Russell Bishop Blog

#38 – Feelings – Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Live Without ‘Em

Feelings:  Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Live Without ‘Em

Maybe we just opened the proverbial can of worms here! Obviously, guilt and resentment are feelings. So, what about all those other feelings we feel? Feelings – you either love them or you hate them. Or for some people, you don’t even notice them!

We have already looked at a couple of common feelings, including fear, boredom, guilt and resentment. In each instance, we have suggested that the feeling serves some kind of purpose, although rarely does that purpose have much to do with what is being felt.

Remember, underneath each of these apparently negative feelings resides some kind of message or guidance, something that who you truly are inside is trying to get up to the level of awareness so that you can make better choices.

Fears are there as both a reminder to be attentive as well as an opportunity to notice whether or not you are on a “right” track for you. Sometimes we entertain negative images inside the privacy of our own mind, and those negative fantasies or images wind producing negative feelings or fears to go along with them.

Again, sometimes the fears are there to help us move more alertly, with more conscious awareness and sometimes they are there to help us get clear about what we truly are seeking compared with what we are actually doing or producing.

Most of us have had the experience of burning ourselves on a hot stove or hot iron. If so, you undoubtedly prefer not being burned. Assuming that you are one of those who prefers not being burned, yet still need to work with stoves or irons from time to time, what do you do when you get around a hot stove or iron?

Panic?  Cower in fear of being burned? Order out instead? (OK, bad joke).

Hardly! What most of us do is recognize the source of the heat and rely on past experience to monitor our behavior around that source. In some ways, we voluntarily restrict our behavior when we get around a hot stove or iron.

However, the restriction is more of a conscious choice to be mindful than it is a fear response of contraction. We can still work “freely” around the hot stove or iron; in fact, we can actually use the hot stove or iron to produce a positive result. Just knowing the source of potential pain allows us to work productively with it to produce a positive outcome while minimizing the likelihood of being injured.

In a similar way, I have learned to treat boredom as a guidepost. Some will experience boredom as a signpost about what is happening outside themselves and a signal to leave. I treat boredom as a signpost indicating that I am not actively involved in what is present.

If you choose the response of leaving when you get bored, a good question might be “what are you trying to leave” and “what are you moving toward instead?” The obvious answer is that you are leaving where you are so you can go somewhere else.

The less obvious answer to consider might be that you have found yourself in a circumstance where you have placed your focus outside yourself and somehow thought that whatever it is that you were focusing on was supposed to somehow produce an experience of fulfillment or satisfaction.

As we have noted several times so far, looking outside yourself to someone or something else for your own satisfaction or fulfillment is likely to produce something, just not the something you were hoping to experience.

So, if you find yourself leaving an experience of boredom, hoping to find a greater sense of satisfaction or engagement somewhere else, what will have to be different in the next situation? Will someone else have to be better, smarter, funnier, more entertaining? Will the circumstance have to faster, more challenging, more engaging?

If you still find yourself saying something like, “Yeah – that’s it,” then you may have some more work to do in this area.

What we are suggesting here is that you are the source of your own experience. When you find yourself in a “boring” situation, what do you have to focus on in order to become “bored.” Conversely, when you find yourself stimulated, engaged or otherwise satisfied, what do you have to focus on in order to produce that experience instead?

When I find myself bored, and I do find myself bored from time to time, the best thing I have found to do is to ask myself: “What part of my own self am I avoiding right now?  What part of myself is asking me to become more aware? What could I be doing or focusing on in order to become more fully aware and more fully satisfied?”

The underlying assumption is that awareness, fullness, satisfaction, etc are already present – right now, right here, inside myself. If I am experiencing anything other than fullness, satisfaction, etc it is because I have chosen to focus on something outside myself as a source of fulfillment.

This may seem like a bunch of non-sense to you or it may make more sense than just about anything you have experienced so far in your life. And the kooky thing is that you may be having the “makes sense” experience while someone else is having the “this-is-nuts” experience, and both from the same information.

Now, if we were in a seminar together, I could probably help if you were having the “this-is-nuts” or “I-don’t-get-it” experience. That would require an interchange for me to better understand what you are experiencing so I could ask a series of questions, all designed to reflect back to you something about you, yourself, and the choices you are making.  (Remember the mirror section?)

Given that we are not in that seminar right now, here’s another option that might work.  Have you ever found yourself in a moment of peaceful relaxation? What produced that experience of peace and relaxation? Have you ever been jarred out of that peaceful state by something happening around you (cars, lawnmowers, crying children, etc)?

