On every mental map after adversity, there are three mental paths. One leads us down more negative consequences. Another keeps circling around where we are (in other words, nothing changes) and the “Third Path” leads us from setbacks to a place where we’re even stronger than before.From the Happify App
Other than adversity, where else is there a third path? Not only in ways of responding to situations around us and within us but to seeing the world in general. How often do I get stuck in this or that, either/or thinking?
As a young adult, my partner tells me that I only ever see two options to any question or problem. She encourages me to consider a third way, to expand my thinking.
Decades later, my therapist questions my either/or thinking when presented with a challenging situation. Is there a way that I can have boundaries AND be the type of person I want to be? Is there a way I can show someone I care without exposing myself to a toxic situation? Is there someplace between self-sacrifice and walking away?
The sticking point (or one of the sticking points) is that we cannot see what we do not see. Yet, we can train ourselves to look more carefully. To See Bicycles.1There’s a bumper sticker that reads: See bicycles. It’s a plea to learn to look at the road differently. To look for bicycles in the spaces where they might exist. Training our attention is possible and leads to greater awareness and acuity.
The first time you see both of the faces in the illusion, something shifts. You hold both realities at once, seeing at one moment an old woman and at the very next a young one. They both exist and are real. What shifts is only the viewer and their perception.
And what of the viewer? There is also the awareness of the awareness. We are both the seer and the witness of the seer and the seen. I am now seeing the young woman, I am now seeing the crone.
There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind—you are the one who hears it.The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
We, both the collective we and all y’all and me, have frameworks in which we function. We make decisions, pass laws, build lives, build communities, nations within those frameworks.
And most of the time, the frameworks themselves are invisible to us. We never question or exam the models we use for understanding the world and participating within it. Many people assume that reality is something we experience out there rather than something we filter through our particular lens, our model, our framework.
The belief that reality is something that happens to us is itself part of a framework.
Once we become aware of our model of being in the world, we then become aware that it is possible to alter our reality by altering our framework.
Our realities are influenced by our personal filters. At the most fundamental level, what I experience is curated by my filters — biological, emotional, cultural, and a variety of other forces that determine not only how we see the world but quite literally what we see.
Consider a third eye poster. The poster never changes. It is printed and static. The only thing that shifts as it goes from an abstract flat collection of patterns and colors is what happens within our bodies. And anyone who has struggled to get to the third-eye object can attest to the fact that this isn’t only about what’s happening in our vision/brain centers but also about our approach. All tense and struggling? Makes it ten times harder. Relax. Breathe. Get too close, it will not shift. Distance yourself too far and it will not shift. Stop trying so hard and a whole other dimension emerges.
Thus the single most effective model of reality you can adopt right now is the idea that your models of reality are swappable.The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani
During the first session with my current therapist, she asked how I would know that therapy was “successful.” I responded that I would have a new framework since my old one no longer fit me. I was struggling with how to process the world differently, what to base my decisions on, how to respond to people and events around me. I knew that what I had always done no longer suited the life I wanted to be living.
But all the reading in the world wasn’t getting me closer to changing my behavior. I knew that to change how I moved through the world, I had to change my model of reality. Models of reality are indeed swappable. Knowing that is a possibility is one of the first steps. Next comes learning how to create the possibility in everyday actions.
Shifts happen. When we change the framework of our reality, change our paradigm, we create the space for a new way of living. Once we see differently, life becomes different. To quote Lakhiani again, “When you replace disempowering models of reality with empowering ones, tremendous changes can occur in your life at a very rapid pace.”
Of course, those rapid changes are like the “overnight” success story which is almost always the result of years of effort and work done in obscurity. This new framework that seems to be building right before my eyes is only possible because of decades of work to get to the place where the framework has shifted enough for a new reality to emerge.
I still have to remind myself to not try too hard, to relax into a framework that is waiting to emerge, to see past the noise and distractions, and to believe that there is always a third path to explore.