Episode Seven: Other People's Thoughts

May 18, 2022




Hey, siblings, I hope you're all doing well. I have a whole bunch of podcasts coming that I'm really excited to record. But this one took me a couple of weeks, I feel like all the Mercury Retrograde things have been asking me to work double hard. And I actually recorded it. And then afterwards, I felt really happy with it. And with all the ad libs that I added, and then I looked at the recorder and it stopped recording halfway through, I was so annoyed. And then one of my neighbours had their windows down and there's this guy singing outside.

And before all of this, I'd also been allowing my throat to recover. I've had this two year cough and kind of sore throat, you can probably hear it still, I've been assuming that it's been the remnants of COVID. And last year had a chest infection, maybe it's that and it's just saw. And then this year, like oh, I don't know if the pollen is higher, or if it's just the first year that I'm admitting to myself that maybe I get hay fever. But I was like, Oh, it's just that.

But actually, I've remembered that I'm not supposed to eat dairy, like I have a really hard time with dairy, and specifically pasteurised dairy especially. And for the last two years, I've just been eating yoghurt every day. So now in a journey of cutting that out, and I can already feel a big difference, I don't have this post nasal drip, that is then making my throat sore. And anyway, all of that to say it was I was trying to record this last week and literally couldn't speak. So a lot, a lot getting in the way of this.

But I really want to get into it. And we're here now. And hopefully, this recording checks out. And you actually get to hear what I want to share with you, which is all about Other People's Thoughts.

And this is really a continuation of the last episode in the sense that I want to clarify and expand on the part that is about imagining other people's thoughts.

I had a little bit of pushback on the last episode, which I love, because it also helps me to know how I can better explain these ideas and help you think about other people's thoughts in ways that are helpful to the journey of unmasking and activating your potential sells and the future that you actually want to experience. So other people's thoughts is what this is going to be about.

And I'm going to also share a couple of frameworks from the solar system, which we use in coaching and also to think about how knowledge about autistic status experiences gets produced. And one of those frameworks is also new one that I don't think I shared here before, it's one that I occasionally draw on and mention in the group from time to time, but I really want to open it up and make it available as something to think about with, in the occasions in which you are with other people, and thinking about other people's thoughts, and how to think about them in an unhelpful way. Because how to see and know and be yourself really unfolds with other people as much as with ourselves.

This work involves taking new approaches to being with others. And so that's what this is for to help you be with other people in a new way to help you also clarify your self concept in ways that are more for them feel better, that lead to what you want, instead of perhaps feeling like I used to.

So for decades, I saw myself through what I imagined. I say decades, like, maybe two decades, yes, maybe maybe one and a half. So for a long time, that's better. For a long time I saw myself through what I imagined other people thought of me. And then develop this kind of false ego constructed self to guide how to be with other people. And I would act under this illusion that this was how I could experience being with other people, and know the right way to be and things to do, and therefore be an acceptable person.

I believed that there was a right way to be, and how I was, was enough that I had to know what other people were thinking, in order for me to know how to be and the right way to be. And a belief is just a thought that you've thought a lot, when you've practised on that is like, well ingrained. And to the extent that it just feels like reality, it just doesn't feel like a thought it feels like you're thinking about reality.

So I practice this thought, many, many thoughts of not enoughness of comparison of being less than a getting it wrong, not being liked, or trying to figure out how to get positive attention or avoid negative attention. And so I sought the rules and the correct way to be in how other people responded to me.

And what I thought their thoughts were based on their responses. And that practice of trying to see myself in their eyes was a practice of self editing and self suppression, essentially, that also then created this warped self image, this warped self concept, the self concept that was made up of all the times, I'd imagined what other people thought of me. And of course, finding out that there are other people out there who are having this status of being autistic and that they experience the world as this kind of sensorial flow of energy. And also this idea of masking. Of course, these released me from a certain amount of this internalisation of not fitting in.

