Meet the 2-Year-Old in Charge of Your Life
Every moment of your life is generated by a 2-year-old. Sounds crazy, right? But every time I explain how this works to someone, the response is, “Finally, I can understand what’s going on in my life. That makes so much sense!”
So, who is this 2-year-old, and how in the world did it get to be in charge? The 2-year-old is your sense of self, the part of you that stores how you feel about being human, and it is the generating force behind every moment of your life. Your sense of self was developed from conception until you were about 2 1/2 years old. During this time, you absorbed how it feels to be human from the way those around you felt about being human – good or bad.
In a perfect world, the absorbing process was meant to expand your natural well-being, the kernel of energy you began with in the womb. You should have reached age 2 1/2 feeling that it is GREAT being you, just as you are. What went wrong? Well, the people around you didn’t feel great about being themselves in every moment. When they felt bad, your sense of self absorbed that feeling as “there is something wrong being human.” Actually, because your sense of self only really understands “me,” it absorbed that feeling as “there is something wrong with ME.” We call this feeling Learned Distress.
Of course, you didn’t choose to store this feeling. Your thinking brain hadn’t begun to operate yet, so you were just a sponge. A sponge doesn’t have a choice in what it absorbs. It takes it all in without any ability to discern what might be helpful or not. Your sense of self sponge couldn’t evaluate the negative feelings as “good” or “bad” for you – Learned Distress was just “the way life IS.”
So, by the age of 2 1/2, your sense of self had become a mixture of these 2 feelings: well-being and Learned Distress. And each moment of your life has been generated from one of those basic feelings – automatically, without your conscious control or input. (Click to read about the science that explains how this works.) Of course, you have the ability to cope with or control the moments that don’t feel good, and you have undoubtedly developed good mechanisms to do just that. But often, those mechanisms get overridden by the intensity of your Learned Distress.
Here’s an example from my own life. My dad was diagnosed with kidney failure when I was still in the womb, and he died when I was 3 1/2. So, one of my bits of Learned Distress became “the way to be an adult is to get sick and die.” And in my 20’s, I did get sick – my endocrine function started to deteriorate. After years of working with different doctors and approaches, I found an MD who had great success with my condition. He evaluated me after several months on his regimen and said wasn’t working for me. On the surface, I was disappointed, but something deep inside me was jumping for joy. This was puzzling until I looked at my Learned Distress. If “the way to be an adult is to get sick and die,” I was right on track! Success! It makes no rational sense, right? Who would be happy about that? But the 2-year-old can’t operate rationally. It’s just operating from what the sponge-like sense of self absorbed.
There are countless examples of this – what we call negative Brain Direction: someone eating a certain food despite knowing it makes them feel bad, someone continually having their ideas ignored despite speaking up for themselves, someone whose career is going nowhere despite “doing everything right,” and the list goes on.
Where is your 2-year-old making life difficult? What would it be like if well-being were the generating force behind your moments, instead? The Quanta Change Process was designed to allow that to happen, which it does by permanently removing layers of Learned Distress. The 2-year-old is always in charge, but when well-being is the generating force, life starts to look and feel very different. As layers of Learned Distress peel away, the good things start to happen just the way the negative moments have always happened – automatically!
Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.