Thinking the Worst

 My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes . . . most of which never happened.  MARK TWAIN

The human imagination is quite creative and can take us on an emotional adventure.  We imagine going into space and make it happen. We have the ability to create stories, put them on film, and engage millions to dream along with us.  Imagination unlocks the door to endless possibilities.

The problem is, sometimes we think up the worst possible scenarios for our own lives. These scenarios cause our self unnecessary worry.  The good news is, like Mark Twain suggests, most of these scenarios never come true.  Unfortunately though when we continually think the worst, it will cause us unnecessary suffering.  “What-if” questions are usually only possibilities and not reality.

Buddha has taught us that the mind is everything; what you think you become. Every moment of the day, we are faced with the choices of our own thoughts.

Being able to imagine the worst can be useful. It enables us to gather information and to make contingency plans so that we are prepared to deal with the ‘what-if’ if it does happen. However, often times, we don’t just stop there.   Instead of just laying out alternative possibilities for us to consider, our thoughts make a great drama out of the ‘what-if’.  Before we know it, we are drawn into the intensity of the scene, and the feelings are as if it is all happening now. And our body responds.  We are in it as if it is already happening.
It is natural that we do get caught up imagining the worst from time to time.  After all, we are only human. But the trick is to catch ourselves in it so that we can find our way out. Mark Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”  So how can you bring your imagination under control and make it work for you  rather than against you?

Moving Past Disappointment

Whatever path we are on in our life, along the way, we are bound to encounter disappointment. An old proverb says, “Every path has its puddle.”  In life, disappointments are bound to happen. It’s natural to have expectations of ourselves, and the people and situations in our lives. Unfortunately, when we rely too heavily on the expectations, and they become especially meaningful, the resulting disappointment can overwhelm us.

We become so focused on our desired outcome that we lose our footing and get caught feeling ill-equipped when it doesn’t happen.

Disappointment makes us feel that we failed somehow, and we are left disillusioned.  In disappointment, we feel at a loss of an idea of ourselves and what would be. We were expecting to arrive at an intended destination and when that doesn’t happen we begin to question ourselves, our abilities, and our worth.  As a result, we need to regain our balance.

How do we ease our disappointment? How do we sustain ourselves through let-down?

Continue reading “Moving Past Disappointment”

Step Out of Stuckness

We all experience feeling stuck from time to time in our lives. It is natural to experience these impasses. Either we encounter them at the end of something; a change or a transition in our lives, or we simply become stuck in a feeling. We find ourselves retreating. I like to call it cocooning. Either way, we get caught in uneasiness, self-doubt, avoidance, and confusion about ourselves and our future.

In his book, “Getting Unstuck”, Timothy Butler describes the fact that impasse is developmentally necessary. He believes that impasse is an internalized notion of inadequacy, and a request for us to change our way of thinking about ourselves. The impasse starts with feeling stuck and ends with finally taking action.

When we find ourselves in the midst of an impasse, it means that we need to rework our approach, and adjust the things we say to ourselves. Old recurring feelings of anger, shame, self-doubt may have crept in. What identity or familiar feelings do you get caught in? It may feel like a comfort zone but it really becomes our stuck point and not very comforting.

When we find ourselves  stuck in an uncomfortable emotional loop, there is something inside us that is being ignored.

To get back on the path where everything seems to flow with ease, it’s essential  to face reality for all of what it is, and is not. With acceptance, understanding and clear seeing, we give the stuck feelings space to move, dissolve or step out from the loop.
Ask yourself ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ questions. Do not ask yourself ‘why’. ‘Why’ questions are guesswork and keep you in your head.

Perhaps you can ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • “What are the thoughts I am thinking that keep me in a stuck mode?” 
  • “What benefit do I get being in my stuckness?”
  • “What are my personal worries and fears?”
  • “What can I begin to say to myself to over ride my personal worries and fears?”
  • “By staying stuck, what am I taking away from myself?”
  • “What good qualities am I ignoring in my stuckness?”
  • “What am I grateful for?”
  • “What are the things I enjoy?”
  • “How can I encourage myself?”
  • “What specific things can I say to myself to activate good-feelings?”
  • “How will I take responsibility for choosing what action is next?”
  • “What specific actions can I do to build my confidence?”
  • “When will I decide to take these actions?”

With a strong dose of listening, a seed of inspiration can begin to grow. Gather your inner victory team together. Join forces with your strengths; the feel-good feelings. Align with your goals and core values. Build inner-reliance and inner-cooperation. With your inner support team you can balance your strengths with your fears and weaknesses.

In the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, Nash says, “I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them. Like a diet of the mind, I just choose not to indulge certain appetites.”

Let’s not indulge our self-doubt. Agree to go beyond your insecurities and weaknesses, and   nourish your personal strengths and uniqueness. “The only thing greater than the power of the mind, is the courage of the heart.” Begin to embark on the idea of saturating your mind with the good stuff of the  heart.

Core Issues

We all have certain core issues that need our attention.  Core issues are emotional memories that anchor us in emotional fears and negative beliefs about ourselves. They can hold us back, form our reactions, and shape our thinking.  The challenge with core issues is not necessarily the negative experience we had but the emotional charge that gets attached to it. The emotional charge becomes our frame of reference and keeps re-surfacing throughout our lives.

Look for a theme that runs through your upsets. Core issues gone unnoticed will either keep us stuck or push us off-balance. They can destroy our ability to find healthy solutions that are in sync with our true desires and they sometimes subconsciously force us to act in a way that sabotages what we truly want for ourselves. Core issues interfere with love and create opposition and resistance against our self.  And if we are not careful they keep being recreated and replayed throughout our life.  In most cases, core issues touch us at our deepest level and will remain embedded until we address them.

