Process of Illumination

Shifting Out Of Neutral

This has been a really good week. I’ve been practicing some of the NLP skills that my friend taught me last week and I truly believe it’s making a difference in my overall emotional reactiveness. When I was thinking about what to write today, I knew I wanted to say more about the insight I had last week and then it occurred to me that I had an experience on the weekend which expands on the metaphor I began when I casually named last week’s post, “Switching Gears”.

On Sunday, as I was leaving to meet a friend, I had trouble getting out of my driveway. It seemed that some large chunks of ice had accumulated behind my wheels because the snow had not been properly removed after the recent snowfalls. One of my boys has been on snow removal duty recently but he is still fairly inexperienced in the task. He shovels where he thinks it makes sense to do so but then leaves the areas he has decided are less important, such as under my car. When I mentioned it to him he suggested “Just sprinkle some salt.” Ahhh, kids these days.

Once the chunks of ice were removed, I managed to get out fairly easily. That is, until I got stuck again in the un-shoveled snow on the street at the foot of my driveway. Another area my son didn’t realize needed to be cleared :) At first, I thought I might need a push but with bit of rocking, back and forth, I was on my way… no big deal. As I drove away, I made a note to myself that I would have to teach my son a few more points about his shoveling duties.

After a lovely dinner and a movie with my friend, I was driving to pick up my youngest son who had been at a Superbowl party in Richmond Hill. At this point, it was already after 10:00pm on a school night so I was eager to get my boy and get home.  However, sometime after I got on to the 404, I eventually took notice that my car was shaking. I say eventually because I had been listening to and chanting with Snatam Kaur quite loudly and thought it was just a bad road, at first, but when it continued for a kilometre or so, I turned down the music to see what was happening. At that point, it was pretty obvious that I had a flat tire. Because I knew I had less than 11% phone battery left and several calls to make, I made the executive decision not to pull over right there and and risk damage to my rims. I kept driving slowly, on the shoulder, to the next exit, where I knew there was an Esso station.

When I called CAA, they told me it would be a 3-hour wait for a truck and to please keep my phone on so they could call me when they were on their way. I was now down to 7% battery. “Oh boy,” I thought… “this was getting worse by the minute.”

The next call I made was to my youngest son but he didn’t pick up. I texted him instead and, while I waited for him to reply, I called yet another son, who has a car and was probably somewhere in Thornhill, which was nearby. Unfortunately, that son was also at a Superbowl party and was not able to drive because he had been drinking.

Shit. What now?

At this point, I figured my only option to pick up my youngest son was via taxi. I contemplated how expensive the ride from Woodbine & Steeles up to Richmond Hill/Maple and back would be… $80? $100? But, I had no choice. My son had to be picked up and soon. Thank god for my Uber and Halo apps!

As you may have guessed, on Superbowl Sunday, in the middle of nowhere, there were “no taxis in the area” Needless to say, I was getting concerned… and I was down to 3% battery.

Shortly afterward, my youngest son returned my call but I wasn’t really sure what to tell him. Should I tell him I was coming to get him in a taxi or was I sending a taxi to take him straight home? To b honest, I felt the best solution was for one of the adults there to drive him to where I was – but did I dare ask?

Just as I was making that suggestion to my son, my phone died.

Even though there was a pay phone at the Esso station I still had a problem…who can remember phone numbers these days? Thankfully, I recalled the number of my snow-shoveler son and asked him to give me my younger son’s number and also text him to tell him to pick up even if he didn’t recognize the number. By the time I reached him, he had already asked his friend’s dad to drive him to where I was. Hallelujah! I was so grateful for his willingness to do that (not to mention saving the money on a taxi). I still hadn’t figured out what I would do with my son for the additional 2 hours while we waited, but at least he was getting here. That was a relief.

By this time, only about 20-30 minutes had passed and as I hung up the phone to head back and wait inside the station, I looked up and, to my disbelief, I saw the CAA truck arriving, over 2 hours ahead of schedule! The driver was a really friendly and cheerful guy and after we realized that I didn’t have the key to take my rims off, we went on chatting while he hooked up my car to be towed. It didn’t take too long, and when he was almost done, he said I could sit in the truck to stay warm and then he’d take me to my mechanic and drop me off with my car. But my son hadn’t arrived yet. The CAA driver apologized but he would not be able to wait until he got there. I guess I’d have to take a taxi after all…if I could find one.

Just then, a car drove up and it was my son! His friend’s dad is such a nice guy and said he had been more than happy to drive him. We left shortly afterward and the CAA driver not only dropped off my car downtown but he took us all the way home.

As you can imagine, I was pretty overcome with gratitude, given that this whole evening could have gone so much worse than it did. For starters, driving on that flat could have seriously damaged my rim (which it didn’t) not to mention how disastrous getting a flat tire on the highway at a 100km/hour could have been in the first place.

So, to bring this story around, full circle, I want to say this:

Last week, I spoke of “switching gears”. What I meant was that I have come to understand that the reason we get “stuck” in therapy is because we are not addressing the limiting beliefs that lead to negative emotion on an unconscious level. When we try to approach some of our deeper, older issues from only the conscious perspective, we tend to get so caught up in “processing” the negative emotions and telling the “story” that goes with them that we end up spinning our wheels and getting nowhere.

Today, as I was recalling my car experiences, I first thought about the symbolism of stepping on the gas but not getting anywhere. In life, we can feel as if we are doing all the right things in order to improve our mood and our experience but we still feel stuck or like we keep coming back the same place again and again.  When this happens, it can mean that we are stuck because something is in the way and needs to be removed however, once we have removed whatever is blocking us and we still can’t move, it can also mean that we are in neutral.

When a car is in neutral, it is not in gear. It is a heavy lump of steel that uses no fuel or energy of it’s own and, in order to move, it requires a great deal of effort from an external force, such as pushing or gravity. For a car to get anywhere by it’s own means, it needs a driver to start the engine, put it in gear and tell it where to go. Our unconscious mind operates in much the same way. It needs us to set an intention, give it a direction and tell it what to do and if we don’t, it will just keep “spinning it’s wheels” and playing the same old tape, over and over again.

So how does the flat tire story fit in?

I was offered an experience that I was told could have been disastrous and which would be a lot more inconvenient than it actually was. Indeed, this “story” could have been a lot worse, both in the actual details and in the retelling of it. I could have been distracted by and invested in the emotions that came up in response to it and felt very justified in doing so. However, since I’ve had a chance to practice the skills I learned last week, I’ve been paying attention to how my unconscious mind offers me all sorts of scenarios that bring up negative emotions which are designed to alert me to unresolved issues I have from past experiences. Instead of becoming overwhelmed or trying to “process” these emotions I’ve simply thanked my unconscious mind for alerting me to these unresolved issues and telling it that I’d prefer to stop spinning my wheels and no longer feel those emotions because they don’t serve me in the present. In doing so, I have been able to instantly diffuse the feelings that I would previously have tried to “process” and quickly move on with my day, virtually unaffected.

I’ll stop there…

I hope that all makes sense. It’s really late and some metaphors are harder to sell than others :) but if you need clarification, you know where to find me.

All blessings to you…