But the habits of imagining other people's thoughts as a strategy for being around other people remained, they didn't go away, because they were habitual, that was the only self I knew how to be. And partly because by then it "worked". And I say "worked" - imagine it's got inverted commas - it "worked", because it worked so far as I avoided receiving any outright negativity. But it didn't work in terms of actually finding out or who actually am I. And it didn't work in terms of the experience of being with others, being more relaxing, or less anxiety inducing. Not everyone, not those I was closest to, but certainly when being around groups of people, or out and about or going to our events, or new people or you know those occasions where there is a lot of unknowns, where you don't know them as well, that were full of my habit of careful pre rehearsing how to be beforehand, in my mind, and then carefully, self checking and enacting what I observed was correct according to what was happening.

I had a belief that if I was just myself, then something really bad would happen. So it was this constant vigilance about what I was doing so as not to let that thing happen. That habit of trying to see yourself in the eyes of someone else is a habit that I invite you to start to unlearn. If your goal is to start to live more of your actual life as true to you. To be more of yourself to be more real with others that you choose to be real with. And to have your own energy as yours to make your own best decisions to live on your terms. And therefore get experience all of who you could be all of who you're here to be.

So this is not to say that it doesn't remain as a tool in your toolkit, imagining what other people are thinking. And that you'd never then get to use it in how you navigate your life, and how you deal with situations involving other people. But more than that, you want to add some more strategies. You want to add strategies that don't deplete your energy in ways that are both invisible and irretrievable like this energetic spend doesn't come back to you, it creates, there now it's not visible and acknowledged. And it's really stressful, and it makes social occasions full of anxiety. And it makes us second guess and question ourselves constantly.

So this is what we're doing, we're adding more tools to our toolkit, I want you to know that this monitoring of other people's thoughts about you doesn't have to be your experience of all social interactions at all. And this is how I feel now I don't feel anxious or stressed, I don't spend any time in anyone else's thoughts about me, most of the time, in most of the important relationships in my life, or in the social occasions I'm in. And most of all, I don't make other people's thoughts are what I imagined them to be part of my self concept. Even you as the listener, I don't even try to imagine what you think of me, even those that are in The SOLA System programme, even my partner of 15 years. And that's because it's not effective for me to be in relationship with people with that strategy. So what I want to give you today is another way to approach all of this, so that you can see what is available when you don't make other people's thoughts, part of your self concept. So first of all, know that if you have this habit, if this is part of your life, know that it's not your fault. So people pleasing, monitoring other people's thoughts about you, none of these are your fault. So forgive yourself, it's okay, this is reasonable. These are reasonable responses to harm, to past experiences of harm, to current one's - threats of harm, and to a society that has expectations and standards and values and ideologies of what is correct and desirable and worthy, and legitimate and real. And those are sometimes backed up with violence, exclusion and bullying or racist or ablest structures and acts and messages, or poverty, or other types of neglect and abuse and oppression. And we are moved through these standardised social structures that are based on a lot of those values and ideologies. And so any deviation from those structures from those values from those ideologies is responded to as an inconvenience.

So we will make reasonable adjustments we will tolerate you, etc. Right? So you receive all these messages.

And it's very, very easy and natural that you would absorb and internalise them as meaning something about you. So no wonder other people's thoughts and thinking about what other people are thinking has been a strategy for safety for navigating social situations. Like it's no wonder.

So imagining other people's thoughts trying to second guess what they are, can be life saving in scenarios where harm is a potential consequence. But what I want to do is distinguish between shame, or the interpretation of fear and harm as evidence of being unworthy and the harm itself. So shame and these habits of trying to see ourselves from other people's eyes. These are secondary impacts of harm.

It's the internalisation of that harm. It's making it mean something about ourselves, right?

So that doesn't mean that the original harm wasn't real, or that the threat of new harm isn't also real, or that the true reaction that reimagines harm isn't experienced is real, because trauma is the response to perceived threat, whether it's real or imagined. So harm is very much a present possibility in the human to human experience, right. And so, we start with that. But we also have to recognise we are groomed and socialised to internalise experiences of harm as self concept. So as you receive this because of something about you, and what we can address is the secondary bit we can address that internalisation of past harms as self concept as self judgement, or inadequacy or conditions on our own belonging to ourselves.

