What are Feelings for?
Oooh what a feeling – A list or B list?
Why do I feel this way? What does it mean? How can I feel better? How can I make the bad feelings go away? Stress is killing me – what can I do?
None of my clients bring in an A list of happy, positive feelings and ask to sort them out. It doesn’t happen because it makes no sense to them to try to figure out what is feeling right. Their quest is always to try to discover what is making them feel sad, mad or bad because they believe that without those feelings life would be so much better. Their B list of feelings is their major concern but there’s a lot to be learned from considering the way our A list returns automatically – no techniques required.
For many years I too focused on trying to feel better. I looked for the reasons that were behind my feelings of anxiety, the causes of my procrastination, frustration and all other features of a general malaise. I did this because it made sense to me and whatever approach I tried seemed to confirm this was the way to go.
What helped me and what I share with my clients is a much simpler understanding of mental and emotional functioning that starts with an extremely important fact of life: each of us has an innate wealth of psychological health that is self-righting, self-healing, buoyant, infinite and completely natural. It is the reason we regain our perspective after ‘losing it’, ‘come to our senses’ after emotional outbursts, cheer up after feeling miserable, try again, experience great joy, love and connection. And these regular ‘recoveries’ are not something we do but rather they happen to us. We feel better even when nothing external to us changes. Somehow, though, the external things look different to us. It’s always easy to assume that when we get a desired outcome our improved feelings come from the outcome. But everyone has experienced improved feelings when this is not the case.
Your feelings are the experience you have of life and living. Your feelings are a direct consequence of your own thinking and every feeling is the product of a thought you are having in the moment. Feelings operate on an inside-out, not an outside-in basis. Your feelings do not arise in you from the external world but rather arise in you as a direct experience of your own thinking. This is how you create your own separate and unique experiences: you create your own world of experience from the inside-out. And so does every single human being.
So should you try to manage your thinking? Start new lists of thoughts to work on? Dismiss negative thoughts and replace them with positive?
Firstly, the task is too big, given that we have an estimated eighty to one hundred thousand thoughts a day. Secondly, you don’t need to because when the relationship between your thoughts and feelings is understood, within the context of your innate mental and emotional health, you can trust the system that is already in place to free you from the inside-out – and naturally.
The idea of analysing happy feeling states to find out why you are happy doesn’t make sense and in truth, would simply waste the time you could just spend enjoying yourself. The same is true for unhappy feeling states. Your unhelpful thought patterns and habits will lessen, fade, peter out, when you stop taking them as truths about the world or yourself. When you experience a range of human feelings in the certainty and confidence that every state is temporary, self-righting, and a one hundred per cent accurate reflection of your mind state, you open up space for fresh new thinking. You are designed to have a flow of thoughts and will feel each one of them but not being grabbed by unhelpful, restricting feelings allows the originating thoughts to pass on returning you to optimal functioning and the expression of your true and natural self.