There are so many things in this world that we don’t know. As humans, instead of leaving the unknown as a blank page we tend to make things up. In other words, we are constantly making assumptions.
For example you are in a bar and a man looks over. You make eye contact and he smiles at you. You don’t know anything about this man or what his interest about you could be. You only know a couple of facts: two people looked eye to eye and the corners of his mouth turned up.
The rest, the parts you don’t know you fill in based on your perception of the world. You might assume, “that man is creepy”, or “ooh this one really likes me”, neither of which are founded in any kind of reality.
We walk around all day long filling in the parts of the world we don’t know with our projections. But what is a projection, and how does this process work?
As we talked about in our blog on Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP, there are two billion bits of info coming at us per moment in chunks of data. Yet we only process seven (plus or minus two) at a time. This means that in order to take in our experience we are constantly in a process of deleting, distorting and generalising the real experience. (If you’d like to know more about this you can read our NLP Blog or even better: join us for our 4 day INLPTA training this July 26-29)
We usually take in the data that already fits in with our current beliefs about the world, and we are always filtering data dependant on our current state (ie if you are sad, you look for depressing data. If you are angry you look for infuriating data etc).
After we have filtered out everything that doesn’t fit we are left with our projection. This is how two different women may sit in the same bar while the same facts happen and have two different experiences. One sees the man smile and feels, “oh, creepy” while the other feels “ooh he likes me”.
Also, our projections are constantly creating our experiences and another word for this is manifestation. What we think about the world is then how we take action and create the next steps of our existence. We are always manifesting whether we are conscious of it or not. We can manifest great things in our lives by focusing consciously on what we want and by being grateful and positive, or we can manifest more pain and suffering by staying in our limited and negative perceptions and assumptions of the world.
The problem with assumption
It is normal to try to fill in the gaps. Making assumptions is a survival trait: just as we discussed in our article about negative emotions, these parts of ourselves exist because they got us right here where are through a long line of ancestors.
Throughout time, we used assumptions because we needed to know about the world and people so we could understand what is safe and what is not. The problem is not that we fill in the gaps with guesswork, the problem is in assuming that it is the truth.
Your assumptions about the world and about people are not real. While at times they could be accurate they are far more often inaccurate. Then we begin to base our words and actions on conclusions that are not real and often harmful. This is most prevalent within relationships where both parties are living separate realities but assuming they know and understand the other.
It is important to understand that the only way to find out the truth of something is to ask: everything else you believe is simply a projection. And when I say ask: I mean ask and then really listen. Clarify what you have heard. Be like a great investigator that will not stop until they have arrived at the truth. There are many tools you can learn to do this; modalities that teach communication or getting yourself in front of a therapist who will guide you to talk with your loved ones.
Asking for clarification may look something like this:
Person 1: “Two, it looks like you are angry at me but I am not sure, can you tell me what you are felling right now?”
Person 2: “Yes I am angry, but not at you. I had a challenging day at work and I have a huge headache and I was hoping for an hour to myself tonight”.
Without gaining clarification Person 2 may have spent hours in ruminating thoughts about how awful Person 1 was being to them and creating all kinds of stories in their head that aren’t actually true. Much damage can be done to relationships in this way.
It can be very scary to ask for clarification as most of us are terrified of conflict or of being hurt or rejected by the truth. This fear often keeps us tied to our assumptions. We therefore live in a world full of projection: seeing the world only from our own perspective.
A fun (but challenging) exercise
An exercise that I love to give my clients is to take a whole week and try not to make any meaning. Look only at the facts. As much as you can see a smile for simply what it is, a smile. See anger for what it is, simply anger. Look around you and take out all the stories, assumptions and projections. Just be with what is. If you get caught anywhere and if you’re feeling brave, ask for clarification. Try to remember that just because you think it, it doesn’t mean its true.
Good luck, I’d love to hear how it goes.
Humans are social animals. Because we live together in complex social structures and cultures there will always be conflict. While this is an unavoidable part of life, how we manage conflict differs greatly.
When we are unconsciously in conflict we tend to be fear based and take on one of three unhelpful main roles: that of victim, rescuer or persecutor. When we can bring consciousness or awareness to conflict we transform these roles into something greater.
