Question your habits.
Challenge your perspective.
Shatter your resistance.
Dance it all out.
Appreciate the unconcsious.
Raise your vibration.
Set yourself free.
Since quite some time I’m trying to write an article about taking responsibility for one’s feelings. About three months ago at a writing meetup I’m attending every so often I thought ‘Okay, this article is nearly done. Just the final touch and off we go.’
Well, things turned out differently. An honest self-confession brought me to the realization: I don’t really have an idea about what I’m feeling, so how can I write about it?!
Yes, it sounds bizarre – to me too. How can I not know what I feel?
There was something going on, yes. There was anger. There was rage. There was excitement. But what did these emotions want to tell me? And is there anything that lies deeper?
So, I started off with the Seven-Minutes-Experiment. Now I have a slightly better idea about what I feel. But this is an ongoing process. Every day I have to remind myself to take the time to feel.
What I did find out is that there is not always a necessity to act. It is the opposite: I obtain peace of mind by non-acting. By just observing I’m automatically detaching from my feelings. Because feelings are like thoughts – they come and go. They don’t define me.
Okay, where to start? I might feel cold or tired, agitated, overwhelmed or nervous. By nature these feelings are not connoted in a negative or positive way. They just ‘are’.
Our mind likes to label our feelings. It marks them as good or bad. This way our mind creates its own version of reality. And this version of reality dictates how we experience the world, how we make decisions and how we interact with our environment.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is important that we categorize. The problem arises when we overrate our own judgement and we identify with this perspective of reality.
This causes stress. The mind takes over. It judges and judges.
This way we create a barrier between ourselves and reality.
This is a difficult one. On the one hand I have to feel my feelings. Feelings are something natural. They give me a hint of what I need or what I am supposed to be doing in a given situation. They show me a direction.
On the other hand I have to be careful not to over-interpret them. Many times I would be better off by stoically ignoring them instead of labeling them and ‘acting out’ – verbally or ‘operatively’.
But let’s go a step back:
What Is The Difference Between Feelings And Emotions?
Oh boy, do I really want to open this jar? This is a huge topic. It is so complex and there are several approaches and even contradictory explanations of the relation between feelings and emotions. So, please research yourself if you want to draw a wider picture.
Etymologically the word emotion comes from the french word ‘to move’. Something is ‘in motion’ whereas a feeling is considered more as a state.
While an emotion passes quickly, a feeling can persist or better say reoccur over our whole lifetime when triggered for example by an emotion.
As you see – emotions and feelings are interconnected, but still something different.
The only way to really understand the difference between feelings and emotions is through neuroscience.
And this is pretty down to earth.
Emotions are a biochemical response – mainly brought on its way by the Amygdala and other subcortical regions of the brain. They originally helped us as a species to react quickly to possible danger or reward.
A feeling on the other hand is subjectively influenced by our former experience. They are processed in other areas of our brain, but as they are influenced by cognitive input it is hard to really locate them.
While an emotion is a physical reaction of the body to a stimulus a feeling manifests psychologically through our experience. This process is very complex. It can be more described as a psychological conditioning.
If you imagine a theatre play emotions would be the scenes whereas a feeling would be the genre.
You could say feelings ‘plot’ emotions on the canvas of our mind.
How Do Feelings Find Their Way Into Our Lives?
I summed up two perspectives:
Our background: What we have experienced as a child conditions us and our feelings. It determines how we act in relationships, what we think about ourselves and about others. It determines our whole experience of the world. Freud and his disciples knew that if we want to understand ourselves fully we have to go back to our traumatic experiences and feel the emotion that we faced during this traumatic event. This helps us to process and integrate the marks of our journey. Getting to know these ‘old’ emotions helps us to understand why we react in a certain way in a given situation.
Our needs: Rather our needs are fulfilled or not conditions the way we ‘feel’ about ourselves and the world. What are our needs? Yes, there is maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When we are tired, hungry or alone we lose our balance easily and we might react emotionally. Rosenberg extends or better say elaborates the list of needs even more: Next to physical nurturance every human has the need for autonomy (following own goals and values), the need for ‘celebration’ (celebration of the creation of life and its fulfillment, and also the celebration of losses, e.g. of loved ones), the need for integrity (authenticity, creativity, meaning and self-worth), the need for interdependence (community, appreciation, intimacy, emotional safety, contribution to the enrichment of life, honesty, support, trust,…), the need for play (fun, laughter) and the need for what he calls ‘spiritual communion’ (beauty, harmony, order, inspiration, peace).
