You are listening to the My Freedom Grove podcast with Gretchen Hernandez episode 1.
Welcome to My Freedom Grove podcast. This is where strong people just like you come to have honest, open discussions about anxiety, depression and frustration. But we don't stop there. We go deeper by learning and applying mindset tools to it once and for all break free from the pain so we can actually enjoy our lives. I’m your host Gretchen Hernandez. I'm so glad you joined us.
Hello my Strong Friend! Happy December. How's it going for you?
Yesterday we just got back driving home from the Bay Area. I took my son to a college campus tour at a college called Cogswell. I hadn't heard anything about this college before so I didn't really know what to expect. Let me tell you, this place just absolutely knocked my socks off! It's made for students that want to go into the animation industry: either making animated movies, making video games or getting ready to help out in the advertising world. I learned that they have an E-Sport club. E-Sports are for students that like to play video games in competition form. This has become something highly sought-after I guess. Because they even offer a scholarship for students that have a proven track record of doing really well in these competitions. This scholarship can be all the way up to $20,000 for playing video games. This is a completely different world for me.
I remember when I was in junior high. I had a boyfriend who loved to play video games. We’d go down to Golfland, that's where we had our video arcade. He would play video games for hours. And because I wanted to spend time with him, I would stand there watching as he played. I learned pretty quickly that was just not for me. I didn’t find that was a valuable use of my time. I didn’t find entertaining at all. But I know that that's not the case for a lot of people in this world. Watching other people play video games has become wildly popular. This is relevant for today's topic.
Our topic today is rewriting your rule book. In last week's episode we started talking about mindset and how mindset is a collection of thoughts and beliefs. We started to look at this like a big ol’ bag of thoughts. Inside we have a library of rule books.
Rule books are just a subset of our mindset. A rule book contains its own set of thoughts and beliefs. These are the standards and ideals that we use to compare against the rest of the world. We use those to compare against our own behaviors, against other people's behaviors, and just against how the world is actually showing up.
When we choose rule books to make comparisons we're coming up with either a decision that something has passed or failed our criteria. In some cases we’re using this as a moral judgment of something either being good or bad based on if they met that criteria.
I know the topic of playing video games shows up in many peoples’ rule books. I know it shows up in mine. I've heard other parents talk about it, I’ve heard friends talk about it, kids talk about it and it's even showing up on all sorts of different TV programs. I can imagine that when I mentioned that the school offers a scholarship up to $20,000 for kids who play video games, you probably had some type of thought about that in comparison to your rule book. And you made a decision on whether that passed or failed, or even a moral judgment on if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
You're allowed to think anything you want to think at all. The whole reason why I bring up rule books is because I know that these is a source that's causing us a lot of pain. And it also robs ourselves of our own freedom and it robs other people of their freedom. After all, a book starts off blank, right? And then we start to write rules in them. Those rules are completely made up. They’re customized.
We think that these rules are in there so that we can live a great life. That we're not going to be able to live the life that were supposed to unless we have all of these rule books.
But let's think about this. As human beings we were put on this planet for one thing: to live.
That's it. Just to live.
We don't have to live in any specific way what-so-ever. We're just put here to live. What are the four things that we really need in order to live? We need some food, and we need some water, and shelter, and some protection to make sure that we don't fall prey to something that's going to make us not live anymore.
Somewhere along the line we qualified that life goal for ourselves. We decided how we wanted to feel. Even in the United States Declaration of Independence it talks about the pursuit of happiness. In a way it's saying what we want out of life is to be happy. But I think it's really interesting that they chose to use the words “Pursuit of Happiness.” Just the fact that they have the word “pursuit” implies that we weren't happy to begin with.
I think that really explains a lot of why we have the rule books to start with. It's laying out what are all of the steps that we need to take in order to feel happy. But what if we never needed any of those steps in the first place? What if we already were happy, but we never left the door open for that to be the case? We never decided that it was okay to be happy without doing anything.
Instead we created these elaborate rule book that you have to do this, and you have to do that, you have to act this way, and act that way, in order for you to be happy. And in fact, that you had to have rule books for other people. And how they had act. And what they needed to do in order for you to feel happy. But where has that left us?
It's left us comparing everything in our life to these rules. If any of those rules aren’t met, we can’t be happy. In fact, in some instances we go further than just not being happy.
This goes straight back to our depression and anxiety and our frustration. All of that comes to this word, or this this phrase that I use call “Should Shaming.”
