11 myths we grew up with (and can rewrite)
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
I'm fairly confident there are far more than eleven myths that are no longer working for me. I'll no doubt dig them up, one by one, and replace them over time. Social and familial conditioning happens to all of us. It's one of the primary ways we learn. But not everything we've learned in the past, is healthy or helpful to us right now as adults. So from my own mind and body recalibration experience, I've come up with some big ones that I've needed to update. Some may be familiar to you, while others you may not have considered.
Let's take a look.
1. We should naturally know how to interact with other humans simply because we are human.
The rewrite - Learning how to recognize and describe our emotions, and using them to communicate, nurture and relate to other humans is a learned skill.
We learn it either from caregivers or other adults by direct instruction or through modeling. And unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Or what we do learn is not always healthy or helpful. But the unhelpful lessons can be unlearned, and relearned. This is the focus of Emotional Intelligence training or any of the brain-related relationship skills you pick up from The Human Infusion Project. In addition, although we share many experiences with other humans, no person is an exact replica of another. Our brain-development differences alone make each of us unique. And these differences make knowing how to inherently interact with one other, impossible. And remember, we live in a constantly changing world. So the higher level communication skills that we learn today, may need additional updating later. Skills improve, and social needs change. Staying open to continued learning and having a flexible mindset is essential for working with humans over a lifetime. But to live collaboratively in today's world, some fundamental learning can yield big returns: how to read body sensations as signals of emotion; how to recognize conditioned thought patterns from the past and change them as appropriate; how to speak with language and in a style that creates safety; shows compassion and a elicits a desire for collaboration; and how to match this language with congruent action and behavior.
2. If you have value everyone will see it and like you.
The rewrite - Not everyone has the ability to see our essential value because of the conditioned or wounded lens through which they view the world. Sometimes, this includes our own family.
Which sucks. Of all the people in the world that we'd hope would see our core value, we'd think it would be our family. But some family members, even our parents, remain so stuck in their own wound limitations that they are unable to separate themselves from their conditioned thinking. It's really unfortunate. But just because someone can't see your value doesn't mean you don't have value. You absolutely do. Think of night vision goggles that allow you to see animals in the dark. If you don't have the goggles on, does it mean the animals are not there? No. It means you don't have the ability to see them. It can be hard to let go of wanting a certain someone to 'see you'. Especially when now, the resources are there to make it happen. We can't grasp why someone wouldn't choose to clear their heads of the conditioned thinking that blocks them from seeing the core of themselves or others. But it's hard to see from within a web you are stuck in. It can all seems so familiar and 'right', even when it's dysfunctional. This is why most major growth and transformation occurs from an outer world breakdown of some sort. But don't wait for that to happen to your certain someone. It may take a long time. Go find the people who can see your value.
That's your tribe.
3. Education level equates to emotional maturity, high EQ or wisdom
The rewrite - emotional maturity, emotional intelligence and wisdom can often go undeveloped for an entire lifetime even in highly educated people.
I was initially surprised when I found out how many conspiracy theorists have careers and positions that are reflective of higher education. Fear-based, or fear-focused thinking limits the full functioning of our cerebral cortex, our Thinking Brain. So I can see how it could cloud the judgment of even the most successful people we see in leadership positions. So how do fear-governed intellects get into those higher level positions? They are often selected by people who are also operating in fear. I imagine like any other conditioned state, fear-focused, skeptical thinking can become a 'familiar', homeostatic state of brain. So limiting thought patterns often go unrecognized for decades. That is, until some life upset challenges the conditioned thinking patterns to some extreme point, forcing a person to become more conscious.
But it's not just the fear-based thinking that limits emotional regulation. People who tend to be heavily intellect-based, such as physicians, professors, and even psycho-therapists can be still be emotionally under-developed. Humans tend to gravitate towards what they do well. Even if by doing so, they unknowingly weaken other areas of their brain.
As neuroscientist Nicole Gravagna describes, "People with weak (anterior cingulate cortex) ACCs tend to slip into one of two camps. They either live primarily focused on logic or they live primarily focused on emotion. A weak ACC gives you a view of half of your world. The other half is lost on you. It takes a strong ACC to integrate both emotion and logic."
