Whenever I ask people if they are in love with their life, more often than not I get a look of hesitation that tells me that they don’t ask themselves this question much. They have to stop and ponder…
I understand. Life keeps us busy and focused on what we do and the people we interact with—our jobs or businesses, family, relationships, and so on—and a lot of the time it also keeps us disconnected from our feelings. I used to never ask myself that question because I didn’t want to hear the answer.
We put a lid on the emotions we don’t want or “don’t have time” to deal with, and we pretend they’re not there, so we can go on with our life. Then the lid comes flying off when we hit a wall or a crisis. That’s when we have to acknowledge how unhappy or vulnerable we really feel. Crises are great opportunities for growth, because they usually force us to make the choices we’ve been trying to avoid.
Now, if we don’t honor our feelings and take action accordingly (after all, feelings are meant to be our compass), then we simply deny ourselves that opportunity for growth and we’ll probably have to create a new crisis or hit another wall to revisit the same issues again.
The thing is that as we continue to navigate life without being connected with how we feel, we lose our sense of direction and reinforce mental and emotional patterns that hold us in the same place, even though we think we’re moving forward. We keep spinning our emotional wheels. Because our perception is an act, and actions accumulate energy and become powerful habits that shape the fabric of our reality. Let me illustrate this with a little story.
Life Is Colored By the Choices You Make
A highly respected swami is invited to a household for a meal. In India, it is customary to feed swamis (renunciates) and holly men. When he is served, he notices that there is bitter gourd on his plate, which he doesn’t like at all. He thinks, “If I eat it first, I will be done with it and then I can enjoy the rest of the meal.” So he quickly grabs and swallows it.
The housewife, who is eagerly watching him, makes the assumption that he must really like bitter gourd, since it was the first thing he ate. She rapidly puts some more on his plate. The swami wants to be polite, so he eats it again, and as soon as he’s done with it, he gets served some more. And on and on…
The story doesn’t end there, because other householders want to bring the swami to their home as well, so the housewives talk amongst themselves about what to cook for him. Excitedly, the woman who had recently invited him says, “Oh, he likes bitter gourd: it was the first thing he ate!” So every time he is invited to a household, he is served bitter gourd. Eventually, he gets used to this routine and simply expects the bitter gourd on his plate.
Like the swami, we get used to things we don’t like either because they’re there or because we don’t think we have other choices. We may believe that they’re necessary or unavoidable—and yes, some may be, because life puts us where we need to be to learn certain things. But for the most part, we reinforce emotional habits that crystallize in our reality the things we don’t enjoy simply because we put aside our feelings and lose our emotional awareness: because we stop making conscious choices.
We rationalize, we make excuses, we pressure ourselves to “get over” uncomfortable feelings, and we end up disconnecting from our true sense of self. Since our emotions color our perception, whether we are aware of them or not, our life ends up reflecting a lot of what we do not like—what causes us pain—because we keep denying our self-expression, thus unconsciously holding on to the same-old-same. Just like the swami, we continue getting the bitter gourds of our life story, over and over.
Choosing Between Honesty & Your Self-Images
If you are not living a life that excites you and makes you wake up every morning really looking forward to the unfoldment of your day, then you are probably allowing unconscious choices that become self-sabotage. And my guess is that they have to do with how authentic and honest you are with yourself. Being honest about how you feel is the key to being emotionally free, to accepting who you truly are, no matter what that looks like or what others think, and this is a scary proposition that triggers great resistance.
Do you remember being a teenager—that rebellious know-it-all that had to keep and look cool even though raging hormones were taking you on a roller coaster ride, in all different directions? Well, part of you most likely continues to believe that you have to at least pretend that you have it all figured out.
After all, you are expected to “keep it together” in your job, business, or relationships. If you don’t, you secretly feel like a failure and will try to compensate by reinforcing a self-image that allows you to hide behind who-you-think-you-should-be. The problem is that in that process, you may rob yourself of the right to learn and explore and mess up and grieve and express how you really feel and what you really want. That is, you may dampen your own inner voice.
Most of us have experienced this because we didn’t feel heard as kids and grew up believing that our voice was worthless—it was actually an inconvenience. We were expected to behave a certain way, according to the needs of our dysfunctional families. So we learned to embody the self-image that fit our role in the family and pretend to be alright. Either that, or we had to pay the consequences of what was considered rebelliousness or defiance, which was simply trying to voice our individual preferences and choices in our process of individuation.
This self-image is particularly restrictive and uncomfortable when we want to be honest and speak our truth, or when we want to take a step toward greater emotional freedom. It quickly invades us with past emotions and makes us feel wrong, vulnerable, weak, selfish, and “exposed,” to hold us right where we are. It’s a very well designed trap, carefully shaped and maintained by our self-perception.
The Journey IS the Destination
Modern society is very goal-oriented. When we turn five, people start asking us what we want to do when we grow up, and by the time we’re in high school, we’re supposed to start planning the rest of our life. Then if you make a career choice, you’re supposed to stick with it forever. It’s the same thing with marriage, so each new relationship is supposed to be “the one” you’re going to stick with. The old “till death do us part” seems to apply to everything and you just have to make it work even if it doesn’t work and it doesn’t make you happy; even if you die a slow emotional death in the process.
In this pursuit of one-track paths to happiness, we forget that our goals and aspirations are but the carrots in front of the donkey that keeps us moving. Because in truth, there is no final destination. Every time we reach a certain point, we have to create a new destination to keep going. That is, until we realize that the journey is the destination because it takes us through the discovery of what we want by recognizing what we don’t want or don’t like. And it does this one step at a time, so we can actually stop and make adjustments as needed—to make sure that we are really enjoying the ride.
Life crises are meant to show us that perhaps we were headed in one direction out of habit and now we have the opportunity to choose a different path, one that takes us closer to our authentic self. Hopefully, some of those crises will also make you realize that the path, the journey and the destination are really one and the same, and are meant to help you get to know the true YOU. Crises, however, are not the only way to untangle your emotional beliefs and patterns. You can also choose to consciously reshape their energy into something better.
The Power of New Emotional Habits
Every time you do something new, you grow. Even if you just come up with a new move while dancing—something you’ve never done before—your brain creates a new neurological connection because you plant a seed for a new potential pattern. It doesn’t mean that it will necessarily become a pattern, especially if you go right back to the old, well-known habits, but it opens a new possibility.
To create a new emotional pattern, and the opportunity of a new pathway toward a different life story, you have to shape and energize new emotional habits. It’s like watering new seeds. This requires you to:
- See clearly the pattern that no longer serves you;
- Unravel the underlying beliefs that support it, to be able to recognize them everywhere;
- Consciously choose new beliefs that resonate with who you are now;
- Train your mind to disengage from past beliefs as they emerge and focus on new ones.
As you go through this re-training process, don’t forget to check with your heart and see if you are loving your life or not. Not because everything has to be peachy all the time, but because every day has to have meaning and purpose, take you closer to your inner truth, and strengthen your sense of self. This only happens when you turn your life into a journey of self-discovery.
So if your life (or your business) isn’t bringing you joy and you are ready to stop pretending that you have it all together and figured out, contact me today to get started on the journey back home—toward the true YOU waiting to hatch with all your potential for success and happiness. Isn’t it time to stop self-sabotaging and start falling in love with life?
© Yol Swan. All rights reserved.