If you went from peaceful to jarred (agitated, irritated, disturbed, etc), where did the peace go? When you were in the peaceful moment, where were agitation, irritation or disturbance? And if you went back into peace, how did you do that?

The key question might be “What did you have to do or focus on in order to produce either the experience of peace, or the experience of disturbance?”

One way to look at this is to consider that all experiences are alive and available to you right now, inside yourself. We could ask you to think about colors, music, peaceful scenes in nature, etc and you just might find yourself coming into a peaceful, relaxed state. If so, where did that peaceful, relaxed state come from? It certainly didn’t get injected into you!  Our suggestion is that the peaceful state was always there, and all you did was allow yourself to focus on something that reminded you of the peace that is already present.

Or, we could do the opposite. We could ask you to think about a time when you were almost hit by a car, or became otherwise irritated, agitated or disturbed. We could ask you to think about war, famine, injustice, or any other kind of experience that you would find disturbing. In all likelihood, simply thinking about a disturbing event, even though not actually present right now where you are, would be enough to produce the feelings of disturbance.

If so, where did those feelings come from? Our suggestion is that they come from your own reservoir of experience. Some part of you knows peace, and you may choose to notice or not. Some part of you knows disturbance and you may choose to notice or not.

Focus on peace, and you may begin to notice that is already present. Focus on disturbance, and you may notice that you can quickly become disturbed.

All experiences reside inside of you and the only choice is where to put your focus.

Yeah, well, what about all those things that really are disturbing – mean, cruel, frightening, etc?  Well, what about them?

I suppose you could argue that in the presence of mean, cruel or frightening, the appropriate response is some form of disturbance. And, in a way, you would be right!

However, let’s think about something like a fire taking place. Or an accident of some kind where someone is injured. How helpful are you going to be if you approach the situation with your disturbance? Might you be of greater help if you show up recognizing the negativity, but responding out of calm, focused resolve?

You may have heard the notion of experiencing the negativity without having to add negativity to it. In a manner of speaking, that’s what we are dealing with here.

How can you notice without having to succumb? Just because a situation has negativity in it, doesn’t mean you have to become negative as well. It’s a fine line between awareness and contraction. You can become aware of the negativity and expand in its presence, or you can become aware of the negativity, trigger more inside yourself, and become stuck in a downward spiral. It’s tricky and it’s easy, all at the same time.

On the simple side of things, if you are in that peaceful, relaxed state and something happens that is jarring, do you have to stay “jarred” or can you simply notice the outside disturbance, let it go, and return to your own inner state of peaceful relaxation?

It’s probably pretty obvious by now that we are suggesting all of this is simply a choice.  You get to choose where you place your awareness and by that choice, what kind of experience you produce for yourself.

Ultimately, we are suggesting that your feelings, along with other senses and abilities that you possess, are simply there as tools to help you move through life in a more effective, fulfilling manner.

So let’s look at other feelings and see if we can find useful, positive purposes for them. We already know that fear may help you move with greater freedom in situations that could produce pain. Boredom could be pointing toward how you focus and whether you are looking inside or outside yourself for satisfaction. Guilt and resentment point toward beliefs or demand about the world that don’t measure up based on behavior.

What about things like:

  • Rejection
  • Abandonment
  • Anger
  • Impatience
  • Lonely
  • Unworthy
  • Disappointed
  • Embarrassed
  • Envious
  • Jealous
  • Powerless
  • Overwhelmed
  • Depressed
  • Frustrated
  • Cheated
  • Powerless
  • Offended
  • Unfair

The list could go on forever. However, for our purposes, this one is good enough to get us started. The basic premise is that we hold onto negative feelings in order to produce an apparently positive outcome. Notice the emphasis on holding onto negative feelings. It will be pretty difficult to go through life without experiencing, negative feelings; however, it is when we hold onto them that we get sidetracked away from our greater expansion and fulfillment.

