As I started to get dressed this morning it hit me. “It” was this overwhelming feeling of unhappiness, heaviness, and upset. I felt miserable. I did not want to go to work. I hadn’t felt this badly in many months.
I hadn’t felt this way when I had awakened a couple of hours earlier. I had jumped out of bed when the alarm went off after getting plenty of sleep. I had put on my robe and gone down to my desk as I always do to spend about 45 minutes answering emails and preparing my schedule for the day. Then still feeling fine, I had a good breakfast of eggs and toast. It was when I went to the bathroom to start getting ready for the day that this horrible feeling seemed to spring up from out of nowhere.
For a few minutes I felt overwhelmed by it. Then I started to use some of the techniques I’ve developed and written about to try to get myself out from underneath this ominous black cloud. After a few minutes the thought occurred to me:
“This is a great opportunity to notice everything I am doing to overcome this heavy, dismal feeling, so I can write about it in this week’s blog post. Instead of writing an article with suggestions on how to overcome suffering, I’ll write an article about what I actually did. I’ll dictate my thoughts into my pocket recorder and transcribe them later.”
I felt really terrible
So here are my thoughts and feelings from earlier today.
The first thoughts I recorded were: “It’s hard for me to think; it’s hard to concentrate. I just don’t want to be here. This is really painful.”
I used to have this type of feeling at least once a week for most of my life. As I eliminated beliefs and conditionings, these attacks became less and less frequent. I think the last episode was about a year ago.
It only took a couple of minutes of focusing on what I was feeling before I noticed a big difference between my experience of painful feelings today and my experience of similar feelings years ago.
In the past Morty had been upset. The upset had been inside me and all around me at the same time. There had been no part of me that wasn’t upset. This morning was very different: “I” could detach from the upset and watch myself being upset. It was almost as if there was a separate “I” who was watching Morty be upset. Moreover, I knew I was only having a “feeling”; it wasn’t who I was. I knew it would pass soon no matter what I did or didn’t do. This little exercise didn’t make the feeling go away, but it did create a slight distance between the upset and ME. As a result I didn’t feel totally overwhelmed by the feeling, as I had been years ago.
Looking for the source of the feeling
Once I had gotten some distance from the “black hole” I seemed to be in, I asked myself: “Where did this feeling come from? What is causing it?”
I thought of everything that was going on in my life. Both of my daughters have been going through difficult times recently and I felt that neither have allowed me to help them the way I wanted. They have been talking to my wife Shelly a lot more than they have been talking to me. Had I given that any meaning? I realized that I had given it meaning when I first noticed it, but I had dissolved it quickly. This morning it was clear to me that my relationship with the two of them had nothing to do with the lousy way I was feeling.
At this point I noticed that some part of me wanted to hold on to the upset. I had reverted to feeling that Morty was upset. I was so identified with the upset that not having it seemed like an invalidation of me somehow. As soon as I noticed this, I again focused on observing myself having the feeling. As soon as I was able to separate myself from the feeling and watch myself having it, the resistance to finding a way to get rid of it disappeared and the feeling itself diminished in intensity.
Then, as I started looking for the source of the feeling “I” was observing Morty having, the intensity diminished even more. But Morty was still feeling pretty horrible.
The event that started it all
I suddenly realized that just about the time I first noticed the unhappiness this morning, I had the thought: “I don’t want to go to work today. I really don’t.”
I had a strong sense that that wasn’t just a coincidence, so I looked more closely at that thought. Maybe I felt shitty because I needed a good excuse for not going to work. But on reflection that explanation didn’t really make sense. If I really wanted to take the day off, I would have. I didn’t really need an excuse. I’ve taken time off, even an entire day, when I felt really tired and needed some time off.
But it still seemed as if the event that set off this miserable feeling was thinking about going to work. What meaning had I given this event that could produce the upset I was experiencing?
The meaning I gave the event
Here’s my answer as I said it out loud into my recorder earlier today:
“It’s a struggle. It’s too hard. I have something that makes such a profound difference in people’s lives. It shouldn’t be so hard to make the world aware of it. Yes, over 150,000 have tried the free belief-elimination program, but that’s just a drop in the bucket. We should be helping millions of people.
