When is feeling good a guarantee that you will feel bad?
“I want to feel it all of the time. So I exercise. I communicate. I work hard. I set goals. I strive to be healthy. I practice acceptance, awareness and openness to what is. But I can’t seem to avoid the pull back to my addiction to feeling good.”
Yesterday we looked at the different kinds of stuff that you face in your life. Here is a quick list of the stuff that we discussed (click here for full article):
a| The deep-down-inside-stuff .
b| The not-seen stuff .
c| The hard-stuff.
d| The whatever-stuff .
e| The control-stuff.
f| The important-stuff.
g| The sitting-with-my-stuff stuff.
What can we do about our stuff?
The answer to this question is not easy, nor is it quick. And sometimes there is no answer. There is no prescription for handling all of the stuff that you will face in your recovery or your life. I have found that it is helpful to invest more of my focus on the last three kinds of stuff from the list above:
1.Notice what is important to you, your values.
Values are like an anchor that keep you from being dragged away by the storms (I like the anchor metaphor because anchors don’t try to stop the storms, just keep you from getting too far off track.)
2.Pay attention to what keeps coming up for you.
Themes in your relationships, your work, your personal life. Are you selfish? Controlling? Impatient? Do you procrastinate? Unappreciative?
3.Sit with your stuff (be aware of it, practice a moment of self-compassion and then act on your stuff).
Sitting with something may sound like you are doing nothing, just dwelling in the mud of your feelings or your experience. But sitting is not passive. And it is not forever. You do not have to sit forever with an emotion or an experience. You can sit for just a few moments. And you can sit just by letting yourself see something. You don’t have to act on it right away. You can begin by seeing it.
One danger of sitting with our stuff is to get caught inside your head, thinking all of the time instead of doing what you need to do. But realize this one thing: the act of thinking IS action. Action always begins inside. But sometimes we don’t take the time to reflect, we react on impulse.
It is very important to take action on your stuff. But what actions should take place first? I have a few actions that help me to get grounded:
- For me, when I take the action of being aware I seem to make choices that are more in line with who I want to be. Awareness is not a mystical practice. It’s as simple as taking a breath and taking a moment to check in with your sensations and physical self – what are you experiencing? Check in with your emotions that may be charging within you, or more subtle, or whispering. Then check in with your thoughts that might be racing, or judging, or bored, or saying that all of this awareness stuff is stupid.
If we fight our experience or our thoughts, then we won’t move forward. We spend all of our energy fighting our experience rather than living our experience.
- My next action is to take a moment for self-compassion (say a kind thing that a friend might say to you or put a hand over your own heart).
When I take a breath and bring my awareness and self-compassion, I find I am better able to act in whatever other ways that make sense. In my experience, when I act with awareness and with self-compassion, I am in a much better frame of mind than if I just act or re-act. When I react and move to quickly to action, it is often another way of not having to feel.
4.Invest time being grateful.
It’s easy to fall into shoulds and oughts with this one. Practicing awareness, openness, gratefulness is so good that you should do it, you ought to do it. This just makes it one more form of guilt. Rather than feeling guilty that you don’t have a “gratitude practice.” Just do a small thing. Invest a moment each day being grateful, even when you don’t feel good… especially when you don’t feel good.
Let yourself off the hook: You don’t have to feel good
Life (and recovery) does not promise you or I that we will feel alive. Or good. Or happy. Or at peace. Or content. I see that stuff for what it is (at least for me): the control stuff. We cannot control our way to feeling good, or being clean, any more than we can control our kids to be the people we think they should be.
Today I don’t feel good. I don’t have to. You don’t have to feel good. It’s difficult, but you can begin by just feeling. For a few moments, even. Just begin.
Being aware of my stuff helps me to become open enough to see where I am doing important things. I am more aware of my self and more present to my children, my wife, my friends… the people I care about. And I have moments where I am grateful for my moments.
Keep it Real
Photos by North Carolina National Guard