“Your visions will become clear
only when you can look into your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
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.
It can be frightening to let go of the familiar when we don’t know what is on the other side. I recently saw a Facebook post written by one of my mentors. She briefly posted about the moment of letting go and reaching out to the gap between two trapeze bars.
There is a moment when the trapeze artist must release their hold from one bar and reach out for the other. Despite all the training and practice, that moment is filled with uncertainty about what will happen.There is the space of letting go of the known and reaching out for the unknown-it is the place of transition.
In our everyday lives, soaring across this dark void of uncertainty can bring about unrest. Nevertheless, I have come to believe that transition is the only place that change occurs. Transition zones are incredibly rich places. They should be honored and savored–yes, even when filled with struggle and feelings of being out of control. We must stand with courage in our vulnerability.
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.
So many of my clients over the years have asked me, “How is it I can trust?” Trust is a difficult topic. When we have been disrespected, it becomes challenging to trust. So, how can we trust again? Is it possible to rebuild trust in someone who totally disappointed us?
We learn to distrust trust by being hurt or lied to or betrayed or misled. Not only do we lose trust in other people, but we also begin to distrust ourselves. We fear being upset, and we become guarded and expect the worse from people. So, when we have been conditioned to not trust, it takes some effort to realize what healthy trust feels like.
Creating genuine trust is a process that happens over time, and it’s not an easy task. We need to be in tune with our ability to evaluate people. We all have an inner sense; all we need to do is listen to it. A glimmer of doubt will nudge us when we have an uncomfortable feeling in someone’s presence. So pay attention. Observe their mannerisms, their reactions to situations, or the things they say or doesn’t say. When you listen and observe, you will get a sense of how to proceed.
It takes time to build a trustful foundation, and it only takes moments to shatter it. If someone has let you down, let the rage settle. Trust grows with patience. The springboard to trusting is to investigate the reasons for their behavior. Listen and ask questions in order to become aware of their perspective in the situation. The glimmer of doubt you feel is your gauge to guide you to be empathetic. Look for the sincerity of their words or actions. Take the time to develop communication. Look for explanations, compassionate feedback and understanding.
We all make mistakes, and if we understand the other’s point of view, it becomes easier to formulate a conclusion as to whether to trust them again or not. But even when we understand our wrongdoer and possibly even forgive them, we are not necessarily obligated to trust them again. When you simply sit with what you know and you decide to rely on your wisdom, you will come to a conclusion that feels right.
What is most upsetting is not necessarily that our trust has been violated, but that the glimmer of doubt becomes more apparent. As Lady Gaga says, “Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it’s broken, but you can still see the crack in that mother fucker’s reflection.” Look within to determine if you can see past the cracks or whether they have been shattered beyond repair. Step back and take some time to find peace and equilibrium. Then you can move forward cautiously trusting again.
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever been stuck in an airplane circling around your destination until it’s safe to land? An announcement comes on that says it’s necessary to be in a holding pattern due to fog or air traffic. At first, you are okay with it, knowing that an experienced pilot is in charge. But after a while you become annoyed being stuck in the air. You start worrying about what could happen, and then you wonder when your plane will finally land safely.
How often do you feel stuck in your own personal holding pattern? Fear is a natural instinct when you feel unsure or confused. Predicting an impending negative outcome or being uncertain about the future and resisting change can put you in a holding pattern. It’s natural to be rational and to look at all angles of a future scenario. Sometimes, though, you fabricate a scene that ignites apprehension. This causes you to linger about in a cloud, and you stay there in your holding pattern, afraid to move or take any action.
Eventually, circling around and around in uncertainty and fear becomes uncomfortable. When you feel like you are hanging around in the clouds for too long, that can be your signal to formulate strategies for finding a safe place to land. Consider what actions you may need to take in order to sort out any confusions or conflicts. What information do you need to gather?
Sometimes you don’t have the answers, so the key is to walk softly, one step at a time. This way you can discover the solutions as you go. Taking time to pay attention to each step helps you to recognize that the answers may be right in front of you or close at hand.
