“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius
I’ve been living and working in a construction zone for the past 9 weeks. I’m managing suprisingly well. I’ve had my moments of frustration, stress, and tears. But, overall, I’ve been following my flow, taking breaks, and swimming or soaking in the ocean almost every day to counterbalance the strain. And, I’ve still accomplished my work.
In contrast, I sent an email to a close friend, and didn’t hear back from her for a few weeks. After a while, I started to go into my story, but it was just a whisper, ever so subtle. “Have I done something wrong? Is she cutting me off?” It was interesting to see where I go when someone I love seemingly disappears.
I knew I was hooked, and that my projections had nothing to do with my friend. She was just taking a break. When her response arrived, it was brimming with love and care. Still, in that moment, all my insecurity suddenly burst to the surface, making me understand how subtle and deep these earlier wounds can be.
Living and working in the midst of construction would be completely unsettling for some. But, it’s not my hook right now. Abandonment, self worth, and inadequacy are my hooks.
For a very long time, I was so blended with these aspects of myself that they would take me over, and direct my thoughts, words, and actions. I bet you can imagine all the drama and distress that occurred as a result because I’m sure it happens to you too. All the emotional pandemonium seems so important once you are hooked.
Discover and Disempower Your Hooks
Now, I’m getting to know my hooks. They still have the power to shake me up sometimes, but less so day-by-day. I realize they are just a constructed story that began in an early part of my life, but they are not the truth. And, I’m not permanently stuck with them.
In order to change, grow, and shine, you have to get to know your hooks. And even befriend your hooks. Here are some ways to do that.
1. Make a list of your hooks, the ones that come to mind right now.
2. Carry a small notebook with you and note down whenever you find yourself hooked.
3. Make space for the emotions. When you feel hooked, don’t suppress your emotions. That might be harmful for you health. Instead, let them rise, and see if you can just be aware of them until they melt away. The problem isn’t the rising, it’s all the afterthoughts and emotions we create about it. The rising will dissolve on its own if we don’t follow it up with thoughts.
4. If you get stuck in the thoughts and emotions, be gentle with yourself. Feel compassion for the part of yourself that is caught in insecurity, anger, or whatever the emotion might be. Getting hooked gives you the opportunity to learn and grow. So don’t be mad when you get hooked, be grateful instead. Then resolve to keep trying to heal and let go.
5. Choose one of your hooks to explore. Start with the smallest and easiest one. Reflect or journal about it. Do you remember when it originated? What happened? What are the stories and beliefs connected to this hook?
6. Are there people who encourage you to react in this way, either consciously or unconsciously? Are you caught in a victim-perpetrator cycle? How can you release yourself?
7. Question your hook. Tell yourself, “This is not real. This is just a story in my mind. I can see it differently.”
8. Counter your hook. Create a new story. Use affirmations.
Whatever your hook, start to deconstruct the beliefs and stories that hold it in place. Subvert the internal assumptions that keep the pattern running. Like a house of cards, removing one part of the story will begin to lessen its strength.
Usually our hooks are thoroughly ingrained in our psyche so it will take time to erase them. But you have the power to revoke their significance. You have the capacity to change your perception of and response to a hook. And, in so doing, you will find so much release and freedom.
Do you know your hooks? How do you overcome them?
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