A few weeks ago, my family assembled from near and far to be with my dad, who underwent a six-hour cardiovascular operation. It was a complex procedure, and fortunately, he is recovering well. For the most part, I held it together emotionally. The eldest son, and ever the optimist, focusing on the upside is how I cope in a crisis. In this instance, however, ‘blissful delusion’ didn’t help. I was on-edge and acting irrationally, triggered by the slightest little thing.
A quiet blessing amidst the disruption is that my brother came to stay. He lives in Sydney, so we don’t often spend quality time together. As kids we weren’t close, notwithstanding differences of personality, our focus was survival and doing whatever we could to establish autonomy beyond an unstable family dynamic. Today, closer than ever, we stayed up past midnight most nights reliving the events of forty years ago that shaped whom we are today – the good, the bad, the incredulous.
A key aspect of retrospective is my awareness of how we experienced ‘growing up’. There’s that word again – Awareness. My brother and I are only four years apart in age and were together for most of our formative years, and yet our recollection of significant childhood events is vastly different. Consequently, we’ve lived our lives believing our perspectives to be true and made up stories to cope – death of loved ones, loss of security, family breakdown – an idealised, somewhat fantasised version of ‘truth’ that enabled us to overcome difficult circumstances. I’m not suggesting our view of events that happened isn’t true, rather, how we experience and interpret our external world often comes down to biology, and how we are nurtured. In fact, a lot of what we experience in childhood influences who we become as adults.
Consider how much energy you burn maintaining your reality; your perspective as truth?
Childhood ‘programming’ significantly shapes how we see, experience, and express ourselves in the world – innate talents and abilities, interpersonal patterns, and subconscious instinctual responses (our triggers). Consider how different your life might be today if you’d been more self and socially aware during your formative years; less ‘attached’ to maintaining your perspective as truth. To quote my friend Russ Hudson, co-author of The Wisdom of the Enneagram, “change occurs through shocks. Shock-points function by undoing the status quo of any system, but with awareness, we can use them to develop rather than knock us down.”
Most of us have never experienced the world as it is right now – chaotic and surreal, with so much out of our control. In all of this, we can control how we ‘show up’. Let’s use this time to refocus, be creative, re-prioritise, and come together, to help the many people in our lives who are going to need our support.
Until next time.