Most of us yearn for familiarity. All we want is the safety and security that comes after routines have been established, relationships have been solidified, and the terrifying phase of the unknown has transformed into the familiar.
Our brains, in attempts to conserve energy, begin to ignore what has been deemed non-threatening to survival. It’s smart, really. Makes plenty of sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
But this kind of autopilot familiarity can be a breeding ground for complacency, for lost perspective, and for lingering unhappiness.
The shift from being tuned in–a mode in which we’re aware of how we feel, how a space or relationship or job makes us feel–to tuned out–a mode in which we lose our ability to actually see the reality and decipher what it conjures in us emotionally–happens in an instant. Without our knowing it’s happened, we’ve shifted from aware, perceptive, and insightful to resigned, in denial, or numb.
This is why people live among clutter for years. Why individuals stay with unhealthy partners. Why dutiful employees continue to punch in to thankless jobs day after day after day.
We forget that we have to continually turn our eyes back on.
Take a step back. Take three steps back. Blink a bunch of times. Admit that the version of reality you’ve been governed by all this time might just be one limited snapshot. There might be an almost-unlimited number of alternative perspectives from which to consider the scene.
Then the feelings start flooding in. Don’t send them away. Listen. Listen to the annoyance that comes up when you look at the crack in the ceiling–the one you’ve looked at every night for the past 2 years–and actually see that crack. Recognize the anger and overwhelm that comes when you analyze the true state of the closet you’ve gotten dressed in for the past 5 years and realize nothing about it makes you feel good. Acknowledge the exhaustion you’ve denied for years that’s the result of an inefficient, inauthentic routine.
Maybe there’s a better way to do things. Maybe there’s a smarter way, a kinder way, an easier way. Maybe your couch doesn’t have to go on that side of the room. Maybe there is a way to fit exercise into your weekly calendar. Maybe you actually can pursue your purpose. Maybe the solution to the problem is so much Simpler than you’ve made it out to be. Maybe all that’s needed to reinvigorate, correct, and release is to re-examine your familiar.
Dismiss all your preconceived notions. Shut out all your assumptions. Close your eyes and open them as if for the first time. Tell me, what do you see?