Humans can be intellectually intelligent, while at the same time be emotionally dysfunctional. How does this happen? In a way, it's not really our fault. As mentioned, it can be partly due to a lack of awareness, as well as lack of understanding about how the brain and body work. But it can also be compounded by the fact that we humans prefer to surround ourselves with similar mindsets. We are more comfortable being around people who are cognitively more 'familiar'. This is not a crime. However, unless we intentionally expose ourselves to people who are different from us and intermittently embrace discomfort, we end up creating a reflective bubble which blinds us to our weaknesses. I'd sure love to see more people who prioritize education operating with a regulated mind-body system. Can you imagine what they could really do for the world if they got their brains and bodies regulated and functioning more optimally?
However, don't worry. There still are many highly-educated people out there who are also emotionally intelligent. These are the people who I see as true leaders. But they can also be challenging to find. Highly regulated and integrated people are no longer governed by external drivers. So they rarely seek excessive attention or acknowledgment.
So how can we tell who to listen to and whose lead to follow? Consider everything. But I suggest only taking critical advice from people who have walked the path you are trying to walk and demonstrate an ability to consider alternative perspective in a whole-brain manner. In other words, they haven't just studied what you want to learn but they are actually getting the results that you want for yourself. And they do so while acknowledging the many others who helped them to get there.
4. We aren't supposed to experience pain. Discomfort means something is 'wrong'
The rewrite - the experience of emotional or mental pain is a natural aspect of any life or growth cycle. It’s essential and unavoidable. Whether our discomfort is mental or physical, it means that some kind of growth needs to happen. Discomfort and pain is our mind and body’s way of telling us that something ‘different’ is happening. Something that is different from the ‘familiar’ conditions of the mind and body, and needs to change.
This inevitable and essential sense of emotional ‘discomfort’ includes witnessing what our children, patients and loved ones experience.Watching someone you love go through an emotionally painful experience can be tough! Watching a loved one in any kind of pain can often activates our own conditioned, emotional wounds of helplessness, a need to be a ‘hero’ or even the discomfort with our own pain. Granted, our brains are biologically wired to avoid physical, life-threatening pain and gravitate towards comfort. So it’s somewhat of a primitive reflex we sometimes need to manage. But what was essential at one time in order to stay alive as cavemen, has now become over-used and conditioned to include a lot of ‘healthy’ uncomfortable experiences that are not life-threatening. In fact, the sensation of emotional or mental discomfort is more likely a signal that what you are experiencing, simply counters a conditioned belief that you have about the experience. And this belief may not be factual or helpful to your current goals. I’d recommend checking it out.
If we want to evolve our consciousness and separate from ego, it’s essential to accept that emotional pain has a role. This doesn’t mean we have to seek it out. Believe me, some sort of emotional pain will come naturally, simply because it is part of the cycle of everything. But I also ask you to consider this -
intervening to alleviate someone else's emotional discomfort or to ease your own discomfort with witnessing the struggle, may actually block that person from needed growth.
By satisfying your own emotional need and helping a person who is struggling too much, you may actually be robbing that person of an opportunity to develop their own personal power. So stop and think of your motivation before you reflexively step in. Are you doing it for them? Or for yourself? Are you clinging to a role, unwilling to let it go? Will your action benefit them long-term? They may need to experience or even ‘suffer’ an uncomfortable experience and fail, in order to grow. So consider that your action could possibly rob them of an opportunity to gain self-confidence — confidence that is gained by overcoming the emotional discomfort they’re experiencing. But what you can do is stand by, be present and available, and support them while they do their own work. We don’t have to embrace emotional discomfort. But by increasing our ability to sit through it, we actual grow our brains and rewire those conditioned pathways.
5. Contentment means you are unmotivated and don't have goals
The rewrite - You can be content with where you are and simultaneously be working towards goals that get you beyond where you are.
Contentment is a form of acceptance. But for me, it also gave me access to a new source of drive. If I'm content that means I know I have everything I need. Nothing outside of me is controlling my life, deciding what my goals should be, or draining my energy in counter-productive directions. When I am content, I am satisfied with where I'm at in the process of getting to my goals.
Contentment can be a stress-free place of power. I actually get more done from a place of contentment than I do from a place of restlessness and dissatisfaction.
