This started out as advice my therapist gave me, when I complained about being unable to trust myself. It’s difficult to make good decisions when I’m very aware of how profoundly trauma has shaped my worldview and the way I interpret what happens to me. If I can’t get good data about what’s going on and what people are doing, how can I trust my reactions or know what to do?
She reminded me again – you are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings. You are a being inhabited by both of those things. And here’s the deal: your feelings, your sensory experience and the bodily reactions you have to that, and what that feels like… none of that can lie to you. It simply can’t. Its only function is to tell you what it feels.
But your brain’s whole job is to take sensory input, interpret it, and make decisions based on its interpretations. Your brain can and almost constantly does lie to you. Your brain can lie to you about where your pain is coming from or how to solve it. Your brain can lie to you about what you’re seeing, hearing, or doing. If you’ve got a good imagination, or if you’ve had a lot of trauma that resulted in your brain becoming… talented… in some very specific ways, your brain is very, very good at lying to you. Sometimes it’s so good at it that it can create an entire world that doesn’t exist for you to live in.
If you’re anything like me, it can feel by the time you’re grown up that you’re living inside a Lying Machine. Even if, like me, you got a little paranoid about lying after spending a childhood doing it in self-defense, and swore off it entirely… it still feels like you’re lying every single second. It still takes armor to go out, to talk to people; it’s still a different mask with everyone, a different shape to fit against everyone, none of it quite… right. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s what everyone does, it’s just that… being aware of it makes it a little harder to do naturally. It’s not muscle memory for me to act like a person. I have to do it manually, step by step, memorized out of the book.
So how is it ever possible to know what’s going on when your organizing organ, the one that’s supposed to figure out what’s going on, is a pathological liar? You have to let go of the thoughts, turn off the Lying Machine. It’s not required to live, and you can turn it off with a little focus. Focus all of your attention on that incoming sensory data, the stuff your brain is trying to interpret. Stop slapping words on it, stop trying to categorize and label it, stop all of that. No, stoppit. Just… observe. Just pinpoint the thing, see and hear it very well. If you’re crying, if you’re angry, if you’re afraid, if you’re stressed, go inside your body and find where that feeling is right now. Is it knotting behind your sternum? Is it tension in your shoulders? Is it pressure in your throat, like you want to speak or shout?
I’m not asking you to fix any of these things, or relax them, or anything. Just look at them. Note every single thing about them. Where, how, how much. Hot, cold, hard, soft, loud, subtle? What happens inside the Machine when everything is still? Pay attention. Don’t miss a thing. If you have time to form words about any of it, you’re missing something. Keep listening. Keep feeling.
Your body can’t lie to you. Your brain will take huge floods of incoming data and build conspiracy theories off it. So when the data starts flooding in, when you’re overwhelmed for whatever reason, just turn off the Lying Machine and monitor the incoming data. Bathe in it, like a wave. The Machine would tell you that you can make it stop, that you can in some way affect how chaotic everything is inside you and outside you, but you can’t. What’s happening is happening, and until it slows down, there’s no point in scrambling to organize it. Don’t try to control what you can’t control. Be here, right now. Don’t miss it or drown in it because you’re busy wishing it was something else.
Listen to your guts – they can’t lie to you.
Your brain, now, can’t do anything but lie
and try to persuade other brains to buy
and no matter what you say… they do.
No one claims to know the truth anymore.
The truth can only tie you to the ground;
why choose one world when there’s more to be found?
We burnt the boats the moment we hit shore.
But dearest, here’s the thing about running:
there’s oh so much you have to leave behind.
The wind can get to howlin’ in your mind
when you fix your eyes on your becoming.
Make a promise, get yourself in a bind –
make sure when Death comes, he’s taking something.