HOW TO RESPECT YOUR FEELINGS
by David Truman
Click here for a Quick Key (abbreviated version) of this article.
Happiness and soul fulfillment are always calling us. Our God-given soul sensitivities are like road signs that point us in the right direction, and warn us whenever we go astray. We may try to ignore the signs, hoping to find happiness pursuing our ego desires, but we can NEVER be happy until we learn to respect our feelings -- and adjust accordingly.
So, if you long for true fulfillment, read this article, and learn to listen to your heart!
Off-track, and ignoring the warning signs
Have you noticed that when people feel uncomfortable with something they're doing, instead of taking their feelings as a sign that they ought to change their patterns, they may just tell themselves that they're too sensitive: "I should be able to do this. It shouldn't bother me." So they keep living the same way, and try to not feel bothered by it.
But the fact is, they are bothered by it -- so bothered that they're in the dumps. They may blame their malaise on something else entirely, thus going into denial, and leading themselves into a condition of confusion. Or they may realize they feel bad about what they're doing, but keep insisting they shouldn't feel bad about it.
It's like an alcoholic who's unhappy with the fact that he suffers hangovers after he drinks. He says, "It's lame to be that sensitive to alcohol! What am I, a wimp? I need to learn to drink without getting a hangover." So he keeps up his drinking and tries to force his poor body to get used to it.
What a terrible choice -- to have to torture oneself just to avoid the needed adaptation! But people make that kind of choice routinely, and go on feeling guilty, miserable, and defensive. Despite the pain, they're still doing things that bother them terribly, and they refuse to do otherwise. That's silly -- and tragic.
Here's a classic example: A couple just separated, but neither one wants to give up their friends, or change their social patterns. They are determined not to. So they both keep showing up at the same places even though every time they see each other, it ties their guts in a knot. But both of them keep thinking, "I should be able to do this."
My question is this: What about the obvious fact that they can't? They'd be far better off -- and they'd heal from their separation ten times faster -- if they would just respect their feelings.
The things we think and do affect us, that's inevitable. Yet people say, "I will live a different life, a better life; I will love and be a good person -- once I'm in a better mood." A great aspiration, no doubt. But the problem is, they won't ever live better that way, because the unloving things they're doing now are keeping them from ever being in a better mood. Their present lifestyle is too shy on love and too strong on selfishness -- and that's depressing to the soul. Ongoingly. Daily. While still repeating the old depressing patterns, how can a person stop being depressed, so they can start to love? It won't happen that way, that's for sure. It's destined to fail, because it goes against the way human beings work.
Which comes first: A better mood, or the cause of a better mood? The cause comes first, of course! So the solution is not to wait for a better mood, and then change the lifestyle that's creating the present moods. The solution is the exact opposite: live the good life now. That's the only thing that will possibly create a better mood.
All we have to do, to get on the right track, is admit what we know about moods:
Only WHEN we do what delights our soul, and quit doing what torments our soul, will we be in a good mood.
Unfortunately, it is popular, especially these days, to think of oneself as a victim. "This and that nasty thing happened, and it is making me feel blue." But most of the time, that's just a cover-up to conceal a deeper truth: that we are upsetting ourselves -- and we're doing it with the way we live from day to day.
Let's face it: Practically every depressed person, practically everyone who's not as happy as they wish to be, is in fact making themselves feel bad. What we're considering here, perhaps for the first time, is how people need to respect those feelings.
Walk it off?
Trying to ignore our own feelings, or explain them away -- both those strategies amount to a failure to respect our feelings.
I once broke my arm in three places playing football. But the coach, unaware of the problem, sent me back onto the field to play some more; and like a good soldier, I went. Obviously, neither of us appreciated the severity of my injury. After the game, I went to the school doctor, a fellow by the name of Dr. Chuck "Walk It Off" Solmes. The doctor had earned his nickname from the time he refused to believe a patient who came to him with a broken leg. He told the boy to walk it off. Fortunately, he believed me -- and put my arm in a cast.
