I used to spend a lot of time in other people’s heads.

Usually they were boyfriends, work colleagues, close family or friends; sometimes they were acquaintances or even strangers I’d only met once.

Mostly, I went in there because I wanted to know what they were thinking about me or what I’d just said or done.

Sometimes I’d even invite others over to this place too; I’d spend endless hours with friends exploring every inch of the grey matter of my current target.

Typical triggers were: when someone I’d had enjoyable interactions with just one day turned cold or didn’t smile or say hello anymore; a friend or partner disappeared from my life; a text message went unanswered for weeks; or a stranger gave me an angry growl.

Like a near-death experience I seemed to jump right out of my body and into theirs. Physically I felt lighter, flakier, less centred, unfocused; even fragile. All of my sensitivities came up at once; I lost presence and the ability to ground myself.

By gosh, it was a tiresome occupation and quite frankly, extremely unsatisfactory, as I never really found what I was looking for. After all how can we find anything in a place we don’t belong?

When I got sick, as if by divine intervention, I stopped doing it. I can’t say it was due to a lightbulb moment or purposeful intention, but simply because it drained my energy and I had no extra energy left for zapping.

As I recovered and occasionally reverted back to my role as a ‘brain surgeon in-training, I decided to do a bit more digging around this trait of mine.

What was I really looking for in those heads? Why did I do it?

 

Street Art by Mark Samsonovich

Street Art by Mark Samsonovich

 

I found that the tendency to visit someone else’s place comes when you don’t feel comfortable and confident in your own.

Hmm, that was a slap initially!

In my case I was either looking for someone to give me validation that my place was pretty cool, or for them to confirm that it wasn’t; both dead-end routes!

Self-doubt and the need for validation are human traits. Most kids learn at an early age how to gain approval; namely how to do something that another likes and how to get praise and reward for it.

So as an adult, when someone does something we find odd, we are often hardwired to try and think of a way to please them so that they may change their behaviour to something we like better. This may involve trying to work out what they think or need, thus our propensity to jumping into their heads.

The way I’ve learnt to acknowledge this human desire but not yield to it is by grabbing hold of it before it grabs hold of me.

Recently I had a situation where I was about to attempt another brain dissection. I found myself drifting into that old familiar out-of-body experience, but then I chose differently; I chose to slow it down, as if I was watching it from above. As I did so, a wave of self-love washed over me; I noticed the little girl seeking approval and I saw myself with a new form of kindness.

And then; I melted. This melting took me to my heart, right back into the centre of my body where I rightfully belong.

I was present enough to really hear the other; see them; feel them. I noticed things like the way they might search my face for an answer; how they fidgeted when nervous; or how their eyes lit up when we shared a “moment.”

These insights helped me to realise that they’re just human too; and it opened my heart even further. It’s in this heart opening that I found exactly what I searched for in all the wrong “places” for so many years; I discovered that the more I stay centred in my own body, the more I actually learn about the other!

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