A little secret. I have recently developed a Netflix addiction to Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a bit intimidating to fall in love with a medical show that has 13 seasons to wade through. Lately, I feel like I am working at Seattle Grace Hospital with some kick-ass surgeons.
I bring this up, because I want to share a recent scene that illustrated something I know we all struggle with. It’s also a lesson that I have been working on for myself and with private clients. And it has to do with the question I asked on Monday.
Here’s the scene, which is set in a parking lot just outside the entrance to the hospital, between two surgeons who are also girlfriends.
* * *
EXT. HOSPITAL - NIGHT
Hey, you okay?
Tell me I’m great.
I need for you to tell me that I am great.
Ok. You’re great?
I mean really tell me. Because I am about to go into a surgery right now that I am not sure I should be going in on. And I can’t think like that, right? I can’t go into the O.R. feeling like this. So, I need you to tell me I am great. And make me hear it.
* * *
Have you ever acted like Arizona? Convinced yourself that you needed to feel a certain way before you could take an action? It’s an idea that is so pervasive in our society that it shows up on popular TV shows and is the reason for shelves full of self-help books.
We all fall for this. The notion that we have to feel confident in order to doconfident things. That we need to boost ourselves up before stepping towards something new or challenging.
Read the following list of the nine basic human emotions. Which do you judge as “good” and which are “bad”?
Most people consider the first three as “good” and the last six as unpleasant and therefore “bad" or "negative.” Many approaches to psychology and self-help emphasize this too, by using the labels of “positive” emotions and “negative” emotions.
It is so common, that we never stop to question how this may impact our life. But consider this, as soon as we label an emotion “bad” it leads to a struggle with that emotion. We want to push it away or replace it with a more "positive" one.
Just like Arizona in the scene above, you want someone or something to boost you out of the current "bad mood" in order to be the person you want to be in the world or do the brave things you want to do.
What if how you feel has nothing to do with it? For the next week, try allowing your emotions to be. Become like a curious scientist about the emotions that are passing through your body. Where do you feel it? Is it inside or enveloping the body? Does it have a temperature? Is it moving or still? If it had a shape, what is the shape? What about the color?
Be curious and be present to your emotions. And don't do it "in order to feel something else." That is not the goal. The aim is to bring you into more psychological flexibility. To become adept with feeling your emotions the way a yogini learns to breath into and accept the hip twisting discomfort of pigeon pose.
As you observe your emotions, notice if the mind gets hooked in by a thought that pops up along side the emotion. By hooked, I mean that you’ll get all caught up in the thought and it will have a big impact over you (vs. the sort of thoughts that come and go and do not have much impact.)
In a sea of "be happy" marketing this logo made me smile. We have a rainbow of emotions. And sometimes "grumpy" is exactly what the soul calls for.
In my last note, I asked you to consider two questions:
- What is my biggest challenge right now to creating change?
- What uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges am I willing to make room for in order to take these steps?
Take some time to consider what these are for you.
I will continue this conversation with you on Monday.