Refocusing Rather Than Letting Go


Jim:    Ah.  Greetings, and welcome again to another podcast.  Another episode of Fishing Without Bait where we ask people and we show people how to live a life without definitive expectations – hence the Fishing Without Bait – leading a mindful existence where we appreciate each moment of existence.  When we find the uniqueness of each moment we will never be bored again.  That may sound like pie-in-the-sky new age stuff, however, when we being to practice it in our lives it actually becomes true.  So, Mike – Mr. Mike is my co-host, friend, and producer, and think of our conversation at this present moment, Mike, as we speak.  How did you learn to speak?

Mike:    Yabba, yabba, yabba, yabba, yabba, yabba.  I’m still working on it, actually.

Jim:    So, you learned how to form words.  You learned how to make words into sentences.  You learned how to put them into a format to express your wants, your needs, your feelings.  How did that happen?

Mike:    Over time.  Over trial and error, I guess.  Things like that.

Jim:    So, by referencing the past – everything that you’ve learned in the past.  So, what we’re talking about, the way that you can speak, the way that you can do things now, is you’re referencing the past and using it effectively, are you not?

Mike:    Right.  It all kind of builds in and creates – I like to say every time you learn something it’s a new wrinkle in your brain that stores that.

Jim:    Indeed.  When we often talk about – people often talk about letting go of the past.  Do you want to let go of everything in the past, Mike?

Mike:    No.  The parts that get in your way, I guess you could say.

Jim:    Absolutely.  We want to let them go.  So, using technology as a tool, okay, you had to learn how to do these things, did you not?  You had to learn how to operate a smart phone, to learn how to run the computer, to learn how to do these video things.

Mike:    Exactly.  And when it comes to technology, I talk to people and they see how I turn all the dials and am making something happen with the video production or these Twitter or podcasts.  And, they’re like how did you figure all this stuff out?  I’m like I took the time.  I concentrated on it.  I didn’t learn all this last night, you know.  Just this week I’m using new technology and I was scared out of my mind because we had never used x, y, and z before, right?  But, give me a couple months from now when I’ve used it several times – now I’m the expert in that, and now it’s super scary to somebody else and I’m the one looking at it like oh yeah, that’s the thing we do.  

Jim:    So, what you’ve done is to use the past in an effective manner?

Mike:    Exactly.  Both the positive and the negative.  

Jim:    Right.  By referencing it.  Again, when we talk about the narrative of our lives, when we talk about timelines, when we talk about people always saying let go of the past, again we get back to the choice.  We want to have a choice on what to discard.  There are some things in our past that we can choose to discard – things that serve no useful purpose in the present.  Mike, we’ve spoken before about how we learn and how we make memories.  We’ve learned that we – generally, they stick in our mind, they become markers through emotional appeals, significant moments, right?  Remember, we talk often about do you remember what you’ve had for lunch five (5) weeks ago?  Well, of course not.  However, when we get up and we throw iced tea in someone’s face, they’re going to remember that moment.  

Mike:    What experiences have you had at lunch?

Jim:    Maybe I ought to go into some psychoanalysis.  

Mike:    You thrown stuff like that out, and I’m like where are we going with this?

Jim:    There might have been a lunch many, many years ago that I’ve had iced tea thrown in my face.

Mike:    We’re going to dedicate an episode to that at some point I think.

Jim:    You know how attached I am to iced tea.  

Mike:    There you go.

Jim:    Remember, Mike, it’s our emotional attachment to our original experience that form our present response – be that through emotion or action.  

Mike:    I think that happens with a lot of things.  So, I think about my memories, right?  We were sitting at dinner last night.  We were going back and thinking about all the cartoons we grew up on and the toys that we played with.  And, I realized why did I remember x?  It was the emotional attachment to them, I felt awesome when I got to go home and watch He-Man every day.  That really resonates.  I don’t want to say in a superficial way, but that’s a thing that is a part of me, and that’s why I still buy He-Man toys.

Jim:    You have fond memories of He-Man.

Mike:    Yeah.  It just attaches.

Jim:    Absolutely.  Most people believe that the thing that sticks most firmly in their mind are negative experiences.  That’s not often quite true.  However, what you’re talking to me about, maybe we discount the joyful.  We discount the happy times.  The question is, again, is how do we deal with our present responses that perhaps aren’t getting us to a position or a place where it’s beneficial in our lives.  Quite often you’ll hear people say oh, forget about it.  I remember, and this might date me a little bit, but the Sopranos.  One of their famous likes was when something would happen, they’d make an error, or they’d do something bad, the boss would say, “Ah, forget about it.”  In that case, he didn’t forget about it.  When they generally said that, they were in trouble.  Mike, we’re not asking people to forget.

Mike:    No.  Nor are we the Sopranos and probably going to react very harshly about things.

