Broken Record Syndrome

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It is a bit surreal that I am writing about records on a blog — and hopefully most of you know what a record is or if not can imagine what one might be — because the last time I played a record I had no vision for sharing stories on the Internet. Writing was a more contemplative, intimate process as it was assumed that much of what I wrote would not make it any further than the pages of one of my notebooks.

Now I feel a sense of responsibility to share what I write, at least those thoughts that are somewhat comprehensible and complete, if it might help someone else in some small way. To deprive the world of my writing, and the insights contained therein, when it can be so easily shared would be cruel and unfair. My audience of one has grown to a nebulous group of unknown proportions.

This has changed the tenor of my writing. It has forced me to step outside of myself and look more broadly at my feelings, circumstances, and experiences as I describe and seek to understand them. I have evolved, progressed, and transformed in response to a rapidly changing world. And I, as well as others, I hope, have benefitted.

But in many other areas of my life, I have not so easily and gracefully progressed. I have become stuck like a broken record, caught up in a fractured groove that plays over and over again. These grooves represent both thoughts and behaviors (or lack thereof). And the symphony of simultaneously repeating tracks is poorly orchestrated, resulting in an agitating undertone of dreary reputation with no end in sight. Despite my best efforts, I — like millions of others — suffer from broken record syndrome from time to time.

Broken record syndrome occurs when we have recurring thoughts or exhibit repeated behaviors without intention or purpose. Over time, these automatic repetitions become background noise; we become accustomed to their presence and accept them as normal. They become our ingrained biases and our habits. They greatly impact our lives; yet, we are largely unaware that they even exist. And when they do float in and out of our field of awareness, we forget that we have the power to transform them into something more useful and more importantly, more beautiful.

So the first step, then, is to be open to noticing the little snippets of thought and behavior which we experience so frequently, and with such subtlety, that they typically escape our attention. And once we have discovered them, and realized the nuisance and monotony of their perpetuation, we can begin to understand the purpose they have served in our lives. They have protected us, and made us feel safe, in an uncertain world. They have given us something upon which we can rely when everything else seems to slip through our fingers. But it is not enough use these incessant beasts as a crutch, and we deserve better.

We can, instead, offer ourselves freedom from reliance on things that are actually hurting us, by leaning instead on something stronger. Something more meaningful. Something transformative. Something of our choosing and our design. We can replace the cracks which cause us to trip over ourselves again and again with ideas and actions that more deeply resonate with our heart of hearts. We form new habits and develop new ways of seeing the world. And these continually evolve, in response to our changing world and our own self-growth. And through this process we discover more happiness, fulfillment, and peace.

The Epiphany

Once you experience an epiphany, there is no going back. So it was when I realized that my emotional difference was an integral, and beautiful, part of me rather than something to be feared, suppressed, and eliminated.

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But the other side of the epiphany, the point when everything you ever believed to be true is found to be a lie, is lonely. Those who have not reached that peak, who are lost in the struggle of self-discovery, cannot see what lies on the other side. It is not because they are blind, or see the world with disillusioned eyes, but because they have not yet organized the frames of reference necessary to make sense of this strange new world. It is a blur, a frenzied state of meaningless fluff that is of absolutely no practical use.

So for those of us who have an epiphany, in whatever field we practice, we have an obligation to make what we have envisioned, and found to be true, more clear and more real to others on a similar life journey. Sometimes we do this by prodding them on with tough love, other times we seduce them with incremental measures of success, and yet other times we bridge the new world with the old, weaving together intellectual, cultural, and mythological wisdom into an inclusive tapestry that captures our collective imaginations and life aspirations.

The epiphany, the discovery that opens up unlimited new potential discoveries, is a unique, personal experience. It is one that compels us to share that experience with others so that they, too, might benefit. Doing so in a meaningful way is a burden borne with love by those who experience these life-changing moments. We write, we talk, we use our lives as an example, we hope that someone will understand. Not to confirm that this new world exists, because the epiphany is not tainted by uncertainty, but to give it wings.