Your brain is a constant meaning maker. It takes a stimulus and attaches to it the nearest narrative it can grab hold of. The problem is that your brain’s fastest association with a feeling, urge or idea isn’t necessarily the most helpful or accurate.
For example, every so often I become exceptionally preoccupied with rescuing another animal. This impulse usually comes when life is bursting at the seams, and so as much as I feel compelled to go to the animal shelter, I try to resist. I’ve come to realize that this sense of urgency will pass with time but it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized why it happens in the first place.
When I feel the call to care-take during chapters of stress, it seems my brain most often interprets that urge as the desire to care-take for another. The drive to act on love for others is a neurological pathway well developed over the course of my life, so my brain quickly links “care-take” with “another” and off to the shelter I am inclined to go. However, when I stopped to reconsider what might more appropriately be motivating that feeling, I realized the urge to care-take when I feel depleted is meant to be a call to take care of MYSELF, not someone or something else. Since consciousness about self-care hasn’t been practiced as often as other-care, my brain hadn’t been trained to make that interpretation as readily.
Even though loving and connecting with others is healthy and fulfilling, it was worth slowing down to realize that some of the energy I was eager to give away needed to be given to myself.
I see inaccurate associations between feelings and meaning every day in my practice, ultimately trapping people in old stories and patterns. As a consciously growing and evolving person, you’re bound to have new ideas and experiences your brain doesn’t yet have the programming to interpret. Vigilantly challenge narratives written that may no longer hold value.