With the definition of these needs and which feelings arise rather they are met or not Rosenberg lies the foundation for nonviolent communication: “The intend is to remind us about what we already know – about how we humans were meant to relate to another – and to assist us in living in a way that concretely manifests this knowledge.”
So what is there? We have a body and we have needs that make us feel one way or another. And we have things that happen to us that make us feel one way or another. And in the end we have our thoughts that influence the way we feel.
So far so good. Life should flow smoothly if we would just listen to our feelings. But a lot of times it doesn’t, because we distract ourselves.
How Do We Disconnect From Our Feelings?
A lot of times what we call ‘our feelings’ are just projections. We make other people responsible for not being heard, not being loved, for not being sufficient. More than anything they are often reponses of our old conditioning. Our little hurt self that wants attention.
Rosenberg explains: “Judgements, criticism, diagnoses, and interpretations of others are all alienated expressions of our own needs and values. When others hear criticism, they tend to invest their energy in self-defense or counterattack. The more directly we can connect our feelings to our needs, the easier it is for others to respond compassionately.”
At the beginning I thought: Okay, I’m aware of this. I will just change it. I don’t judge. I don’t re-act. I only observe and take the time to understand my needs.
I found out that this is easier said than done. As I explained earlier – there is a fundamental biochemical process going on in our body. We don’t change that easily.
Sometimes we deny feelings subconsciously. Most likely we deny the uncomfortable feelings, because our brain can’t be bothered with finding a solution for an unsatisfying situation.
Why? Because it wants to protect us from discomfort. We make ourselves vulnerable by confessing our deepest needs, because they might not be met. This is called coherence. Our brain likes convenience. It wants us to experience our life as ‘comprehensive’ as possible. This is why it prefers to stick to behavioural patterns that ‘work’. And a lot of times these patterns are not very useful.
Most of the time we are craving for something or we lack something and we are trying to find a ‘quick fix’.
A quick fix can be work, our phone, sex, drugs, TV or any other type of entertainment.
The problem is that these distractions lead us further away from ourselves. I don’t say they are generally bad, but they can be if they help us to avoid confrontation with our feelings.
“Avoidance is never an option in order to live a happy life,” said Margarete Paul, author of the book “Healing your aloneness”.
By avoiding our feelings we deny ourselves.
‘Not taking part’ can also be a form of denial. By avoiding new experiences we prevent ourselves from failure – but also from feeling ourselves.
Why Should We Better Connect With Our Feelings?
If you detach yourself from your feelings you will never fully feel yourself. You will never arrive in the present moment. You will never know what it means to be alive.
The more you become aware of your feelings the more confidence you get. If you are able to accept your vulnerability you have nothing to be afraid of. Social anxiety won’t be necessary anymore as you are not looking for approval.
Your nervous system relaxes if you are honest with yourself. Confess and accept anger or rage or sadness and automatically you will find release.
Additionally your body starts working in its natural power, because energy is being released.
The Real Homework
I found out that this is what it’s all about. I get to know myself by coming to my senses, by feeling myself.
Daniel Coleman, expert in emotional intelligence, expresses why this is so crucial for all of us:
“To understand human nature in general it helps enormously to first understand ourselves, which takes self-awareness. With emotional self-awareness, we recognize our feelings and how they impact us, which helps us, for example speak from the heart in a way that resonates with other people. Self-awareness also underlies effective emotional mastery, as well as empathy– we can only understand other’s emotions if we understand our own.”
About six years ago, when I ended a toxic relationship, I started off with my journey of self-discovery.
The following years were only about ‘toughening up’. I thought I have to get stronger. I thought I have to toughen up and this is the only way to get through this life.
I was wrong. What I had to discover was my vulnerability.
Through a lot of painful experiences I finally realized that I have to do my real homework. I have to learn to manage my emotions, I have to deal with my feelings instead of numbing them.
Stop creating yourself. Be who you are.
Do you know these people who set the room on fire with their energy? It can be a colleague, a friend, a friend of a friend, a family member or somebody else you met personally. They spread such a lightness. Their mood affects the whole group.
Intuitively they seem to respond to every (social) situation. They seem to express themselves naturally – in a way like nothing can interfere with their peace. A welcoming aura surrounds them that draws you in…
What do they do differently?
