I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong. One of the ideas in the book that I love and that has had an impact on me is how we so want to justify our emotional reactions and choices (even when they aren’t grounded in reality) that we “confabulate” information, or make it up from memory.
She cites a study where a bunch of socks were laid out and people were asked to pick the pair that appealed to them most. Later, when asked why they made their choice, they all cited a reason, like“I liked the pattern” or “The colors appealed to me”, etc. No one said “I don’t know.”
And guess what? The socks were all identical. Their left brains confabulated, or made up, a reason or “truth” about the situation.
When it comes to our relationships, we confabulate the meaning about someone else’s behavior. And the problem is that confabulations choke out curiosity, wondering, seeking understanding, and being present to what is actually unfolding right in front of me. So I might “make up” that when my child is disrespectful to me it’s because I’ve been too easy on him lately and that he needs to “learn his place,” or or I might see this behavior as evidence that he doesn’t appreciate all that I do for him.
But these confabulations may be completely wrong. What’s more, they get in the way of my approaching my child with curiosity, of becoming open to what he is feeling, experiencing, focusing on, upset by, overwhelmed by, fearful of, needing support with, etc. So these confabulations keep me from actually attuning to what my child is feeling and what he needs from me, and even from setting the limits I need to set in an effective way.
Confabulations shut things down and make things worse instead of opening things up and making things better. My confabulations keep me from being the mindful, present, attuned parent/friend/partner I want to be. So, I’m watching for them.
Since I’ve been more aware about how much I make up about the meaning of a moment, I’m surprised at how often I do this throughout the day. I’m not going to judge myself for it; rather, I’m going to approach my own interpretaions with curiosity. Then as I wake up to them and how often they are a part of my mental activity, I can then thank my brain for working hard to make sense of the world, and then investigate openly and attune to the person or situation in front of me in that moment.