How does that work? Dissatisfaction or restlessness says that something outside of me or within me is saying, 'where you are or who you are, is not enough, you need to be doing or being more'. Dissatisfaction says or something else is determining my worth. Contentment says, 'I know my worth and from there, I choose to direct all of my energy towards my own goals, at my own pace.' How is this possible when so many of us work for someone else? Accepting where you are, at the moment, in your job or position doesn't mean you stop working towards your bigger goals. You can be content where you are AND be working towards goals that get you beyond where you are, at the same time. Buddhist describe dissatisfaction as a form of resistance. Go here to understand more about how dissatisfaction and resistance have very little value.
6. A successful marriage or love relationship should always be easy
The rewrite - one of the biggest predictors of a successful relationship is the quality of a couples 'repair skills'
ALL of us change over time. There is no one who can escape it. The person you dated or married at one point, will be a different person in some way 5, 10, and 20 years later. We have to be! No one can avoid change unless they live as a hermit and avoid exposure to the world. Every encounter, every experience, every single thing we take in via books, television or people changes our brains, every single day. So if you are reveling in your current selection of a new mate or spouse who you think aligns with so much of your lifestyle, attitude and thinking? Realize that some of it will eventually change. Differences will show up or evolve. This isn't to scare you. Change and difference can also be fun and keep things interesting. But it's how you both handle these changes and differences that will determine your long-term success more than what you agree on.
So many of us grew up with with fairy tales and media describing all the 'shiny' aspects of long-term relationships or marriage. And our parents either hid most of their conflict from us, or if they didn't hide it, they didn't have the repair skills that could bring them back together. So it makes sense that we got the message that "If we are different, disagree or have different needs, the relationship will eventually die." And many do. But it's rarely just because of differences. A lack of repair skills more likely played a bigger part.
I'm not saying that a conflict-ridden relationship is desired. Frequent periods of easy, 'comfortable coasting' is also needed to grow the intimate and playful bond between two people. This unification provides a better chance at 'surviving' life challenges like raising children, changing careers, or handling big life change. But I'd put my bets on the marriage longevity of two people who have less in common and greater repair skills than on a couple with a lot in common and fewer skills. The latter could either eventually lose interest in each others predictable nature, lose sight of who they are as individuals or could fall apart with the first major upset. There are a rare few who have a lot in common, rarely fight and experience a long, successful marriage. That's terrific. But with excellent 'repair' skills, your options are far greater. You don't have to search for that 'needle in the haystack', 'just-like-me', rare breed of a partner. Sure, that initial 'chemistry' definitely helps. But when you learn to skillfully navigate change, you increase the potential of enjoying a fulfilling relationship with someone with whom you have less in common, and still maintaining your individuality.
So what do these skills look like? Repair skills are learned and take practice to integrate. And both partners must be willing to do equal work. But they include: non-judgment and acceptance of each other differences; willingness to work on personal growth and self-regulation; being flexible about not always getting what you want or exactly how you want it; the ability to put aside ego and apologize when you've made a mistake or over-reacted; the ability to self-source the majority of your happiness; and the over-riding desire to maintain the relationship while at the same time honoring each others individual needs. Work on these skills and your struggles will strengthen the bond between you, not destroy it.
7. My opinions define who I am and don't change
The rewrite - our opinions are flexible, mental constructs that help us navigate amongst other humans in the physical world. They are part of an external identity, a sort of outside 'outfit' or 'uniform' that can easily change without impacting who we are at core. So in a sense, opinions are part of what we 'wear' so others can recognize us. But it's our core internal nature, our essence before labels, that really defines who we are. So once you understand this nature, you understand the non-critical nature of opinion. And listening to one that's different, no longer feels threatening.
As humans, we use external identities to help us group together and find community and belonging. These include physical and thought descriptors like gender, culture, religion, lifestyle, eating habits, education, skill set, political bias, and opinion. An opinion is part of our 'external uniform' that not only expresses our current, chosen 'style', but also helps others to recognize us. Then they can choose whether to align with us, work around us or steer clear of us. These external identities provide information that we can use as we live with other humans. They tell us how to respond, speak or act and often reflect our talents, skills and gifts. In other words, they tell us what we can expect from this person's thought and behavior and if 'connection' is possible. For self-regulated people, opinions often reflect some of their core values. But not always. Sometimes opinions are like a temporary holding zone or 'corral' of our current interpretation of the world. But none of these 'external uniforms' or viewpoints are fixed. Like any 'style' that represents a time of your life, they can change as we learn. And if or when they do, you are still you. You just switched out part of your uniform.
