The First "No Decaf"
As I drove to my office that Monday morning, I remember being a little late. Even so, I decided to stop for coffee anyway, knowing I would be unable to leave my office all day. I figured, if I got it to go and just ran in and ran out, I could get it and still be to the office on time.
As I walked into the coffee shop, though, I saw the dreaded "Monday morning almost-out-the-door long line." And as I waited (and as I put on my best "I'm good at handling anxiety" act), I remembered that my doctor had just warned me my cholesterol was dangerously high.
One of the things he had suggested was that I switch to decaf, since drinking caffeinated beverages can raise peoples' cholesterol. When my turn came, then, I thought about his advice and asked for decaf. What I heard, however, was not what I wanted to hear. I heard the counter person politely say, "We don't have any decaf. You'll have to wait."
I, of course, politely nodded "OK" in response, but the truth was, I was mildly annoyed. After all, this was a COFFEE SHOP, and it was just before nine AM. How could they possibly be out of decaf?
As I continued to wait, I felt my anxiety rising, and I began to realize I was getting a little more annoyed than I wanted. I was actually getting mildly angry. OVER NOT GETTING COFFEE! God forbid! So, I called up all the skills I could muster and used my mind to do what I call, "damage control"; meaning, I mentally tried to talk myself past my feelings as best I could. After all, who would want to go to a therapist who became crazy over not getting decaf. And I was standing in front of a lot of people. What if someone saw me lose it over not getting my coffee fast enough? I definitely did not want this to happen, especially in front of so many people.
I decided, then, that I was taking the "no decaf" situation much too personally and so, I tried to focus my energies on "politely" waiting. I told myself, "I am, after all, a very spiritual man." Spiritual or not, as I watched the clock, and as I realized I was going to be late, my angry reaction became harder to hide.
None the less, I did manage to hide most of it, and finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, I paid for my decaf and left. As I exited, I followed my common spiritual practice and silently thanked the counter person for being my teacher. Admittedly, this "thank you" took much effort. But as I arrived at my office, I realized no major catastrophe had occurred, and I soon put my annoyance out of my head.
The following evening, I had a meeting I had to go to and as fate would have it, again, I found myself a little late. I also realized that the meeting I was headed to never served decaf. So, with this thought and my doctor's warning in mind, I decided to stop at a coffee shop on the way, so I could again get a decaf to go.
Should I have known better? Not really. What is so wrong with being concerned about being late and about worrying about my health both at the same time? Nothing. But when I asked for decaf, I got the same annoying result; "we have no decaf. You'll have to wait."
For a moment I considered whether it was a plot. Was it a plot? Not really. So, the same problem had occurred two days in a row, at two different coffee shops. Still, what was going on? Was the Universe trying to tell me something?
Whatever the case, this time I felt more than annoyed, more than mildly angry. I felt really mad. Again, though, as I stood waiting at the counter, I politely hid my feelings and used my head to try and remain calm. In fact, I did manage to remain calm, on the outside anyway. On the inside, though, I was steamed, and while I waited, I momentarily fell into silently blaming the coffee shop counter person for making me late. Not that they had prevented me from leaving earlier for the meeting. But what the heck, I thought, "What kind of a coffee shop runs out of decaf?"
As I stood there, I continued to do more of what I call, "damage control." I continued to use my head to override my angry feelings, by reminding myself, "none of this was deliberate." I also began to examine my behavior and realized, I was acting as if someone at the coffee shop had deliberately emptied the decaf pot as I walked through the door, just so they could make me late. I then told myself, this whole scene was just a coincidence and not really so surprising at a busy coffee shop. Again, as I left, I silently thanked the counter person for being my teacher and then hurried off to my meeting.
The next morning, on my way to the office, I again stopped to get coffee. Another thirteen hour day and I "needed" it, decaf or not. This day, though, I was actually a little early. Not bad, I thought.
But as I entered the coffee shop, I saw yet another long line and again, I became concerned that I would be late. And when my turn came, and when I asked the counter person for decaf, guess what he told me? The same dreaded phrase I'd been hearing for three days; "Sorry. We're out of decaf. You'll have to wait."
For the third time in three days, I nodded my head and said "OK." But inside, I was really mad. Furious, actually. I told myself, "This is a !@#$ coffee shop. What is wrong with these guys? My thoughts then drifted to a scene in which I imagined myself literally jumping over the counter and pinning the counter person to the floor, while I thoroughly pummeled him and screamed, "This is a coffee shop. What is wrong with you guys."
In seconds, I realized that this incident could not possibly be what was causing my near homicidal urges. I was actually feeling like I wanted to kill the counter person just because there was no decaf. This was crazy. Then I thought about something I had only discovered one month prior, something I was calling, "keys." What I mean by this is that, in situations wherein people overreact or under react, they are responding to a kind of previously unnoticed, invisible hypnotic cue. I had begun to call these invisible cues, keys."
In that moment, I recalled something I written about keys: "Whenever people overreact or under react while not in the presence of violence, they are being keyed." Certainly, this situation fit my criteria. Here was someone telling me politely that they had no decaf; definitely, not a violent act, even though I was feeling violated.
My mind then countered with, "but it has happened to me three days in a row." Even so, I knew these events definitely did not qualify as "violent acts." And imagining myself jumping over the counter and beating the counter person for saying they had no decaf was definitely "overreacting."