Stephen Karpman created the drama triangle in 1968 as a way to understand how conflict arises between people. It shows us what roles we take in unconscious conflict, and how we can use presence to rise above the triangle to take more effective roles. (See fig 1.)
Before we go into what the roles of unconscious conflict are, it is important to understand that at any time we are in movement between the three roles.
The fear-based unconscious roles of the triangle
Being the victim means you feel helpless, like the event is happening to you and there isn’t much you can do about it. As the victim we might say things like “this always happens to me” or “why am I in this situation again?” or “nothing ever works out for me”. There is a feeling of having little control over ones experience. We may ask for help but we don’t really want to be helped. The emotions characterised here is sadness.
In the rescuer role we take responsibility for other peoples problems and make them our own. We’re nice and we think we can help but usually we are doing so in a way that makes the other helpless. As a rescuer it is easy to neglect our own lives and the problems inherent in them, looking out to others instead. We may see people going through a difficult time and think or say things like, “Oh look at that person, I will help them”. We run to the rescue and solve problems for others instead of empowering them to take care of themselves. The emotion that drives the rescuer is fear.
The persecutor is frustrated, self righteous a bit of a bully. In this role we may think or say things like “they are wrong and I am right”, or “they need to do what I say” or “that person will get what is coming to them”. We are dominant, overbearing and characterised by anger. The persecutor is also sometimes called the villian.
The starting concept
Although we are in constant movement between the roles there may be one that we enter with the greatest ease. This is called the starting concept. What this mean is that one of the three roles may come more naturally to you and is the one you are likely to enter into first.
The starting concept is often how we define our identity or how we see ourselves. Inevitably, no matter which one you identify with the most, we will all end up as victims in a fear based unconscious conflict. Without presence, we all arrive at a place of powerlessness and hopelessness.
How do we get out of the drama triangle?
When we shine the light on consciousness we are able to move out of these roles into a higher state of being. The victim become what is called the survivor or creator. The rescuer becomes the teacher or coach. And the persecutor becomes the challenger.
Let’s see how this works.
Victim to survivor (or creator)
With awareness we can identify that we are in the victim role. Instead of remaining helpless we can instead think like a problem solver. We ask ourselves some key questions that will result in action and solution solving.
-What do I want?
-What steps can I take to get what I want?
We can also take active steps to look into what is going right over what is going wrong: for example making a list of all the things in your life that are currently working, writing down five things you are grateful for, or asking yourself what did I achieve this week?
Rescuer to coach
Awareness placed on our rescuer tendencies can help us to have less fear. We can allow others to be responsible for themselves. Once we can see clearly into the rescuing behaviour we can take ourselves out by remembering the fable of teaching a man to fish. This usually requires letting go of the dependency you have created for others.
We do this by listening and supporting others to find solutions for themselves. We must resist the urge to tell them what to do or give the answers to them. Instead, we teach them how to catch fish for themselves. This requires the belief that each person is just as capable of figuring out life as you are, that you are no better or worse than them.
You might ask, “what would you like to see happen?” or “what do you think you can do to change things?” It is also important to set healthy boundaries with the other regarding how much time you are willing to spend with them on an issue so each party knows where the coaching begins and ends.
Persecutor to challenger
To take yourself out of the persecutor role you have to bring presence to your anger. What is it that you want to be done? You must be firm but fair in your approach, addressing consequences of actions and setting firm boundaries.
You might say “if you keep your side of the agreement I will keep mine”. You must be able to recognise that it is not your problem to solve, but rather you have the opportunity to hold someone accountable.
The coke machine
When you are ready to step out of the drama triangle just remember that others aren’t always coming with you. This can create some disruption as you are no longer predictable to the people around you.
Imagine a coke machine. We all know that when you place your money in and make your selection the drink comes out. This is predictable and how it is. If the coke does not come out what do you do? Usually we start the shake the machine, tap the button, or rock it side to side. We’ll do many things to try to get the machine to do the predictable thing.
At first, as your behaviour is no longer familiar, others may try to push your buttons and give you a shake too. It is important to be ready to respond with presence and love, no matter what. Eventually, as you let others be, resisting the urge to rescue them, get angry at them or feel victimised by their behaviour, they may just rise out of the triangle with you too.