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Dec 19, 2018 15:58:27

What does this mean to you?

by @brianball PATRON | 430 words | 389💌

Brian Ball

Total posts: 389💌
Total words: 107477 (429 pages 📄)

This question, could have me describing a real thing, or, I can zoom out and meta-discuss the prompt. I'm going to start with the latter.

It's a direct question. It might be a follow-on question to something you just said or an event you're discussing.

E.g. "She won't talk to me. I try, and the conversations just don't go anywhere."

and the person you're saying this to might ask: What does this mean to you?

It's a powerful question, because now, you get to analyze your own thinking. Events in the world don't have meaning. We, as humans get to assign the meaning. If a mug hits the floor and breaks, is that bad? Is it good? Maybe that favorite mug of mine is actually too big. It's responsible for me drinking too much coffee because it's double size and I always just fill it up. Maybe it breaking and forcing me to use a regular-sized mug helps me lose weight and be healthier. Meaning: good.

Being able to analyze our thinking is helpful - but if we analyze every thought, we'll quickly get ourselves into an infinite loop. Receiving this question from a prompt or a person is a gentle reminder to stop focusing on the assigned meaning, take a few steps back and consider how we decided which meaning to assign.

If somebody supportive isn't available to ask you these questions, you can train yourself to trigger the prompt whenever you feel something strongly. Feel annoyed? Stop and ask how you got there. Maybe a quick re-framing of your thinking is in order. Maybe you can back up and be curious what might happen if you assigned a different meaning — the opposite meaning.

Meaning is arbitrary. Events in our world happen without the judgement of good or bad. Those that go unnoticed still happen. Humans use meaning to navigate the world. Because we have very developed parts of our brains that most animals don't have, we tend to overthink and invent a meaning for things that don't actually require them.

Imagine a dog chasing a thrown ball, only to see it land in the mud. It never looks like the dog is thinking, "Shit, now I'm going to get mud in my mouth." No meaning assigned. The dog simply navigates the slippery substance and retrieves the ball.

The next time you have a judgement about how something should be different than it is, try removing the meaning you too-quickly assigned to it. Try on the opposite meaning to remind yourself that you are actually the one in control.

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