I recently had an opportunity to test how this “thoughts in-thoughts out” process can work when it’s truly tested. Sure, when things are going well, it’s easy to see how we can let our thoughts drift away without over-managing them so they are always positive. When skies are sunny it’s easy to rest in the knowledge of the simplicity and elegance of the design of the human psyche, which is always leaning toward wellness, and happiness.
But it’s when things are not going well that you get to see and experience if these ideas really work. It’s when a principle is put to the test in a pressure situation that you get to see its weaknesses, the holes in the theory, if there are any. It’s when the skies darken and thunder clouds rumble that you get to see what you really have to weather the storm.
A learning moment beckons
And such an opportunity came my way recently. I had been sailing along feeling very happy and buoyant for weeks. A lovely state of affairs for me, being able to rest easy in the knowledge that a good feeling state is always available.
But then – boom! Seemingly out of nowhere, a situation arose that brought my good feeling state to a faltering halt. I could feel myself on the brink of falling into a low mood. I could feel a negative feeling state coming on, it was right there – I could almost reach out and touch it, it was that close.
But interestingly, it wasn’t quite here yet. Even in the midst of this flurry of thought and emotion, some part of me recognised that the die had not yet been cast, that I was still in the land of preceding.
Step inside my head for a moment
It was so interesting to be inside my head at that moment. I could feel the pull of those negative emotions, but this time I knew what preceded them: negative thoughts. That it was my thinking that was creating this storm season of negative feelings.
And this time I was aware of how much effort I was putting into creating those thoughts, and keeping them alive. I was making those thoughts up, putting energy into creating the thoughts and piling fuel on the fire to keep those negative thoughts alive.
Wow! I had never been quite so clear about how this worked for me. Sure I have known about this principle for some time now, and during my year of choosing happy, have been experimenting with bringing these principles to life in my own life.
But I’d never had quite this opportunity, this fork-in-the-road moment, to test how the principle of how our psyches are naturally designed to work, actually does work – through thick and through thin. Especially through thin.
I was doing it to myself
And this is what became clear as day: I was doing it to myself.
I was making myself feel bad through a process of making up thoughts that then made me feel bad.
It wasn’t what was actually happening that was making me feel bad. No, that wasn’t the cause.
The cause was my thinking.
Boom! Right there in that moment, I got it.
There is no storm
I was making those thoughts up – there was no storm to weather! The rumbling thunder clouds were entirely my own creation. They did not exist.
I was putting energy into creating thoughts that were going to make me feel bad, sure as eggs. Sure as night follows day, negative thoughts will create negative feelings.
I was composing fact-free, fiction-based, old-untested-recycled-but-should-be-deleted thoughts, all on practically auto pilot.
Where the real effort lies
And that’s when it really hit me: the effort is never in the letting go of our thoughts, that will happen all on its own if we let the natural and elegant design of our psyches, which is always leaning toward wellness and happiness, take its course. I mentioned this before in No.49.
But never has it been so bleeedingly obvious to me that the effort is in the creating and keeping alive of the thinking – not in the letting go, or managing, of the thinking that causes the feeling.
So in that moment, I was aware of stopping the effort to create those thoughts. Just stop. Instead, I let my thoughts drift, which is as easy as pie. I imagined my thoughts as clouds, changing shape, moving this way then that, making no effort to morph and move gently.
Stopping the crazy
And I noticed that this was more a noticing than a doing. I wasn’t actually doing anything – there was no effort involved. I just had to stop what I was doing (making up those crazy negative-feeling creating thoughts) and allow.
And what I noticed was, after a few moments, the tightness began to loosen. The heaviness began to lift. It wasn’t an instantaneous Feel Bad to Feel Good flick of the switch. But it was a gentle easing, a forward motion of such grace – away from thoughts I had been (unconsciously) creating that made me feel bad, toward a better feeling state.
The elegant, gentle design at work
This is the elegant, gentle design of the human psyche at work. The elegant, gentle design of the human psyche is always leaning toward wellness, and happiness. Never before has that been to clear to me. And so beautiful.