So what I want to do today is just give you some strategies that create a little bit more room between the tube that create more room between what other people think and do, and then who you are, and how you get to experience yourself how you get to think about yourself, and therefore how you get to be yourself in the world. So to distinguish between the two, so that you can then get to work on the parts that are the internalised parts. Okay, so the first framework I want to introduce is the idea of two unknowns that are present in any relationship. And those are, who am I, when I'm with you? And who are you when you're with me. And here's the thought I want to offer you when you are in other people's thoughts, as in when you are in your own thoughts, trying to imagine what they think of you, you aren't in the unknowns of the relationship.

So you're not actually in those two unknowns, you're not actually experiencing that relationship, but instead are experiencing your thoughts about their thoughts about you. And so you'll be reacting to your own thoughts instead of to the actual person in front of you, and experience that you are having in yourself.

Part of what imagining trying to imagine other people's thoughts does is it actually means that we don't get to face those relationship unknowns.

So those two unknowns are:

who are you with me,
who am I with you.

The relationship is the container for those unknowns is the vehicle the ship for finding out for journeying in order to find out, so two unknowns, then the ancient part of our brains doesn't like unknowns. And we've talked about unknowns with the 'Tunnel of Un', but here are some some other ones.

Processing unknowns requires energy and attention of our physiological system. And also those unknowns could involve scary predators. Like if you do something, if you think about doing something that you don't know what the results will be, it puts that part of our brain can go on high alert, like hold on what's happening, we suddenly need to pump a bunch of cortisol because we don't know what's going on.

And then another thing that I do our brains will do is make predictions about what the world is, what reality is, where our experiences will be, who people are. And it will do that based on a number of things, our past experiences, how we are socialised to process and navigate our experiences. So what to value, what to pay attention to what is acceptable, what to think, and so on. And we'll also make these predictions based on our body, our body minds, what our bodies afford us to experience, and to perceive, and so on. And also our tools. So in neuroscience, this is called predictive coding.

And in The SOLA system, this informs one of the frameworks that we use that I call models of reality. So this is the second framework that I'm introducing to help think about other people's thoughts. So we create these mental and unconscious maps of what we think we might experience or what we think reality is these models of reality, and if self of who we are, of what will happen if who other people are, what we can expect and so on. So we map and we model reality and those models help our bodies and our brains to conserve energy and not to have to pay conscious attention to every facet of our experience and process it over and over again. Instead, these mental models, these models of reality offers shortcuts. And they're informed by all of these things: our bodies, how we're socialised, our past experiences, our tools, and so on. So every being has a different model of reality that they are working with in any given moment. And we're constantly updating and refining those models based on new experiences.

Making our models of reality conscious, is the work of self transformation. Because it's by having awareness of what the mental models of reality are, that we are using that we are drawing on, that we can then see, where do we have more agency to choose other options for how we interpret our experiences that are more helpful, we can choose more aligned thoughts and beliefs, we can choose how to assign meaning to what we experience, we can choose to interpret our experiences more closely to what we internally experience rather than what we've been socialised to think.

And therefore, we can have more agency over the kinds of consequences, the kinds of results that we then create out of what we do, based on how we feel about what we've experienced, because of how we've interpreted it, and made it mean something. So there's a whole module in the solar system on this concept of models of reality. And it's one of the tools that you learn when you join, and that we use. And this work of creating self esteem is also the work of being aware of where am I bringing in a model of reality, to this experience, that actually isn't helping me, where if I built a model of myself, where if I got thoughts and ideas, and imaginings and mental conditionings, of a self concept, that actually doesn't feel good. And that makes me feel bad about myself, that is built on a set of thoughts that actually came from other people, or from society, or from how I interpreted my experiences to mean something about me, that now is leading me to feel bad about myself. So our mental models aren't always helping us.

Because we make assumptions. It's called confirmation bias, we were always seeking confirmation of what we think we know, to the extent that we interpret our new experiences according to our existing models. So if your past experience tells you that you aren't lovable, and you made that conclusion, because some people were not able to love you at a specific time, when you made that mean things about you, then your interpretation of your experiences from then will be through the lens of that belief. And you'll be looking for that, in how you experience your life.