We look up the rules... if someone's not following it we will say “they should be doing this or they should be doing that.” Now that term “Should Shaming”... I think is really important because that word, shame, it means so much more than just not happy.
Shame itself can be very detrimental to people. Shame is what we've used since the beginning of time to try to change people's behavior. Now, it can be a really useful thing. It can give us a little bit of uncomfortableness (yep, I totally made up a word here) that makes us want to grow. It can also keep us away from some of those more dangerous things that are going to threaten our very existence.
But how often are we overusing shame?
To put things in a really basic way of talking about it, so that we can get the right kind of perspective, I like to talk about the cavemen. So back in the cavemen days, they also had the four elements of life that they were trying to achieve. Which was Food, Water, Shelter and Protection. They would use shame as a form of protection. If a tribe member was acting in a way that could bring danger to the tribe, whether that be prey that was coming that would then attack the whole tribe, or maybe a disease that they'd bring into the tribe that then wouldn't wipe everybody out. They could use shame to try to get the person to change their behavior. They’d keep the tribe intact. But they could also use it to make that one person, if they (the offender) didn't want to change, they'd (the tribe) increase the amount of Shame so that that person would be excluded from the tribe. They (the offender) would be outside of the protection of the tribe. Off living on their own. That way the tribe stayed protected and that individual...they could figure out how to survive on their own.
When we are “Should Shaming” ourselves or others, using the rule books we've created, we're trying to either change someone or push them away for it the purposes of either protection or Pursuit of Happiness.
What I’d like you to consider is you have things written in these rule books that have extended beyond protection. Or have extended beyond the pursuit of your happiness.
Remember I had mentioned the whole concept around the pursuit of happiness. You may have things in there that are leading to the Pursuit of This Happiness. That you didn't even need to have, because you already had the option to feel happy without it.
Take a look at what type of rule books you have in your mindset. When I open up my big bag of thoughts, my mindset, I take a look at my full library of rule books that I have. One for myself, it must be at least five inches thick, is full of chapters on what it's like to be a good human being in the world, what success looks like, what I should do in order to be a good spouse or a good child to my parents or a good friend or possibly even a good employee.
I also have rule books for other people. I wrote books for my kids of course. I have a rule book for my husband, the poor guy. I have a rule book for my mom. I have rule books for other people, my friends, co-workers, employers, people that are even at the checkout stands. All of these rule books contain line items of all of the different thoughts that I have that ideally would be just for my protection or for what would make me happy.
But we already know that our own thoughts are what make us happy. It's not what other people are doing. So when I look through this full, long list, and I start to evaluate those different line items, I see that I have quite a few things on there that I use as a moral judgment against another person. Whether they are a good person or not. That really has absolutely nothing to do with my protection. And like I mentioned, what they do, it's not going to be a direct correlation on my happiness. Because I know that my happiness comes from my own thoughts about something.
I titled this podcast Rewrite your Rule Book. Here's two different things that you can think about. One is the concept of
Remember you just need food, water, protection and shelter. Do you need rule books in order to have any of those things? Do you need rule books for yourself? Do you need rule books for other people?
What is the cost of having rule books? If you have a whole bunch of rule books, you know that there's going to be certain things that are just not met. And all that's going to do is cause you to have some bad feelings about it. If you're truly trying to find some peace in this world, some freedom from all of your painful thoughts... if you didn't have anything to compare something against in the first place, you could just accept it for what it is.
You could see a green balloon and just see it as a green balloon. Not the pain around “so and so should have got me a Yellow Balloon instead of a green balloon.” It's just pure happiness of a green balloon. It doesn't mean anything. It can just exist.
Consider the rule books that we have for other people. It's becoming pretty common in the world for people to be married more than once and I fall into that category. I remember with my first husband, I had so many rules for this poor guy and he wasn't meeting most of them. That's why I was pretty upset. But now that we're not married, I don't have a rule book for him anymore. And you know what? I can actually enjoy my friendship with him because I can accept him exactly how he is. No rules applied. So why did I feel the need to have a rule book for him when we were married? Why couldn't I just allow him to exist, exactly how he was?
So one option is just to give up the rule book.
2 Rewrite Your Rule Book.
Go through that rule book. Do a careful evaluation of what you really need that's in there for your own protection? And what is in there that you can completely scrap and let go of?
This is a pretty lengthy task. But it's also just as difficult to not have a rule book at all. Have you even caught yourself realizing that you have a rule book for somebody else?
I learned this one by paying attention to my emotional flare gun. As soon as I started to feel irritated with someone else, I could use that to ask myself...whoa... “am I applying a rule against what they're doing at this point?”
