Updated: Oct 19
Who wants a little story?
I wanted to share a wonderful / agonising little experience, which is a great example of how your brain lies to you and that maybe you should question the stories it is telling you…
I was fortunate enough to have my life turned upside down by a coaching course a few years ago. There were many revelations and golden eggs lying around all over the place - and what is brilliant is they made recordings of all the videos to continue doing the work as the layers go deeper.
My smaller break-out group was wonderful, full of inspiring, vulnerable, open humans trying their best to grapple with big life stuff. One person in the group shared a story in which she was viciously brutal to and about herself verbally. She was so unkind about herself, it hurt to hear. Later on in the day, she shared another experience, and she mentioned something really beautiful, an incident with her niece which she felt really reflected herself… and my brain went wild. I was like, “That’s your key! You said you hate yourself, and now you found beauty, and you related it to yourself, and you saw it AND LOOK - it is the first step to everything right there that you need…” and I was so excited I broke all of the rules, and I sent her a little DM and said, “Hey I just noticed something in something you said, would you like me to share it?”. I know I should not have - I should have allowed her space to process her own stuff, but instead, I messaged her… and she did not respond.
And then she turned her camera off. And then, when we went back to the break-out groups later on, she had gone. She left the group. And she never came back.
And I felt awful. So bad. To the pit of my stomach, I was sick that I had overstepped someone’s boundary so much that they needed to leave the group. That I had made someone feel unsafe. I was relieved to see her back in the main group, so I realised she must have just asked to switch groups rather than leave, but it was still really out of order of me, and I did not know how to make it right without making it even more of an issue.
And it bugged me. It bugged me long after the course, and though I got lots of good things out of the sessions, this thing continued to make me feel sick to my stomach - that I had caused another woman to feel unsafe.
So, a month or so goes past, and the videos are released, and I begin to go through them over a period of time. There were lots of things I wanted to go back over and lots of things I needed to revisit for myself, but of course, this pain point was also in the back of my mind. Could I see something which would teach me how to not do the same thing again? Could I pick up on a facial expression, a moment I should have known or turned back, or could I spot the moment I overstepped and torture myself with that, maybe?
Watching back through the videos, I was absolutely stunned. She was not in my group. She had never been in my group. She was not there at the beginning, and the reason she did not return was because she was in a completely different breakout group. I can see it on the videos - she was somewhere completely different.
Now, I have no idea how my brain jigsawed these “facts” together at the time; maybe there was something said that I thought about responding to, or linked it to a different face, or a different story, or heard something in a main group chat and pieced things together in the wrong order - but quite simply - it did not happen. This thing I had been really beating myself up about for months did not occur.
And of course, this is not the first time it has happened, but it is rare that you have hard evidence to catch your brain out, so I thought I would share it as a little reminder to to people that your brain always pretends like it is the neutral fact recaller, when actually, it is as unreliable as the British weather.