Throughout our lives we adopt many values and beliefs, and we make decisions according to our greatest needs. We carry subconscious imprints, which are the mind maps we use to navigate and survive in our environment. Having to adapt to challenging circumstances since our conception, each of us has developed our own elaborate emotional map as well.
In essence, we have our own “model of the world,” which is uniquely shaped according to our experiences. Distortions in perception are an inevitable part of this shaping.To heal in body and mind, it is important to understand the source of our distortions and how our personal experiences can lead to a particular sensitivity to certain situations.
I would like to illustrate these thoughts with an example related to the digestive system. A client of mine named Lisa had stomach problems that would flare up almost every weekend. She could not “digest” the fact her husband would watch football games on Sunday afternoons. While she worked in the kitchen, hearing the sound of the game in the background would make her angry. She felt like she was forced to accept this situation every Sunday. Her next door neighbor, on the other hand, loved to bring a couple of beers, sit down next to her boyfriend, and enjoy a relaxing time as they watched the game together.
As mentioned, Lisa was particularly sensitive to the sound of the game on TV, as it reminded her of her childhood sadness. Her father would refuse to take the family out on a Sunday walk or a drive, instead choosing to stay home and watch the game. Her sensations as an adult were linked to the old emotions of disappointment and sadness she felt years earlier.
The upsetting feelings would resurface as if no time had passed and nothing had changed. She would instantly be transported to the time when she had to bear staying indoors most of the day, a time that was filled up with loneliness and boredom. At the time, she could not understand her father’s behavior; she believed he was selfish, saw her mother suffer from it, and could not “digest” and accept that he chose sports over them.
As a girl, Lisa didn’t have the maturity to perceive her father as a tired man who worked two jobs, six days a week. She didn’t realize that his positive intention in watching the game on Sunday was to recuperate and get recharged for the week ahead. As an adult, the conflict Lisa had on Sundays with her husband was directly related to her past memory. The “problem” was inside Lisa, not outside.