Finding the Light
One morning as a child, I was laying in bed, staring intently at a pile of clothes on a chair on the other side of the room. The sun was just coming up, and I couldn’t quite tell if it was a monster or not.
I was old enough to realize it probably wasn’t a monster, regardless of what it looked like, but my body was too afraid to just get up and check. So I just laid there and stared at it.
Eventually, the sun did fully come up, and my brain re-organized its perceptions and informed me that it was not, in fact, a monster. It was a pile of clothes.
I’m sure we’ve all had experiences like this. But it doesn’t just happen with visual tricks of light.
We think meetings will go badly and then they turn out fine.
We think people are angry at us, only to find out their grumpy expression was about someone else.
When we didn’t know how mental illness worked, we thought people were possessed, or evil.
But it can also work the other way. The person we idolized turns out to have serious flaws. The new X that we thought would change our life was just another Y.
The only thing missing in all these scenarios is accurate information about reality.
We didn’t know what we didn’t know, and our brain made something up.
It really is that simple.
(That doesn’t mean it’s easy.)
In the absence of light (truth, clarity, understanding), we see distortions.
But our brain just wants something to make sense. So it will take half-truths, fears, rumors, lies, theories, guesses, biases, assumptions, myths, negative beliefs, and tell you they are real.
The darkness doesn’t spawn demons. We do.
This is an automatic and unconscious process. But you can notice and interrupt it.
Where in your life are you missing information and filling in the blanks?
With that problem you are trying to fix, do you actually know what is wrong? Are you trying to fix it with what you have on hand or what you are used to, rather than figuring out what it actually needs? Who could help you find out?
With that interpersonal problem, do you actually understand the other person’s experience? Do you actually know what’s going on in their mind, or are you assuming an accuracy you have no basis for? What questions could you ask to find out?
Do you know how your brain works? Do you believe you can think your way out of problems that you’ve never been able to think your way out of before? Are you avoiding new information or input that might actually help you? What information might you be missing or rejecting?
Are you relying on willpower in an area where it’s never worked? Why did it fail the last time?
What are you avoiding? What assumptions is that based on? How could you find out if you are wrong?
Have you gotten lost fighting with the darkness, or studying it? Sometimes darkness, or the fears we project onto it, can grip us with fascination, but you can’t find the light by staring into the dark.
Don’t fear the light.
As a child, I could have just gone over and looked closer and then gone back to sleep. The information I needed was literally two feet away. Nothing was keeping me from it but my own fear.
Fear freezes us in place. Our brain narrows its options and focuses on the worst possibility.
That’s just how our brains work. Don’t feel bad about it.
But don’t let it stop you.
If you can’t see the way, find a source of light.