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Often inside of us there is a feeling that things just aren’t right or complete. Perhaps we get that feeling when we look at the world and people and things just don’t make sense. Something isn’t quite right and we feel it. Some people see something specific and are able to begin to address it. Perhaps what they put their attention on children who are hungry or that can’t read. Maybe people are sick and you go to work in the health care field. You might become a doctor, a nurse, or do the filing of the office records. It doesn’t matter what you do, but because of your efforts more people are healthier at the end of the day and that makes you feel better. But even then you may wonder what the underlying causes of why things are the way they are. It may seem that you are seeking to create justice and fairness and in the process gain some truth.
Maybe your job isn’t so altruistic as most aren’t, or at least you don’t see the direct impact. Maybe you don’t really like your work and don’t see it as a fulfilling service to people or a worthwhile cause. A clerical position, administration, a banker, or a computer programmer doesn’t have as tangible way of feeling good about what they do. But they get up every work day, and do their job like so many others. Why? The biggest motivator is often to feed and put a roof over the heads of your children and family. You go to work everyday not because you love what you do but because you love the people you provide for. You love them and because of that you serve them. It’s the love for them that feels good, and that’s why you do it.
In the duality of that situation you consider getting laid off or quitting the job you don’t like and the consequences. You imagine letting your family down and what that would fee like. Just imagining it feels awful. So to avoid that feeling you have to avoid getting laid off. You work extra hard, you take a pay cut, or so many other things you don’t want to do to avoid that feeling. You don’t want you or your family to go hungry, but you also don’t want to feel that awful feeling of failure. In this case you are as much searching for a way not to feel bad, as you are looking for a way to feel good. In any case emotions play a factor in our motivations.
Sometimes our motivations are more self directed. Maybe we don’t have the responsibility of family and we are doing fine at supporting our self. Yet we are still driven. Maybe we are a researcher and figuring things out in the field of biology or chemistry etc. There is that excitement and curiosity. Some struggle and frustration goes with the hard work. But we make our self feel good about working hard. We tell our selves good work ethic stories and success stories that prop up our self esteem. When we discover something about an enzyme or polymer that we didn’t know before we get that rush of euphoria. Like the last piece of a puzzle fitting perfectly into place your body relaxes and everything makes sense and you with that feeling of completion. For a while you want for nothing. And it is that feeling that gets to be addicting. It is addicting enough that another part of our mind starts to look around for another hard problem to solve just so we can get that feeling of completion again. A feeling that comes briefly at the end, that’s what we look for,,, a feeling. I say that because only when we are feeling that way do we stop searching.
The feeling may not last very long at times, but when it is, we want for nothing. We don’t have a need to search, or change, anything.
Using Logic and Reason to Understand Emotions
We spend a lot of time in school learning, memorizing, and becoming very logical about life. We are trained to be logical. We even try to be logical about the emotions we feel. But logic and reason often have a distorted way of understanding emotions.
The emotions we felt so freely as a child are ignored, or we are told to ignore them with our rational mind.
While growing up emotions arise and we act in ways that aren’t approved of and we are reprimanded. Not only is our anger not acceptable when we speak up or fight back, but expressing joy, love and happiness are disapproved of at times too. I got in trouble myself laughing uncontrollably in church at times. When we are happy we want to sing, shout, and run around. We are told by teachers and parents many times to sit down, be still, and be quiet. To make our body fit that stillness and posture we have to push down the energy of emotion moving through us even if it is joyful. We don’t want to get into trouble so we learn to stop expressing joy in most circumstances and just do it in a few select circumstances. We are conditioned to only express love, joy, and happiness in certain circumstances. But over time these opportunities can slip away too. We don’t want to feel the guilt, shame, and embarrassment when others are upset with us so we obey the ruling order and repress our joy and happiness. Then a twist happens. By stuffing down all that joy, laughter, happiness, and doing what we are “supposed to” do we are told we are a good girl or a good boy.
“More on the Twisted” part
A “good” girl (boy) doesn’t just stuff down their anger and sadness, they have to stuff down their joy, happiness, and laughter as well. A “good girl” is one that is more serious and has less happiness and fun. In the world of many rules to follow you can’t just go running around singing, and laughing with all that joy and happiness. That wouldn’t be “appropriate.” That’s not what a good girl does. (There are also rules that you “can’t” go on a weekend or spiritual retreat either.) If we are a good girl we only express our joy and happiness except in certain circumstances and then only in controlled ways. By the time we are 30 so busy being “seriously responsible” that we hardly remember that joy earlier in our life. We learn to feel good about our self only because other people reward us with the recognition of being “good.” But we have lost the natural intrinsic feeling of love, joy, and happiness that used to flow freely out of us when we were young.