And other people's thoughts are informed by and produced by their own models of reality. So other people's thoughts are their thoughts. And so when it comes to imagining what their thoughts are, that's actually my thoughts. So my imagining what their thoughts about me are is actually happening in my thoughts. And if I'm operating on assumptions about what other people's thoughts are, I'm then using those assumptions as a lens with which I interpret them, and to me, my own self, and I'm not seeing either clearly. So it becomes a distortion, it becomes a filtering or a story or a version of self that is not fully reflective of all of who you are in all of your wholeness and all of who they are.

So, what this framework does is it allows us to see that someone else's thoughts are part of their models of reality are just representative or expressive of what models of reality they are, that they have. And it also allows us to consider that maybe there isn't one fixed single reality but a multitude or a pluriverse or a Lossy Ecology of realities, which is not what we're taught, we're taught that knowledge of reality means to know the right answer, that there's a right answer. And that to know the right answer is the product of having knowledge. And that knowledge is knowing things that are universally true and factual and objective, when what institutional knowledge really is, is specific models of reality that someone has had, and that they have expressed in a way that positions them as the only models because of not only how they've been expressed, but also how they've been resourced.

So knowledge that is institutionally verified and disseminated, comes from, and is based on knowledge that came from specific bodies, who were having specific thoughts of their models of reality, and then communicating and disseminating them. And we could go on a tangent now about where and which bodies those were, and why they were resourced so well, and why we live in these structures which hold up certain fields of institutionalised knowledge, I'm thinking now of the DSM, and how we could locate the sources of all of that within certain parts of European history and where Universalist knowledge came from, how those people were resourced by the colonial project, and how they were white European men who had something to gain from the notion of a hierarchy between people, and time being linear. And this idea of progress and being civilised. And this idea that there is a way a certain way of being in a body that is superior, right, we can go back into history and locate who was the bodies, out of which these specific models of reality that dominate our culture that dominate society, they actually come from somewhere, they come from specific people, and from specific ideological and social contexts.

I'll leave that, that tangent for now. And I want to come back to thinking about so thoughts are an interpretation of experience, a story and idea and mental framework, description and naming or referring and so on, thoughts are part of our models of reality. So other people's thoughts are a reflection and an indication of their models of reality, so it belongs to them. And also an incantation of their models of reality. So I say incantation, because words, thoughts, spelling is just spells, it's not only translating and describing a reality, it's also producing your reality.

So how you interpret and think about something determines how you experience it. Right? We're taught that thoughts are where we find knowledge, that to know something is to think the right answer. But I want to offer a different approach to your own thoughts, that there is no right answer to how you interpret your experiences, there is only the thoughts that are helpful and reflect your whole self and what you want, and will help you get there. Or the thoughts that don't. And coaching and also self coaching are fields of thought with that have tools for how you then address and make conscious those models of reality.

So you can see, is this a perspective and an assumption that leads to a reality that I want to keep experiencing? Is this self concept actually true to who I am becoming? And how I want to show up? And what I want to create? Or is it full of what I imagine is other people's thoughts about me? And the parts of me that are visible to them? But it's actually not working for me. It doesn't lead me to what I want. Am I bringing a whole bunch of my own past experiences into every new relationship because my brain is looking for proof that this mental model is correct. If your model of reality includes a self concept that is dependent on what other people think of you, that will end up with you being attached to what other people think about you.

So caring, what other people think about you, is attachment to their thoughts. It's trying to be in their models or reality, or it's trying to change their models or reality that they have about you. And it is that on some level, your self concept and your self esteem is wrapped up in what you think other people are thinking about you. So any attachment that we have to anything is coming from an place of not enoughness, right, it's coming from, I don't have something and I need it from you. Or I am not enough as I am. And I need to fill that gap in my self esteem, by engineering someone else's good social esteem of me, that I need them to have good thoughts about me, or that I am what they think I am. So then with that attachment, you then start to grab hold of and try to monitor what you think they think. Which means that you spend all of your time in your own thoughts. And then you be in relationship from the place of fearing jeopardising their good thoughts about you looking for the rules and the correct ways to be trying to read a situation based on what they think on what you think they think about you.

