In an earlier blog I talked about becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings and learning to separate them. Over years of therapy I came to realize that my thoughts and feelings were not what I thought they were because they were being colored by what was going on in my unconscious mind. Eventually I found out that a simple false assumption I'd made in early childhood had affected my whole life negatively, leading to years of depression. Worse yet, because I'd made that assumption at such an young age, the memory of that incident was soon lost to early childhood amnesia, and that assumption became unconscious. I painfully learned how much unconscious thoughts and feelings color our lives.
To illustrate how such things can happen, let me give you a theoretical example: Tom is angry this morning. He has just learned that the promotion he was sure he was going to get was going to someone else instead--a person with less experience. When he questioned his boss, he was told, "You're doing a good job, Tom. I have no complaints. I simply felt that Joe was a better fit." Tom is fuming. He's sure that something is going on behind his back. The situation seems completely unfair. His boss couldn't even give him a solid reason why he was passed over.
What's going on here? In reality, Tom has an unconscious habit of failing to look people in the eye when he speaks to them. Instead he looks off to the side or focuses on a point just beyond them. Why does he do this? It may be that he's basically a shy person, or it could be a habit he's has since childhood. The reason doesn't matter. The point is, that when he speaks to someone who doesn't know him well, that person's going to feel that something's a little off--that they can't quite trust what he's saying. Even though he's a very honest, sincere, man, Tom doesn't come across that way.
Why didn't his boss just tell him that? It's possible his boss isn't consciously aware of what Tom's doing wrong. He simply knows that he feels that Tom isn't right for the job.
Who's at fault here? Nobody. What is going on is at an unconscious level on both sides. Tom is stuck being angry, and he feels justified. He's likely to stay angry unless he takes a purely rational approach and tries to discover what's holding him back. How does he do this? First of all, he's got to put his feelings aside and realize that there's something he's not aware of that is hurting his career chances. He must be persistent. If he asks people who know him well, chances are they no longer notice his indirect gaze and won't be able to help. Until he asks someone attuned to body language, Tom will suffer. It may take a professional to help him. Unfortunately, most of us are reluctant to seek professional help until our lives are falling apart.
It may seem that I'm saying you shouldn't pay attention to your feelings. NOT TRUE! Feelings are an important part of who you are. You just need to know that your feelings can sabotage you sometimes when you're not aware of where they come from.
I WANT TO LET YOU KNOW: My book, Exit the Labyrinth: a memoir of early childhood depression, its onset and aftermath, will be available on Kindle at the low price of $2.99 for one day only, Sunday, September 24th.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.