Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Lies My Brain Told Me
One day I woke up absolutely convinced my girlfriend was going to leave me. The feeling of dread stayed with me all day. I wondered how it would start? A phone call? A text saying we had to talk? Would she arranged a coffee date, sit me down, and break the news?
What do I do? I thought. Should I distance myself from her, and make it easier for her? Should I try and win her back? Should I call her to find out what was wrong?
I don’t want to be needy, but I worry I’m so worried about being seen as needy that I’ll push her away instead. But then I worry I’m so worried about not pushing her away, that I’ll become needy again. Plus, if she isn’t into me anymore it will hurt and I don’t want to admit she can hurt me.
I don’t want to get hurt and I don’t want to give my power away and I don’t want to bring up the subject because I’m afraid it will make me look weak and she’ll either lose respect for me or think I’m crazy and all of these things are whirling around in my head despite the fact that nothing has actually happened.
I called her that night.
We talked about our respective days.
She did not break up with me.
Life went on.
This is not the first time this has happened. Once, I remember twelve hours of being absolutely convinced the woman I was dating was cheating on me. Another time, with another woman, I experienced a twenty-four hour sweep of “this is never going to work out” that was completely unrelated to anything that had anything to do with the relationship. On yet ANOTHER occasion, I was terrified that the woman I was casually dating was going to be the last relationship of my life, that we would end up together by default instead of because we both wanted to be there.
Never happened. But it was darn convincing.
The brain‘s efficiency is an amazing thing. Unexplained feeling of dread? No problem, says the brain. We’ll just take some memories from the last twenty-four hours or so, fill in some missing pieces ourselves, and we have a scenario already.
The scenario may or may not be true, but hey, at least it provides an EXPLANATION.
And sometimes that’s all we want. We want a reason why we feel or act the way we do. Sure, the reason could be absolute bullshit, hey, it’s better than nothing.
The scary part for me though is how accurate those stories seem at the time. When my brain is playing these tricks, it is absolutely, 100% convincing. Even when I know my brain is just making things up, the feelings are so powerful, I spend so much time wrestling with my perceptions I don’t know what to do.
I am not the only person who does this. See if any of these feel familiar.
-When we made plans for our next date, he never texted me back when I texted him to say I looked forward to seeing him. That means he doesn’t care about me anymore
- When I smiled at that girl, she looked away. That happened once a few months ago. And when I told my story last week at that party, when I was done, the people I was with started talking about something else. I must be creepy and weird.
The neighbour’s dog comes to the fence whenever I walk past their yard. And my best friend’s family cat follows me around. I must have super-powers. I am the Lord of Dogs and Cats!
Okay, maybe that last one was just me. In my defense, I was six years old at the time.
All of us have brains that make up stories. Some of us have more creative brains than others, but we all do it. Our brains are programmed to do it. When faced with incomplete information, they fill in the missing pieces.
Which is a nice gesture. For example, all of us have a blind spot in our vision where the optic nerve passes through the retina. We don’t notice it, because the brain helpfully fills in what’s missing and we go about our days unbothered by a black void in the center of our vision.
But sometimes the brain’s tendency to fill in the blanks can hurt us.
We make up motivations that aren’t there. We connect dots that are, in fact, not connected. We take fears, things that happened in the past, or our own insecurities and write them into a story that was playing out perfectly well without them.
This would not be a problem, except that sometimes those stories feel so real, we ACT on them.
And that’s where the trouble starts.
-May All Beings Be Sexy
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