It shows a walk-it-off attitude to try to get used to patterns of personal wrongdoing, or try to feel okay about them. You just can't "walk off" a broken leg, you can't get happy and healthy while drinking alcohol to excess, you can't recover from a break up while frequently re-opening that emotional wound, and . . .
You can't get into a happy and healthy
This is one of the great ironies -- I should say tragedies -- of human life, as commonly lived: Most people are postponing -- often indefinitely -- doing the good things they'd need to do to feel truly happy. They're trying to be happy anyhow, or first, when that is absolutely impossible.
Year after year, life after life, Mission Impossible goes on: the quest to be happy first -- before living right and well. That mission goes on even while the people destroy themselves in the process -- and bum out everybody around them as well. It continues even though -- even WHILE -- it causes them to lose just about everything they could really want, including their emotional/spiritual health. That's why I'm trying to confront the impossible quest with some possible questions, questions like these:
• How can we possibly get dry WHILE sitting in the rain?
• How can we possibly get warm WHILE living in a walk-in freezer?
• How can we possibly get happy WHILE we are making ourselves UNhappy?
The method to this madness: the reinvention of self
It's easy to see that people want to do negative things, and we want our self to like it. In wishing for that, whether we realize it or not, we're trying to get the Spirit to like the ways of the ego. And that is truly Mission Impossible! Regarding that, I want to tell you a great secret that I've learned, something very deep about human nature:
We'd have to be an entirely DIFFERENT person, with different native responses, to be happy with the life ego has in mind. And that's impossible, because we are who we are, as God made us.
So you see, this is what Mission Impossible is really about: trying to reinvent the self. Because honestly, that's the only way that the depressing life can be a happy life.
And I hope you are sitting down, because I want to tell you the shocking truth about the kind of person we're trying to make ourselves into: The person we're trying to invent -- under the guidance of ego -- is not a strong person, not really. Actually, it is a person who has no heart, no conscience. Because you see, that is exactly what it would take to be okay with depressing things.
But of course, the ego creates confusion about that. In defense of its goal of reduced sensitivity, it argues that an insensitive self would be vastly superior to what it refers to as "the pathetic, weak, over-sensitive" self (that is, the true and natural self, the sensitive self God created). So, describing its impossible quest to rebuild the self in its own way, ego says, "I'm replacing my natural self, that inferior model, with a proper, redesigned, improved, rebuilt model." God help us! Certainly, ego will not help us. Its way is clearly disastrous. It's disastrous when:
People are trying to be mean and FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT.
People are trying to live alone, without substantial intimacy, and FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT.
People are trying to replace the love of devotion with the mis-emotion of smug self-love, and FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT.
Respect for feelings, much? No, not much!
Does a woman need a man like a fish needs a bicycle?
A feminist leader said, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Many women are on a quest to make that true for themselves. But I ask, is it possible? I think most sane people would agree, a woman has more use for a man than a fish has for a bicycle -- plenty more. Of course, people are free to dream on, even if their dream is a nightmare.
But you see, the aspiration to be different than one is -- and thus to be able to respond differently to life than how one naturally responds to it -- is the standard ego agenda. These two goals are the keys to the rebuilding of the self according to ego's blueprint:
1. I don't want to react negatively to things my soul hates,
And likewise, surprisingly enough:
2. I don't want to react positively to things my soul loves.
As you see, ego tries to invert our natural responses to practically everything -- both the good and the bad. It argues that bad is something that one should accept and be happy with, and good is something one should never be moved by -- at least not to the full extent one is naturally moved by it.
And that's why ego's agenda represents a complete rebellion against our true self-nature. And a huge amount of effort goes into trying to implement it. But that rebellion can't succeed, because human sensitivities are real. Legitimate. Valid. Important. And unavoidable.
In reality, it's fortunate that . . .
We can't make ourselves feel okay about stuff that's not okay, stuff that's bad for us, and bad for others -- and that can't be changed.
And it's wonderful that . . .
We love and care and respond positively to truly good things -- and that can't be changed, either.
