Wagon wheel metaphor revisited

In finished reading a wonderful book last week: mindsight - The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. This book confirms everything I've previously written about emotional baggage while taking it all up a level. I've got much to share with you as I distill Dr. Dan Siegel's insights in the coming weeks.

He uses the wagon wheel metaphor differently than the way I explored it a few months ago. He got me thinking in some different ways about this familiar idea - which I love to do! He considers the hub of the wheel a place we can get to in our minds by witnessing the stream of passing thoughts and emotions. For him, the hub is synonymous with mindfulness practices. There's no place in his use of the wheel to imagine the compassionate state of mind his patients realize after years of observing their passing thoughts and emotions.

My familiar use of the wagon wheel metaphor regards the movement on the wheel as a lifetime journey. The place in our minds for witnessing the passing stream of thoughts and emotions is on any spoke perpendicular to the rim of the wheel. We get off the rim of continual motion to observe the movement from a place of stillness. When we're on a spoke of the wagon wheel, we are unaware of how the rim forms a complete circle. We are witnessing one experience, encounter or condition in our lives. There's no obvious connection to other facets of what we're dealing with now. For example, we assume:

  • the way we relate to our significant other is separate from how we related to our primary caregivers
  • the job and career path we chose is disconnected from how we've been seen and treated in our childhoods
  • our experience of conflicts with others nowadays is unrelated to our history of painful and traumatic episodes
  • the issues we have with our siblings, offspring and neighbors has nothing to do with how we adapted to our shortcomings

In my view of the wagon wheel, we come to see this dismissed connections as we move along each spoke. We get on separate spokes whenever we detach from being upset, entangled or captivated by the drama on the rim. There's a predictable process for advancing along each spoke which eventually converges at the hub in the center. Along the way, we realize each segment is part of one big wheel. We feel centered when we see things that way, rather than frightened or overwhelmed by the possibility. To get to that outlook, we first explore the opposite of our positional stance on the captivating rim.  We face our alter ego and the flip side of every idealized trait we cling to with pride, fear and guilt. Here's some examples of that "shadow work" that gets into our personal dark side:

  • I used to think I was an impeccably honest person until I faced how many lies I tell unconsciously and how often I deceive others to avoid confrontations or hurt feelings
  • I assumed I was a good person that did good all the time until I dealt with how much turned out badly or exposed me as a selfish, manipulative or inconsiderate individual
  • I claimed I knew the right answer all the time which meant others we're consistently wrong or stupid until I saw how wrong it was to see the difference between right and wrong that way
  • I presented myself as unfortunate anytime others had more power than me until I realized how fortunate I've been in those situations from a different perspective

These kinds of realizations advance us on each spoke of the wheel. As we move toward the hub, we then "fall in love with meaning" and rewrite our personal autobiography with a new point of view. We tell our own story in ways that feels free of others' expectations, narrations and deletions. We cultivate a deep sense of self respect which lets others live their lives as they see fit. We close to the hub in the counter of the wheel when we find this freedom in our minds.

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