Later in life we feel we have lost something. Something isn’t quite right. We know that because of how we feel. Yet we no longer relate it to an emotional feeling issue because we have learned to ignore these things. We were busy doing all the things we were supposed to do. We were the good boy, or the good girl, but we don’t feel good. Something inside isn’t quite right, but we don’t know what. We don’t feel happy but we may not even know it. We look around trying to figure out what we “should do” or “should be,” because that is the question we were trained to ask. But it is the wrong question to address emotional states.
The other distraction we make is to look at the world and think there must be something wrong with the world that’s causing me to feel this way. Of course we can find issues of injustice and suffering in the world and attribute our emotions to them. But not all of our emotions are a result of the world out side of us. More often our emotions are caused by our interpretations and beliefs about the world. Again we try to fix the world outside but do not address changing how our mind interprets things and beliefs we have. This causes us our own feeling of injustice and dissatisfaction. Something inside longs for the way we used to feel when we were emotionally free, but we aren’t aware that it is a feeling we are looking for. We don’t notice those feelings inside, or why they aren’t there anymore and remember how we used to feel. We don’t remember that joy and happiness that used to flow out of us.
What are you looking for?
What I propose to you is that you are looking for a feeling. A feeling you had inside of you long ago. It is a feeling of love, joy, and happiness that flowed out of you. It drove you to sing, to play, to be curious, to have fun, and to laugh. It’s a feeling of joy and love that you learned to stuff down under layers of beliefs about being “responsible,” “good,” “serious,” and doing what you are “supposed to do.” Doing all those “important” things may have satisfied a feeling of success for a while, but often those opinion based feelings don’t last. They leave you looking for something more.
More confusing is that our mind has attempted to solve this feeling issue by asking logical questions that worked for other issues. It asks the question,, “What should I do?” The problem with this question is that it invites us to follow all the rules of “should” we learned years ago. Those rules might have worked when we were 6, and 12, and 16, but aren’t the kind of agreements we should follow when we are 25, 35, 45, and 65. Those are the same rules that caused us to repress our emotions. They are all there stored in our memory telling us what to do, what we should do, what we are supposed to do. They chime in as voices in our head with fear when ever we consider changing the status quo and doing something we want to do.
The fear you feel when you consider breaking free of that yoke of beliefs you carry in your mind isn’t always YOUR fear. It’s a fear the belief system has that you will no longer obey it. Those voices, like an external ruling system becomes afraid that you will change. You can feel its fear, but it does not mean that it is YOUR fear. Yes you can feel your mind reacting that way when you consider a new way of life, of just doing something fun that you want to do. But that fear is from your belief system and not from anything authentic.
What those voices in your head will tell you is that you better not break the rules in the mind, you better not go forward and really change. You better not pursue that feeling inside and feel all of that joy, all of that love, and all that happiness. It says that if you really feel all of that happiness then some kind of bad things will happen. What bad things? It doesn’t know really. Upon exploration you might find that it comes up with ridiculous things like, “You mother will be mad at you.” The voices in your head say these types of things even if you are 55 and your mother is already dead. Sometimes your beliefs don’t change even if your reality has. When that is the case you have to go and manually change your own beliefs you acquired in the past.
The voices in your head (negative thoughts) will say things like, “If you go after your happiness then soon you will do whatever you want and then how will you provide for your self?” Hmm … I think I see some distortion here. We didn’t say that we would quit our job and stop being responsible. We didn’t say that we would do “whatever” we wanted. We didn’t say that we would become completely hedonistic. The voices in our head said that. They exaggerated what we wanted and turned it into an idea of anarchy then point out how bad that would be. Be careful not to fall for such distortions the voices in your head might make. It doesn’t mean we will quit our job and not pay our bills.
All we are talking about is finding that feeling inside of us. Finding and feeling that intrinsic joy, love, and happiness that we are searching for is what we want. Maybe we don’t commit to a complete transformation. Maybe we just change a few things and add a few other things that we want in our life. It’s not anarchy. It’s some smaller changes leading to us feeling better. A feeling that used to naturally flow out of us before we acquired all these false beliefs and fears that repressed them.
Years ago I had a coaching client, Mary. Mary worked as an executive in a large company. She didn’t find her job fulfilling and thought of quitting. She had the belief that if she worked at her church and helped people that it would be much more rewarding. The problem was that she was a single mom raising two boys. She didn’t want to give up income and live near the poverty line on what the church could afford to pay her. She wanted the feeling of fulfillment and satisfying a purpose and her mind had wrapped it up in the packaging of this certain type of work. Of course that type of lifestyle would mean all sorts of other emotional stresses financially and so she would be trading one set of unsatisfying emotions for another.