What you are reading here, my thoughts (part of my uniform), may be new concepts that bump up against some pre-established beliefs you may have. So this may be good practice at simply considering it. Remember, listening to someone's point of view is not life-threatening. Then, you can choose to either accept it as new learning (add it as part of your uniform) or reject it (no thanks you, I'll stick with the one I have). Either way, I'm the same person at my essence. And you are the same person at yours. And I'll feel honored that you took a few moment to consider something different.
8. Forgiveness means that you that you condone the hurtful behavior
The rewrite - Forgiveness frees yourself from the connection to a hurtful behavior, while at the same time remembering that it still happened.
When we are hurt by someone's behavior, it can be really hard "to give up desire or power to punish", as the late Old English definition of 'forgiveness' describes. We want the person to feel the same pain that we experienced. And withholding forgiveness can feel like the only way to do it. Unfortunately, hanging onto that desire to punish also impacts you. It's not just a one-sided punishment. You stay tied to the thing you are trying to move past. So forgiveness is really about releasing yourself from something that is draining your power. Forgiveness is for you, not for your perpetrator. And it doesn't mean that you accept, condone or have completely gotten over the pain of what happened. That takes time. But hanging onto the incident, which has now become a past mind-body memory, is like holding onto a burning rope. So by letting go of the rope from your end says I am no longer allowing this ‘painful’ situation between us to have its impact on me. It puts you back in charge of your life, instead of part of your life being dictated by someone else's behavior. Forgiveness is a form of acceptance and can be a source of personal power.
The person who hurt you may still be in your life. And you won't forget that painful thing they did. But by letting go of toxic emotions that tie you to them, you move past the situation, while still remembering that it took place. It also leaves opportunity for positive and healthy interactions to possibly occur. If your offender does want to change and make amends, you will be able to see those changes and amending behaviors more clearly, if you are not hanging onto the past offense.
There is no guarantee that the other person will make amends. And of course, this makes it harder. But in the end, it doesn't matter. Forgiveness is really a type of self-care and is about doing what's best for you. Some people are reluctant to let go of the toxic rope, fearing nothing will be left to the relationship if they do. A toxic connection can sometimes feel better than the idea of having no connection at all with a person. So we hang on, hoping for an apology that may never come. If that lands for you, then ask yourself this: Is hanging onto a toxic situation, even if it's the last rope between you and someone you love, worth the amount of personal suffering you are experiencing for its sake? And is this suffering effecting other areas of your life? Remember, forgiveness is for you. Consider it a form of self-care.
9. Failure decreases your value
The rewrite - Failure is absolutely necessary for innovation. It's a building block for growth. Without it, you get neither. Rapid success only shows us that we learned something quickly. Failure teaches us where we need to spend more time and energy. This actually increases quality and value long-term.
Stop that story that is unfolding in your head right now! Accepting that failure is part of growth and innovation, won't make you sloppy or irresponsible with your efforts. But it will give freedom to progressively experiment and try new things without fear of punishment. When we fail at being 'perfect' and don't have the desired outcome right away, we more clearly see where we need to concentrate our effort or energy. By clearing away ineffective models that don't meet the goal, failure becomes a valuable resource of information that is critical for success. Rapid cycle prototyping is a more practical version of the misinterpreted 'fail fast, and fail often' mantra. And it's becoming a popular method for successful implementation of evidence-based solutions. This doesn't mean to be hasty and sloppy in what you do. You can still strive for excellence. It simply means viewing 'failures' as feedback. Feedback, that when assessed objectively and improved upon, can increase the chances of subsequent revisions meeting your goal.
10. Striving for perfection is the most effective source of drive
The rewrite - When we free ourselves from external motivation and perfectionism, we free ourselves up to be driven by internal forces such as a desire to create, and to contribute to others in meaningful ways. When coupled with an environment where failure is seen as feedback, humans do their very best work.
Who else out there grew up with the unhelpful mantra, "If you are going to do something, do it right or don't do it at all"? Or did you have a parent give you excessive praise over a picture you drew or a high grade you received in school? My parents didn't have the consciousness to realize how much that statement and their well-intending, but performance-oriented love, contributed to wounds of Perfectionism. Over time, it became a limiting shackle cloaked by achievement. I would have benefited more from hearing "always do your best, because I have faith in your ability" and by giving me a hug and telling me how glad they were to see me, before assessing my artwork or grade.
So if we are not pursuing perfection, what's left as our source of drive? How do we motivat