You know the stress response don’t you?
Someone says something, does something or even just looks at you in a particular way and your anxiety level shoots up.
I was talking with a friend about using EFT to manage the stress response. She described being in a conversation when something triggered her anxiety reaction. She said on the surface she handled it with calm efficiency while just below the surface it was as if her hair stood up on end, she threw up her hands and shrieked.
I laughed and we wondered how many human social interactions were like that. Then I wondered what would it be like to be able to see these reactions as they happened rather than the calm surface most people present.
When I was a teenager I would occasionally read Marvel comics featuring the Incredible Hulk, Captain America and all those improbable superheros.
What I remember now were the adverts for silly gadgets and gizmos. In particular I remember the adverts for X-Ray Specs which allegedly let you see beneath the clothes of anyone you looked at. That seemed like a very cool gadget to a teenage boy. (Just in case you are wondering I never got a pair and now I suspect the x-ray claims were somewhat exaggerated).
What if you could get X-Ray specs that let you see the genuine reactions of people in conversations?
You could look around in a cafe, bar or street and see the real reactions of people in conversations – fright, fear, lust, anxiety, greed, distaste and all the reactions that people suppress to get along. I think it would give a fascinating glimpse of what is really going on beneath the surface of our social interactions.
Since then I’ve been thinking about a modification to these imaginary X-Ray Specs that would make them even cooler.
When we have one of these stress reactions, or some other unhelpful response to someone, we can often feel as if we are taken back to an earlier age, it’s as if we become much younger.
If you have ever been called to the bosses office and felt like you were back at school speaking to the head teacher then you will know what I mean.
A lot of our current behaviour, responses and beliefs were learnt when we were young. They have been covered with the veneer of adulthood but below the surface we are still acting as that child in many situations.
What if we could adjust the X-Ray specs so that we could see the younger selves who are running those responses and behaviours?
As we look at the person being called into the bosses office we can see them shrink down to be a nervous 8 year old struggling to appease an angry parent.
Watching an argument between a couple we could see two children desperately trying to get their needs met.
Seeing an elderly man bitterly complaining to a shop assistant we also see a
small boy trying to be heard.
I think having such a pair of X-Ray Specs would be a sobering experience as we see just how much of our interactions are being run, or at least influenced, by our younger selves.
When we have got over the shock, I think having this X-ray ability would have many benefits.
- We might see what is really going on between people. What seems like stupid arguments and struggles would become much more understandable to us.
- We would understand that in the situation where your life is being guided by a much younger self it’s not surprising that the results can often be disappointing. Our younger selves have limited resources and understanding of the world.
- We might be able to be a bit more compassionate about the difficulties we all get into.
- We could find better ways of helping people live more easily when we realise who we are really dealing with. (I see part of my job as a therapist helping people identify these inner selves, heal them and help them grow up to be part of our adult selves taking advantage of all our resources and experiences).
One last question about the X-Ray Specs
If you were wearing a pair while you were looking in a mirror, what would you see?