As long as there is no imminent danger you can move forward beyond your trepidations by taking a moment to breathe. You breathe to center yourself. At your core is your goodness and strength. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of this. So take a deep breath to soften the tension and defenses around your core. Gently center yourself and proceed with courage to stand on solid ground.
Staying “real” is an ongoing process. So, it’s important to accept all that you are. Honor your stuck-ness, fears, imperfections, and worries along with your strengths and positive qualities. Once you do that, you can genuinely find your way through your problems to solutions that feel right to you.
We all have emotions. It’s healthy to express them. Yet, there are times when putting too much emphasis on our feelings can be detrimental. To avoid outbursts or unnecessary confrontations, it is better to express our emotions carefully. In order to avoid unhealthy confrontation, we can knowingly choose to “compartmentalize” or “put our feelings aside.”
We can identify and fully sense the inner turbulence of feelings in a situation without having to get swept away in them. By paying attention to the situation and wanting to stand our ground, we then can consciously choose to put our feelings aside for the moment. We are not denying our feelings, we are merely postponing the expression of them. As astronaut Mark Kelly stated in the Associated Press, “Ignore stuff going on in your personal life and just focus on your mission. The key word there is being able to compartmentalize things.” Putting problems and personal feelings aside in little boxes and zeroing in on the task at hand is what astronauts, military personnel, firefighters, business professionals, nurses and surgeons do all the time. No one needs to know what’s happening inside our minds unless we really want them to.
We certainly have the right to be angry, hurt, etc., but how we handle these feelings is what counts. It is okay to hold back in order to keep peace for the moment or to get something accomplished. Having staying power in the face of adversity, or exercising great self restraint in expressing emotion takes courage. Consider a performer hearing bad news or having had an argument with their spouse right before a performance. They take a deep breath and “put their feelings on the back burner” until the performance is over.
Postponing our emotional upsets is easier than attempting to turn them off completely. In order to avoid becoming totally stressed and anxious, though, we must revisit and process our feelings when it seems safe and appropriate.
Knowing when and how to express our-selves takes honesty and courage. Keeping a stiff upper lip for a certain amount of time is okay, but it’s also very important to give our-self space to honor and express our feelings. When the time is right, journal, pray, meditate, create, talk to a friend and cry if need be. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Your personal default setting is based on past experiences and conditioning. As a child, you may go through a harmful experience, or even a series of experiences that set your emotional frame of reference. You may have wanted something, and instead you ended up receiving the opposite. For example, if you wanted attention, and instead, you were neglected or criticized. You may end up with feeling as though no one really cares, and your limiting beliefs could be that you are not important enough or smart enough. Or, you may have apprehension or self doubt as your default mode.
You don’t have to be at the mercy of your default setting. You can shift it, just as you do any other habit. Bertrand Russell has a point in stating, “It is only the intellect that keeps me sane; perhaps this makes me overvalue intellect against feeling”. I believe that you need to honor your feelings. But when your negative feelings become a common uncomfortable occurrence, then you need to override them with your thinking and intellect.
In order to reset and create a new pattern of feeling, you have to make a conscious effort to pay attention. Next time you are in your default mode, pause and take a deep breath. Simply by choosing to pause you bring awareness to yourself in the moment.
Notice your feelings and reactions to what you are thinking. Remember, though, do this as an observer, not as a judge!
“Once your awareness becomes a flame, it burns up the whole slavery that the mind has created.” ~Osho~
Self-inquiry is useful in breaking the energy-drain. While you can’t always control the feelings that pop up, you can manage them and redirect them. This naturally disrupts the rush of personal judgment and doubt.
Each time you consciously recognize your thinking and how it affects you, you will begin to be reminded of the magnificence of your inner mind. The fact is, we have the ability as human beings to balance our intuitive-feeling mind with our rational mind.
As you use the power of choice to lead you toward positive thoughts, your default mode will begin to show up less frequently and with less intensity. And as time goes on, your reactive thinking and negative feelings will last five minutes instead of five hours. So take pleasure in the subtlest of changes.