I came across a fantastic video in my YouTube feed this morning by Pete Holmes, a comedian/author, where he talks about two key things to achieving inner peace. The two principles for peace and happiness that he discusses are learning to suffer/resisting nothing and not giving into external validation/criticism. What he discusses has really resonated with me in my life recently and I’m sure many of you. If you have time, I highly recommend watching it to open up a dialogue with yourself about these mindsets and practices. *Warning Explicit Language* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glY-K5jbLF8&t=223s
I talked a couple of weeks ago about my addiction to my cell phone and other distractions. I have a hard time learning to sit with unpleasant thoughts and feelings when they emerge throughout the day. My tendency is to resist any uncomfortable feelings that come up whether that be pressure from work, feeling rejected by a love interest, feeling lonely, feeling sad, and feeling unworthy of love or whatever I may want out of life.
I have learned that resisting these emotions only compound them in your mind. By not allowing them to flow freely and occur naturally, they fester and grow. We almost try to put them in a mental cage and they do what any caged thing would do, they fight back and become stronger and more powerful in trying to be released. Resistance and distraction do not make these emotions go away, they only cause them to envelope into much more formidable obstacles in our minds. We feed them by resisting them and it can lead to exacerbated levels of suffering and heartache without us realizing it.
What I am learning to do is when I feel unpleasant and am not quite sure where the feeling is coming from, I will drop what I am doing. Usually this means my phone, and trust me, it’s a hard thing to do. Your body is used to attempting to numb these feelings through distraction so it will fight you. I had that happen this morning, as I was putting my phone on my nightstand, I kept thinking “What are you doing? Aren’t you feeling bad? Just check Facebook or Reddit!” I resisted the temptation and instead I sat with my feelings. Yeah it wasn’t pleasant, but I sat with them, I let my erratic thoughts run in the background and I just took it all in as a silent observer.
I felt many things silently sitting there. I felt a sense of rejection from a recent love interest, I felt anxiety for the coming week which is full of change and having to pack and move, and I felt lonely and unworthy. Like Pete Holmes explains in the video, I didn’t resist my feelings but I gave them space and room to breathe. And after a few minutes, I quietly processed them and I was able to rationalize why I was having these feelings. I also acknowledged that certain thoughts I was having were real and present but I wasn’t investing in them as truth. They were just phenomenon and I was the quiet observer watching it all go down. Everything just flowed freely and pretty soon the thoughts and the feelings passed, and I felt okay again.
It’s okay for us to feel bad sometimes, we are emotional, dynamic creatures and life is not short of challenges and unexpected obstacles. It’s okay. We don’t have to feel good all of the time, that is an unrealistic expectation. We tend to have an attachment to always feeling good. We construct a story where negative thoughts and feelings don’t seem to have a place where they can just be. They don’t fit into our constructed narrative and so we resist them any way we can.
Learning to develop a relationship with yourself where you can sit and accept your feelings, whatever they may be, is so important. In a way you’re simply surrendering to what is happening. Learning to surrender to what is instead of attaching to what you think should be can foster a real, lasting peace. Had I not taken the time to sit and let my feelings in, they would have been there below the surface nagging at me throughout the day, compounding, begging to be released. And I would have silenced them with distraction. Listen and understand that your feelings are real and valid. We can learn to use suffering as a way to listen to our being, to let things flow naturally, and to grow a more intimate, authentic connection with ourselves.
The other thing Pete mentions in the video is our tendency to derive happiness from external validation. It’s so easy to get caught up in this, especially in the age of social media. I still struggle with this quite a bit. When I get a compliment or someone writes a nice comment on Facebook or my blog, I very easily invest in that and I use that to feel good about myself. “Oh wow this person really likes my post, I must be special and worthy of admiration!” “This girl thinks I’m cute, smart, and witty. I must be worthy of love!”
It feels good and we automatically invest in the opinions of others. I still do this and I have to watch myself because using these things to boost my feelings of self-worth is drawing into a personal narrative that external things are what create my happiness and validation. It’s just like candy, it’s very easy to take and the reward is immediate and satisfying but it doesn’t last very long nor is it good for you. The thing about drawing our worth and happiness from outside compliments and approval is the opposite is also true. When people are upset at us, get onto us, maybe write mean-spirited comments directed at us, our sense of worthiness gets destroyed because we are still playing into the system of external validation. We open up a whole new avenue where we can unnecessarily suffer.
Investing in this system of belief means that our feelings of happiness and worthiness are conditional. Our happiness simply depends on the situation at hand, which means it’s fragile and fickle, like building on unsolid ground. What we need is a source of happiness that is internal and ever-present. Just the fact that we are a living, breathing, dynamic being that has this wonderful consciousness and can experience and shape reality is enough to be worthy of happiness, joy, respect, and admiration. We are vessels of love. How can we ever be unworthy? When we start to tell ourselves this story, that we are intrinsically valuable regardless of anything anyone says or anything that happens to us, we then begin to create a source of worthiness from within ourselves, and that is a solid foundation.
If we can construct a new narrative with this idea in the forefront, then we have created for ourselves an endless fountain to draw upon for fulfillment, undeterred by external circumstances. That is what I am working towards and that is what I encourage everyone to work towards. We are our own source of joy and learning to wield the power of this narrative will ensue a much more enriched, stable, and satisfying life for us all.