I thought I lost my mind one day this week. I started out the morning feeling very proud of myself because I was so organized. I had an earlier than usual client session, and my youngest daughter had just started school. We weren’t quite in the swing of things yet. My husband was out of town, but everything was going swimmingly. My daughter was up on time, on track for getting to school, and I was ready to go.
There was construction happening outside of our home. We were notified to move our cars by 7 am. I was out of the house before 7 am moving the car, but I couldn’t find anywhere to park. So I checked with one of the construction workers, and asked if I could leave the car in our driveway for fifteen minutes. He said that would be fine.
My daughter left for carpool. I locked up the house, got into the car, and then I could not find my car key. I looked in my purse in it’s usual spot, and it wasn’t there. I had just driven the car fifteen minutes previously so I knew it couldn’t have gone far. I retraced my steps in the house. I couldn’t find the key anywhere. I went back to the car. I looked everywhere in the car — still no key. I emptied my purse — no key. I looked back in the house. The key was not there. The construction workers were now asking me if I could move the car. I explained my predicament.
As this was happening, I noticed my emotions start to build. I felt myself getting really upset. I knew the upset wasn’t helping me to find the key, but the emotional pressure was building inside of me. It was one of those finely tuned days that was very full. If one thing slipped, it would create a domino effect and impact all of the logistics for the day.
As I kept looking for the key, my mood got lower and lower. My thinking was getting more and more stirred up. I was nearly in tears over the damned key. I couldn’t believe how stupid I was to lose it. I felt like a complete idiot.
I was also aware of how disconnected from the moment I was. I couldn’t remember anything I did after I got out of the car. I didn’t remember if I had my purse with me. I didn’t remember what I did next after getting out of the car. I was on autopilot.
I released some of the pressure I was putting on myself by letting the client I was supposed to meet know what was happening. They were very understanding and flexible. I then called my teenage daughter who was staying at a friend’s house because she had the spare key. I woke her up from a deep sleep and asked her to come home. She was surprisingly good natured about it. The construction workers were also incredibly kind.
The only person who was freaking out and berating myself was me. Five minutes after waking my daughter up I find the key. Where was it? What strange location was it discovered in? My purse, the side pocket that I had already looked in. This time, when I fished around in there with my hand, I found it caught up in the fabric in the corner. It had been where it was supposed to be all along, and I had been on an emotional odyssey in the process.
After going through all of this, I found out there was an accident on the Pacific Coast Highway in which a truck had deposited a load of gravel on the road and closed the highway down. There was no chance of getting to my client until later. I wondered, if I had left on time, would I have found myself covered in the gravel? The accident happened on the exact route to where I was going.
This ordeal was a great reminder of how subjective my experience is. The key was in my bag all along, but I couldn’t see it. I was blind to it. Even though it was there, it did not exist to me. I wonder how many other things am I not seeing because I am blind to them even though they are right in front of my nose? I am amazed at how limited my conceptual mind and my habitual thinking are. There is a world of possibilities in each moment outside of my current reference point awaiting to be revealed. This feels quite exciting and exhilarating.
I am also reminded me of how extreme my feelings can get when there really isn’t anything wrong. I had to reschedule a client. I woke my daughter up earlier than she would have liked. I made a mistake. None of this is earth shatteringly bad, but my feelings were going through the roof.
This made me aware of the amount of pressure I put on myself to have it together. I didn’t realize how precarious my feeling good was that morning. One misstep and I was in the depths of failure. I didn’t know that my emotional state that morning was conditional on my good performance.
This helps me to see the opportunity I have to let go of the standards and expectations I put on myself. I feel good when I meet them, but terrible when I don’t. Why not let them go altogether? I am sure the decrease in internal pressure will only help my performance to improve without the fear of crashing down from one wrong move.
Being able to witness my process as it was happening lessened some of the emotional intensity. I was aware that my feelings would pass. I understood that it was not the end of the world even though it felt like it in the moment. I was clued in to my experience reflecting the downward spiral of my thinking and not reality.
As I reflect on this, the principle of thought comes into greater understanding for me. The content of my thinking is not that important, but understanding I create my reality via thought makes all of the difference. Even though, in the moment, I could not control my thinking, I knew my reality was fluid due to the transitory nature of thought. This did not immediately stop me from feeling the impact of the content of my thinking, but it allowed me to be less scared by what I was feeling. I was even amused by and curious about my process while in it.
I have heard Dr. Mary Hulnick from the University of Santa Monica refer to human beings as multidimensional. During this incident, I understood what she means. I was able to be in my emotional distress, while simultaneously observing it with loving bemusement. I was not dissociated. Rather, I was very present with myself as I ran around in a state of panic. There was no real separation between my humanness and my divinity.
It is possible for me to believe the content of my thinking that I am creating, and feel the emotional impact of believing it, while at the same time knowing it is all illusion. I can know that my peace of mind and stability are present in that instant, just like any other instant, even when I am decidedly un-peaceful.
Our personal minds can’t fathom this. We cannot know “oneness” on an intellectual level, but we can drop into our experiential knowing of our true nature. We are able to feel duality dissolve and experience a state of mind where right and wrong do not exist. This allows me to see that feeling worthless because of a lost car key is just an innocent distortion of the innate, loving intelligence that is expressing through me. No matter how distorted the content of thinking is, the essence behind the content is always love.
Rohini Ross is a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, and a Three Principles Coach.