I ask some counterquestions:
When was the last time you started singing in the shower as loud as you can? When was the last time you were smiling at a stranger? – Not just a friendly smile, but a smile from the bottom of your heart? When was the last time you were happy for no obvious reason?
How many days do you spend caught up in the bubble of your head? How many days are you putting up a mask?
The core of our being supplies us with energy. And this energy manifests in happiness, appreciation or expression of excitement.
This energy radiates from the core of our being – if we let it. But a lot of times we don’t let it.
So what about these people who are like a warming fire on a winter’s night?
The energy that radiates around them is the energy of a kid climbing a tree. They act out their inner child – with grace and wonder. They are never getting out of touch with their playfulness.
They don’t only express their excitement (verbally or with their behaviour), but also their vulnerability. And this is what creates trust and in the end encourages people to be themselves too.
They are the real role models – the ones who demonstrate confidence without being manipulative.
Love circulates around them.
If we want to manifest love we have to stop creating walls that disconnect us from our environment and ourselves.
Our mind is always trying to protect ourselves. We are trying to ‘fit in’. This is how our society is organized. We have to fit in. We have to adapt. We can’t follow our own rhythm.
But this is what moves us away from a purposeful and authentic life. And this is the root cause of all problems.
‘Owning your power’ means to be able to celebrate our singularities in any given moment – without a self-regulating voice in our head that tells us how to behave.
To surrender to the moment equals to surrender to yourself.
We have to encounter ourselves and the world around us with kindness and admiration of what is.
This is spreading the seed of unconditional love. This is how we create a sanctuary for the ‘un-loved-ones’ – everybody who is carving connection.
“Breaking the ice” means melting the hardcover.
If we keep sustaining our hardcovers we suspend ourselves from life.
With vulnerability and approachability compassion is possible.
This is how we connect with each other on a core level – by sharing this little spark inside of us.
Let us be the people who shine the light and set the world on fire.
Don’t focus on your limitations. Integrate your feelings. Allow your excitement to pass. Rest whenever possible. Don’t chase happiness, but chase authenticity. Always choose yourself. No matter what life gives you, believe in yourself. Shine. Show your beauty beneath your sadness. Don’t ever be desperate. Just breathe. You can master every challenge. Your strength is beyond what you can ever imagine. Trust in what others see in you. The more you show your true self, the more others can see your true conditioning and this is what you truly are. Trust that what you can see is the reflection of your challenges. These challenges are your work. Smile at all your challenges. Welcome them with open arms. Like old friends. You have been knowing each other for all of your life. Be happy whenever they show up. They are your life. They are your process – nothing more and nothing less. They are the path.
Never give up improving yourself. As soon as you stop trying to get better you stop living. This will to improve yourself is your life force. This is your excitement. Your source of energy. The right person will come who will notice. The person will come who pays attention to what you are. There will be somebody. There will be more than one person who appreciates you for all that you are. Life will reward you for your patience. Trust in that. This is your life’s journey. Remember, you do one step and the universe does three. It is taken care of you as soon as you set your intention right. And what is the right intention? It is based in trust and appreciation. You can only set an intention from a place of absolute appreciation. Gratitude is the fertilizer for your life journey. Everything relies on that. You can achieve nothing without appreciation. Everything becomes a fight and a struggle if you choose your direction from a place of fear.
Failure and mistakes. Trial and error. They are a part of this. They should never lower your trust. Never. It is the opposite. You should be grateful to have them. As I told you, they are your guides. They are part of the plan.
Order and disorder lead to expansion. Without them nothing moves. Nothing within the universe and nothing in your life. Disorder forces you to move towards your pattern. The perfect imperfect pattern of your life. Chaos is a life force. There has to be chaos. There has to be confusion. There has to be struggle. There has to be fear and anxiety. They are the motors of transformation.
Just trust that life takes care of you. You are here to help. You can easily stay positive. You can easily stay connected. Your fears are fundamental. Your joy is fundamental. Every aspect of your nature is fundamental. Your whole being is funda-fucking-mental for the proceeding of the whole universe.
Please live your life with all the ups and downs. There is one thing that you should never loose and this is your momentum. Keep moving. Every push you get, every notion, every rage, every excitement – this is your momentum. Every sensation is here for a reason. They are reminders that you are still alive and you can make a difference. It makes you move. Your melancholy, your sadness, your desire, your imperfection. This is all that moves you. It is here to make you grow above yourself. And this is where you want to be. Beyond yourself. Beyond the definition of your so called personality. Your willingness to be a better person, to be your true self, makes you become a human. It instantly makes you who you want to become.
