For one reason or another I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts for most of this year. I’ve told a few people before about this, and many clients may not have noticed as I have been burying it behind a facade of positivity, but some have spotted it. It is nothing more than feeling a bit “Meh” about things, although there have been times (outside of clinic hours) where anxiety seems to strike me for no apparent reason.
I am one of those people that seems to be quite calm, but on the inside things are constant whirl of thoughts and feelings. This time things have felt like they have been going on for a bit longer than I have been feeling comfortable with, but there is still nothing I’m unduly concerned with. This just seems to be a period of feeling a bit lower than anything else.
Ever since seeing the Incredibles cartoon from Pixar back in 2003, I have loved the Boundin’ short film that accompanied it and it’s inspiring message. To me the message has always been about caring little about what other people think, be thankful for what you do have and find a way to enjoy life’s ups and downs. If you want to read the lyrics they have been put on a blog here.
Now my friends all laugh at me
Cause they think I look ridiculous, funny, and pink.”
“Pink? Pink? Well, what’s wrong with pink?
Seems you’ve got a pink kink in your think.
Does it matter what color? Well, that gets a nope.
Be it pink purple or heliotrope.
Now sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down,
When you find that you’re down well just look around:
You still got a body, good legs and fine feet,
Get your head in the right place and hey, you’re complete!
But as uplifting as that always is, it hasn’t helped with my general funk. There is a general idea that you are trying to strive to be in a constant state of happiness, and everything you do should be to achieve this fleeting state. The trouble is, like any emotion, Happiness is a temporary state of mind and you can’t always say that something will definitely create a feeling of joy.
I stumbled across a book in a second hand book store called “The Power of Negative Emotion: How Anger, Guilt and Self Doubt are essential to success and fulfillment” by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. They are a couple of psychologists who have widened their research from solely focussing on being happy to look at the more negative emotions that we all try to avoid.
Their idea is that the emotions that we label “negative” are feelings in response to situations we find ourselves in. These feelings (anger, guilt, and anxiety) can be very helpful in helping us to notice that something is wrong and giving alternative ways on how to deal with the situation. They say that the focus on just being happy is actually making us less happy.
They put forward that we, as a culture, have become overly focussed with being comfortable in our lives that we no longer have the ability to accept discomforts in our life. The discomforts that they discuss are things like boredom, because everything on the internet happens “Now!”; or making mistakes and failing; or other such things that make us uncomfortable (but not necessarily life threatening). They also suggest that parents are now protecting their children from experiencing these and that makes us less tolerant on things not going right, and that this might be detrimental in the long term.
The authors also suggest that there is a cultural differences that we learn from our societies, and that in the Western world (they use the USA) we are seeing a cultural shift to viewing discomforts, such as boredom, as a toxic situation to be avoided at all costs. Whereas these situations can actually help us become more rounded individuals, able to work in teams and be more creative.
They say that Anger is the feeling that allows us to see something that needs to change in the world around us; guilt allows us to notice that something we do we could do better; and anxiety is that we are growing and expanding our comfort zone. Each in their own way helps us to become a more fully rounded person, but these emotions become more negative when allowed to grow beyond what is appropriate for the situation:
Anger can be appropriate in a situation that is wrong, but rage (where we physically threaten another person) is probably not;
Feeling guilt about a social interaction might show we could have behaved better, shaming another person to shift blame from us is not;
Feeling anxious about a new job can help us to grow and learn new things, whereas panicking is unlikely help us to deal with the situation.
The real thing to think about is that we need to accept that we have a wide range of emotions, but to notice that we are having them and then ask ourselves “Is this appropriate to the situation?” If the answer is yes, then we are making full use of the tools that we have; if no, then we can see if we can diffuse the situation or alter our behaviour.
So this then makes me wonder about the Reiki Precepts that are rather wonderful, and also rather tricky. These are
Kyo dake wa
Gyo hage me
Hito ni shinestu ni
Just for today
Do not anger
Do not worry
Be kind to others
Usui Mikao (trans Frans & Bronwen Stiene)
The Reiki Precepts are a call to live in the present moment and to strive towards a more blissful state. I have said on my Reiki courses when we touch upon the Precepts that they are part of the culture and system of Reiki and not necessary to actually using Reiki, but also that there are times when we should be angry, because it is appropriate.
Mindfulness or Mindlessness
The book also has a brief look at Mindfulness and the fact that it is being touted as the panacea for a wide range of ills. Yes, there is evidence that if you are in a happier and less stressful frame of mind it has health benefits, and that meditation can help towards this. Mindfulness has been studied a lot, and has a very repeatable approach that lends itself to scientific research, and so it has become a very popular concept to use. The authors of the book say that yes it is very useful to be able to change your focus to be in the present and to focus on all the workings of the body at will. However, there are a lot of very important tasks that our mind does that we really do not need to be conscious of: assumptions in interactions we make based upon the circumstances and the people we meet.
The state of mindfulness, taken to its extreme, would make navigating the world almost impossible as we would be expending brain power on things that we don’t need to. We need to allow certain tasks and responses to occur in a mindless way, for example, driving a car needs us to make lots of decisions and take actions fairly rapidly and once we have learnt to drive many of these drop to the back of our mind and they become subconscious habits. That is a good thing when travelling in a car at speed, otherwise we may not be able to respond in a timely manner to avoid a collision.
The answer is that being able to switch between a state of in the moment mindfulness and mindlessly achieving tasks is what we should be able to do, and we become more efficient in our interactions. This seems to be a situation that I find applies to more and more elements of life: that there are actions and behaviours that we need to be able to shift between and being able to do this easily and with some effortlessness is the goal. Whether this is balancing the emotions, mindfulness versus mindlessness, or activity and rest, we are better if we can make the transitions between them easy and not overly rely on any one side of our abilities.
Thanks for reading this my lovely Interonauts.