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Mind the Gap

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August, 2010
THEME: Blindspots in our thinking and behavior.
GUEST: Rossell Weinstein of Indendit Coaching. See her powerful piece in Haven below
LIVE CHAT TRANSCRIPT: You can read the transcript here

Mind The Gap by Laura Munson

Have you ever been in a London subway? There are signs everywhere and audio notices, “Mind the Gap,” warning people to pay attention to the space between the subway train and the platform. It always strikes me that people need such an omnipotent reminder. Makes me wonder how many people really have met with trouble in that gap. Makes me wonder about awareness. Consciousness. The things we walk by, drive by, say and do that we’re really not aware of. In the guest post below, Rossell Weinstein, Personal Coach and dear friend, so spaciously describes it. It’s the blind-spot that so many of us have. I’m interested in gaining vision in that blind-spot.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who always said, “The faults we see in others are usually the faults we don’t want to see inside ourselves. Especially the ones which really irk us. Why do you think we take them so seriously? Get so aggravated by them? I think it’s because they hold up a mirror to us and say, “See. This is who you are,” and we’d rather say, “No that’s who you are. That’s your disgustingness.”

Rossell’s “Gap,” which you can read below, got me thinking. I knew I had gaps but wasn’t quite sure I could put my finger on them. So I spent the last week really noticing when I get activated by other people’s “faults,” and then challenged myself to see myself in that mirror. I noticed all matters of little peeves. Cluttered house. People who give you advice as if you asked for it, and you didn’t. People who interrupt. People who act like they know everything. I’m guilty of all the above. But I knew the one to pay attention to, that came screaming in with “Oh, I’d NEVER be like that person” in this regard was about something I pride myself on not doing (that’s another one to watch: what you pride yourself on) and that was: ASSUMPTION.
This week one of my kids came home and was all in a tizzy because he swore that his friend was mad at him. How many times do I say to my children: “You only assume so and so is mad at you. Don’t make assumptions. They never serve you or the other person or the situation at hand.” How often do I ramble on about how much pain befalls a person because of their projections and presumptions brought on by fear– that tell us we can be better prepared for life’s triumphs and pitfalls if we walk into our moments armed? And guess what? It turned out that his friend wasn’t mad at all. He was coming down with the flu! Assumptions inspire craziness in me. He spent a whole fine summer day in the dumps about something that wasn’t even happening. And the family paid for it. I was gnashing my teeth over it, and I caught myself red-handed. And so I chose to use my mirror experiment and pay attention to how I make assumptions in my life. My lesson came in with fleet as they do, once we’re ready for them. But it wasn’t thanks to a person. It was thanks to a horse.

I like to go out in the woods alone riding in the early morning before it gets too hot. There’s a beautiful loop not far from where I live. This summer, each time, just at the half-way mark, my horse starts to balk; wants to turn home. I figure he’s being lazy. He wants to get back to his herd where he’s boss. He doesn’t want to trek up into the mountains. Every time, I urge him onward. He refuses. I ask him to “walk on” with my legs and sometimes with the light tap of a riding crop or the end of my reins on his rear. He side steps. I turn him in circles to make him work to she’ll cry uncle. I back him up when that doesn’t work. Horses don’t like to back up. I’m trying to show him that the easy choice is to go forward. He does a slight rear. Finally, head high, I get him to move through to the rest of our loop home. I was actually bragging about this to my friend who lives nearby the other day. She knows horses and she knows this neck of woods.

“Where is it exactly where he refuses to go on?”

I explained.

She rolled her eyes and leaned forward. “That’s where the bear den is! He’s trying to protect himself and you along with him.”

My heart wilted. I was asking him to walk through his fear and betray his instincts and his common sense. To obey my incomprehendable demands. And he was trusting me somehow to be a better judge of our safety. Some judge! Rather than even consider the possibilities of his position or reality or reality in general, I made him wrong, and myself right. I assumed. And I assumed wrongly. And that Wrongful assumption could have gotten us both into a real mess. I thank the bear for not having that be so. I thank my horse for putting up with me. For minding my “gap.”

The Gap by Rossell Weinstein
Have you ever been in a situation where a friend or loved one tells you that you’ve been acting a certain way, and you have no idea what they’re talking about? It might sound something like, ‘You talk to me like I’m….’, or ‘You sound like a ……’, or ‘You’ve been so ……. to me’. Or maybe the same thing keeps happening in your life over and over and you can’t figure out how to stop the cycle. These kinds of events all point to our blindspots, or what I like to call The Gap. The gap is the disconnect between how we think we are in the world and how we are actually showing up for others. And usually, we go about our days completely unaware that the gap exists. We are so comfortable with the gap that we have no clue that there is an expansive space between our perception of ourselves and how others perceive us. Just like water to the fish, or air to the bird – we simply exist with the gap.

What do you imagine happens when you become aware of that gap? What do you see possible for yourself when you find a way to close or bridge that gap?

I used to live my life like a victim, and I had absolutely no idea that I lived that way. Nothing worked for me. Relationships would fall apart and I couldn’t explain how or why. I had trouble pleasing my clients and delivering what they expected of me. I got caught speeding. My house caught on fire. It seemed like one disappointment after another would follow me around, like a dark cloud. I couldn’t shake it, nor could I see why these things continued to happen, until I got a glimpse of the gap.

It happened in a conversation with my coach, like a flash. I saw how I was carrying on in my life as though my only option was to suffer at the mercy of what happened around me, as though I had no control of what was happening in my life. I saw myself in various living rooms of my friends at the time, hunched over my knees with tears streaming down my cheeks. I saw the way I walked: head held slightly low, a small drag in my step, as though I carried a burden everywhere I went. Even the way I spoke reflected this suffering, as every comment that came out of my mouth disempowered myself in one way or another.

No wonder nothing worked! I shut down any possibility that showed up around me, and I had no idea that I was even doing that! I honestly thought that people believed, as I did, that I was doing the best I could with the cards I was dealt. I believed that I was doomed, and I resigned myself to others around me believing the same thing.

What I didn’t realize, what I discovered when I finally saw the gap, was that I was slowly driving people away from me. While I was busy believing that I was doomed, the people that cared about me the most got tired of waiting for me to pull out of it. They could see a bigger world for me. They could see my fulfilling potential. They could see my strength when I couldn’t see it. And the larger that gap grew, the less they wanted to be around me.

When I saw the gap that I had been living with, I quickly became disgusted by it. The truth is that my actions had been completely inconsistent with what I was really committed to having in my life, like fulfillment, and a healthy family. Seeing this gap had me act differently. I began paying attention to what it was like for others to be around me. I got intentional in leaving them with an experience that I felt good about. Slowly but surely, the gap got smaller. I learned what was possible for my self when I came from a place of being powerful, instead of a victim. And when that happened, I met the man who would become my husband. We’ve now been together over five years.

Seeing the gap can open up a world of possibility for ourselves. Sometimes we need someone else to point it out to us, but we can become grateful when they do – it only gives us a deeper access to ourselves and brings us closer to what we really want.


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