“If almost all emotions come from meaning and I no longer give meaning to events, does that mean I won’t have any more positive emotions?”
A concerned woman in my current Lefkoe Freedom Course asked me this question last week and I think that everyone who reads my blog would be interested in my answer. I’d bet that most of you would like to stop the suffering that comes from negative meanings and yet most of you would not want to lose your ability to experience positive emotions.
As I’ve explained in many posts in the past, it is possible to get rid of almost all your emotional stress and suffering by getting rid of your negative emotions, which you can do by getting to the point where you automatically dissolve the meaning you give moment-to-moment events. But if you automatically dissolve the meaning you give to all events, you will stop positive as well as negative emotions. And who wants to live a life without positive emotions?
So is automatically dissolving all meaning really a good idea? The answer is, yes.
There are three reasons.
- First, the positive emotions that come from unconsciously-generated meaning are not really justified.
- Second, the unconsciously- and automatically-generated meanings that lead to the positive emotions can easily result in us making poor decisions.
- Third, there are two good ways to consciously generate positive emotions that won’t lead to trouble.
We’re kidding ourselves with positive emotions that come from unconscious meaning
It is important to realize that the meaning we unconscious give to events is never the truth, because events have no inherent meaning. So any meaning we give an event—positive or negative—exists only in our mind, not in the event itself.
If we give a positive meaning to an event and that meaning makes us feel good, it is not the event itself that is making us feel good, it is something we made up that is not true that is making us feel good. In other words, the emotion—although it might feel good—has no real basis in reality. We are not feeling good because of what actually happened; we are feeling good because of something we unconscious made up that isn’t really the truth.
For example, if your boss says “good job” about a single project, you might unconsciously give his comment the meaning: My boss loves my work. Obviously that meaning would lead to positive feelings of satisfaction, happiness, and pride.
But notice that you are enjoying positive emotions that aren’t really justified, because the meaning you gave the boss’s comment is not necessarily the truth. He could have said “good job” to try to motivate you when he actually thought you hadn’t done a very good job at all. He might have thought you did well on this particular project but overall is not at all satisfied with your work.
Or in a totally different arena, assume you are dating a new person and she does or says something that you unconsciously assume means: She really likes me. That meaning will probably make you feel really happy. Why would you ever want to stop or prevent these “good” emotions?
You might not like my answer, but what your partner did or said doesn’t necessarily mean she really likes you. That is only the unconsciously-created meaning you gave what your partner did or said. It’s possible she doesn’t really like you and was only trying to be polite and not hurt your feelings. Is it getting real that, in a sense, all emotions—positive and negative—are fraudulent; they are only based on an unconsciously-created meaning.
In other words, we are enjoying a positive emotion that has no real basis in reality. We’re only kidding ourselves that the emotion is justified.
Acting on unconsciously created positive meaning could cause us trouble
Moreover, acting on the meaning that caused the positive emotion could cloud our judgment. Let’s use the same example of a boss who says “Good job” about a project you completed.
If you now walk around assuming that your boss loves your work, you might do things or say things to your boss based on assuming your meaning is true (she loves my work), which your boss would then interpret as inappropriate or confusing because she doesn’t necessarily love your work.
Now let’s look at the relationship example. If you assume she really likes me, you are likely to do something or say something to your partner that is based on that assumption. If your partner doesn’t really feel that way, she might feel your behavior is inappropriate and it might make her uncomfortable or even angry.
To sum up: You might like the positive emotions that come from positive meanings that you were not conscious of creating, but they’re not really justified. Moreover, the behavior that is based on that meaning is likely to be inappropriate.
So how can I have positive emotions?
The meaning we unconsciously and automatically give to events seems like the truth but really isn’t. It is possible to look at an event and consciously create a positive meaning that is logically consistent with the event and everything you know about the event, knowing full well that this new meaning is not the truth.
It is important to remember, however, that you have to dissolve the unconsciously-created meaning first. If you don’t, it will seem so much like the truth that it will be almost impossible for you to accept a new positive assessment you consciously made up.
For example, let’s say there is something you want to do and you start to do it. Imagine you unconsciously give that event the meaning: I can’t do it. I’ll fail and look stupid.
If you think that your unconsciously-created meaning is true, there is no way you could consciously analyze the situation and review all the relevant information and then create the positive meaning: It might be difficult at first. I might even fail the first time. But every time I try I’ll get better and better until I eventually will be able to succeed. But once you dissolve the first meaning and realize the event had no inherent meaning, you could consciously create this second meaning as a logical possibility.
Although we think that our unconsciously-created meanings are the truth, we are clear that we “made up” our positive conscious assessments. But if they are a logically possible way of viewing a situation, we can pretend they are true and have feelings that are consistent with them. What emotions might this new meaning (success) result in? Anticipation. Excitement. Happiness.
There is a second way to create positive emotions
You know when you play a game that the rules are arbitrary and—unless you are a professional player whose livelihood depends on “winning”—whether you win or lose makes absolutely no difference in “real life.” And yet, when you play a game—be it a board game, a card game, or a sport—you feel good when you do well and feel badly when you do poorly. In other words, it is possible to have emotions even when you are pretending.
A game is pretending that something is more important than something else, when you know that, in reality, it isn’t. For example, you “make up” rules that say having all the cards in one suit is better than having three cards match, or that getting a little ball in a hole hundreds of yards away by hitting it with a stick with less “strokes” is better than someone who requires more “strokes.”
It is possible to apply the same principle to life. If you pretend that something is important—just because you say so—that you will be happy when you succeed and sad when you don’t. The difference for most people between the emotions they feel when they play life as a game and the emotions that arise from the meaning we unconsciously give events is that the emotions from a game only “go down so far.”
No mater how happy or unhappy we might be at the end of a game, some part of us knows that the game is over and now we will go back to life. So it is easier, in most cases, to “get over” negative emotions resulting from a game than emotions resulting from “real life.” On the other hand, even though we know we created the emotions by pretending that something was more important than something else, we are still able to enjoy the positive emotions.
For example, you can say that finishing a given task is more important than not finishing it—not because it really is important but just because you say it is important. If you do you will experience a positive emotion when you finish it.
Eliminate unconsciously-created meaning and still be happy
It should be clear that enjoying a positive emotion that you think is caused by reality is like being excited about being loved by someone who doesn’t really love you or being very happy about getting a promotion you never received. You are only fooling yourself. Moreover, acting as if the meaning is true is likely to cause you to make poor decisions.
On the other hand, it is possible to consciously create meaning you know you made up, that you know isn’t necessarily true but which could possibly be true. Doing that will enable you to create positive emotions. Also, using the principles of a game in daily life will enable you to experience negative emotions—that you can easily get over—and positive emotions you can savor and enjoy.
Learn how to dissolve unconsciously created meaning automatically and you will free yourself from suffering. Then consciously create meaning and enjoy your positive emotions. It is possible to have it all.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please post your questions or comments about why pretending unconscious-created meaning and the emotions they cause are true is never useful, and how to create positive emotions. Your comments will add value for thousands of readers. I read them all and respond to as many as I can.
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