How does owning our story of why we feel bad and what's going on with us, and sharing those feelings that we want to keep inside actually help us to feel happy more often?
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How We Feel Better by Owning Our Shadow Without Playing the Victim
If that didn't make sense let's put it another way.
When we are struggling internally with things like fear, anger, frustration and resentment, but we think that we are doing well presenting to the world a "I'm fine" or "I'm good" face, meanwhile our thoughts are constantly plagued by fear and frustration, how can we actually get our thoughts out in a way that allows us to get back to being happy faster?
For example, today I got a bit frustrated at my limitations. I wanted to go out and do a video showing my garden, at the same time feeling my body, it feels like it is wanting to rest a bit more and to just sit around on the couch.
Now, if I try to just put on a happy face and act like everything is cool and that it doesn't bother me at all, then ironically I get even more frustrated. What helps me is to own how I'm feeling right at the moment, like my brother called last night and asked, "How are you doing?"
I replied, "Well, here's how I'm doing. I'm tired. I'm annoyed. I'm irritated. I'm not sure what's going on with my body. I'm afraid I'm getting sick and I'm not sure what to do about all of it, and that's how I'm feeling right this moment, and there's no reason, there's no cause outside of that in my life."
Now, guess what happened?
I owned how I felt with my brother right away instead of lying or acting like, "Oh, I'm good. I'm good. I'm good."
Doesn't it pain you?
It pains me to see someone who obviously is just wrecked with pain. Their whole body and face look tense, they look miserable and we ask, "How are you doing?" and what are we hearing back?
"Good! I'm good."
That's called a lie.
A lie is when we have a clear truth that's alive in us such as feeling angry, miserable, frustrated, whatever we are thinking about and feeling, and then we communicate something else.
I've been a big fat liar my whole life who consistently responded to, "How are you doing?" with "I'm great. Wonderful. Happy. Lovely. Joyful. Beautiful day today."
I rarely would ever open up about what was really going on, which is what was alive inside me right that moment.
Like when my brother called last night, that was really opening up about what was going on at the moment, and what also helps is to separate out the rest of the world from having caused that, to realize it's not the world that causes how I feel, it's how I react to what I'm seeing.
Now, sometimes my reactions might be tied into something I saw and sometimes it can help to understand how I reacted to a certain stimulus, but most of the time it just comes down to how I reacted.
Sure, my wife and I were looking at maybe buying a house yesterday and that didn't work out, but that did not cause me to feel tired, frustrated and aggravated. That had nothing to do with me feeling how I felt.
What I chose to act upon and react upon, and which thoughts I chose to believe, my choices left me feeling how I felt, and the irony is in order to get through some of the feelings in my life that are challenging, I end up needing to actually go deeper into them first.
I think there is something, it was in the book "Tao Te Ching" by Laozi. It says that if you want to make something better, often it helps to make it worse. That's some kind of a paraphrase. The main idea is, if we want something to go away, often we need to dive into it and fully experience it.
What I did a lot of my adult life and what I see a lot of people doing around me, is living a life where there are constant attempts to avoid pain, to numb pain, constant attempts to seek pleasure, all the while there are all these stories and things that haven't been dealt with that need to be dealt with in order for the natural happiness and joy of life to be present.
My daughter at two years old, the natural joy and happiness of life, is always present within her, and occasionally it gets obscured by her wanting something, reacting and getting frustrated, and then as soon as she's done with that, she gets back to being happy and joyful to be alive.
Now, a lot of us as adults have got ourselves in this position where we are so afraid of dealing with our dark side and admitting our dark side for fear of how others will judge us and what other people will think of us, that we have got these lives where we have to be good all the time, where we have to always look like we have gotten it together.
Then, either we get into these negative behaviors like addictions or just working too much, or putting all of ourselves into something that truly doesn't matter like some reputation, or we get into often just taking it out on the people around us and playing the victim instead of owning our part in it.
I'm grateful that now if I feel bad, I let it out as soon as possible. I let it out with the realization that I'm not the victim of what the world or anyone else has done to me, and if that story starts playing in my head I describe that story.
I say things like, "I'm playing the victim right now."
I'm pretending, acting or feeling as if someone else or something else caused me to feel the way I am, but the truth is, I know that this is a decision I've made to feel this way.
This anger, this frustration right now, is a product of my own choices to disagree with what life has given me.
I went bowling with my friend Jason a few weeks ago and I threw the bowling ball down. It hit nine of the pins, but one wobbled and stayed up.
I said, "I disagree with that. I think all the pins should have fallen down," and therein is the exact cause of any of my troubles. I look around and decide life should be different from how it is.
Now, it helps me to speak that story and to get that out there because once I've spoken it I've fully embraced it, I've fully accepted the reality of that story at the moment, then it makes room for a new one to come in. If I go around and keep saying, "I'm good, everything's fine," meanwhile, inside my head, I'm thinking this person did this, and this person said that, and this shouldn't have happened.
