Wow, wasn’t that interesting! The video shows just how much of our pain is in our being invested, not so much in that facts of what happened, but in what we made up about what happened — our story. When something happens, especially when we are very young, we often make it all about us. We then compound the pain by making assumptions and interpretations about it that color our whole life, and life in general. Since the pain is often more than we can bear, we repress it. The truth is, though, we were not entitled to those assumptions. They are invariably wrong. And, yet we defend them vigorously.
Here are some common examples:
Fact: My father died.
My Interpretation: He abandoned me.
Fact: My mother divorced my Dad.
My Interpretation: She took my father away from me.
Fact: My husband cheated on me.
My Interpretation: I must no longer be sexually attractive.
Fact: I was sexually abused.
My Interpretation: All men will hurt me.
Fact: My father was emotionally unavailable to me.
My Interpretation: I’ll never be enough. And so on.
A good reference for this is Glenda’s story in Chapter 21 of my book, Radical Forgiveness.
Glenda was a sophisticated, intelligent, attractive, and accomplished woman in her late forties. She had never been married. In fact, she had never had a relationship that lasted more than two or three years. It seemed she could never meet Mr. Right. Whenever she got to know a man well, she discovered something about him that annoyed her or made her feel dissatisfied with the relationship. So she would end it. This happened over and over again. She did not see it as a problem, though. As a career woman, she said her job provided her with a lot of satisfaction. On the other hand, she did concede that she was lonely.
One day a good friend asked her, “Have you ever wondered why you don’t hold onto a relationship? Have you ever thought that maybe it’s not the something that you see in them that makes you annoyed or dissatisfied but the something in you that you haven’t dealt with that won’t let you have a decent relationship with any man?”
At the time, Glenda just shrugged off her friend’s words, but later she began thinking more deeply about that. She decided to work with a therapist to see if anything lay behind her relationship pattern.
Under hypnosis, she regressed to around age eight and recalled that, at that age, she would come home from school every day to play with her best friend, Mark. They had been close friends since they were very young and were truly inseparable at this point in their lives. Then she recalled an incident that happened one day after she had changed out of her school clothes and run over to Mark’s house. She knocked on the door, and no one answered. She put her face close to the glass and peered in. Her heart sank when she saw the house was empty. Where was everyone? Where was the furniture? Where was Mark? She did not understand — not until she turned to leave the front porch and saw a small sign lying flat in the grass. It said, ‘SOLD.’
It slowly dawned on Glenda that Mark’s parents had sold the house and gone away taking Mark with them — gone without saying a word, without so much as a good-bye, without even telling her. Mark had never even mentioned that he was moving.
Hurt and confused, Glenda sat on the porch for a few hours before walking the short distance home. She remembered making two decisions during that time. The first was to say nothing to her parents. If they mentioned Mark being gone, she would pretend she did not care. The second decision was never to trust a boy (man) again.
She had apparently forgotten all about this incident, but when it surfaced during her therapy session, she became very upset. The years of repressed grief over being abandoned by her best friend poured out as did the rage over what she saw as a betrayal.
After the session, she went to see her mother. She talked about Mark and asked her mother what happened to him and his family. “Oh, his father got transferred,” her mother said. “It all happened quite quickly, but we were very surprised that you said nothing about their leaving. We thought you’d be really upset, but you seemed to just take it in your stride. In fact, we and Mark’s parents talked about it before they left because all of us were concerned that you and Mark would be terribly upset. We all agreed it would be best in the long run if we didn’t tell either of you anything about the move until the day it actually happened. They didn’t even put a ‘For Sale’ sign up on the house. It was not until Mark was in the car and on the way to their new home that they even told him.”
Glenda was stunned. If Mark did not know about the move, then he had not betrayed her after all. At that moment, the realization hit her — for more than 30 years she had allowed a completely buried subconscious story to rule her life and to spoil every romantic relationship she had ever had. Not only that, the idea itself was based on a totally false assumption.
As soon as any man got close enough to Glenda to be her friend and her lover, she ended the relationship. She believed that if she got close to a man, like she had been with Mark, he would abandon and betray her in the same way. She was not going to risk suffering that degree of pain again, not for any man. Not only that, she shut down or suppressed her feelings of abandonment and betrayal on the day she discovered Mark had moved. Later, she poured herself into her career as a way of avoiding those feelings.
The friend who confronted Glenda with her self-defeating pattern saw beyond her story and recognized that something else was going on.
Glenda came to a Radical Forgiveness workshop and forgave the man with whom she had separated most recently and, as a consequence, all the others that she had judged as ‘not trustworthy’ before him. That automatically neutralized the original idea that she could never trust a man again, so she became free to have the relationship that she really wanted.
So the exercise I am going to give you here is called, “The Centrifuge.” In reality, a centrifuge is a piece of equipment that separates one thing from another through a spinning process. A juicer is one such example. You put the veggies in at the top; the juice comes out of one spout while the fiber comes out the other through the action of centrifugal force. This is what you are about to do with your story in order to separate the facts from the interpretations as I demonstrated in the video. If Glenda had used something like this, it might have saved her a whole lot of pain in her life.
1. In your journal, analyze your story and then first make a list of the things that actually happened. Just the raw facts. 2. Then make a second list, noting down each and every interpretation you made about what happened. Everything that is or was made up by you about the event.
3. Then indicate, on a scale of 1-100, how attached you are to your interpretations. You measure this by how resistant you are to giving them up. 20 would indicate that you have hardly any resistance to giving them up, 60 would indicate high resistance and 100 would be total resistance.
Good. That’ll be enough for today. Good luck with creating these lists. You will need them for tomorrow’s session as well.