A lot of what we do relates to how we feel. If we feel okay, we are better at what we do, or more productive when we’re on task. And sometimes we get nothing done if ‘we don’t feel like it’. So we give our feelings a lot of power.
Sometimes it is so clear where our feelings have come from. We feel in direct response to something that happens, or something that someone says or does. So, we feel excitement or grief, and these feelings are very much based in our external worlds. After all, we humans are social beings and we act, react and respond to what happens. This is called social constructionism. The theory that without the world and people around us, maybe we don’t even exist. That’s it in a nutshell, but think too hard about this theory and your mind starts to get a bit blown!
Is this always the case though? Are feelings always related to the external?
Some days we wake up, and just know that we are feeling off. We know that we are not at the top of our game. We don’t achieve the tasks we set out, and we end up saying to ourselves, I’m just having a bad day. There can seemingly be no reason for it.
But – everything we feel comes from somewhere.
After all, we are social beings. So what is happening on those seemingly random off days? And can they lead to something more sinister?
Actually, we have the ability to change our feelings and cultivate a better mood, but we don’t always do it. Sometimes, we wake up with the feeling – ‘this is an off day’ and we spend the day seeking evidence to prove ourselves right! I’m not saying it’s intentional. But we do this, sometimes.
Our feelings are controlled by our thoughts, so just having the thought – ‘this is an off day’ starts something in motion. And we have to work to change it. So we make a choice there and then, deliberately or not, and go about our day in accordance with the thoughts.
All of our feelings are in response to something that has happened. Sometimes it’s really clear, we are excited by our new clothes that make us feel lovely and that we are the height of fashion, or we are upset by our central heating breaking down in the middle of winter! It’s obvious to us.
Sometimes though our feelings can be inexplicable. Everything could be going right, we seem to have everything we want or need in life, and yet – we feel a bit shit. A bit low, or angry, or disappointed.
Everything we feel comes from somewhere.
Feelings can live in our subconscious for years and years. And just like my example above where we can self-fulfil our off days, we can spend a lifetime seeking evidence to back up our feelings.
What do I mean by this? Our subconscious is massively larger than our conscious mind, remembering everything it deems important to our existence. It holds onto memories, and creates meanings for us from those memories. Then, anything that backs up the initial hunch developed from a single memory is stored as a coping strategy.
This reminds me of a quote from Brene Brown;
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”
I love this quote. I think she is talking more about the conscious mind here, but this is basically what our subconscious is doing.
So next time you feel like things aren’t quite working out. Take a look around, what’s happening in your world right now? (And – yes, there is an awful lot going on in the world right now for us all to be experiencing discomfort in our feelings and thinking) If there’s nothing obvious, then what is going on? Has this feeling showed up before for you? Is it familiar? Maybe it’s source is something from a long time ago?
A client I worked with recently, Antonia* came to me experiencing low mood, low motivation. She said she wanted coaching to make some specific changes in her life, but it was clear that there was something in her energy holding her firmly in place, and not moving forward at all. With RTT we were able to go and look at the past and when this ‘stuck-ness’ first became something relevant to her life.
So the feelings Antonia presented with were: apathy, lethargy, boredom. She had a desire for life to be more, to feel more alive, it was clear that coaching alone wasn’t going enable her to move forward very quickly! She didn’t know specifically when these feelings had started, but they were familiar, and she felt stuck in a pattern with them.
We used regression to get her back to the very start of these feelings. There was no massive incident, nothing traumatic, just a memory briefly of not feeling as important as her brother. She was younger, what her brother had to say was cleverer, louder, and more interesting it seemed. There was nothing directly said to her about this, it was just a feeling. And she could then find other instances in her life where this factor had played itself out – I’m only a girl, I’m not that clever, interesting, no one listens to me. It had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. She as an adult, now felt she had become quiet, slightly dull and doubting of her intellect (despite evidence to the contrary!). This view of herself was making her world very small.
Antonia doubted that such a small thing: “being only a girl” could have had such an impact on her life, but she could not deny that the impact of dealing with it. Life changed dramatically from this point forward.
You can see then that everything we feel comes from somewhere.
What are you holding onto from the past? What feelings and evidence are keeping you from moving forward in life and finding more joy?
Sometimes these things can be so easy to find, and like Antonia thought, can seem too facile! But the impact and the potential for change can be incredible.
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