If I'm going around with misery in my heart and saying, "I'm good" on my lips, then that doesn't benefit anyone. In fact, a lot of the best opportunities I've found to connect are when I speak my painful truth.
I moved to a new Alcoholics Anonymous group in St. Petersburg, Florida, and I found it a bit difficult to connect with people at first because I had gotten sober at a different Alcoholics Anonymous group in Sarasota.
Of course, there were lots of the superficial, "Hey, how are you doing?" conversations.
I felt like I got really connected the day I said I'd had been having a lot of thoughts about suicide because I just was disgusted with myself.
Actually, the day started with me trying to do a Tony Robbins challenge. I failed that and went into this spiral of judgment where within just hours of failing the challenge, I had given up on myself as a person, never going to be able to have a happy life, I'm the victim, poor me, everyone would be better off without me.
I got into all these old stories that I'd been telling for a lot of my life and for the first time I owned up to it.
I said, "I've been having a lot of suicidal thoughts today. Now, I have no intention of acting upon them. The fact is I've been having a lot of those thoughts today and I don't want them anymore and that makes it that much worse."
I told my wife and I shared that to my entire AA group, probably 30 or 40 people, in the middle of the meeting. I raised my hand as soon as I got in and shared that, and that day is when I started feeling connected to the group. That day is when several people reached out and were there to help me and opened their hearts to me.
What makes it safe then to approach me on a bad day is that when people are hearing me share thoughts like that, others feel safe to approach me and say, "Jerry, you know I'm having a bad day today," whatever it is, "I'm thinking of leaving my job, my wife or I'm struggling with an addiction."
When I'm willing to share my shadow and get my shadow out there in the open, a shadow being things like suicidal thoughts, a shadow in the past for me having been addictions, and today if my shadow remains secret the addictions have very much come back on quickly.
When I'm willing to share and own my own dark side, then that gives me the ability to live a life filled with joy. When we shine a light on the darkness, it tends to shrink and it tends to not have the ability to grow. When we try to hide our darkness away in shame, when we promise we will never tell anyone about these things we have done, when we are struggling with things like suicidal thoughts all day and we feel like there is no one we can trust to talk about it, then the problem is we lock part of ourselves away, and then we have to start living double lives.
Double lives being we go into work, we act all fake nice, "Oh, good. I'm doing great and all my family's nice," and then meanwhile, at my desk, I'm sitting there thinking of blowing my brains out all day. That's a double life, that's a lie, and the misery comes from living a double life.
I know because I've lived a lot of a double life. I used to have thoughts filled with violence and addictions a lot of my waking moments, and yet I rarely if ever talked about it in a way that was honest, a way that expressed how much I hated living like that.
I would often try to glamorize it and play video games, drink and get in situations where I could glamorize it, yet I hated that internal reality.
I love my internal reality today and what helps me to get out of my shadow when I have a thought, because it's not like I never get a thought about suicide, when the thought comes I know that it's not the truth and I know that I'm willing to tell everyone about it.
Having a thought about suicide and knowing that I'm willing to tell everyone about it generally makes it unattractive to keep thinking about it. I get a thought here and there sometimes, "Well, everyone would be better off without you."
Then I think, "Well, let's talk about that with everyone tonight."
If that's the case, then I will talk about that at my AA meeting later, I will talk with my wife and my mother about that, and then the thought usually won't come back after that because thoughts like that want to be secretly harbored.
Thoughts like that do not want to be brought out to everyone, especially if they are brought out in a loving way. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts about nine years ago and I brought them out in an honest, but very hurtful way with my parents.
Today, when my shadow comes out I've learned to bring it out in a loving way, to see that I'm having this thought and my struggle with it is, I don't like it, because one thought is not the truth.
One thought is a collection of many thoughts and if I have a thought about wanting to end it all that's obviously just a passing thought, and yet when I bring that out in the context then that's a thought that bothers me, because I love my family so much, because I love my life so much, that's why the thought bothers me, the thought passed through my mind and I then felt ashamed of it.
Bringing a thought out in a context like that helps everyone else to relate and say, "Well, sometimes I think about divorce, or sometimes I think about quitting my job, or sometimes I think about running away."
It helps others to feel safe.
This has been an extremely valuable skill that I've learned by reading "Power of Vulnerability" or listening to the audiobook by Brené Brown, and reading book after book about effective communication, nonviolent communication and loving myself.
That's why I've shared this with you today with the hope that it's useful to show an alternative to just secretly harboring these thoughts, faking "feeling good" to everyone all the time, and then being miserable, needing to take pills, alcohol and other drugs to change how we feel.
I'm grateful today to have so much joy and happiness to share with you, especially because right before this, I was just feeling annoyed with my body communicating that it’d like to relax.
So, here I am relaxing.
I made this video by owning my story, accepting the reality that if my body wants to relax, I think it can handle relaxing and talking on the couch.
So, there we go.
I appreciate you joining me here on day 185 of Happier People Podcast.
I love you.
You are awesome.
I hope to see you again soon.
Thank you for reading this blog post, which was originally filmed as the video below.
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