The Layers of Experience
Every situation and circumstance we find ourselves in comes with different levels of understanding. This is something I do for myself all the time. What I want to do in this post is break down those levels so that you can see what they are. Maybe it will help you see the circumstances and situations in your own life a little differently.
Base Layer: The Human Story
This is he said / she said, they did this, that happened, they moved, he left, and so on. It’s the human drama that we can all explain. This is generally the story we tell in our heads. It often includes a lot of victimization, blame, pain, guilt, and drama.
The problem with this layer is that it only looks at actions and words. When we only look at actions and words, we’re only paying attention to the external layers that others choose to show us. These things are often not authentic. Most people are in too much pain to be completely authentic and so their actions and words are essentially just a cover-up. If we only tell this story about what they said or did, we’re not telling the truth. It’s not that they didn’t say that or do that thing, it’s just that those actions and words almost always come from a place of pain. That pain layer is clouding our judgment of what’s actually happening.
Even if we’re not talking about other people and we’re talking about circumstances such as how much money we have, the job we have, where we live, the car we drive, and so on, there is still a layer of pain that’s clouding our ability to see those clearly too. Those circumstances are a manifestation of something within ourselves that we haven’t acknowledged yet. We’ll talk about that in a bit.
Let’s move on to the next layer which is the stuff of the other people around us.
Second Layer: The Story of Other People
Our perception is going to be quite limited. We aren’t in their bodies. We haven’t had their experiences. The only thing we want to do at this level is to discern pain being projected from others. We want to find the pain that’s clouding the story. We want to begin to see that so that we can interpret the story that’s playing out in front of us a little bit differently.
Can you identify pain, blame, guilt, or shame? Can you identify certain ideas and beliefs that you may or may not agree with, but that they are using to filter their experience?
When we can discern these things, we can work from a place of compassion. Now we no longer have to react and get mad. We can be compassionate because we can clearly see the pain behind the human story that’s playing out in front of us.
The human story is covered by this layer of pain. What happens when we’re just telling the human story and looking at what people did or didn’t do or say, we’re not recognizing the cloud of pain that’s hanging around. It doesn’t take into account where other people are. It only takes into account what they do.
Our perception of others is always going to be extremely limited, but recognizing that people aren’t just their actions or words is an important first step to seeing the external reality more clearly.
When we can filter our perception of the things around us through compassion instead of our own pain, it changes how we respond and it changes the story we tell.
Third Layer: Ourselves Within the Story
Up until now, our perception has been limited. There isn’t really a lot to see at the human level and our perception of others is going to be limited because we haven’t lived their lives. But our perception of ourselves can be quite deep. This is where the story truly begins.
Life is happening for us and not to us. So all of these things that are playing out around us serve a purpose. A lot of it is just entertainment. There’s nothing to see and nothing to do. It’s not ours to do anything with. However, we like to pick things up that aren’t ours and examine them, make up stories about them, and try to fix them. This gets most people into trouble because we can’t fix what’s not ours, we’re just taking learning experiences away from other people.
The rather morbid analogy I use sometimes is if you had a pet cat that regularly brought home a dead bird or mouse. Is that dead bird yours? Are you going to pick it up and name it? Do you buy it a cage? Get some food for it? Maybe try to bring it back to life? Or do you simply dispose of the dead bird in whatever way you see fit?
Now that sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? But that’s what we do with other people’s stuff all the time. They bring us their problems, their drama, their pain (the dead bird) and we pick it up and make it our own. For some people, they aren’t miserable because their own lives are bad, they are miserable because everybody around them is miserable. Instead of just filtering all that stuff out so they can enjoy their lives, they take it all on and wonder why they aren’t happy.
When people do things we get to make a choice. We can react from our own pain or we can respond from awareness. What you do is dependent on your level of awareness of yourself and your pain. Do you know why that thing they do bothers you so much? If you’re projecting and making it about them, that’s your pain showing itself. So what is that about? Hint: It’s got nothing to do with them.
Notice what I just did there. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing or not doing. That’s their stuff, not yours. The only thing you control is you. So that’s the behavior you need to be examining. We can recognize the pain in other people and we should so that we can find compassion in our response, but that’s it. That’s as far as it goes. We don’t have control after that, so now all we can do is look at ourselves and what we do with what other people bring us.
The truth is it doesn’t matter what’s going on out there. The only thing that matters is what you do with it. All of it is meant to help you understand yourself. If you stop feeding off of what other people are doing and saying, and simply examine yourself, you will find there is a deeper truth and understanding that’s available to you. That means you have to drop the human story. That means you have to let other people off the hook by finding compassion. That means you have to be willing to examine yourself within that story you’re so prone to telling.
Since we’re human too, we’re going to tell that story sometimes. We’re going to react instead of respond. It’s not always going to be a perfect system. The more we can recognize ourselves and our own pain layers within any situation or circumstance we find ourselves in, the deeper the truth that becomes available to us. What does that truth allow us to do? Heal ourselves. We get to stop making our healing dependent on other people. We can see ourselves as independent and self-contained within the story. Our thoughts and emotions are no longer dependent on the outside world and what other people are saying or doing. Now the world simply revolves around us and we remain stationary all the time.
Each of us as individuals is extremely powerful. We were born with that power intact. Most of us never acknowledge it. We’ve taken on too much of what the outside world has told us about ourselves and it causes us to hide our power deep within us. The goal of healing is to dig that power out and live from it fully. Can you get there in this lifetime? To some degree, yes. There will always be a level of humanness while in human form, we’re not meant to transcend the ego, but we can live from an authentic place of power most of the time. It won’t be perfect, but that was never the point of the human experience.
Seeing these layers, recognizing them both around you and within you is what allows you to understand your life and the experiences of it differently. This is what I do for myself all the time. I’ve written blog and after blog, 9 books, and many, many courses about this exact idea. I keep trying to encourage you to see the layers of the story that is going on around you so that you can clearly see yourself within all of that, filter out everything that isn’t yours, and learn exactly who you are and what your power is.
Everything is within you if we’re willing to look for it.
Love to all.