I was sad. I still love her, I always will, not because of anything to do with her, but because of how I feel. It’s fine and actually only appropriate for my love to be unconditional.
The final thing we covered was context, and it seemed to be the icing on the cake made of icing about language. Change the context, change the meaning. This went hand in hand with the Cognitive behavioral therapy that I have been doing – change the thought, change the feeling, change the action. My friend is building adults with her children, not taking time away from me. My father returned to the earth, the very earth he had been eating for his entire life. The same earth we are all a part of, have all been eating and will all eventually return to. I was floating in a strange sense of contentment. No, I was drowning in the bliss of freedom.
The leader gave us our homework and sent us on our way. As I flowed down the stairs, across the road to my car something the leader said before dinner was thumping almost orgasmically in my awareness in a way that committed me to the possibility of a new purpose in my life – “I don’t want to make you feel better, I want to set you free.”
NOTE – what is covered in these blogs is based on my experience and is available on the Wikipedia Landmark Eduction page or available publicly with a Google search.