I recently watched an interview with a man named Morty Lefkoe about our self-imposed limitations due to the meanings we give the events in our lives. I was pretty intrigued by what he had to say and continued to also watch him on Tedx. He is the president and founder of the Lefkoe Institute and he has written many articles along with the book, Re-create Your Life: Transforming Yourself and Your World.
What kind of self-imposed limitations do we put on ourselves, you might be wondering? I was wondering that as well. Morty explains that there are multiple meanings or interpretations to an event. For instance, your spouse doesn’t pick up something you wanted at the store. You interpret that as he doesn’t care or care about you. But what other meanings could go with that event? If there were 10 other people watching this event happen, would they all interpret the situation the same? Some might interpret the event as, your spouse cares about you but they just honestly forgot; maybe that particular store didn’t have what you had asked for and they planned on going to a different store tomorrow to get it; or maybe there were multiple options and they didn’t want to get the wrong one and when they went to text you they realized their phone was dead.
Here is another example. You are planning on meeting a friend or family member for lunch and they don’t show. You try to call them and they don’t answer. Your interpretation or meaning you give to the event is that the person is rude and inconsiderate of your time. The other interpretations to this event could be, they got stuck in traffic; they got in a car accident; they got stuck in traffic and they forgot their phone; they think it’s Tuesday and it’s Wednesday; or maybe they just honestly forgot they were meeting you that day.
Now according to Morty an event does not have feelings, we place feelings on the event solely based on what interpretation we gave to the event. If you believe that the meaning you gave the event is real and fact, it will cause feelings, but those feelings are based on your interpretation of the event. If we interpret an event differently then it will invoke different feelings or maybe no feelings at all.
Morty explained another scenario. You wake up and it starts raining. How does that make you feel? Maybe nothing. Now let’s say you are supposed to get married that day and it’s an outside wedding. How does that rain make you feel? Probably upset, nervous or sad. Let’s tweak this scenario once more and say that your family believes that if it rains on your wedding day it means that you are going to have a wonderful marriage. How does that rain make you feel now? Probably pretty happy. So what Morty is saying is that the event is the rain, the meaning is how we interpret that rain which then causes the feelings. As you can see though, depending on how you chose to interpret that event determines your feelings.
With all that being said, we all have had different experiences throughout our lives that have created certain beliefs. These beliefs can affect the meanings we give to events in the future. Maybe as a child your parent had to work a lot to keep a roof over your head, which caused them to be tired all the time. Whenever you had something exciting happen to you in school and you tried to tell your parent they didn’t seem interested, and after so many times of that happening you created the belief that they did not care about you or that you were not important to them. Now let’s move forward into adulthood, where you are trying to tell your significant other something you are really excited about, but they seem disinterested. The meaning you might give to that event might be that your significant other doesn’t care or you are not important to them. What other interpretations could be given to this scenario? Maybe they just got fired from their job and they are trying to figure out what to do; maybe they are excited for you but just honestly exhausted; maybe they just found out they have to work this upcoming weekend; or maybe they just had a bad day at work and are anxiously awaiting sitting down, watching their favorite show, not thinking about anything and just relaxing. Does that mean they don’t care about you? Again, there are many ways this situation can be interpreted but the belief you created when you were a child, that when someone is not paying attention to what you have to say means they don’t care or you are not important to them, has created your interpretation of your future events.
So what does all of this mean? According to Morty the meaning we give to an event is not part of the event, but instead, is only in our mind. How we choose to interpret an event determines our feelings or reaction to that event, but if we stop and ask ourselves, “What other meanings could be drawn from this event that just happened? Are there other ways to interpret this situation? Would everyone interpret this situation the same way as me and if not what other interpretations could be made?” By doing this the next time an event makes you sad, mad, anxious, etc. you may be able to change how you see things, and that negative feeling you had may just disappear. You also may change an old belief as well. Looking back on your past, could a belief you created as child be interpreted differently and if so, could that change what meaning you put on events that happen in your future?
The next time you are met with a negative feeling, ask yourself what event just took place to make me feel this way? Now ask yourself could this event be interpreted differently and could a past belief be the reason I’m interpreting this situation with negative feelings? How can I change that?