Or maybe the person didn't do anything at all. And I was finding some type of a problem with that. Maybe in my rule book I was saying that they should be doing something. And because they weren't doing this, Now I was making some type of a moral judgment against them. It was leading to my frustration with them.
One rule book I heard a lot about as I grew up was about genders. And our roles and the abilities that we should have based on our genders. My mom would affectionately call these “boy jobs” and “girl jobs.” I thought this was quite ironic.
Because one of the favorite things about my mom, that I have, was that she was a carpenter when I was growing up back in the seventies. How awesome is that? She's Paving the Way for women to realize that they could do any kind of job that they want to. Back in the seventies, carpentry was definitely considered a “boy job” but she was doing it anyway. Yet somehow, I still grew up with a rule book that had some of those gender abilities built into them.
Including that a man should know how to fix anything. Well, because my mom had taught me that a woman could learn how to fix anything, I started to do that. I love being creative and building things and fixing things. I happened to fall in love with a man who didn't know how to fix things. It just wasn't his skill-set. He has a ton of other skill sets. And, yet he’d constantly beat himself up over not having this skill set. And I was totally okay with it.
Because, when you have a partnership like that, it's great. As long as one person can figure it out, that's all that you really need. You don't need both people to be able to do that. And we don't have to have this rule book on genders and who does what.
Sometimes there's rule books or sections of rule books that we would have never thought existed. I encountered one earlier this year around the topic of Thinking Styles. I have a thinking style that's like popcorn. Different thoughts will pop up here, here, here, here, here and then my brain just networks those thoughts together.
I was working with a group of folks that had a linear thinking style. They could go from thought one to two to three to four. My thinking style didn’t meet what was in rule book. Because they didn't realize that there could be other thinking styles. This inspired me to create an experience for folks of this organization. Because I figured, this might be a topic that people hadn't really talked about before. That there are different kinds of thinking styles in the world.
I created a bunch of images with all of these different thinking styles. And put it at a booth for people to come up so that we could have a conversation about it. There was this one woman who came up and she pointed to one that was a person that had a bunch of question marks around their head. She was kind of downcast when she explained to me what this image meant to her. She said that her thinking style always seem to be “confused.” That she didn't understand what was going on so she asked a lot of questions. She seemed pretty down on herself for this, so it was obvious she had some Should Shaming going on. That her thinking style should be something different.
I saw this as a strength! When I created all of these images together, it wasn't that there was only one thinking style that was right. I saw every single one of these as a wonderful thinking style that this world needed. So when I shared that with her,...what I saw was a strength in this one...was that she had all of the questions. She was able to ask all of the questions to get everybody else thinking about the pieces that they hadn't thought about before. And that this was a crucially important skill to have or thinking style to have. She never thought about it that way. All of a sudden, she lit up! She wasn't Should Shaming herself anymore because this was actually something really helpful.
Having a rule book for myself is an interesting thing. Of course there's going to be things in there that are going to be for my own protection. But how much is in there that really doesn't need to be?
Who doesn’t have a full chapter in their rule book for how they should even look? I had that one for a long time. In fact, as much as I'd like to not agree with it, I still have some of it. I've been trying to let go as much as possible. I would allow not meeting my expectations, of what my physical appearance should look like, to have some pretty profound effect on me.
I could apply different amounts of shame to myself when I was doing my Should Shaming. The small amount of Shame, more like disappointment, that uncomfortable feeling, it's just enough that it causes me to want to change. But what I tended to do was apply waaaaay to much shame and start to make it even a moral judgment about myself. When I would do that...who am I pushing away from?
We learned that Shame has two functions. One is to get somebody to change. The other one is, if they don't change, it pushes them away, and it isolates.
How is this working when I'm shaming myself about my appearance? Well, for one, I would shame myself so much that I would isolate from other people. But then, when I get home, why am I still should shaming myself on my appearance? Who else can I isolate from?
This is where we get into the dangerous level with depression. When you start shaming yourself so much, the only person left to isolate from is yourself. And you want to escape from yourself.
My friends, I'm sure I'm not the only one that has experienced this. We don't have to live this way. This rule book, that we never needed to have any of these things written in it in the first place. When we look at our 4 basic Elements of Living being Food, Water, Shelter and Protection...none of that relies on appearance. We wrote up what that appearance should look like. None of it ever had to exist! And we can pick how we want to look. We can be happy with that.
