How to give zero fucks
One of my clients started off our work together by stating that her goal by the end was: “to give zero fucks about what anyone think or says”.
The reason why this was a goal for her was because she was experiencing the opposite - she struggled a lot with what people thought, what they said, or what they did.
Someone would say something or do something to her, or she’d assume they were judging her in some way, and it would keep her deeply upset for HOURS afterwards.
In each session, she would come to me and tell me about a particular scenario that had triggered her, and each time we would discover why it triggered her so much, and reframe it in such a way that she knew she’d be able to handle it if it happened again.
For example, whenever her Mum did something hurtful, which was often the case, of course she’d get upset.
That was until we looked at it in a session, and then the next time this scenario occurred, she automatically responded with “that’s your stuff!”, and was far better at not getting thrown off or upset by her Mum’s behaviour.
The same thing would happen in the next session: she’d tell me about a scenario that upset her, and we reframed it so that next time it happened, she’d “give zero fucks” about it.
And in the next session, and the next after that.
Each time, thinking that this would be the last time.
Until something else would happen that would trigger her again.
I realised I needed to show her the generic principle to “giving zero fucks”, outside of any context, so that she could apply it to any situation she experienced going forward.
Otherwise every time she thought she’d got there, something else would crop up.
The principle was this:
Nothing means anything other than the meaning you give it.
In the sessions until this one, we’d be using this concept but within context, for example, ‘this situation didn’t mean anything, only the meaning you gave it’.
But now, with this new understanding, she was able to see that NOTHING means anything other than the meaning she gave it.
Quite simply, your brain is a meaning-making machine.
Think about it:
There it is, sitting inside a dark space inside your skull.
It is connected, by highways of electrical impulses, to senses that receive data from the outside world.
That data is sent back to the brain, and the brain has to interpret it all.
How does it know what the various signals it receives mean?
By consulting it’s archive of past experience.
The things it was told before.
And when it receives data for which there is no past experience to refer to, it will create meaning.
It will assume meaning.
So when you were young, you had no past experience to rely on, therefore the brain had to assume meaning all the time.
And at that age, your brain wasn’t yet aware enough to know that it is not the centre of the universe, and therefore it assumed things that happened had something to do with itself.
It made certain events, such as parents’ behaviour, or things that happened at school, mean something about YOU.
This childhood programming then becomes the algorithm for how we interpret similar scenarios in our adult life.
In other words, we make stuff mean something about our value, our worth, our competency, and so on.
For example, we’ve all been in that situation when that person we are dating and really like, suddenly stops replying to our messages.
Your meaning-making machine kicks in trying to figure it out.
Maybe my message didn’t deliver. (Two ticks on blue, it can’t be that.)
Maybe he’s busy. (He said he wasn’t going out today.)
Maybe he was going to surprise me at my door. (He doesn’t know where I live.)
Maybe I wasn’t interesting enough. (Probably, I didn’t really have anything interesting to talk about.)
Maybe he didn’t fancy me. (I knew I should have worn the little black dress!)
Maybe he thought I was totally boring and couldn’t wait to leave and just didn’t have the heart to tell me and now he’s ignoring my message and I’ll never hear from him again! (Obviously this is why he didn’t reply!! This ALWAYS happens to me!!)
Meaning-making machine right there in action.
And you can’t stop it. It HAS to make meaning out of the data it receives because that’s how you survive and navigate a complex world.
The only thing you can do is ACKNOWLEDGE when your brain is relying on algorithms from the past that aren’t true, or MAKING-UP new meanings that have no basis in actual truth either.
This is how you give zero-fucks.
By realising that NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING ABOUT YOU.
In fact, nothing means anything other than the meaning your brain chooses to give it.
So why not create better meanings?
Ones that serve you?
Ones that empower you?
After all, if you’re going to make up meanings anyway, better make them good ones.