The Impossible (UN-be-able) Missionary
What we have, with the egoic rebellion against self-nature, is a standoff -- a standoff between me and my Self. The Mission Impossible is a standoff between the Impossible Missionaries and the Natives (the Missionaries' own natural selves, their real selves). So, as long as we're on our Mission Impossible, we tend to live our lives in the doldrums, depressed. Why? Because, no matter how hard we try, year in and year out, decade after decade, life after life, we still can't be comfortable with our own patterns of wrongdoing. It just ain't happenin', baby! It can never happen, simply because we cannot uncreate what God created; we cannot make ourselves into the person our ego wants us to be.
Can the leopard change its spots?
I imagine most of you have heard the expression, "If you can't beat em, join 'em." Well, in this case we should say this:
"If you can't beat yourself, join yourself."
Here's the bottom line: There are no user-serviceable parts at the level of human sensibilities to right and wrong, good and evil.
Many things can be changed, but not the laws of cause and effect
Human will and human desire are powerful forces -- Godly in their power. But even human will has its limits.
You can declare, "I want this to make me happy" -- but you can't force it to be so. Likewise, you can declare, "I don't want this to make me happy" -- but you can't keep it from making you happy if it does.
We are free to wish for anything we want, but we can't change the laws of cause and effect: we can't make evil create happiness -- or even support the possibility of happiness. Those changes are too deep in the universe gears to be possible. And that's why we can't get happy living the evil life, and we can't get happy refusing to live the good life.
These things will never change:
1. We CAN'T make things make us happy if they DON'T.
2. We CAN get messed up by doing things that depress us, and we CAN suffer along without things that would make us happy -- but we can't become SOMEONE WE'RE NOT.
Only someone we're not can be happy under the conditions Mission Impossible tries in vain to create.
Real cause for happiness
Friends, be happy that the deep realities of self-nature, and the deep gears of cause and effect, are out of our reach. It would be terrible beyond belief if we could adjust these realities to suit our fancy. What if we could? In that case . . .
1. Love would make people indifferent or unhappy.
2. Selfishness and evil would make people happy.
There you begin to see the implications of Mission Impossible. If Mission Impossible could be fulfilled, people would naturally avoid positive things like love, and would naturally be attracted to negative things like stealing, hurting others, and being mean.
Now I have a sincere and important question for you: Is that a world you'd really want to live in? That world would make no sense whatsoever!
If you can see what's wrong with that picture, you can see what's right about the world as it is. And yes -- that there's something truly wonderful about your own great sensitivity. So, go ahead -- accept it! Don't do the usual process of invoking those terribly evil "shoulds" -- "I should be able to do this, I should be able to handle that." Those shoulds are no good! But now listen carefully, because here's a valid should:
You should take the same sensitivity
A transferable skill we'd be wise to transfer to ourselves
Fortunately, we know better than to treat other people's feelings as callously as we treat our own. If we know that something we could say or do would send someone into a tailspin, then naturally, out of compassion, we don't do that. We don't set people back, by pushing their buttons unnecessarily. But often, we set ourselves back by doing things and creating conditions in our lives that we abhor. That's pushing our own buttons!
For example, say you really hate clutter, and then you live in a messy house. So you're always reacting to the fact that your house is too messy for your taste. It bothers you; it brings you down. Why put yourself through that?
It's like rubbing someone's nose in something they're very sensitive to. What callous white person would say to their black roommate, "Don't let it bother you if I call you 'nigger.'" Surely you wouldn't do that, because you have more respect for a person's feelings than that.
So now I'm saying to you, respect your own feelings! If you're willing to show consideration to someone else, can't you feel good about showing the same kindness to yourself? All you need to do is be humane, and take into account your own sensitivities. Which means,
Don't create conditions or do things
Respect your feelings
The bottom line is this:
Don't hurt your natural, unavoidable feelings.
Don't violate your natural sensitivities.
Don't do the things you know will freak you out or depress you.
In short, don't do evil, when the fact of the matter is, you don't like evil -- and it makes you feel bad.
Instead, just be true to you, in the heart -- true of the heart, and true to the heart. True to one and all: oneself, others, and God -- in true alignment with good and right. That's the way to respect your feelings.
If you be true to you, you will be true to all, because one thing that's true about you is this: you want to be true to all.