And this is something that when people join The SOLA system; they also have to they also confront, right, they face it, which is, in those fears of the unknown that this new relational structure represents, before they join, they're worrying about what are the right ways to be? Will I be accepted? Am I going to fit in and carrying the assumptions that their brain presents to them into this view on unknown? From experiences on in the past that have been internalised as rules for how to be so then it's looking for? Am I going to do this in the right way? What if I can't do it? Well, I have to be a certain way, or speak on camera when I'm not comfortable with that, or basically looking for all the ways that they might have to negotiate for belonging.

And then they discover that this is a space which is in which it's explicitly identified that belonging is belonging to yourself, and that belonging to yourself, that self connection, is facilitated by inclusion and interdependence. In other words, inclusion. And interdependence means having your access needs met. It's not contingent on you being liked, or approved of, which are just reflections of the models of reality of the person who is doing the approving or disapproving. So in the SOLA system, the siblings, as I call them, and I call you, sensory siblings, those that join The SOLA system then learn to manage their minds, to manage their models of reality, to work on what those are, towards increased self esteem. They learn to work on their models of reality and refining them to better reflect who they actually feel themselves to be on the inside. And also towards what they want to create.

And the ability to generate the mindset and self concept that leads to being able to create social esteem, to come at their life and relationships from a place of not needing other people to do anything at all or to change or to have certain thoughts or to even know what they are. But instead from a place of self connection, and being their own source of self esteem, readjusting boundaries and their own actions and habits to more reflect a self concept that is more helpful. And that actually activates all of what is possible, rather than all of what is past.

So the minimal promise that I make to you when you join is that you leave You will leave this six months container knowing how the how of How to Be yourself having the map and the tools as an experience in your nervous system, that is not just theory that is also facilitated by the cognitive empathy that is afforded you by being around people who have a similar cognitive processing, perceptual experience and a way of being in a body.

And the maximal promise is that you become so this is what could happen, this is what you can keep working on using these tools is that you then become a cultural creator or leader in your own right that you embody your own values, and decide reality, to the extent that you can actually make that real, you create it as a reality. And you get to do all of that from a place of service, because you are full up, you are already full of your own enoughness. And it spills over and you're able to come from a place of giving. And part of that mind management is done in the body. Because the body is a compass for which models are reality, which thoughts are for you, and which aren't.

When your access needs are met, you can be in your body and self connection. Creating interdependence is something that you have agency to start to create. And it's all about increasing your preparedness for those conversations in relationships. So how you stop the habit of trying to imagine other people's thoughts. And then using that as your model of for who you are, as your self concept, is by increasing your self esteem. So you don't need other people to be the source of self esteem, you become the source.

And you do that with one simple decision, which is to decide that you are already enough and to decide to be your own source of self esteem. Which means to make self connection, your only goal, self connection is a work in progress and a practice the decision to always make it a priority puts you immediately in the direction of self esteem. So all it takes is that decision. And then the next steps unfold of what you can work on next. In your journey of refining your models of realising, oh, is this what I want to be thinking about myself? Is this how I want to respond to that situation? Do I always want to be uncomfortable and putting other people before me? Do I want to always be in this negotiation of how much I get to enjoy and do things my way?

So let's finish with a quick recap.

There are two unknowns in any relationship;

Who am I with you?
And who are you with me?

You get to experience those unknowns, and more and more find out, when you are not in your thoughts about yourself. You are already enough you can just decide that. This is the reality that you want to live from. You can decide to be your own source of self esteem. By just deciding that and then making self connection your only goal and in deciding and desiring to do so you already put yourself back on your own side.

Anything you aim for in a relationship can be done for the purpose of growth or pleasure or fulfilment, or interdependence. And not to patch up a sense of lack or not enoughness scarcity, lack I need something I don't have will always lead to less of it not more.