Jim:    No.  So, again, what we want to do is become the observer.  When we learn how to become the observer through mindfulness, Mike, by labeling and describing our current experience.  Where we’re at, what we’re doing, how’re we feeling, being able to step back behind this mind – behind this thinker, that perhaps is acting subconsciously.  Here again, we’re going to talk about doing no harm.  We insist that people do themselves no harm.  Particularly in trauma cases, Mike, it would be cruel and insensitive to tell people just to forget it – to get over it.

Mike:    Right.  It’s – like we talked about before, how it’s hard to make that choice, and you have to make that choice on several layers of your brain, I like to think, right?  That’s so deep-rooted you have to kind of work at it.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, when we’re becoming the observer sometimes these scenes that we’re  viewing as the observer may cause such emotional disturbance that it is best to have a co-pilot with you – a co-pilot perhaps in the form of a trained clinician.  What we ask people is to begin to own their feelings – begin their choices to own their feelings.  At times, Mike, our subconscious is stuck in the past.  Sometimes our subconscious is unaware that we have grown and matured and we’re ready to grow.  Our subconscious quite often is reacting to experiences in the past – the emotional responses to periods in the past.  Our subconscious tries to protect us at times, Mike.  A lot of times it tries to buffer us from particular unpleasantness in this present moment.

Mike:    It’s kind of the security system for your brain.

Jim:    Yes, it is.  It’s a life preserver.  It’s kind of like a firewall on a computer.  Let’s say that – your subconscious can be a firewall.  Let’s talk a little bit about an elephant.  

Mike:    It’s not the big pink elephant – no that was a hippopotamus a few episodes ago.

Jim:    Not this one, Mike.  When we see a huge elephant – I mean, the thing weighs five (5) tons.  Huge.  Quite often, how are they tied?  They’re tied by a little, either leather or a small little steel thing around one (1) foot with a chain with a stake into the ground.  Really and truly that elephant could at any time pull that stake out of the ground.  Again, what we’re looking at – remember when the elephant was very young the trainer used exactly the same method to restrain it.  However, at that time, the elephant may have weighed 200 pounds and could not budge that stake out of the ground.  It was sufficient then to hold it back.  So, what did it do?  It stopped trying.  Your subconscious mind gets caught into that mold, okay.  What we’re dealing with here is self-limiting beliefs, which is why the elephant today its subconscious doesn’t realize that it’s twelve (12) feet tall and weighs five (5) tons and could easily lift that out of the ground.  The subconscious through its self-limiting beliefs still believes that it is bound by that stake, by that small chain.  That’s the way sometimes that our subconscious can hold us back, can bind us, and do that.  When we talk about self-limiting beliefs sometimes it occurs from a failure, or an early experience dealing with a particular situation.  Mike, this is where choices come in yet again.  We ask people to be mindful, to become the observer in the present moment and begin to ask themselves am I that child today?  Have I grown?  Are these the exact same circumstances that I find myself in today that I was at that age, at that time?  This is where you become a non-judgmental observer.  And, again, Mike, this is a process where we don’t want people to get overwhelmed.  This is a process where for truly traumatic experiences – and what’s traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another, it is only determined by the intensity that that person feels it.  

Mike:    Exactly.  Like what I think we talked about last episode how you can have the same upbringing in the same house, two brothers or two sisters whatever the case may be, and one just may go completely this way and completely that way in their reaction of how they take their lives to that.

Jim:    So, we’re talking about focusing on strengths.  We’re talking about dealing with fear.  Rather than – speaking about letting go, Mike, can we talk about refocusing?  Refocusing and letting go.  There’s quite a few things, and this is an anonymous quote.  A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.  So, quite often in life there are bends.  However, given your past emotional responses it could be the end of the road for you subconsciously.  Again, are we going to let these past experiences continue to be a burden and be a weight that we basically drag through the rest of our lives.  We’re going to end today’s podcast, Mike, with a story.  There were two (2) monks, an older monk and a younger monk.  They were on a pilgrimage.  They were walking along the road.  They came up to a wide river.  It’s moving fairly swiftly.  There was a young woman weeping by the side of it, and she says “I’m not strong enough to cross.  Will one of you please help me?”  She was begging them.  Well, the younger monk turns his back to her and started to walk across the river, as in their order they were forbidden to touch women.  However, the older monk picks the woman up without a word, carries her across the river, and deposits her.  And, they go on their way.  And, the young monk is unmerciful in berating the older monk.  “How could you have broken your vows?  How could you have done that?  You’re a disgrace.  You’re going to have to leave.  What type of an example are you?”  On, and on.  The whole day.  Finally, at the end of the day, the old monk sits down and he looks at the younger one and he said “I just carried her across the river.  You’ve been carrying her all day.”  Until then, we’ll meet again. 

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