This article originally appeared on Thrive Global.
We are the director of our lives, regularly casting people to fill premeditated roles that we have set up from childhood.
Without a point of reference to determine what is normal beyond our own experience or what the people around us are experiencing, we are going to cast the roles based on what we know or have experienced in our lives.
Overbearing boss? Emotionally avoidant partner? Lacking passion in your sex life? Struggling to find a partner who is a true match? Overwhelming sense of low grade anxiety anytime you’re around other people? Friends who are constantly pulling on you? Friends who never reach out unless you initiate connection?
We have chosen each of the people we are connected with in present day to mirror to us precisely where we need to heal wounds from our past.
And in some cases, we are explicitly avoiding any form of intimate relationship or connection with those around us because to get the reflection at all is far too painful.
If we don’t get a negative reflection because we don’t open ourselves up to others, we can continue to convince ourselves that nothing is wrong at all, or that the problems lies somewhere else.
Though even then, we are likely casting other emotionally avoidant people in our lives with whom we can continue to feel "safe" from "drama."
Here's the reality: we all have wounds. All of us. We have deeply seeded conditioning from our parents and grandparents and society and sometimes totally evident life-altering trauma on top of all that, too. Just because you don’t remember an extraordinary event from childhood or your past where you experienced hurt or pain, doesn’t mean there is nothing to look at.
But instead of looking back, attempting to excavate deeply buried memories using the outdated talk-therapy method, look into the present.
What are your current relationships like?
Do you have deeply nourishing connections where you can be vulnerable, share your full self without worrying about the consequences, and where you feel both supported and empowered?
Be honest with yourself.
You can’t go back and change the past, but you can use your present relationships to heal what you have made the past mean about you, so that you stop casting wounded roles in your present and future, and eventually transform all of your relationships into generative, inspiring, and connected experiences.
So where do you start? I generally find that a willingness to ask this one vulnerable question, is a major game changer:
"Is it possible that I could experience this situation or person any other way than the way I'm currently experiencing it?"
Sometimes we avoid asking ourselves this question or some variation of it because we have been deeply conditioned to not want for more than we already have. Or because to admit that we are not satisfied, means there is something wrong with us, or that we have somehow failed at the game of life or adulting. Or we are so convinced that we don't have a choice about how we experience our reality that we just avoid looking at it altogether.
I know. I've been there, too.
But what we're actually doing when we're asking ourselves this question, is we're pooling all our options, and we're giving ourselves the gift of freedom, in a very small, digestible, dose. It's sort of like getting a second opinion from a different doctor before opting for a risky surgery. Perhaps there's something we can't see from the scope of our own life experience, and in asking the question, we open ourselves up to possible new perspectives, all within our own mind. And, we are remembering that we always have a choice about how we want to experience our reality.
Once we remember that we have a choice, and also understand that we make all of our decisions based on our previous experiences, we have both the tools and the power to change whatever we want.