Black hole narratives

Re­lated to: Self-con­scious­ness wants to make ev­ery­thing about it­self (by jes­si­cata), UNIVERSAL LOVE, SAID THE CACTUS PERSON (by SSC) and Ms. Blue, meet Mr. Green

Edit (Jul 17, 2019): The con­cept I’m de­scribing is ba­si­cally cog­ni­tive fu­sion.

There’s an idea that I think is re­ally im­por­tant to un­der­stand and to try to com­mu­ni­cate. I think Jes­sica in her post touched on it a lit­tle, but that touch in­spired me to give it a shot my­self. How­ever, in­stead of fo­cus­ing on so­cial dy­nam­ics, I’m go­ing to fo­cus on an in­di­vi­d­ual’s in­ter­nal world and in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Here are a few ex­am­ples of men­tal nar­ra­tives that I’m go­ing to dis­sect. (I bor­rowed a few from Jes­sica’s post and a few from the SSC post.) See if you can find the ones that hap­pen to you. Or see if you can un­der­stand the pat­tern to find ones that are not on the list.

1. This thing that’s hap­pen­ing is bad. I wish it wouldn’t hap­pen.

2. Am I a bad per­son for par­ti­ci­pat­ing in this? I think some­thing’s wrong with me.

3. I’m not a bad per­son! I’m definitely in the right here.

4. I’m feel­ing at­tacked. I feel like peo­ple are against me.

5. I don’t feel safe here. I think they’ll hurt me.

6. I feel like I’m the odd one out. I don’t think I be­long here.

7. I don’t un­der­stand this at all. What am I miss­ing? There’s a clue here some­where. If I can find it, then I’ll un­der­stand it.

Lenses

To try to un­der­stand the pat­tern and what to do with it, I’ll provide four differ­ent lenses.

Phys­i­cal sensations

What does it feel like to ex­pe­rience these nar­ra­tives? Look and see.

For me, it feels con­strain­ing. It feels like sens­ing a wall and then push­ing away from it. Or push­ing into it. It feels like a river that has hit the bank and has to turn. My body feels tighter. My aware­ness feels more nar­row or dis­ap­pears en­tirely. The thought grows big­ger in my mind un­til it dom­i­nates. Un­til, just for a mo­ment, it feels like my en­tire men­tal re­al­ity is de­scribed by the cir­cum­stance. By how I feel at­tacked. Or by how I feel like I don’t be­long. It stops be­ing a thought and be­comes re­al­ity.

So how does it feel when the nar­ra­tive ends? To me it feels like some­one was hug­ging me su­per tight and then let go. It feels like a re­lease. An ex­pan­sion. An ex­hale. It feels like free­dom. Free­dom to re­con­sider. To re­view. To re­mem­ber other sides of the prob­lem. Free­dom to for­get. Free­dom to move on.

TAP

We can also think of those nar­ra­tives as serv­ing a par­tic­u­lar pur­pose. Like other TAPs, they were in­stalled there for some rea­son, prob­a­bly a long time. Prob­a­bly be­cause some­one told us. Or prob­a­bly be­cause a “bad” thing hap­pened to us and we re­ally wanted for it to not hap­pen again.

Each nar­ra­tive has many trig­gers. But once trig­gered, the ac­tion is pretty straight for­ward. And it’s usu­ally always the same: re­count the nar­ra­tive and listen to it. Just like when Revo­lio Clock­berg Jr. hears about Gear Wars, he has to tell you all about it. And once he starts, there’s no stop­ping it. Like clock­work.

Movie

One of the best ways to talk about nar­ra­tives is to talk about sto­ries and movies. Movies are com­pel­ling. They draw us in. When we’re in a mid­dle of a good film, we for­get who we are. We feel whole­heart­edly the emo­tion, the ac­tion, the ten­sion. Where is all of this go­ing? Well… we know. It’s go­ing where the movie go­ing. There’s only one track.

And for a great movie, that’s a fun track to be on. But for the nar­ra­tives I’ve de­scribed, that’s not a fun track at all. You’ve seen some of them thou­sands of times already. Do you want to see it again? All it costs is a few sec­onds of your time and a few drops of your san­ity.

“I’m feel­ing at­tacked. Like peo­ple are against me.” is a movie. It’s a lousy, poorly writ­ten, ut­terly pre­dictable movie. And you know ex­actly where it’s head­ing. “Me against the world.” Or “Look at me, I’m so in­de­pen­dent. I don’t need any­one.” Or “Hah! They’re all against me, but look who is win­ning now!” And, hon­estly, even that is giv­ing that movie too much credit. Be­cause 99.9% of the time the only place that movie is tak­ing you to is: “I’m feel­ing at­tacked. Like peo­ple are against me. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks.”

Car

When you’re gripped by one of such nar­ra­tives, you’re in the car. When you aren’t, you’re free. Get out of the car and stay out!

Q: I’m ex­pe­rienc­ing all these men­tal nar­ra­tives. What do I do? What’s the skill I need to learn to avoid them?

A: Note how that ques­tion it­self is an ex­am­ple of the nar­ra­tive /​ car you’re try­ing to avoid. Drop it.

Q: I was try­ing hard to avoid all the men­tal nar­ra­tives you de­scribed. But then I ran into one head first. Where and how should I put up more walls so that this wouldn’t hap­pen?

A: Stop putting up walls. Stop see­ing walls. Stop try­ing to avoid them by cre­at­ing more walls. When you’re not in the car, there are no walls and there are no roads.

“Then I can’t get out of the car. I want to get out of the car. But I need help. And the first step to get­ting help is for you to fac­tor my num­ber.” is be­ing in the car. It’s watch­ing a movie about how you’re stuck and how you’re miss­ing some­thing. It’s run­ning a TAP that says: IF I don’t un­der­stand some­thing THEN I’m un­safe un­til I do. It’s scream­ing at the cac­tus per­son, de­mand­ing an an­swer.

As long as you think there’s a car or that you have some­thing to do about it, you can’t get out of it. Stop try­ing to get out of the car and get out of the car.

The invitation

The in­vi­ta­tion is to no­tice when these nar­ra­tives arise. Just no­tice. You don’t have to do any­thing about them. You don’t have to stop them or avoid them. Just no­tice when one starts. No­tice when you’re in it. No­tice when it ends. No­tice when it’s not there.

And if on one of those oc­ca­sions you de­cide to pull over that car and get out… well, I promise you the car is not go­ing to be up­set.