In that moment, I realized I was being keyed, and I decided to try the new technique I had just devised which I had hoped would actually make these "keys" visible. Actually, I had already begun to try to teach this technique my clients. I was calling it, "the Cycle of Three."
The whole point of this technique is to become conscious under stress, by repeatedly cycling through a sequence of three simple experiences. In essence, the three experiences are: actively stop blaming; consciously think; consciously feel. The person repeats this sequence until they manage to "see" the root scene.
I decided, to try it. I began by looking down and closing my eyes. Then I visualized the counter person's face and, in my mind, told him, "I know you are not causing my pain." I then asked myself how old I felt. I immediately heard a voice inside me say, "about two." Then I asked myself, "what are you feeling" and then named what I felt. Rage. Anger. Frustration. And then I repeated the cycle.
"It's not you." "Age two." "Homicidal rage." I went through the sequence several times more until, less than a minute later, an alternate scene arose in my mind.
In this scene, I saw myself at about age two, asking someone for a drink. I sensed the "someone" was my mother but could not really see who it was, other than that it was a tall woman, a little to my right, who was bending down toward me. Whoever it was, when she spoke, she spoke sternly, and her words went right through me, leaving me frozen like a little "deer caught in the car headlights." The words? "You'll have to wait."
Immediately, my eyes filled up with tears as I played out the scene several times. Finally, I came back into the present and composed myself, then got my decaf and left. This time, however, when, on my way out, I silently told the counter person, "thank you for being my teacher," I sincerely meant it.
Over the next few days, this scene repeatedly replayed in my head. Each time, I felt sadness well up in me and in private, I allowed myself to cry, despite the fact that my logical mind was saying that this little incident from my age two could not possibly be what was causing all of my pain. I soon found, though, that indeed, it was.
As fate would have it, then, on my next trip to a coffee shop, the same exact script played out once again, with one major exception. After being told they "had no decaf" and that I would "have to wait," I found myself standing at the counter deep in the realization that I was not reacting. Not at all. Not even a little. Here I was, in the very same situation in which I had felt homicidal rage only days before, yet this time I was not reacting at all, despite my having made no efforts to prevent such a reaction.
At this point, I was struck by the fact that the script being played out was the same one that had, only days prior, caused me to react with great anger. Yet, here I was, making no effort at all and still, feeling no pain. In fact, when I looked over at the young person who had delivered the dreaded message this time, it was as if something inside me had been rewritten. I actually felt love toward the person, and toward myself, for having been able to respond with so much love.
Days later, I identified what amounted to three keys.
Key number one was "my hurry;" being in the state of being I call, "urgency." In all three coffee shop incidents, I had been in a hurry. And of course, when I was two, like all two year olds, I was always in a hurry.
Key number two was "having to ask for a drink when I was not allowed to get it myself." This condition was also true in all three coffee shop cases, as well as in the scene when I was two. Each time, I was asking for a drink in a situation in which I was not allowed to get it myself.
Finally, the third key was what these people had said to me. In all three coffee shops, and in my childhood scene, I had heard someone say, "You'll have to wait." This sentence was having the same effect on me today as it had had in the original scene, some forty years prior.
None of what I have just related would have satisfied my logical mind though, except for the strange fact that in my next six trips to coffee shops, I experienced the same "no decaf" situation. Do I find this significant? You bet. More significant, though, was the fact that in every case, I went through the entire experience with no pain, despite the fact that I made no efforts to prevent it. Even more significant, in every case, although I did not experience pain, I did experience love, both toward the person serving me and toward myself.
How is this possible? It seems that by connecting the keys in my present life to this single scene from my childhood, that I had disconnected the pain in the original scene from the scenes I had been experiencing in my present life. In effect, the "keys" had been neutralized and the original incident had been resolved. My tears in the present had been the tears of a little boy.
Let me tell you this part of my story again. Somehow, the universe saw fit to continue this lesson for several more visits, six more to be exact. And though no conscious effort on my part, I found myself having to wait for decaf in a coffee shop on six more occasions; in all, ten times in a row. Despite the depth of the pain I had felt in the first three scenes, though, without exception, after seeing the age two scene in the third trip, I experienced nothing but love and warm feelings each time I was told I would have to wait. Without effort.
A couple of final notes. On the seventh trip, the girl at the counter sympathetically remarked, "They never have decaf when you come." Of course, we both laughed, but I said nothing to her, knowing I did not have the words to explain.
Then, on the tenth and final trip of this healing process, I consciously heard the person say something each and every counter person had been saying to me, something which, despite my ongoing healing, I never heard it until this tenth trip. I know today it was because in that tenth trip, I was still coming out of the shock I had experienced in the original scene when I was two.
What was it I heard in that tenth and final "no decaf" experience? I heard; "We have no decaf. You'll have to wait. I'll make you a fresh pot."
Unbeknownst to me (because I had still been in enough shock not to hear it until then), I had been getting fresh coffee each and every time without realizing it. Thus, even though people had been saying this to me each and every time, I had not once consciously realized it. Somehow, in that instant, though, I remembered hearing it said to me every time; literally in one ear and out the other until this last piece healed.
What does this mean? It means that I had not yet assigned a meaning to these words until this last time. Without a meaning, I had literally missed the "good" in what had been said to me, "good" which I there after experienced as an act of "love."
(Cycles of Three - a Quik Summary)