THE DANCE OF FEELINGS
by Linda Anderson Krech
How many feelings do you usually have over the course of an entire day? It would be interesting to know, wouldn’t it? Maybe someday we’ll be able to program our smart watches to track and monitor our emotions, just as they do our heart rates. That probably wouldn’t be a good thing on a regular basis, but for one day it would be interesting.
Our feelings can easily and quickly change. After a strong dose of caffeine, sugar and/or alcohol, we may ride a wave of optimism and good humor. For a while. Our lives can seem brighter and the world more appealing until the wave subsides and the shine is gone. We all know what happens if we keep chasing that wave. Not only do our lives become driven, and derailed from a meaningful purpose, but we spend a lot of time tumbling about on the ground in between waves.
There are countless factors that influence our feelings, one way or another, from morning until night, and so many of them are uncontrollable – blue skies, rainy days, the sound of bird calls, the din of traffic, a call from a friend, an argument with a relative, a work of art, a child in distress. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, our feelings arise spontaneously as we encounter the world.
Each step in our dance with life may stimulate feelings, though not necessarily. It may depend on the time of day, the amount of sleep you had, the worries on your mind, or your plans for the evening. If we accept that feelings are bound to rise and fall, as we go about the business of living, we can just allow that process to take place, without the need to interfere with it. We don’t need to make our feelings change. They WILL change on their own.
Let’s use gratitude as an example of a feeling that we generally enjoy. Gratitude contributes to a sense of wellbeing but we can’t just manufacture it by will. It doesn’t work that way. It is by noticing our encounters with life, and being present to them, that gratitude can become an authentic experience, rather than just a hollow concept. Being conscious of our good fortune, in real and specific ways, can very naturally stimulate gratefulness.
Sometimes I think of all the teams who help me to get through any one day — the coffeemaker team, the car team, my clothing team, my phone team, my eyeglass team . . . I have countless teams who have created and supported my life in very vital and practical ways. Without them and their efforts, I would have a very different life. I suspect there’s a good chance that many of the strangers I see when I’m out and about are on one of my teams, helping me in some way I’m not even aware of. When I pay attention to my life in this way, I feel very lucky and well cared for.
But given how complex our lives are, and how troubled our world is, we encounter all kinds of challenging situations and difficult feelings on a regular basis. There’s nothing “wrong” with uncomfortable or even painful feelings. Life prompts all kinds of reactions. Knowing that feelings will run their course, if we keep up with the flow of life, is reassuring. We won’t have to live in a permanent state of sadness.
We can experience the pain of sadness and, when it’s time to prepare dinner, walk ourselves into the kitchen and turn to that task. As your awareness takes in different stimuli, as you slice the carrots and saute the onions, as you chat with someone else or listen to the radio, your sadness may begin to ease up a bit.
If we use our attention skillfully and align with our purpose repeatedly, our feelings will take care of themselves. We don’t have to force that to happen. In fact, we can’t force our feelings to change and our efforts to do so often backfire. The more we try to feel different, the more stuck we become. Instead, we can coexist with feelings while we take care of our lives. This is what most of us do everyday though sometimes we forget how it works.Tags: Acceptance Action anxiety gratitude Mental Wellness