We all have core issues that emerged in our lives as a result of growing up.  As Ram Dass said in a lecture, “If you think you are enlightened—spend a week with your family.”   We are continually evolving in our lives as the adult child of our parents.

We all have a certain frame of reference that holds us back in self-doubt.  Emotional fear is at the core of these feelings. When fear is activated, we could feel overcome. We may be frozen in apprehension or worry, or confused, or sense feeling rejection or disregard. We may even feel physical pain, tension or a sensation in our chest or stomach.  In those times of emotional fear we instantly become reactive, we judge, criticize, blame or withdraw, all in order to defend ourselves from more hurt. Those triggers or intense feelings are our core issues. They are our embedded wounds from feeling unheard, unloved, unworthy or feeling helpless or hopeless or left-out or unable to express our desires or simply scared we would get into trouble.

We need to be aware of our core issues so we can monitor ourselves more productively and the quality of our reactions can be managed with self-respect and self-understanding. The more ‘real’ and true to ourselves we are, the more we can welcome our limitations. Experience your emotions so that you can be in tune with your place of vulnerability.    When we can honestly be with our feelings it provides the space to have more freedom to choose to respond from a place of strength and clarity. When you are emotionally charged you can neutralize it with words that a nurturing loving parent or friend would say.  Pause a moment.  When you pay attention to your breath you have the ability to soften the intensity of the moment. Take a step back and see what benefit you are getting out of being offended, enraged, or angry.  Pay attention to your needs and what you feel you are lacking.  Parent or make friends with the part of you that needs attention or a dose of confidence.  When you become clear of your core issues, you become much more empowered to override them in order to create what you truly want in your life.  Life is difficult and also beautiful.    If you are at peace with the truth of all that you are, you can more easily see a solution.  Be gentle with yourself. As an adult child of parents that we had we deserve to treat ourselves with loving kindness.

Resolving Anger

We all get angry at times. Anger is an emotion that is necessary. When our individuality is threatened in some way it is human nature to become angry.  Whether it’s a physical or an emotional attack, anger will arise when we are being threatened.  We will either fight back physically or verbally, but sometimes we will withdraw inwardly until we feel it’s safe.

How many times are we confronted by people who control our feelings by judgment, manipulation or criticism?  This may anger us.  But if we learn to look below the surface, we will find the real cause of what angers us.

When our emotions are overlooked and we feel invalidated, it can weaken our ability to express ourselves; we get frozen in the sting of disregard. Learning to manage our feelings when this happens requires balancing our inner feelings with the external situation. In order to balance our inner feelings, it is important to be honest about our emotional state and what we are feeling about ourselves. For instance, how does it affect you when someone close to you overthrows or negates your feelings by telling you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way or that what you said wasn’t important? Or how do you feel when someone continually points a finger with ‘you’ statements?

When our feelings are repeatedly disregarded, we can get caught up in blaming or belittling ourselves, negating what we truly want, or just plain swallowing our pride. It’s important to remember that the problem may not be that you have trouble learning to manage your emotions but, rather, that the other person has an unhealthy need to control, manipulate, and gain the upper hand. In that case, it may require that you distance yourself from him or her a bit or learn to navigate around his or her incrimination. It certainly does not feel good to continuously sense that you are being put down, defeated, or emotionally hurt by a parent, spouse, or other loved one.

So, begin to recognize what you are feeling so you can decide how to proceed. The goal is to feel the feeling and then proceed by gathering your pride.  When anger gets triggered, you can ask yourself, “What feelings about myself are activated?”  Do I feel disregarded, useless, unsafe, negated, rejected, abandoned, or lonely? These are our core issues that will get triggered over and over again.

Self-inquiry requires that you be aware and honest with yourself. Catch yourself as you are withdrawing.  Commit to inner validation of your emotions without blaming yourself.  And when you do withdraw, pay attention to the part of you that needs safety, nurturing or support.  Remember, even though, as children, we learned to distrust, deny, withhold, or doubt our feelings, feelings are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad–they just are.  Everyone has feelings, and our feelings are worthy of our attention.

Quality Moments

People say quality moments are hard to find. We spend time working and undertaking daily responsibilities.  And we also use up moments drawing our own conclusions or creating a story of judgment about what we are doing, who we are with and the emotions that we have.  What we neglect to realize is that each moment we spend is a quality moment.

Imagine spending more time capturing who we are in any particular moment without categorizing it or wanting to improve or edit it.  Imagine just being with whatever we are feeling in that moment without critiquing it or doubting it.  Imagine trusting the process of life and recognizing that every moment of its unfolding is beautiful and perfect in its own way.

“Sometimes we like what we’re feeling and then suddenly we don’t like what we’re feeling. And then we like it again, and then we don’t like it again.”  It’s fine for it to be like that.  The problem is we become accustomed to doubting, negating, or evaluating our moments and not seeing the beauty in them.

Often our fleeting feelings are just as irrelevant as our momentary thoughts. We don’t need to get hooked into every thought or feeling that we have.  They just are.

Moods come and go. Some days are cloudy or even rainy, while other days are sunny. Some days we wake up with a headache or a heavy feeling in our heart.  But then there are other days when we feel everything is just right, when there is a certain lightness to the moment. There are moments when we smile. And then there are moments when it feels as if everything has all come together.

So let’s begin to have an appreciation for where we are in each moment and an acceptance for what is. And let’s not get caught in a flood of judgment. To accept is to say ‘yes’ to life in its wholeness.  To accept is to have the wisdom to experience what is happening in the moment and to believe that it doesn’t have to be different. It’s never too late to begin to appreciate all the moments of our lives-the warm breezes, the sunny days and even the passing storms.