Not to long ago I was at a family gathering and someone brought up an old childhood event that happened many years ago. The curious thing was that both of my sisters, as well as my brother, had a different recollection about it. It appeared like they were not even in the same room, let alone having witnessed the same situation.
This made me contemplate about manipulation and the way we control our reality.
I would not call anyone in my family a liar, in the sense that they would deliberately tell an untruth, far from it. And yet, looking back, I can see how everyone was silently but actively co-operating to build and strengthen a certain story and keep it alive. That included to integrate own experiences with the perceived game-plan. And this explains the different perception of a simple situation.
In addition I remember my own fantasy-worlds from early on. Our playing always included the imaginary and we would make up stories, take on roles and then slip into the other worlds. I remember that it was sometimes difficult for me to keep apart what was real and what was a fantasy, the boundaries were blurred and fuzzy.
And I also remember I had an inner secret hiding place, my own private fantasy world with everything in it that I could imagine. At times I would slip away and live there in peace, harmony and all the excitements and adventures I could dream up. Later I became an avid reader, and I would live between the books, our fantasy worlds, my own hiding place – and sometimes coming out for dinner or going to school.
I did not have a difficult childhood, but my teenage years were challenging. So this ability to switch off one reality and switch on another came in handy. For a few years I even withdrew to my own hideout and this is how I survived without taking damage by all the conflict around me. When I left home to go to university, my life became quiet again and soon I had all but forgotten my secret world.
But looking back, I can see now how I built my own reality influenced and fueled by the beliefs, identifications and expectations that were ingrained in me. Much of it looked like my own self-determined choice, but I know now that many of my decisions were driven by my own desire to be in a certain way – independent, self-sufficient and unattached. Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret a single decision in my life, but I see now what was driving it and I can fully understand the driving forces behind it.
And I can see how it became necessary to bend the truth over time. Find reasons, excuses, explanations that supported my own story and at the same time did not rock the stories of others. I often felt a deep split, something that was not right, and yet – I never knew what that was, because everything was as it was supposed to be. Or so I thought.
I had a really good life, but I was rarely truly happy.
Today I can look at it and laugh about it. Again, I don’t think I have taken the wrong decisions, but I see how I played my part in the charade and by doing so I became compliant for others to stay in theirs. This is how we keep each other in this fragile balance of illusion.
And I have become watchful regarding my own attempts to control the environment. This can be very subtle, for example by influencing others in such a way that they do what I want them to do. Or to hide my own perceived or real mistakes, pretend to be something I am not, take on a role because it makes me feel right or superior, or supports my own idea about myself.
We try to control all day long, whether we do something – or not. What I am suggesting is to be conscious of the little things we do in a day – how we talk to people, the choices we make and the words we choose. It is all hints that point back at us and shows how we want to be right all the time.
As if this was a matter of survival.