It is such an easy trap to fall into, thinking our upset comes from outside of us. I have done it and still do it at times. It is easy to buy into the illusion that we feel our circumstances and not our thinking. Our emotions flood our experience so quickly it is hard to see the role thought plays in creating our reality.
Just this week I got really flustered when a video conference link wasn’t working. I couldn’t get into the meeting room to join the group I was supposed to be facilitating. When it was happening, it felt like my agitation was the direct result of the link not working. It seems logical that if the link was working, I would have felt fine. Nonetheless, the real culprit of my suffering was the barrage of irrational, self-judgmental thoughts that filled my stream of consciousness and looked very real to me at the time. My upset had nothing to do with the link, and everything to do with my thinking. It would have been quite possible to have this experience without judging myself, and then I would have felt fine even with the link not working.
This distinction is so important to me because it is the difference between feeling like a victim of circumstance and knowing I am the author of my reality no matter what conditions I find myself in. This empowerment makes all the difference. Not because it gives me full control to create the inner experience I like all the time, but because it helps me to be less afraid of the unpleasant experiences I create. If I know I am making up my upset, even if I can’t stop myself from doing that right away, I am less bothered by my emotional discomfort because I know it is temporary. I understand it is a reflection of my distorted thoughts that will shift and stabilize eventually.
Seeing this has been liberating for me. I used to think my upset was a sign I needed to do something. I thought upset was a character flaw that, if I did enough self-improvement work, I could get rid of it. Little did I know I was trying to eradicate my humanness. Now I have so much more acceptance for the full range of my emotional experience. I put less pressure on myself to feel a certain way. I appreciate the greater emotional resilience I have as a result. I am much better at getting over my feelings and being discouragement proof.
This results from me seeing that my natural state is wellbeing. There is nothing wrong with me when I am experiencing other emotional states, but I will always come back to peace because that is the human default setting. I feel such comfort knowing I can’t go wrong. No matter how intense my feelings are, they are only ever the result of me getting caught up in my self-generated, distorted, insecure thoughts. It is never a permanent reality. Eventually my thinking will settle, and I will experience the peace of who I am.
Before when I would become mesmerized by my negative thinking, I would immediately believe something was wrong and make efforts to change my experience as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, all this did was fuel my negative thinking. My resistance to my experience and my attempts to try and change my thinking would just make the thinking look more real. This would become exhausting. I dug myself into some pretty dark holes and suffered depression as a result.
At the time, I did not realize I had the choice of not taking my thinking seriously. I had no idea I could simply acknowledge my thinking was distorted and not give it the time of day. I would have thought this was an unhealthy form of denial that would result in me suffering more, and not evolving as a human being.
Now I see the opposite is true. My obsession with feeling good was driving me to depression. Rather than seeing bad feelings as a normal, and temporary, part of the human experience that result from unwittingly buying into distorted thoughts, I thought they were pathological, and I needed to eradicate them so I could feel okay. This is like me saying I need to develop the capacity to not experience physical pain so I don’t have to hurt. Physical pain is simply a feedback mechanism that lets us know our body is experiencing damage. Emotional pain works in the same way. It provides useful feedback to let us know when our thinking is distorted. If we pay attention to the feedback, we have the opportunity to not continue to fuel our negative thoughts. This allows our thinking to settle, and we, once again, naturally experience our true nature.
We fall back into the wellbeing, peace, love and contentment that is unchanging and always available to us. It is the larger part of who we are. Just like 96% of the universe is invisible, the larger part of who we are is the formless essence of our unchanging true nature. Our personality, that is made up of our thoughts and feelings, is only a thin slice of who we are. It is like a wave on top of an expansive ocean. When I stopped obsessing over trying to fix my character flaws, I got to experience my Authentic Self more often and more fully. This resulted from me identifying more with the part of me that is whole and unchanging, and seeing the variability of my emotional experience as normal and not needing to be fixed.
Everything I was doing to try to feel better was only making the illusion of my negative thinking look more real. It was preventing me from calming down and relaxing into my natural state. This was the best I could do at the time based on what I understood. We all do the best we can based on what we understand. What I hope you see more clearly is the perfection of who you are — exactly as you are. If you look to how your experience is created rather than judging or analyzing the experience you are having, it makes it easier to not take any difficult feelings seriously because you know there is always going to be a new thought coming that has the possibility of changing everything.
When experience is seen as transitory rather than chronic, it is so much easier to relax, do nothing, and wait it out. The reality we live in is created from scratch moment to moment. Just like a kaleidoscope has a constantly shifting pattern so does our experience. The only thing that holds our experience in place is our thinking, and thought can, and does, shift instantaneously. All it takes is for us to break free from our conditioned thinking and have a new thought, and that is how we are designed — to constantly have new, fresh thoughts.
This is how I can go from an experience of feeling flustered and insecure to feeling peaceful and calm in an instant. Not because I did anything to change or stop my thinking, but because a new thought occurred to me and it made sense for me to follow it. I forgot about all my flustered thinking as soon as it occurred to me to listen to the group I was serving. No technique was required. It happened organically and quickly. It does, however, happen more easily for me now that I don’t take my thoughts or my feelings so seriously. I know they are always healthy and natural, and they have nothing to do with who I am.
Sending you love as you navigate the perils and pleasures of being the creator of your reality, while remembering your true self is the constant, loving essence that never changes.
Rohini Ross is a psychotherapist, a leadership consultant, and an executive coach. She helps individuals, couples, and professionals to connect more fully with their true nature so they can experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. In addition to providing trainings, Rohini also co-facilitates three-day retreats for individuals, couples, and leaders. You can find out more about Rohini’s work on her website, rohiniross.com.