What Mary did do was identify and change the beliefs that were repressing many of the intrinsic feelings of joy, love, acceptance, and respect that she had. As she did this she felt happier in areas of her life including her job and enjoyed it more. Then she discovered something else. She discovered that many of the people on her team were living in similar belief systems of fear and self judgment. She began to set up communication systems with them that eliminated the fear of reprimands and judgments that they felt. Her team became less guarded and began to communicate with her and each other with less fear. With better communication Mary got blindsided less at work and began to have more enjoyment. It turned out that she had a calling all right. It was to help her people at work live with less fear, less judgment, less criticism, and be happier in their work lives like she was. She was helping people and that made her feel good. She could satisfy that feeling without giving up the six figure income. When Mary found that she had those emotions of joy and happiness inside her all the time, everyday, she realized that she didn’t have to leave her job in order to feel better, or fulfilled.
What are you looking for? I propose to you that it is Love.
We can call it many different things and it has many different ways that we feel and experience it. It might be a feeling of joy, happiness, calm peace, gratitude, compassion, or acceptance and respect for our self and others. Love, the emotion has many different forms, flavors, and expressions. Sometimes in that feeling of love we are inspired to sing, or laugh. It fills us up so fully that we have to let it out with some form of expression or action. At other times it guides us to sit still, look around in awe of the beauty that we perceive. It pulls our attention towards wonderful food, the smells in the kitchen, beautiful music, and nature are all inspirations for that feeling of pleasure that rushes through us. Love has so many ways to experience it, and all of them are pleasurable.
Where will you find what you are looking for?
Where do you find Love? The dating sites will tell you to look for a partner and to get it from them. Marketers will tell you that you will find that feeling when you buy their product. Their great scheme is to sell you an emotion that you create for your self, and associate it to their product. It’s why so many people keep buying things the don’t need. It’s the business of selling someone an emotion that they create themselves. The customers are looking for a feeling but only know how to get it from the temporary experience of buying or having something material.
The person wanting another plastic surgery is looking for a feeling as well. They want to feel better about their body. They believe their body is causing their emotions. What they don’t notice is that their beliefs about their body are causing the emotion they don’t like. It’s just easer to notice a body than it is a belief. They just have the belief that they will feel differently when their body appears different. But the shopper goes shopping again because the feeling didn’t last. The emotional benefits of the plastic surgery aren’t likely to last either. Maybe it’s not a surgery you want, but maybe you believe you will be so much happier when your kitchen is redone, or your television is larger. We may get the feeling, but it doesn’t usually last.
What is interesting though is that we buy something else and we create that feeling again. When you see that pattern enough you begin to question whether the emotion really came with that product. What you discover is that you are the one creating that emotion every time and just using the product as a trigger to create it. When you learn to create that emotion of enjoyment at will, using our own triggers, you find you can feel that love and happiness any time and all the time. And it doesn’t cost you the money for a new appliance or pair of shoes each time.
So if it is a feeling of love and happiness that we are seeking then why do we often end up unhappy and miserable? There are a lot of reasons for this. Part of it has to do with the beliefs we have about what will make us happy, and how that differs from what really creates that emotion within us. Sometimes it has to do with beliefs about idealized versions of how life should be. Then our mind compares real life situation to the idealized version and that results in frustration, disappointment, sadness, or anger. The belief that life should be different than it is, or that we should be different than we are can add to our unhappiness. And we’ve learned to believe that these idealized versions is how we “should” think about things not realizing that we are creating misery doing it. There are many different dynamics in the mind like this that impact our emotional state in a negative way.
The point I want to make in this article is that when you feel your self looking for something, but you aren’t sure what it is, consider it might be a feeling. You don’t really want more money as you want a feeling of financial security. You don’t want a perfect partner as much as you want to love and be loved. You don’t really want enlightenment as much as you don’t want to be unhappy anymore. This idea may be somewhat foreign to your thought process as we have been trained to look for knowledge, material thing, success, a special person, or something called a purpose. But all of these are usually only a means to an end feeling. It is really the end feeling we are looking for. It is when you are experiencing that feeling state that you finally stop looking for something more. And the best feeling state, the one that no one can take away from you, is your own love coming out of you. It is the unconditional expression of love that you have hidden away that will satisfy your search.
Where will you find love? You will find that love inside you, in your own heart. Not in your mind of thoughts, but when your mind is quiet and you put your attention on your own heart. Yes you can find some happiness in the ways mentioned above. Those are ways to trigger and help tap into that source inside you, but they may not last because we are conditioned to limit the emotions. These are triggers that allow you to let some love and joy out in controlled doses and in circumstances the rules of the belief system says are appropriate. So it won’t be all of your love, all of your joy, all of the happiness that you can experience when your heart is open and loving unconditioned by false beliefs.
How do you find this love in your own heart? You find it by identifying and dismantling all the false beliefs, fears, and rules of “should” that hold you back from letting your love come out of you. As the poet Rumi says, “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers with in your self you have built against it.”
I’ve set up some ways to guide you in doing this. The first is my online self paced course, The Self Mastery Program.1