It is the time to trust. Trust that the right means will come into your life; trust that they are already in your life. Trust that your ego will be shattered. Trust that all your resistance that holds you back will be shattered.
It is already shattered if you allow it now. The ego makes space for love, acceptance and silence. This silence gives you the opportunity to finally listen to what life is trying to tell you.
When the ego is gone you can easily sit with your power without trying to control anything. You don’t take things personally anymore, because they have no impact. Your frequency responds easily to your surrounding. Intuitively you recognize what belongs to you and what doesn’t. Everything that doesn’t belong to you won’t be there anymore. Just relax.
Let go of everything – every minute of your life. Surrender. Surrender to the present moment. Surrender to what is.
Repeat those mantras that serve you – permanently.
Burn your agenda.
Drop your weapons.
Keep sharpening the knife.
Don’t force your power.
The fire of creation is what purifies your soul.
Real bravery is being in the eye of the storm.
Fight the fight, but fight it with dignity.
All of my life I tried to avoid conflict. I’d rather shut my mouth, than having an argument.
I’ve started to learn about nonviolent communication years ago. Only recently I found out that I still had a massive misconception around this whole topic in my head.
I connoted conflict in a negative way. I thought it is a bad thing, so I avoided it – especially in interpersonal relationships. I thought it is bad karma, negative energy, the beginning of the end…
It is the opposite.
It sounds a bit contradictory, but conflict is positive. It is the foundation of compromise. (The diplomats of you will smile at me.)
How? Well, what happens when conflict arises? Let’s assume there are two people who don’t agree on a topic. They blame the other person for not being right. In reality these people are not able to express their needs in a way the other person understands it.
But guess what? We are all humans. So, if we express ourselves in a grounded and compassionate manner most likely the other person will comprehend our point of view.
This is all there is. This is all that needs to be resolved. If everyone would be able to articulate their needs in any given situation a conflict would be part of the solution.
There will be some amount of discomfort involved – sometimes the problem is might be very complex, but in the very end things will smoothly fall into place.
I can be in my body.
I can breathe into my body.
I can allow my body to relax.
I can appreciate my body.
I can be one with my body.
When the pain gets unbearable the mind gives up explaining.
The transformative energy of pain is what will eventually make you take action.
This is what I call healthy disillusionment.
All of a sudden you have to find solutions to problems where you can’t wrap your head around.
Instead to intellectualize you have to internalize your experience.
The more things don’t work out the more you have to go within.
The collapse of your construct of thoughts levels the ground for something new.
This is the power of disillusionment.
Disillusionment is the gateway towards inner truth. It is ‘the path’.
Every challenge you overcome will increase your dignity and your self-respect.
It is up to you if you face the pain in order to find your path or if you distract yourself.
It is disillusionment that brings you closer to your own needs.
So, be welcome, dive in and appreciate the pain.
I occupy myself.
I’m occupied with myself.
I’m occupied with being myself.
I’m occupied with being occupied with being myself.
I’m occupied with an image of myself.
I’m standing on top of Hirschgarten Bridge in Munich. The traffic is buzzing around me.
I’m typing the beginning of a new article into my phone. Interestingly about ‘listening’.
To be honest, I was not able to listen to anything at all, because I was so harassed by my thoughts or let’s say ‘haunted by my own demands’:
“It’s really time to finish a new article.” “You have to prepare the photo project.” “And when are you going to practice italian again?!”
The circus of my mind blasted. My brain clutter occupied all my senses.
In a few minutes I would meet my friend Patrick to have a chat about a photography project in cooperation with some founders from Munich.
All of a sudden my stomach is contracting. I feel like I’m completely hungover – without having been drinking anything.
Something else happened the day before that drained my energy: After my first ever full-body Thai Massage I cracked.
The Thai Masseuse: “Relax your muscles.”
Me: “I can’t.”
My body: “What the fuck are you talking about?!”
The massage was very painful. I expected that. But what happened four hours after the massage blew my mind.
I was writing on my computer at a co-working space when my lower abdominals started to burn slightly. I just took a deep breath to ease the ache.
A few minutes later I could feel a stinging pain circling around my navel. It started from my diaphragm circumnavigating my ribcage down to the core of the muscles around my pelvis.
