I could have done with seventy years of wisdom installed when I was born. It may have stifled some of the adventure of living, but it would also have stopped some major train wrecks. I’ve attended four year courses on a subject and a one hour crash course on the Internet. So I thought it must be possible to attend and study the training course in ‘how to be wise’. There is, but it’s a lifetime course without no guarantees of graduation. Maybe I could get a crash course in wisdom over a week.
Unfortunately, the fast-track to wisdom does not exist (for me anyway). So no matter how much I’d love a wrinkle-free version of my life, it wasn’t going to happen sooner or later. So I had to come up with something that would help me in everyday situations. Like a cheat sheet of wisdom that I could refer to when my back was to the wall. I like to think of wisdom as the intersection of knowledge and timing. Having all the know-how in the world is irrelevant and useless if you don’t use it at the right time.
So I used something I named ‘emotional bookkeeping’. It’s a fancy name for what is a simple journal technique that notes each entry by what I’m aware of through sight, sound, feel, touch, or taste.. I found that if I could not rely on memory alone to learn and grow from. My memory of an event magnified the good or bad emotions, without accurate records of the details. I needed the journal more than I thought.
I detail my inner and outer struggles. But most of all I keep track of my relationships. I try to note down the data received by my senses before I color them with feelings. And as soon as I can after any interaction. I’m always surprised at the number of people I interact with. There were many unplanned and improvised contacts that I would not remember or would have unconsciously ignored.
Try for yourself
Think about your day today and see if you can remember all the people you had words with. Then try thinking about those who made eye contact with you but with no words exchanged. And I won’t ask you to remember all the people that passed through your movie, the extras! That’s a lot of people, and each one has a reason to be there, because they are there.
Why go to all this trouble?
I found that I can only heal myself as part of a relationship. What I reflect on others is what I am. This interaction highlights the problems and offers the opportunity to find solutions. I cannot heal myself on my own, I see that. It is the connection, the bonding that heals.
When I put my feelings out there I am left exposed. Out of the safe house, wandering unknown streets unprotected. I am vulnerable. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. So much so, that I find myself fighting the easier option, of not having any contact with strangers, friends or family at all. A shield to protect my feelings is the default option, as it is yours. So to avoid keeping people at a distance, I concentrate and focus on noting what the ‘senses’ are receiving. Otherwise, the highly intelligent ego fills in the blanks (inaccurately). Think of it like a satellite receiver, where my focus is on the signal, without getting distracted by the drama of the TV films or shows.
Gift of connections
Each person I meet is a gift. It’s an opportunity to heal myself. And that doesn’t mean I enjoy every meeting or confrontation. Far from it. There can be many moments of frustration, irritation, and anger. This is what I have accepted so that I can be the best version of me. It is the hard conversations that produce the biggest challenges and also the biggest changes. I seek the wounds of the past or present, and strip back any unnecessary attachments to emotions. It’s like falling off you bike and grazing your knee. It hurts. But I get up and get back on the bike. And when I get home I clean the graze of any dirt. Then add a cream or ointment, and allow time for it to heal. Or lose years of fun and never get back on the bike again.
If I want to grow, I must be willing to learn. And to learn I need to observe and quiet the running commentary in my head. The emotional bookkeeping helps me everyday to find greater peace. But I need to be aware of all contacts I make directly or indirectly. Every contact I make leaves a mark. I try to write down only the raw data from my sensing organs. That way I reduce the chances of the ego painting a different picture. All I can do is to note down the type of mark they leave without reacting emotionally.
This allows me to work on and try to reduce my insecurities and also stops me clinging onto a narrative that isn’t there. Reducing the insecurities means I don’t have the unhealthy need to control others. This is the kind of raw honesty that I seek, as it helps me to heal and grow.