There has been some brilliant company the last thirty days in the Trust 30 Challenge launched by The Domino Project. Thirty “thought leaders” offered up writing prompts inspired by Emerson’s famed essay Self Reliance. People pledged to take on the exercise of writing each day about the prompts. Today my prompt went live. Lots of the prompts were about the future. Claiming the future or envisioning it somehow.
Be fearless! Be self reliant! Be achieve-y!
Sure, be all those things. But there is more to be.
When we envision the future all we are doing is remembering the past. We recall some experience we had some where or some time. Then we project that past impression into “the future” and perhaps shape it a bit with our imaginations. What we want is just a new iteration of the past because the past is safe: we know how it turns out. Past ideas or impressions are all fair game to choose from and project. You may never have been a millionaire but you have seen pictures of millionaires in action. That picture becomes your own unfinished thinking. More often than not our futures are just actually our pasts played over again in new situations. This is why we often find our selves in behavior loops i.e “Why does this always happen to me?” even if the situations are different on the surface. It is because we attempt to finish off our thinking through our actions.
It is possible for new things to happen to us that break with our experience of the past but it isn’t easy. The Johari Window shows us that there are parts of us that known to others and ourselves, parts that are hidden from others that we know about, parts of us that are known to others but hidden from ourselves and parts that are hidden from others and ourselves.
So what does this have to do with Emerson or the Trust 30 challenge or my prompt? Real success in the future comes with finishing off old thinking so it doesn’t loop and repeat itself and reconciling with all parts of ourselves. Striving not so much for happiness or success-ness but for wholeness.
My prompt is about seeing a part of ourselves that we don’t usually show to the world and seeing what that throws up in our minds and bodies. We like to show our selves as put together in a particular way. Walking outside in mismatching, ill-fitting clothes and messed up hair and smeared make-up is not the way we like to comport our selves. It doesn’t ft with the picture we see when we think “me”.
So exposing our selves to this alternate vision can make more of of the Johari Window filled in with our consciousness and available for others to see as well. But the prompt that is on the Trust 30 page today was actually the second prompt that I wrote. The first one got rejected. That prompt read:
Imagine your parents having sex. That day, once upon a time, whether it was in a bed or on a beach, in a car or in a field…planned or unplanned, drunk or sober, on a honey moon or long before one…it happened. The egg and the sperm came together and made you. They loved each other (or didn’t) and they did the best they could muster. Parts of you come from each. You are the child of that coupling.
But it wasn’t just your parents who came together that day or night. It might have been the coupling of your father’s anger with your mother’s desire to please, your father’s aloofness and your mother’s desire to fix it, your father’s feelings of insufficiency with your mother’s self-criticism, your father’s fear with your mother’s anxiety. There are myriad other combinations. But you are a child of those parents as well. Reflect on the other parents you were born of and see what that raises in you.
This reflection may not make you successful and full of achieve-y goodness and it may even be unsettling on a number of levels, but it may move you towards being whole. It may move you towards knowing the entire self that you can be self-reliant upon. I wrote a bit about this to launch the Trust 30 series.
Who are your other parents? Does this engender greater compassion for your full self? The one we often keep veiled?
What was your response to the official prompt? How about the unofficial one?