“I’ve been at this for almost 28 years and I shouldn’t have to work this hard to contribute this to the world. The Lefkoe Method can help people get rid of their negative feelings and their barriers to taking action. There’s nothing else in the world that can do what our work can do. Yes, it’s getting out there but it is so slow, so incremental.
“I spend almost a full day each week to write a blog that can make a profound difference in people’s lives and there are only about 50 thousand people on the mailing list. I’m 75 years old and I don’t have forever. If I were only 35 it would be different. I’m never going to make the impact I want to make in my lifetime.”
That last sentence was it: “I’m never going to make the impact I want to make in my lifetime.” That was the meaning I was giving to getting ready to go to work. And that meaning had produced the all-encompassing upset that seemed to have descended on me from out of nowhere. But the feeling hadn’t come from out of nowhere. It had come as the direct result of giving a meaningless event this particular meaning.
How I stopped the cloud of negativity
The next thing I did was to realize that what I have accomplished so far tells me nothing for sure about what I will accomplish in the future. In other words, no matter what my team and I accomplish … or fail to accomplish, has no inherent meaning. It isn’t the truth that I’m never going to make the impact I want to make in my lifetime.
When I made it clear that what had seemed like a fact—meaning that had seemed to be inherent in the event—was actually only a meaning I had ascribed to the event, the feeling dissolved on the spot. And when the meaning dissipated, the dark cloud I had been living under for the prior couple of hours dissipated also.
I was almost done. But before I stopped I also wanted to get clear on my vision and what I might and might not accomplish, so what happened this morning wouldn’t happen again.
Making sure this doesn’t happen again
My vision is to help create a world in which people stop their mental anguish and suffering and create new possibilities for happiness and success. Was I attached to that vision? For many years I had been attached. I thought that achieving my vision is what made me a good and worthy person. I thought my vision was better than the visions other people had for their lives. I thought the world “needed” what I had to offer.
But many years ago I had let go of all that. I had started seeing my vision as a game I choose to play. I knew I was okay regardless of what I achieved and I was clear the world would do just fine with or without me. So I wasn’t attached any more, but, like when playing any other game, I get excited when I win and unhappy when I lose my “make a difference in the world” game. When you play a real game, you always know you are playing a game that you can put away and go back to life, so the unhappiness when you lose only goes down so deep. But you can still be unhappy for a while when you don’t do well in your game.
Now this is the most important realization of the day:
Even though I was experiencing my life as a game, I could still be unhappy for a short time if I thought I was losing the game. The trick is to not give that meaning—namely, that I am losing the game—to anything I achieve … or don’t achieve.
No matter how much I achieve, there is always so much more I have not yet achieved. By focusing on all the things I want to do that I haven’t been able to do, instead of focusing on what the number of lives we at the Lefkoe Institute have impacted positively, this morning I was giving what we haven’t yet achieved the meaning that I am losing the game. And that meaning resulted in me feeling really bad for a couple of hours.
So you’ve now seen a blow-by-blow description of my thoughts and feelings over the past couple of hours. The black cloud and heaviness I felt all morning has totally lifted.
How did I do it?
What exactly did I do to stop my suffering?
First, I remembered that I have feelings, but I am not my feelings. I was able to separate from the “creation” called Morty and observe him being upset. That perspective significantly lessened the intensity of the negative feelings I was experiencing and enabled me to complete the other steps.
Second, I looked for the event that immediately preceded the onset of the upset.
Third, then I found the meaning I had given the event that was responsible for the upset.
Fourth, once I made a clear distinction between the event and the meaning, the meaning dissolved along with the feelings that had been caused by the meaning.
There is no need to suffer
These four steps really do work. The next time you find yourself overcome by negative feelings, no matter what they are, just follow these four steps. There really is no need for you to suffer any more. Try it and see for yourself. I love you.
This week’s exercise
The next time you experience an upset, follow the four steps I present in the post.
For more information about how to observe yourself having a feeling, see https://www.mortylefkoe.com/042709/#. And for more information about how to distinguish meanings from events, read my post at https://www.mortylefkoe.com/important-improve-life/# and watch this short video http://www.occurringcourse.com/#.
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