So find look for all the ways that you you like yourself that feel good to you, that you want to do more of look for all of the ways that you might make micro adjustments for how you get to be with other people. That discovery that getting to know who am I with this person and who are they with me is less possible if you're attaching your own self concept and being good or bad or worthy or not to what they think of you and therefore grabbing hold of their thoughts as the determining factor on your own legitimacy.

Your role in any relationship is not to win. their approval, but to have the courage to be in those, those unknowns without the imagined idea conjured up of what they may think of you. Now, if we're used to having approval be a condition for connection, the idea of letting go what someone thinks about you might feel lonely, because on some level, we have a belief that we can only experience connection with someone when we have their approval. So this is most people, right? We are in the social interactions, where there are these kind of checking of, oh, do I approve of you? And do you approve of me, when you start to reduce the importance of other people's thoughts from your focus, and give up the goal of trying to guess their thoughts, and you make their thoughts about you, none of your business, what you then create space for is real connection, is the insights and the thinking that arises in you. And they share with you about what they think and what their ideas are, and what their preferences and perspective are, that enables you both to be real to be realised in that relationship, and to get to know and find out those two unknowns of who you are with each other.

You can then be connected to do I actually like them? How am I feeling with them? What is my own body telling me? What am I curious about? What do I need to readjust in terms of boundaries? Or comfort levels here? Do I want to share a little bit more of myself, and risk that next level of unknowns? Of who do I get to be with them? And who are they, when I share more of me? How you know, it's working is that you're making decisions in your own life is in a negotiation with other people's thoughts in your own head.

It's instead trusting yourself that if other people have thoughts about your decisions, negative or positive, then those thoughts don't mean anything about you. And your worthiness, you might make decisions because of what they think you might feel emotions because of what they think. But you aren't making choices. Because of what it might make that mean about you. How you know it's working is that you can also handle people being wrong about you, you can let them be wrong, and be in their models of reality about you, knowing that it isn't your truth, and that they've missed an opportunity to get to know you.

And to step into those two relationship unknowns. How you know, it's working is that you can handle making decisions and having no idea what people think of you. But focusing instead on what you're trying to make happen on creating interdependence towards that, and then noticing if it's working. And if you're making decisions, despite what others might think this is a sign that this is working, if you're identifying that people might reject you, and going ahead anyway, because you're putting yourself connection first.

How you know it's working is that you're discovering that who you thought you were, is so far from all of the incredible nurse that you are experiencing of yourself that is emerging out of you, when you are relating to yourself and therefore to others, from a place of not needing to control other people's thoughts, but instead can heed the instincts and insights that emerge in yourself in a state of self connection. How you know it's working is if you start to discover that I'm nothing like who I'd been thinking I was based on what I thought other people's assumptions were based on their models of reality, which are informed by their body minds and their socialisation and their experiences. You get to find out who you are, instead of being that exhausting, invisible work of trying to be something specific to someone else because your self esteem is contingent on their thoughts and not on your own decision of making self connection your priority. You get to find out what other people's models of reality are.

You get to see them more clearly. Huh, they said something that gives me a clue about their values and their experiences. And if they are really my kind of person or not, you also start to make new goals because you realise, well, if I don't have to fit in, because I'm not worried about other people having thoughts about me, I can do it my own way, you can start to expand your influence, because you aren't constrained by the limitations of sticking within the lines of who you think you are to other people in their minds. And when your mental identification with other people's idea of you is alleviated, that is when something new gets to emerge, that is when you get to see and find out and know, and then be who you are.

So it starts with just one decision, you can decide that right now, to make self connection, your only goal and therefore, you're on your own side, you can be in your own experiences, more and more.

You can unpack is that a thought I really want to be thinking about myself? When I think self and I conjure up all of these images and ideas. Are they actually helping me? You can enter the unknown of, you know what, I don't have a clue who I am. And that's exactly where I should be. Because that's how I find out and you can experience yourself without the distortions of being in your thoughts imagining what other people's thoughts about you are.

Alright siblings, I will talk to you very soon.




is for #autistic-status visionaries, creatives and change-makers, who are seeking a more empowering way to see, know and be yourself.