As a therapist, people love to quiz me about the kinds of things I hear and the kinds of people I meet. But time and time again I'll be asked "what's the worst thing people say to you during a therapy session?". Well, that's an easy one.
Usually this particular response follows an explanation of a new concept or idea. Nope, it's not the "Eureka!" moment I am looking for, but the single worst thing I can hear back is a short, "Yeah but, I already know that." This is a regular and fairly common response during a therapy session that I'm always prepared for. But it's very rarely true.
Truly knowing something without judgement or old ideas getting in the way is a process. Yes we can have an intellectual understanding of something almost instantly, but that isn't enough to make actual changes in our lives. Intellectually understanding something is just the tip of the iceberg.
Let's take a simple example of taking regular breaks. We know, intellectually, that we should punctuate our day with time away from our desks and fresh air. But that knowing doesn't stop many of us powering through, having four or five coffees and not leaving our desks until after 7pm.
You could say there's knowing and there's KNOWING.
Why do we limit ourselves?
As a species we like to believe that we're in control. Many of us like to believe that we can think, rationalise and intellectualise our way through life. However, we need to remember that the way any animal thinks depends on the limitations of both its mind and its body. If we learn our limitation too soon, we may never truly discover our power.
As an example, a girl who was told in school that fitness isn't ladylike and should only be for the boys may avoid exercise and working out. She's accepted a limitation given to her by the outside world and is lacking the evidence that of course she could play sports and enjoy exercise.
We have to push past these limitations and past our mind resistance to a place of truly knowing who we are, what we can achieve and how we can get there. This is where both our growth and our personal power are hiding. That same girl, living without the limitations could be an Olympic gold medalist.
"Yeah but, I already know that..." is really just another way to fight for these limitations, another way to argue for the delusion that we've built for ourselves or that was given to us many years ago. This is the mind equivalent of swatting away an annoying fly that is making it harder and harder for us to sustain our delusion. The irony is it's not an annoying fly, it's a new idea that could have a very positive impact!
Richard Bach said it best, "Argue for your limitations and sure enough they're yours."
Why some people might not really want the truth
"Yeah but, I already know that....." Hmm.. well let's get real, you don't because if you did, it would be part of your life in some way. You'd be putting it into practice. We can very easily give others advice and suggestions. To many of us it's second nature to help, but why do we find it so hard to follow our own good advice?
Truly knowing something can often be too real for us to take. Finding the reality behind an idea is enough to deconstruct our delusions and leaves us on shaky, unfamiliar ground. So many people don't want the truth, they just want constant reassurance that what they already think is right. Even if that thought is damaging to their life and their future.
We have to be very careful of the "I know that" trap, because we deny ourselves the opportunities to overcome our perceived limitations, to grow and to see the magic of deeply knowing something for ourselves.
How to truly know something and let change in
To truly know something, we have to know it in a three dimensional way:
- The first stage is to intellectually understand something new.
- The experiential stage of finding out how the new idea relates to our current perception or mindset is next.
- And finally, as we see the benefits of cultivating a new idea into our lives, then our unconscious belief structure shifts and it becomes a new way of living.
Yes it sounds challenging, but if you're open-minded, searching for the truth and willing to accept you can't know all the answers it can be easier than you might expect.
Let's go through a few examples:
When working with strength-training, a really good personal trainer will teach his or her clients that they are more than their mind resistance. The PT will take their client to the edge of their perceived limitation and then over to the other side. This means that over time, and through this ever-increasing experience, the client starts to believe they are more than their thoughts, that's when the coach can step away and smile.
In Kundalini yoga, the instructor will take his or her class to the limits of concentration, focus and breath. Breathing exercises take you to the limit of consciousness. The instructor reads and adjusts as the class progresses and individually the attendees realise, as they are stretched, that they have more power and resilience than what they previously thought.
The other way for us to smash our limitations is when the outside world comes in to mess with us, for example:
During a natural disaster communities rally together despite their differences.
When a man becomes a father unexpectedly he may think he's not ready, but the majority of us naturally act, accept and start to believe they can play that role.
When people are suffering from debilitating depression and feel like they've hit rock bottom, during and following their recovery they realise they actually had the strength to get through their problems all along. They just had to look within.
It's time to get curious and open our minds to some of the answers that are already right there. We have to move away from knowing it all and the "I already know that" barrier. Instead we need to accept that there's a journey of truly knowing the answers for ourselves. It's time to start that journey.
Go to The Performance Lounge for more information about experiential therapy, breaking down barriers and moving past your perceived limitations.