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"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Who Decides How You Feel?

The extent to which your feelings are influenced by sources external to yourself is generally not appreciated until you make a decision to become aware of it. Undoubtedly you know that if you watch a horror film, you might feel frightened, causing your adrenalin levels to rise, just as though whatever is happening in the film were happening to you in real life, but you may think of it less obviously for other elements that influence you.
  • when you receive an email from a friend filled with beautiful images of the earth accompanied  by words that make you appreciate the glory of our world, and then the images catapult into others of garbage-strewn shanty towns and slums, or plastic-filled oceans, with the message indicating what we, as the population that fills the earth have done to occasion this, you will feel sad or guilty or ashamed.
  • when you hear about children dying of malnutrition or disease in sub-Saharan Africa, similar feelings may flood you
  • when you watch a sad love story depicted in a movie, such as the famous Love Story, or Bridges of Madison County, you feel sad. In fact, you may even cry.
  • when you see a film such as Temple Grandin (about the life of a woman who overcomes autism - not in the sense that she is no longer autistic, but in the sense that she creates a wonderful life for herself despite being autistic), or a similar film The Horse Boy about a young autistic boy who is taken to Mongolia by his parents to see if shamans there can cure him - you may feel elated at the end of the film
  • when you hear the news anchor recounting yet another massacre in yet another country, or another suicide bomber who has ended the lives of dozens, you probably feel awful, stunned or outraged
  • when you hear that your best friend has been diagnosed with malignant stomach cancer, you feel sad, perhaps angry, fearful and a host of other emotions
If, however, you are truly awake, conscious and aware, you will notice these emotions, and then you will decide what to do about them. And before you call me a loveless cretin, who needs to learn something about compassion, bear with me.

Let's examine the one about your friend who has been diagnosed with malignant stomach cancer. That is, perhaps, one of the biggest on my sample list above of outside sources emotion-influencing because it's closest to you. Of course you will feel one or more of the indicated emotions at first glance. But then you get to choose, if you are aware. And the better you choose, the more you will help your friend. The more you allow emotions to rule your initially negative reactions to the news of the cancer diagnosis, the less you will be able to help your friend. However, should you decide to react with strength and love for your friend, deciding to treat your friend as though he/she continued to be the same as before the diagnosis, in the sense that the diagnosis is not what now labels their existence, but simply one aspect of their existence, that admittedly, needs to be dealt with, but should not define who they are, then your presence in this person's life will be of much greater value, than if you sat at their bedside with a serious demeanour, and held their hand.

Feeling elated at the end of the two movies about autism is obviously a much more positive emotion, and yet, if you think about it, as you palpate it within yourself, under ideal circumstances, you should be able to create such good feelings by yourself. I'm not suggesting you don't watch movies or read things that make you feel good - quite the contrary, I'm a great proponent of doing precisely that (see Keeping Your Energy High and Keeping Your Energy High 2) - but that you begin to train yourself to keep yourself in that good place without necessarily needing other sources (than yourself) or depending on other sources.

Said in a nutshell: neither should external sources cause your emotions to go into a sharp decline, nor should you need to depend on them in order to maintain them in a state of equanimity. This, of course, brings us full circle to what I wrote about in Happiness is Bad?. I quoted:

Happiness: not minding what happens (Krishnamurti)
Happiness: accepting what is (Tolle)
Enlightenment: the quiet acceptance of what is (Dyer)

If you don't mind what is; if you accept what is, then neither negative nor positive emotions will hold sway over you. This is not about giving up, nor is it about apathy. It's about equanimity, and equanimity equals inner well-being.

For more about balance, about happiness, about focusing on what serves your inner well-being, and on reconnecting with your soul, have a look at my book Rewiring the Soul: Finding the Possible Self, available in paperback and e-Book for Kindle formats.

Click here to download the first chapter.

Product Description from Amazon

Ask anyone, whatever their circumstances, if their life is vibrant, fulfilling, harmonious and happy. An honest reply is likely to be 'no', because to answer a truthful 'yes' is no mean feat. Only to grow psychologically and emotionally is not enough. And only to grow spiritually is not enough either. All three dimensions need to be developed in order to realize your full potential. If you are willing to assume total responsibility for the self and to start what is an on-going journey, you will quickly begin to glimpse the first fruits of the ultimate goal: inner well-being, freedom, peace, harmony and joy. This book sets out the pathway to self-mastery and self-discovery and walking that pathway will be the most exciting adventure of your life.

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