"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin


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Shopping at Future-Mart – Part 1 (why do I always get the trolley with wonky wheel?)

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We all understand the nature of shopping for groceries. When we shop we are planning for the future based on what we think we will need and what our current situation is right now. We tend not to buy sugar for instance, if we already have enough to last until the next time we will go shopping again. Having enough doesn’t ignite a desire for something whereas a lack of something does.
There are different strategies for how we shop when we visit the supermarket. Some have a list and stick to it, knowing where each item is and heading straight to each location without deviating (until the shelves are re-organised again!). This may be due to having a fixed budget and wanting to avoid temptation but it can also be because they approach shopping as something to be done and got out of the way. Others have a list of basic needs that need to be supplied but wheel their trolley up and down each aisle in turn picking up what they came for and leave themselves open to spontaneous purchases that they hadn’t anticipated buying. Overall, we largely get what we want from our shopping expeditions allowing for the occasional shortage and special offer. The experience of shopping at a supermarket is almost entirely driven by what we think we want or need. Isn’t that the same as how we think when it comes to planning our future?

Imagine if you could approach your future in the way we do with groceries where we would visit a superstore of possible futures (Future-Mart?) on a regular basis with aisle upon aisle of potential experiences that we can fill our lives with. But how would that shopping expedition go?

We begin by pushing the trolley into the vast storehouse feeling full of anticipation and almost salivating at the wondrous pleasures that we are going to buy for ourselves. The possibilities are infinite and so is this Tardis-like store where there seems no end. There are sections for romance, wealth, exploration, sexual experiences, holidays, music, culture, the natural world, thrillseeking, spirituality, joy, running your own business, family life and many, many more stretching as far as the eye can see (rather like the New-Age section in bookshops these days)

Something happens as we survey the almost overwhelming choice before us, the trolley begins to have a mind of its own as if it is magnetised and being pulled by some unseen force that we can’t control. What is also strange is that when we let go of the trolley, it stops resisting us and just sits there benignly waiting for us to push it. What is also doubly strange is that we find that we cannot move into the store on our own without our trolley; our legs simply won’t move without it. So with our hands on our trolley, onwards we go, what option do we have anyway if we’re going to any kind of future? We’re desperate to shop but we can only do it with a trolley that wants to do its own thing.

We so want to explore life and with so much to choose from here, desire is pouring out of us. Our eye catches the romance aisle and we find the trolley eagerly pulls us in that direction too. In fact this is an extremely busy aisle indeed. Seemingly everyone is looking for love. However, some trolleys go whizzing straight through this aisle at high speed without stopping to get anything much at all, giving the hapless shopper a glimpse of what is possible but with no chance to claim anything for themselves. While others have their eyes on the special offer on tall dark handsome strangers but find their trolley will only stop at the ‘Reduced to Clear‘ pile at the ‘Past its Best’ counter.

Other magnificent aisles promise the most wondrous futures but our trolley will simply not go down some of them. We’ve all experienced an errant trolley with its “I will only go left” wheel but this is much more than that. It seems to be magnetically repelled with a force so strong it cannot be overcome no matter how much we want to go down these ‘forbidden’ aisles. In fact the ends of these aisles are full of people simply trying to push trolleys that will not budge. Over and over they push getting frustrated and upset, even crying at how useless they feel at not being able to do the simple act of taking what they want while others simply glide by filling their trolleys with as many wondrous and adventurous experiences that life has to offer. Seeing these happy people leads to those stuck with their stubborn trolleys feeling angry and even more useless than they already do. Especially frustratingly, our trolley seems only to keen to go straight to the “Same Old, Same Old” aisle while special offers at the “Settle for What You Have” and “Better Safe Than Sorry” sections attract many trolleys and their reluctant shoppers.

So why was the shopping for milk, bread and toilet rolls so relatively easy and yet when we shopped for our future we struggled so much more? In this admittedly clumsy and heavy-handed metaphor, the person shopping is each of us and the trolley we are trying to push around represents our unconscious mind thus we cannot be separated from our trolley and have to shop together as a pair. The difference between a gloriously successful shop where we can fill our lives with spontaneity, joy, love etc and a dull, repetitive and safe life full of burden and self-imposed responsibility is alignment. If our unconscious mind wants the same as our conscious mind then there is no battle.

When we shopped for food earlier, our trolley (our unconscious mind remember) really didn’t care too much about the detail of what we bought. It wanted food and we were “allowed” to have a large degree of freedom of choice. It wasn’t resisting the notion of needing food and so providing we didn’t come away with only a Justin Bieber CD and a pair of socks to eat we were able to accomplish the mission. However, planning our future is a different matter entirely. What we want becomes a much more complex thing and can appear to be out of our control. If we want to be in control of our trolley and consciously create the life we really want to live then we have to get the trolley to be in alignment with our conscious desires.

My personal experience as well as what I have seen as a therapist shows that people can say one thing but their unconscious mind may want the opposite. This can be revealed through dowsing or muscle testing but the most obvious clue is how our lives are working out. When we cannot achieve our goals no matter what we do or if we tend to self-sabotage our efforts or procrastinate then we are not in complete alignment with our goals. We may lose a bit of weight but can’t go below a certain size or we may want to be daring but can never bring ourselves to do it. We are resisting ourselves.
In a battle between unconscious and conscious minds the former almost always wins in the end. We need our trolley to want the same as us if we are to fill our lives with all that brings us joy. We may not be off our trolley but most of us have trolleys that are dominated by fear. How we create a more bold and daring trolley, one that is ready to explore and experience all that life has to offer is explored in the next article Shopping at Future-Mart – Part 2 (Hey, trolley works!)


© Phil Grant unless otherwise attributed