For as long as I can remember, I have had this nagging, low-level feeling that I’m about to get in trouble. It has been an ongoing theme playing in the background of my mind for decades. I think people do that. They pick up a tune in their head and it just keeps playing over and over, and is adapted to fit whatever happens to be going on in their life. For me, I have versions of the “gonna get in trouble” tune that I have played at work, with regard to chores around the house, and in relationship with friends and family. Sometimes I play a slightly different version, “I know I am forgetting something”, and of course, having forgotten whatever it is will get me in trouble somehow.
There are endless varieties of tunes, but some are on the most popular list and get adopted a lot, tunes like “I’m not smart enough,” or “I’m not pretty enough”. Another popular one is, “I’ll probably get sick.” Probably less common, but there are also happy tunes, like “Things always work out for me.” I like that tune. I want to have that one on my playlist.
These tunes actually shape and influence the outcomes of people’s lives. Our brains hear the themes we repeat endlessly to ourselves and then sets out on a mission to find things and situations that align with them, and filters out anything that doesn’t. We all have these themes, or beliefs, that run our lives, and until we make it conscious and notice what we are doing, it will continue playing and influencing what we let in to our lives and what we filter out of our lives. There is an unlimited abundance of ideas, resources and opportunities right in front of us that we are totally overlooking because our brain filters them out as a result of the stories we tell ourselves and the theme songs we play on auto-repeat. It defines our identity, who and how we think we are. I suppose you could call it “I tunes”, since we use them to define who we are, who “I” am.
My “I’m about to get in trouble” theme started in my childhood at least by the summer in which I turned 12. This was the summer my family moved to a tiny town called Oologah. We lived in a mobile home, or house trailer, some folks called them, parked in the middle of a cow pasture. I have three older sisters and a younger brother, and each of us kids was assigned chores, such as vacuuming and dusting or carrying out the trash, and we would get in trouble if we didn’t have them done by the time Mom got home from work.
I was a procrastinator, even way back then, and that was on a good day. Most days it was worse than procrastination. I just didn’t get it done. And I constantly had that “I’m gonna get in trouble,” feeling hanging over me. One of my sisters was quite fond of reminding me of my impending doom as well. But still, whatever it was that diverted my attention apparently seemed more important to me than getting my chores done and avoiding punishment. Honestly, I can’t even remember what the punishment was or if it was ever really carried out. I can’t remember that part. Just the feeling, “I’m gonna get in trouble.” It wasn’t an intense, terrifying feeling. It was just a low-level nagging feeling, and it is still with me today. I think it might be time to take that old record off the record player.
But how does one go about doing that? That will be a topic for further investigation, but what I do know for sure now is that it will never change until I do the work to make it conscious and become aware in the moments I am playing this theme. You cannot change what you do not notice.
For now, I will not worry about changing or fixing the theme. I will not attempt to wrestle it to the ground and kill it. I will sharpen my awareness and hear the message it has for me. I trust that some part of me is replaying that tune over and over to communicate something important to me, to be of service to me in some way. The whole of me will benefit by giving that part of myself a chance to be noticed, heard and understood.