Your mind can be a powerful and splendid ally. It can be a motivator, a meticulous planner and a supreme puzzle solver. It can open you up to magical worlds and beauty you never imagined, but it’s not necessarily your friend. Bestselling author and writing teacher Anne La Mott says, “My mind is a neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.”
My sister, Jill, who lives in Northern California came to visit me yesterday, and before we went to dinner with a friend, she and I lounged around on the couch, gabbing about everything and anything. As we shared our stories and sparked each other’s memories about a past that we had shared, I was impressed with how differently we recalled particular events and experiences. Things that I remembered with pain and sorrow, she remembered with humor. Things that she remembered as tragic and wounding, I recalled with fondness. So what was the truth?
The only truth I know for sure is that there isn’t only one truth. Shit happens, it always has and it always will, we will feel what we feel, but we have choices about how to think and what to do with those feelings. A wise woman once told me that we can’t change our feelings but we can change our thoughts and actions. To me, that means if someone lashes out, insults or shames me, I need to feel it but I have choices about how much it’s going to hurt and for how long it will continue to cause me misery.
• I can mull it over in my mind until it forms a seamless loop that causes me pain whenever I think about it.
• I can go numb (I haven’t learned how to do that yet), but that means I won’t feel joy or celebration either.
• Or I can acknowledge the pain and make a conscious choose to think about it differently and act in a way that soothes me.
A saving grace in this life of ours is that how we feel right this minute can change on a dime. And it usually does. I believe that the key here is to stay mindful of the fact that nothing lasts forever, feelings are feelings, and the better we get at accepting them for what they are, the less likely the pain will escalate. The more we decide to take a different look at unpleasantness, the easier it will become to transform our view of the events. When we make a commitment to treat ourselves with respect and compassion, no matter how we feel, our minds can take a rest and the critical voice will start to dissolve into the background. In the inner courtroom of your mind, you are the one and only judge. In order to grow and thrive, you will need to cultivate an unwavering desire to treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
What do you do with difficult feelings? Do you know how to let go? How did you learn to do that?