Exposure Therapy, Identities and Current Memos

Exposure Therapy

I have heard this term before but it never really hit home until last week.  

I guess that’s why we have the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.  

With the vast information we are getting every day, our minds have to find ways to filter what’s useful to us in the present moment. That is if we are to remain focused, effective, and sane.

Otherwise, we will find ourselves all over the place, highly depleted and not getting anywhere.

I think my mind picked up the term this time because I needed it.

So, what do psychologists say about exposure therapy? 

It’s a behavioral therapy used to treat phobias and anxiety disorders.

How? The person is exposed to the very source of his or her fear as a means to help overcome it.

The exposures are done gradually starting with less scary stimuli, worked up to scarier situations.

These sessions are conducted in a safe setting and environment so the danger is not imminent.

Why did it strike home?  

I was in a middle of a call with my colleague the other day and heard myself talking louder, and sounding argumentative. Sure it’s normal to argue about work but I didn’t like the sound of me. That is the problem. A couple of months back, a friend of mine asked if everything was alright, right after I got off the phone. She observed that I was reaching the top of my voice and had a sense that something might be off. Admittedly, I was feeling the heat on my forehead. There’s no denying that I, was losing patience.  

What is it that I’m so attached to, that it’s making me defend my ground so hard as if somebody’s trying to take it away?

It all boiled down to fear. 

But I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly. 

Is it fear of being wrong?

Fear of losing authority?

Fear of losing my value to the team?

Is it all of the above?

Whatever it is, it’s killing me. It’s making me feel like I’m being attacked, it was depleting my energy, and for what?

Realization: I have wrapped much of my identity around work.  

I came across an article highlighting that the problem with most people is that we invest too much in only one identity when we should be investing in different identities. Do you know what they say about not putting your eggs in one basket? We’re talking about a similar thing here.

Diversification helps us manage risk and reduce the volatility of our biggest-value asset, ourselves. The argument goes to say that if we do diversify, a sudden loss in one (investment) basket will not lead us downhill.  

People who have invested so much in their jobs or family alone, found themselves succumbing to sickness, depression, or despair after a job loss or death of a spouse. When a person’s stronghold is taken away, he will find himself drowning.

Armed with these ideas I’ve decided to put them to the test. Well, the test is still ongoing at the time of this writing. I am slowly exposing myself to opportunities that had to do with facing fears and investing my resources in other important baskets.

My Current Memos

Make mistakes. Learn from them. When you know better, you can do better.

Don’t be so territorial. Everything is temporary. No one is indispensable, so just do your best while you’re at it.

Don’t take things personally. Nothing is supposed to be personal at work.

Check your tone when discussing or “arguing”. You may be unnecessarily offending or provoking other people, and I know you don’t like that.

Make deposits into every important aspect of your life. Think about your relationships, health, passion, spirituality, or maybe your contribution to the world. You shouldn’t be defined by just your work.

And at the end of the day, put everything down. 

Rest. Take a deep breath and smile. You deserve it.

The Monster, The Rabbit, The Bee, and The Lion

I have to say it now, this is not a fairy tale story.

I happened to watch “The Masked Singer” season one on youtube, and I was captivated by the mystery and excitement it brings. 

In the show, you get to see contestants doing a different song every week, with the judges acting as detectives trying to identify who’s the mystery man or woman behind the mask. A contestant who loses the vote on any given week will be unmasked. The show ends with “The Great Reveal” so to speak. It’s crazy but endearing in a melt-your-heart kind of way.

The Identity Revelation

To me, this is the most inspiring part.

The Lion

She turned out to be Rummer Willis who had been known as an actress and a dancer, apart from being a daughter of the famous couple Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Rummer joined the show to prove to the world she can sing, and was definitely awesome at it! The lion commanded the stage in every performance.

The Bee

This was Gladys Knight. An Icon in Soul music who at the time of joining the show was already 75! When asked why she joined, she said, “We should always strive to do different kinds of things because they elevate us eventually.”

The Rabbit

Joey Fatone. Joey wasn’t a show stealer, at least for me, back in the day. But hearing Robin Thicke say, “With a personality like that, it could only be Joey Fatone. Joey just lights up every room he goes into”, tells me how great this person truly is.

Finally, The Monster

None of the detective judges guessed him right except for show host Nick Cannon. Nobody thought the man behind The Monster was T-Pain. “When you hear the name T-Pain you automatically think Auto-Tune,” T-Pain said. “I just wanted to get rid of that.” And oh my, after all those performances, without a doubt the entire world, finally, would take him seriously and wonder why it didn’t see past the rapper- auto-tune image of him until the show.

I guess a show like this reminds us about a few things.

We box people in.

We size them up and make up our minds about the limits they can be afforded as human beings. Usually, these limits are very low. We find it difficult to imagine people having the capacity to expand their boundaries or become someone else entirely. No wonder why we miss a lot of goodness and beauty in the world. Our sense of appreciation is very narrow.

As we grow old we kind of lose our faith in what’s magical, possible, or extraordinary. 

But, believe it or not, everything on earth has been carefully thought of by the One who made it. There’s no one extra person in the world. Everyone and everything has his or her own place and we come bearing treasures.

We are afraid of our own light.

I think one of the reasons why contestants in the show are more comfortable performing behind the mask is that they know that out there, they can be somebody else and still feel safe. But at the same time showing who you truly are, the rawness and genuineness of it all scare you too. It makes you feel quite unsure if you’ll like what you find, or be delighted to meet a different version of you.  

We fail to uncover our own potential because we want what’s safe, what’s validated by the world, or what our loved ones and friends say we should be doing. In short, we conform. We don’t risk it all. We’re like candles kept in the dark afraid of burning ourselves. Not knowing that being lit would have realized our very purpose.

The second act.

We usually tie our identity to our past, what we use to do, who we used to be. The position, role, accolades, awards, and success stories, we think that’s all there is to who we are. But as long as we live there’s always something new that we could do. Glady’s Knight said it best. Doing a new thing elevates us. It adds up to our resume, our skillset, builds our capacity, and more importantly restores our faith in ourselves.  

If you are like me and you want to have more exciting stories to tell your grandkids when you grow old, create new experiences every time. There’s nothing more liberating and fulfilling than uncovering your own treasure. You don’t want to take that treasure to your grave. It belongs to this lifetime, to this place. In other words, it can only be useful here. So use it now and make it count.

I hope this gives us something to think about.

Has the world boxed me in? 

Am I afraid of my own light?

What treasures do I uncover for my second act?

I believe that there’s always more than meets the eye. We are more than what people see, more than what we allow ourselves to be. The same is true with others. If we carry the light within us and allow others to carry theirs, imagine what a bright world it will be. And with everyone and everything freely emanating his or its own hue, we could create a colorful and magical world that may have once existed only in a dream, but this time, we’re building it for real.