So the whole Pursuit of Happiness, of when you look like this...then you'll be happy. How many people have ever gone through a huge amount of weight loss or something? Thinking that that's the thing that's going to make them happy? And then when they got there, they weren't happy? That Pursuit of Happiness...you don't have to do that. Because it's not even guaranteed.
In fact, when you can learn how to just accept what is and to love what is, for all of its gloriousness, you get to feel happiness immediately!
You don't have to wait.
Do you have any generalized rule book? Something along the lines of “People Who Care About Me”? And it lists line items, of all of the activities, that people that care about you, would do? Some examples could include:
Do you ever find yourself should shaming those people for not doing those? And even worse is if they are doing that, are you now making it mean something about you? That you're not lovable because they didn't do this thing? Or that they don't care about you because they didn't do these things?
Is there any benefit to keeping this rule book? Because remember, you don't have to have any real books whatsoever. You can just let someone exist without them having to do anything. And you can just love on them without them doing anything. And you can be 100% lovable without anybody doing anything for you.
What would be the benefit of holding on to this rule book? I'm not seeing a whole lot (benefit). But again, it's your choice if you want to hold onto this or not. It's your choice what activities do you want to have on there.
One of the things that really hit home for me, is the calling part. Because there can be a lot of should shaming around that, right? Who should be calling whom? Then if one person thinks the other person should be calling them, they're just waiting and waiting and waiting, for that other person to call. But, if that other person also has that same rule in their rule book, that they're thinking that you're the one who's supposed to be calling, they're also going to be waiting. And then you'll be should shaming. You're applying that shaming, where you start to isolate from the other person. Then what do you have? Two people, that probably cared about each other, and neither one is calling each other.
As we enter into the holiday season, I know a lot of people are going to have rule books around gift-giving. How much anxiety have you caused yourself by the rules that you have for yourself on who you should give gifts to? Do you give gifts to your co-workers? Do you have rules on giving gifts to your children's teachers? What about every one of your relatives? And how much should shaming do you do to yourself over whether you're complying with these rules or not?
Remember a small amount of Shame is going to cause you to want change. Are you applying so much shame that you want to isolate from other people? Where you don't want to even participate in these holiday festivities? Because you're looking at this rule that you're not meeting. Or, even worse, is...you're applying so much shame that you're wanting to isolate from yourself. Because you've made it some moral thing about yourself as a human being.
When I put it on the other side...of the rule book that I have for other people, the rules I have for them, are so much different than the rules that I have for myself. I'd actually prefer that those other people not give me gifts. I prefer an experience with them so much more than an actual gift. And yet the amount of pressure that everybody is putting each other for gifts...causing them to isolate. What if we just don't have that rule anymore? Why do we even have to have the rule? Why can't we just exist, right?
We go back to living our life. It's the food, the water, the shelter and the protection. We've created all of this meaning in the world. Different events that happened in the world. And we've decided to create a holiday around it. With the holiday goes all of these rules, including giving gifts. But we never had to do any of that in the first place. We could just let any event happen...hundreds of years ago. When that comes up again, we just acknowledge it or not acknowledge it. But we don't have to make it into this big huge event. With all of this extra pressure on everybody. That then is going to cause people to should shame themselves. Or should shame other people.
The whole idea is...we want to feel happy. But we've created all of these rules on what it's going to take to feel happy. At the end:
What would you have to do with your rule book in order to increase the amount of happiness?
The choice is yours. You get to write your rule book however you want. Consider it a blank slate. You get to write whatever rule in there, you want. Or you can choose to not have a rule book at all.
This is your life. We're trying to get you freedom from your anxiety, your depression and your frustration. You get to choose what is the most important thing to you. If that's truly how you want to feel. This is one option.
1. Do you have Rule books that you're applying against yourself or you're applying against other people? Should you have it?
2. If you do have a rule book,what is absolutely essential to be in there? And when do you need to apply it?
The life you have ahead of you is a big beautiful Blank Slate. You can create anything you want! And feel any way that you want to feel.
If you’re still getting caught on some of your anxiety loops and you’d want a little bit more help, I encourage you to go to my website at www.myfreedomgrove.com and try out the free class for How to Free Yourself from Anxiety with Mindset Management.
I received a really fun comment from a student named Dan. He said “This is the first time I've ever been excited about figuring out how to overcome my stress issues. Thank you Gretchen!” I am so glad, Dan, that this was helpful for you. And for anyone else out there that would like that extra help, please go try out that class. If you get stuck on anything, just send me a message at [email protected], I'd be more than happy to help you out. I hope you have a great week. I can't wait to talk more with you next week. Bye-bye.
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