Friday, August 22, 2014

Know Thyself OR Bathroom Cleaning Revelations

This week has not been the greatest. This week has been fracking fantastic. Yeah. That's me. Bouncing all over the emotional spectrum. *sigh* I get really sick and tired of it, to be honest, and I try really hard NOT to do it. But why?

Why do I fight myself--my feels? Because I think I'm supposed to be this peaceful yogini, always serene, always calm, always relaxed.

Bwahahaahahahahha! *wipes tears from eyes*

Yeah, right. *rolls eyes* But that is just not me and fighting my nature is the very definition of misery...for me.  Probably for some of you, too. So why do we do it? Torture ourselves over how we feel?

Why do we tell ourselves, "I shouldn't feel this way." Or "What's wrong with me? Why do I get so depressed? Why can't I be happy?"  Or any number of disheartening, cruel things. You know what? It's because that's what we were taught, that we "shouldn't feel" certain ways.

Think about it. When you were say nine or ten, someone in your life--a well-meaning parent or say a teacher--told you you SHOULDN'T feel a certain way about a certain thing. I remember an adult in my life once saying, "Why are you so sensitive? You SHOULDN'T let what other people say upset you so much."

Seems reasonable, doesn't it? I mean, we SHOULDN'T let people rent space in our heads, and that is good, solid advice. Sort of. Here's what's wrong with saying that to a child: it changes their brain. It changes the way they think about emotions. When they hear "you SHOULDN'T feel that way" enough times, they become programmed to believe it.

The thing is once the emotion is bubbling up, there's no real way to stop it. Emotions are chemical reactions in the brain and body. That reaction takes about 90 seconds to run its course. We can't NOT feel it for those 90 seconds. So, being told not to feel it is incredibly frustrating because there is nothing we can do to stop it. We may push it down, but it will come back with a vengeance.

And instead of those uncomfortable emotions ending in the 90 seconds, we create more uncomfortable emotions by battling what can't be defeated. It becomes a vicious cycle. Bad feeling rises, we struggle against feeling it, a new bad feeling arises because we can't stop the bad feeling so we feel bad about ourselves because we SHOULDN'T be feeling these bad feelings.

But trying not to feel something is like trying not to think about something. Try this: DON'T think about a blue baboon playing basketball.  The harder you try, the more difficult it is.  Actually, for me, the harder I try not to feel something, the worse I feel. And the harder I try not to feel it. And the worse it gets. This leads down a very dark path, my friends, of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Even when we escape the "bad" feelings, there's this specter lurking around every corner. In the back of our minds, we're waiting for the "bad" to attack, again. Because, strangely enough, deep down inside we know we can't escape the "bad" feels. They WILL come again.  And even more strangely, instead of embracing this knowledge about ourselves, we resist. We tense, waiting for the inevitable blow. We fight.

We rail against the cruel injustice of it all.

And when this shadow boxing eventually exhausts us, we sag in defeat. :-( And that can lead us to some dark conclusions, because we become terrified of the inevitable. We can't stand the idea of going to that dark place one more time. It all seems so pointless, this endless "stiff upper lip", this endless struggle to find our happy thought.

I wonder if this is at all what Robin Williams experienced. Why he took his own life. I don't know and don't presume to know, but its been on my mind since he died.

But, while cleaning the bathroom this morning, I had a clear, sparkling revelation. As I scrubbed the toilet and wondered how the heck the boys miss the bowl so much, I stopped mid-swipe, utterly stunned with a thought...

What if we let go of our expectations? About how we SHOULD feel, how our lives SHOULD look, and how we SHOULD be in this world?

And more specifically, what if I embraced myself with all my erratic feelings, crazy ups and downs, and stopped SHOULD-ING all over myself?

What if...hang in there with me for a second...what if it's more than okay to feel shitty? What if it's, I don't know, a good thing? Not only would accepting our emotions as is be a relief, it would be liberating!

Holy heck! You mean feeling sad is a natural response to certain stimuli? Wow!

Try this:  Instead of always trying to "fix" what we perceive as "wrong" with us, how about we love ourselves, accept ourselves, and dare I say celebrate ourselves exactly as we are, right this moment, bad feels and all.

And maybe to prevent passing down this misunderstanding about feelings, we rephrase our parents' good advice: We don't have to feel angry or sad or hurt in response to other's actions. We can learn to let things outside of our control go. And with time and patience and lots of practice, we may stop having those emotional response. But in the meantime, when we do feel sad or angry, it's okay. It's just one of many emotions designed to alert us that we need to pay attention. Sit with it. Let it ebb and flow. Don't feed it and don't fight. Let it be. And shortly, it will run its course.

Later, we can spend some quiet time reflecting or researching about that emotion. In some cases, we need a professional to help us sort through it. What are our emotions trying to tell us? Do we need to change something? Or was someone being mean? It's quite natural to be hurt when someone is cruel, but it doesn't say anything about who we are. It does, however, say a lot about the person trying to inflict the pain. Funny how we take responsibility for someone else's cruelty, as if we deserved it.

Give it a try. Let me know how it goes. I love hearing from y'all and sharing in your life.


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