There are a few common patterns that often show up with negative feelings:

  1. Excuses: by feeling X, I don’t have to change or try
  2. Being Right: by feeling X, I have proof that life is the way I believe it is
  3. Being Right part 2: by feeling X, I have proof that I am the way I believe
  4. Avoid Responsibility/ Blame: by feeling X, I have proof that someone else did it
  5. Life isn’t fair – I deserve better

Here we go!  See if any of the items in this list match anything you have ever felt or thought:

    • I have been rejected and therefore am unworthy or unlovable.
    • Life is hopeless and I should just give up now
    • God doesn’t love me; there’s no use trying; I’ll only get hurt
    • This is important!
    • Why don’t they see it my way; after all, I’m right
    • If they only did it my way, life would be better
    • This isn’t right; it should be happening now; I know what’s going on
    • I’m unique, different and unlike others.
    • I should just keep to myself  because I’m only going to be rejected again
    • God didn’t make me the same as others; I’m not supposed to be happy, fulfilled, wealthy, etc.
    • There’s no use trying to improve, because it isn’t going to happen
    • People are only going to let me down; I should just stick to myself
    • I really am better than this result
    • This is so not like me; I am better than this
    • I should be recognized for who I really am instead of the mistakes I make
    • I deserve better
    • This isn’t fair
    • I just didn’t get the same tools, skills, gifts that others did.
    • It’s hopeless and I shouldn’t even try to change; I’ll only wind up feeling disappointed
    • There’s too much going on; life isn’t fair;
    • I couldn’t possible do any more with what’s already on my plate
    • I’m better than this, really I am; this shouldn’t be happening to me
    • I don’t need to change, improve, practice, etc – I’m already great and life just isn’t fair
    • I’m being victimized!  It isn’t my fault!  They did it to me!
    • I should never stick my neck out, I’m only going to get punished.
    • How dare they? Don’t they know who I am? I am better than this level of treatment.
    • No good deed goes unpunished

We are going to revisit the lists now, looking at what kinds of seemingly positive experiences someone might get from persisting in one of more of these negative feelings.  This is not meant to be either complete, or accurate; it’s just a collection of possible responses, taken largely from the many interactions I have had with people over the years as they wrestle with their negative emotions.

  • Rejection
    • I have been rejected and therefore am unworthy or unlovable. Life is hopeless and I should just give up now
  • Abandonment
    • God doesn’t love me; there’s no use trying; I’ll only get hurt
  • Anger
    • This is important! Why don’t they see it my way; after all, I’m right; if they only did it my way, life would be better
  • Impatience
    • This isn’t right; it should be happening now; I know what’s going on
  • Lonely
    • I’m unique, different and unlike others. I should just keep to myself  because I’m only going to be rejected again
  • Unworthy
    • God didn’t make me the same as others; I’m not supposed to be happy, fulfilled, wealthy, etc. There’s no use trying to improve, because it isn’t going to happen
  • Disappointed
    • People are only going to let me down; I should just stick to myself
    • I really am better than this result; don’t they know I should have been rewarded? The nerve of them.  Next time!
  • Embarrassed
    • This is so not like me; I am better than this; I should be recognized for who I really am instead of the mistakes I make
  • Envious/Jealous
    • I deserve better; this isn’t fair
  • Powerless
    • I just didn’t get the same tools, skills, gifts that others did. It’s hopeless and I shouldn’t even try to change; I’ll only wind up feeling disappointed
  • Overwhelmed
    • There’s too much going on; life isn’t fair; I couldn’t possible do any more; they shouldn’t expect me to take on even more; how could I with all that’s already on my plate
  • Frustrated
    • I’m better than this, really I am; this shouldn’t be happening this way; I don’t need to change, improve, practice, etc – I’m already great and life just isn’t fair
  • Cheated
    • I’m being victimized! It isn’t my fault! They did it to me! I should never stick my neck out, I’m only going to get punished.
  • Offended
    • How dare they? Don’t they know who I am? I am better than this level of treatment.
  • Unfair
    • No good deed goes unpunished

If any of this seems even remotely familiar, then I suggest that you begin to use even your negative feelings or negative emotions as a reflection back to yourself, about yourself.  What message are you trying to get through to your own self by holding onto your negative feelings?

Remember the section where we had you squeeze your fist until it went number? If so, you will recall the premise that pain is there to raise awareness so that you have more choices:  discover the source of the pain in the first place, avoid going more deeply into it, and find choices that will work better for you in terms of producing more of the life experiences you truly seek.

At the end of the day, and beginning of the day for that matter, it all comes down to the simple fact that everything that happens to you and around you is there for you learning, upliftment and growth.  Whether or you choose to expand or contract, it is still your choice.

We are counseling the continuous application of the “what if” principle, seeking to continually expand in your awareness, and therefore expand in your ability to create a more meaningful and satisfying life.

Remember, “what if” it really were only up to you and that you have the power to create your life experience exactly as you would prefer it?

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