“You have to move your body,” Patrick who I was working with tried to encourage me. So I moved – even though all I wanted was to lay down.
The pain started to hulk up. I was whining and shouting at the same time while my legs could barely hold my upper body.
It became unbearable. Instead of the U-Bahn I had to take a taxi home. The driver nearly hospitalized me. “Fuck no, they wont help me! Drive me home!!!,” I protested loudly.
In cold sweat and tears – after a lengthy traffic jam – I finally reached home.
I needed help.
The only person I could think of was Ralf – the only fitness trainer I know. Despite the fact that we hadn’t talked in ages I dialed his number.
With self-evidence he examined the pain with me. “Your body releases tension. Of course it hurts,” he scotches my concerns.
Apparently a muscle tension or better say ‘adherence’ released amongst my inner organs. Finally ‘loosened’ they fell into place again. “Actually the masseuse did a good job, if this is the result…,” Ralf lifted my spirits pointing out that this tension must have persisted for years.
Just by talking to him I relaxed – as good as I could. I nearly had to laugh about myself now.
You might ask yourself: “What does this have to do with ‘being preoccupied’?”
Through this experience I realized HOW much I’m gripping. How much I can not ‘let go’ of the image I have of myself.
Back to Hirschgarten bridge:
I’m standing there with my phone in my hand trying to ‘get something done’.
It is a beautiful day. The blue of the sky covers the city like a cozy blanket. The sun gives her warmest warmth possible on this early November day.
In the distance I can see the famous twin towers of Frauenkirche. I turn my face towards the sun to catch some UV beams with closed eyes.
When I open them again I can see the tops of the mountains at the end of the street southwards. As the traffic lights stop the cars next to me this view let’s me repose too.
Gentle release is crawling up my spine. It broadens my chest and opens my heart. Smoothly my body is warming up from head to toe – and so does the expression on my face. Even my feet are warm now.
This was a moment of grounding.
This moment on the bridge reminded me that everything I need is right here. I can perceive the magic of the moment if I stop being occupied with ‘doing me’.
What do I have to do instead?
“Relaxxx,” the Thai masseuse would say.
“Open up to the moment.” “Allow yourself to be present in order to heal.” This is the advice I would give to myself.
Why is this all so fundamental?
I’m taking myself so serious that it hurts. Already during the massage I could feel the spots, where energy channels are blocked in my body. I understood how much I’m physically inhering my body. The clinging of my mind manifests in my physical body.
This is the opposite of surrendering to the moment.
I will never increase my productivity in a state of stress. I will never find connection with myself or anybody else in a state of stress. I will never be happy in a state of stress. And on top of it: I will never ‘be myself’ or ‘in my full power’ in a state of stress. Lao Tzu said: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
And most fundamentally: Stress is the root cause of illness (dis-ease). If I compromise my relaxation I’m jeopardizing my health. There is absolutely nothing more important than my body.
I’m struggling with stress ever since. Already in the first grade I remember my sweaty feet. Nobody cared about it during this time. But now I have the power to care for my stress-level myself.
My body showed me several times that I have to relax. In the past I suffered from heart-burn. There were times when I could only eat grated carrots and apple because my body wouldn’t digest a thing without making my throat burn like fire.
A couple of years later I could barely move my chest, because my muscles had built a so called ‘armoring,’ how Wilhem Reich, the initiator of body-oriented psychotherapy describes it.
Since years I’m carrying these tense muscles around. Yoga, meditation and targeted exercises help me to constantly release this tension.
Maintaining my health – more than anything else needs to be my priority. But not in a way of “I have to eat healthy”. “I have to quit smoking.”
No, fuck no. Well, of course smoking is bad, but I don’t want to make my non-smoking my addiction. Otherwise I will become occupied with ‘trying to eat healthy’ or ‘being a non-smoker’.
It is more important to listen to the signs of my body, to allow myself rest, when I need it, to listen to what my body really wants instead of being occupied with what I think I need to want.
A couple of months ago I wrote a similar article. Please check it.
What you think is your ‘goddamn right’ is your prison.
What you think is your desire is your addiction.
What you think is your self-expression is forcing your will on others.
Will I finally shatter my resistance and surrender to the battle?
Trust that things end when they are supposed to end.
Trust that the right beginning is just around the corner.
Trust that everything happens at the right time and things will fall into place.
Trust that you will have the perfect solution for every problem you are facing.
Trust that everything is already done.