I regard my feelings in an illogical sense; I believe they depend on my personal focus and nothing more. It took a long time for me to come to this conclusion, but after seeing I could be happy in miserable conditions and miserable in happy conditions, I realized that my perception of events is a function of perspective—possibly the greatest creative act I could ever engage in. (For me, this isn’t as simple as flipping the positivity switch, but more along the lines of settling into the most positive feeling that resonates—even if that’s anger or frustration—and accepting/abiding in it, not inflaming it, until it opens into something more positive like boredom, mild irritation, or mild satisfaction, which pave the way for actual positivity.)
Often, it takes a little while for my perception to influence (become?) reality, but that lag-time is good. It allows me to clarify what I truly want.
In my opinion, moving into and embracing a new state of expansion (often uncomfortable at first) is as natural as breathing. And though clinging to patterns past their expiration date may seem comfortable, I have seen it breed misery, inflexibility, and creative imprisonment. (I suspect this is simply an amplified version of the initial new-state discomfort, allowed to fester and grow unchecked).
As far as I can tell, applying emotional intelligence is akin to using a rudder; it doesn’t correct your heading all at once, but it does start aligning you with your goals.
So for negative emotions, I try to jump straight to apathy or boredom (oh well, it is what it is, we all die anyway) but if I can’t do that, I abide in whatever state gives me the feeling of relief, until it no longer relieves me and feels uncomfortable, then I move to the next state where I feel relief again. (Anger relieves my depression, frustration relieves my anger, pessimism relieves my frustration, etc.) Once I’m at boredom or apathy, I abide and chill until it opens into mild satisfaction (things aren’t going to plan, but at least I’ve got some tasty food or an entertaining video), and from there I naturally rise into optimism, hope, excitement, and joy.
In my experience, it’s easy to navigate the positive (just milk the crap out of it), but it requires some finesse and awareness to navigate the negative.
In the past, I’ve clung to old rhythms out of fear and comfort, but I started to realize they turn into chains and eventually anchors, weighing me down with paranoia and pessimism. I’ve watched my friends experience the exact same thing, retreating into aimless patterns and a fortress of talking points. They were no longer engaging with life; they were rotting in a prison made of negative justifications. It was remarkable, really—they could have been predictable robots that continually took damage, all in an effort to avoid being wounded. Misery was simply an accepted default.
This led me to believe that I need to pursue my dreams, even if it’s only for a minute a day. I still have to pay for rent and groceries, but I can always find time to write down an idea, craft a paragraph, or do a bit of research. I’m not trying to judge anyone, or shame people into “hustle-life” cringe, or some variation of pull-yourself-up-by-your-nonexistent-bootstraps, I’m simply stating that from where I stand, I’ve seen what happens if I don’t keep putting my desires out into the universe. Personally, I’d rather keep moving toward my dreams, even if it’s only five minutes a day, which I have sometimes had to do. There’s no nobility or condemnation in it, it’s simply a preference that seems to make sense to me.
I’ve spent most of my life obsessed with sacrifice and struggle. Ironically, when I began to focus on appreciating what’s around me, the goals I sacrificed and struggled for came much easier (and earlier) than I ever thought possible.
Eventually, I realized I only ever wanted to achieve those goals so I could unabashedly appreciate the moment, and ultimately relax into a happier state of being. So now I try and skip to the end—I try and direct my focus onto appreciation, without hindering my pleasure with arbitrary conditions.
In the absence of positive emotion, I abide in the best feeling I can—typically apathy or anger—while trusting it will open into boredom, mild satisfaction, optimism, and so on and so forth.
Or I could choose to stay negative—wallow in depression and unworthiness and all-consuming rage—and burn myself out, eventually coming right back to apathy. That’s a long, painful road. I prefer the shortcut.
I can exercise superficial discipline, where I force myself to do something, bemoaning and hating it the entire time (I’ve operated this way for most of my life), but there’s a higher discipline that serves me better, one where I consistently seek the easiest-feeling pathway of thought (with negative emotions, this feels like relief. With positive emotions, it’s simply a matter of abiding in the positivity).
This higher discipline can be applied at any time, under any condition. It amplifies my efforts by infusing my outlook with acceptance and focus, allowing me to spot opportunity with my expanded perception. When it’s all said and done, it turns my “discipline” into play.
As the years pass, I’ve come to realize the “price” I must pay is abiding in acceptance—ceasing to obsess over conditions and machinations and allowing myself to viscerally appreciate whatever’s in front of me.
That’s why I was doing all that work in the first place. Now that I’ve figured out I can get there without the work, I think of it less as a “price” and more as a right.
I like to move in the direction of my dreams, even if it doesn’t seem to lead to any treasure. I’ve found unexpected rewards along the way. And on multiple occasions, I’ve been given more than I asked for.
Sure, I’ve had to compromise at times—make sure I could pay the rent or deal with obligations—but I suspect that if I pursue my dreams with a clear mind and an open heart, even if it’s just for five minutes a day (which is a situation I’ve found myself in), I’ll tap into a wealth of unforeseen support.