Old Tapes

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

For the last six weeks, I’ve written about my personal experiences, inner dialogue, and life lessons. I’ve enjoyed the work and appreciated the affirmation I’ve received along the way. Today I’m inviting you to join me in a more intentional way. First, let’s talk about 80s technology.

One of the most consistent things I’ve written about, but not yet named, is how old tapes affect our lives. Old tapes are those messages from our past that we play over and over again. In order to do this topic justice, I need to take us back to the revolutionary technology known as the cassette tape. Most of you are…um…I want to say “experienced” enough to remember cassettes right?

Cassette tapes allow you to store and listen to your favorite audio tracks, and for a variety of reasons, are the perfect metaphor for the emotional messages we carry.

Like our emotions, cassettes often get tangled. Some days we know we don’t feel right, but we can’t fully decipher why. The messages within are so jumbled that rather than one distinct emotion, you feel an intense collection of energy within your body that you can’t diffuse. The knots are too tight. The messages too jumbled and the process of untangling too daunting to actually unpack what you’re holding.

Part of the reason for this jumble is the amount of information that we collect over the course of our lives. Like cassettes, we have multiple sides that we can record on. We might store positive messages about ourselves on side A and negative messages on side B. As we work to improve ourselves and undo the negative messages from our past, the other side of the tape still plays from and takes us back into the darkness we’re trying to outrun.

Because we have so much storage space, we’re constantly recording our environments. With old cassette players, you can literally hit record and document everything that was happening in your environment. As conscious beings, we do this recording naturally, so that whether we remember a specific moment or not, it still has the capacity to affect us. Traumatic moments like death, divorce or abuse are all recorded and the messages are stored in our minds and in our bodies. When we’re least expecting them to, those old tapes start playing again and we’re suddenly re-living that first trauma.

Finally, like tapes, we can erase and record new information. This process takes time and looks different for different people, but it is possible. There are a variety of techniques you can use to begin recording new messages. The imaginative exercise that I mentioned in last week’s post is one of them. Other examples include intentionally speaking your new truth to yourself throughout the day. You might simply whisper “I am loved” whenever you’re feeling insecure. If that isn’t your speed, you could stop, take in several deep breaths and tell yourself that you have all of the love, acceptance, etc…that you need in this moment.

Over time, these new messages will take hold, and you’ll find them playing more often than the old tapes you’ve carried thus far. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m keeping this week’s blog short so that I can invite you into this work of naming our invisible truths. Take 5-10 minutes, and reflect upon the tapes that are playing in your life. Where do you notice yourself acting or reacting to situations in ways that aren’t intentional? What is causing the reaction? Do you notice any messages being played?

As you become aware of what these old messages, write them down. Make sure it is somewhere that you can return to. You’ll want to add to the list as new messages reveal themselves. Now think about your counter messages. What do you want to believe about yourself? What do you need to hear in order to feel validated, accepted and full? It need not be complex. It just needs to feel affirming to you. Now write down your new truth. Good so far? OK, here’s the challenge.

Once you’ve written down your messages, share them. Use the hashtag #invisibletruthschallenge, tag this blog and share the title of your old tape along with a brief description of your new message. You can write as much or as little as you want. The important thing is that you share your truth. I’ve given an example below that rings painfully true for me:

@invisibletruths My old tape is titled Always an Oreo. At various moments of my life, I’ve been told I’m not black enough. I feel insecure about my identity and am afraid that at any moment, someone will notice that I don’t measure up and my blackness will be invalidated.

Today I name that I am enough. My blackness is uniquely my own, and it is powerful. There is room for me at the bbq.#invisibletruthschallenge

Once you’ve posted with the hashtag, share this blog post, and invite others into the invisible truths challenge. It won’t go viral, but by stepping into this uncomfortable vulnerability we’re modeling a more authentic existence that will open us all to deeper healing.

I recognize that sharing something so personal isn’t a risk that everyone will take. I strongly encourage you to lean into this discomfort as much as you’re able. If you’re not yet ready to take this step, I understand. Instead, share your old tape with at least one person you trust and invite them to do the same. If you go this route, you’re still welcome to share the blog post and use the hashtag anyway :). The purpose of this challenge is two-fold. It helps us to recognize the messages we’re carrying and gives us the opportunity to practice more intentional vulnerability. In short, it is an opportunity for us to be stretched.

I hope you’ll join me in this work. I won’t make asks like this often, but every now and then, I will invite you to be more intentional about not only supporting me but also living out the authenticity we long for. You know, “be the change…” and what now 🙂 #ghandi As we each take ownership of our healing and create space for others to do the same, we’ll begin to notice cycles of pain and inauthenticity broken.

Reflect, record, and share what you discover. Invite others into this journey with you, and repeat the process.

What old tapes are playing for you?

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