It’s Christmas, and I want you to be present.
You know what they say about assumptions.
You and me and most people we are likely to meet have long standing habits of assuming the worst in situations as a form of preemptive protection from harm. There are a few things wrong with this.
- It doesn’t actually protect us.
The mind is an incredible storyteller, and once given a few variables it can create an entire believable world based on an imagined scenario that feels real. This waking dream has tangible effects. Our bodies respond the same to fictional stress as they do to true threats. When we allow ourselves to perseverate and expect these worst case scenarios, the wear and tear of this stress response goes on without resolution because what we anticipate never actually arrives. Our bodies are dutifully keeping us ready for it for the long haul, but we’re finite and we eventually get drained. In the end, the harm we expect comes from our own delusions. What a tacky twist ending!
- We are usually lousy at predicting what’s going to happen.
Go back and watch every movie from your childhood that took place in an imagined future. Count the flying cars. Now count the smartphones. See what I mean? Apple and Google have pretty much all the money in the world, but they didn’t edit iPhones and Androids out of Back the Future. We just didn’t anticipate that these little glowing rectangles would take over the world.
In the same way, we tend to imagine that things will either go unrealistically good or unrealistically bad, depending on our own self image. Everyone has or is that friend who lives in denial of their limits or skills. We either project the ideal of perfection regardless of performance (all politics and most rap music) or guaranteed defeat in spite of talent (that A-student who is always sure they’re about to be expelled).
We can’t really be trusted to predict anything. We’re just relatively smart animals navigating a complex chaos that we made mostly by screwing around with a preciously self-balancing world. We’re going to come back into balance eventually too, we’re just taking a long detour because we saw a few shiny things in a ditch.
- Assumption of harm leads directly to blame.
We buy in on our ridiculous internal ghost-stories and treat other people as if they actually already did something we just think they might do. This is normalized and glossed over but it causes an incredible amount of avoidable friction. What’s more, this friction is profitable for certain industries who have massive influence in media, so outrage is an industry now. If we aren’t careful, those glowing rectangles will control us as easily as sirens and school bells already do.
- Assumption is reversible.
What if (and stay with me here because it’s gonna get uncommonly sane for a moment) we accept that we’re prone to assumption as part of the eons-old overclocked security system we know as ego or interior narration? What if we can’t get rid of assumption, but can use it another way? It’s not impossible to make use of this dirty old trick. All we have to do is switch the polarity.
- Try it now.
Imagine you’re in a mad scientist’s laboratory in a massive winding castle. Huge sparks flash between huge metal rods, ozone fills the air, and the sound is loud enough to make your arm hair shake. You look around and see a body twitching erratically on a slab. You are afraid to lift the sheet, but you know it’s your face under there. Those rods are trying to catch lightning and bring you back from this zombified state. But you’ll have to do one more thing first.
There’s a massive switch on the wall. It will take both arms, both legs, and all the power of your trunk to flip it, but you’ve got to do it or you’re going to croak on that slab. The storm outside has broken the windows and each step you take is against frigid wind, but you make it. You can finally read the inscriptions on the switch as you take hold of the massive handle.
Really see this. All of it. Notice that the switch is stuck pointing downward, toward a panel that reads “DEFAULT (And in tiny print: limitations, fears, avoidant behavior).” It is clamped in place by rusty spring steel, slightly corroded from all the voltage and current over the years. There’s another panel, on the top end of the switch. This one is almost blank, but in the center, there’s a tiny bold question mark. An arc of electricity reflects off it as you look at it, and you know what you need to do.
Imagine yourself getting into a wide, staggered stance, letting determination build as you dig in your heels. Grab that handle. Ignore the sparks, and don’t let go even if they arc across your hands. Ready? Call on your power, and PULL. Again, and again, as you wedge it free from years of inactivity. You hear a pop so loud it crosses your eyes for a moment, and then you notice: silence, and darkness.
The power’s disconnected. Circumstances are in limbo. The handle is still in your hands. Now switch your grip, and PUSH. Push until you hear that new sound, that fresh little bell-tone as the switch locks into the realm of new possibility. Take a breath, and take a look around.
The arcs have calmed into a steady blue humming glow. You glance at the slab, and the body is breathing. Walk over now, and loosen those straps. As you do, the greyed, relaxing face turns to meet yours as color returns to its cheeks. The eyes, once clenched as tight as that switch, gently and carefully open. They’re yours.
You’ve never looked into your own eyes before. Mirrors freaked you out. This time, you look deeply. A shock of understanding shivers through you. The other you, the one who’s taken all your years of suppressed pain, smiles at you. It struggles to speak, and then smiles again. “You didn’t know. I forgive you,” it whispers gently as it reaches for your hand.
You follow, not knowing what to expect. The first few steps are awkward as the other you finds its gait but you see it straighten and strengthen. It glows faintly in the blue light. “Here.” Its hand reaches for a candleholder mounted on the wall. It motions for you to help it, and together your hands turn the candleholder, which you have just realized was a hidden switch.
You hear the deep scraping sounds of moving stone. The wall is becoming a door, and in the cracks you see the brightest light of your life. You stand shocked, but your other self takes your hand again and pulls gently for you to come. As you step into the light, your mirror self fades into you, and together, you walk into the unknown, restored and reborn, with all the wisdom given by the pain of the past without any of its weight to hold you back.