Someone kicking the tires on my Self Mastery program asked, “Is being really happy possible? I think this talk about living with love is a bunch of Pollyanna Woo Woo. It might just all be made up.”
My answer is, Yes. IT is all made up!!!! That is kind of the point. We are all creators of our own emotions. From nothing we created thoughts and emotions and stories. We create behaviors and actions in how we treat people and how we treat ourselves. Self-criticism, fear of what others think, feelings from failure, success, or rejection are all created by us from nothing but our beliefs. If we have free will, and all the great traditions point to us as having free will, then we have autonomy in what we create.
All happiness and love is made up. We create it from nothing. Each day we wake up and we have not created anything yet. Each day we live can have a different experience outcome. We may not control the events or circumstances outside of us, but we can choose a better story than what we tell our selves or what we believe about it. This better story, or our interpretation about what is going on will change how we feel.
What often interferes with us choosing how we want to live is that we have created a number of pre-programmed responses. Our mind is set up to do some Pavlov dog type automated interpretations. I call these programs our belief system. Some of these programmed beliefs system we may be aware of, and others are unconscious to us. We may see and experience the emotions we create from them, but the beliefs themselves are so automated we don’t notice. Much like many of our automated actions while driving a car go unnoticed so do our thoughts and interpretations. So we do those automated responses instead of create something enjoyable.
Here is a simple example.
Let’s say our partner has a glass of water and then leaves the glass on the counter. They could have put it in the dishwasher, or cleaned it and put it away but they didn’t. Maybe the programmed response we have is something of a big reaction:
What is this doing here? I’ve told him dozens of times to put his dishes away after he is done. He just doesn’t listen to me. He doesn’t care about what I say. He doesn’t listen to me and he doesn’t respect me. He treats me like a free maid service. I can’t stand this relationship anymore.” You end up feeling hurt, frustrated, and maybe even worthless and angry. The emotions will vary depending on the beliefs.
What are these beliefs and why do different people react differently to the same thing. Or, more interestedly, why do we possibly react completely differently to the same thing at different times or different days? What is it in us that causes no reaction on some days, and then to seemingly over react on others? The answer lies in how our beliefs and emotions operate. Not all moments generate the exact same response. A belief system response doesn’t always behave the same way and that makes it more difficult to identify. Some days we are in a better mood because of other circumstances. Some days we are tired and have less resistance to the unconscious patterns. Some days we have had a buildup of triggers and so are primed for certain responses.
The event of someone leaving the glass of water on the counter, by itself, doesn’t have any emotions to it. If we walk into the kitchen and see it there, it is like the ringing of the bell in the Pavlov’s dog experiment. It triggers in us a response we have conditioned our self to have. We don’t salivate, but we do follow a programmed response of emotions, and thoughts. It follows some order of interpretations we have believed in the past. In that moment 10,000 different people will have 10,000 different responses. All will justify theirs as appropriate. But we hardly ever consider a different one, a more pleasant one, or a happy one. We are conditioned to accept the first one that our mind projects and go along with it. We do that until we become more aware that there must be a better way to live.
The thoughts we have are only part of the story. There is a lot of meaning, assumptions, expectations and unspoken beliefs that are woven between the lines of thoughts.
“What is this doing here?” Isn’t really a question. Behind it is all the history of how many times we have told our partner we want the dishes put away after use. There is the expectation that since we told him that he should do it and he should do what he said he would do. We might have strong emotions of frustration. If we did it shows we had programmed beliefs in our subconscious. He didn’t do it therefore he doesn’t listen to me and doesn’t respect me. This can produce frustration and feeling hurt. He thinks of me as a maid so he finds me unworthy and not his equal. He takes advantage of me. In this moment “he” is not thinking of us that way, but our belief system is telling us the story of what he is thinking and we believe it. In that moment it might help to ask. The emotional hurts from this belief can add up over time and produce anger. If he did love me he would have done what I asked, but since he didn’t, he must not love me. With this belief we are now in a story about our whole relationship and perhaps feeling worthless or despair. We made this all up, but the emotions make the story feel like it is real.
Then our mind might add in some associated beliefs that it relates to the above. Since he doesn’t love me or respect me it doesn’t make sense to continue the relationship. So now, based on the meaning within the thoughts to finding a water glass we are ready to end the relationship. These emotions didn’t come from the glass on the counter, we created them with our Pavlov dog type responses.
This story is an example of a big emotional reaction to a little thing, but it helps us question what the mind is doing. In our smaller reactions it is more difficult to see.
Could we just consciously choose another made up story such as, “I’m sure he will use this glass later and didn’t want to be wasteful.” Both are made up in our mind, but both create vastly different emotional experiences. Assuming you have free will, which would you choose to experience? In one version you are miserable and in the other you can be happy.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t facts and truths we have to face. Not turning in your homework will result in a bad grade. Not paying rent will eventually get you evicted. Not showing up for work and delivering good service to your boss or customers will result in a loss of your job or business. In the external world, there are real consequences. But for now, I’m only talking about the emotions we create from our beliefs, and that is most of them.
In our mind it is a world of make believe. It is in our mind that we generate most of our emotions. If we are stuck in traffic what story do we tell ourselves? We can get angry or frustrated with other drivers in our world of make believe. Or, we make up a different story, and see that we are all in this together. Even have a chuckle that, according to the other drivers on the road, we are partly responsible for their traffic jam. Nobody there is intentionally causing one, and we are all in this self-created mess. In those moments what do you make yourself think, believe, and therefore feel?
When I am behind a slow driver, I like to imagine that the delay he is causing is preventing me from getting in an accident at upcoming intersections. I practice being grateful for him driving slowly. It’s a made-up story, and I generate emotions of gratitude from it, and so I feel good and have a nice time behind the slow driver. What do you make up, tell yourself, believe, and generate emotions about? I’ve had to learn to consciously learn to make up good stuff, and not believe the bad stuff. It’s been worth it. It’s all made up, why not make up something nice.
Don’t confuse the reality of the real world consequences with the world of make believe, but be aware there is a difference. It is a fine line and important one to learn. In the real world the driver is going slowly. In the story you tell, any other comments and adjectives you add are likely made up opinions. With the free will you have, choose to believe a made up story that is enjoyable, instead of one that makes you miserable, depressed, or angry.
Is it just that easy? By my experience, absolutely not. There is something in the way of us just freely choosing to be happy and think happy and loving thoughts all the time. That thing in the way is the programmed set of beliefs that often determine our thoughts, behaviors, and emotional reactions. So it has been my experience that if you want to change to a more positive interpretations and emotions you have to dismantle your existing belief system.
For a method and practices that will guide you to dismantle your false beliefs check out the free sessions of the Self Mastery Course for an introduction.1