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One of the biggest reasons we find it difficult to find personal quiet, personal contentment, personal satisfaction…true humble joy, is that life (the universe, however you want to refer to it) is always — well, some people would describe it as ‘testing’ us.
This is a rather antagonistic way of looking at the trials and tribulations of life, our ups and downs, considering that in hindsight many of us come to see how the challenges, tragedies, ‘tests’ that we have lived through have somehow made us more of an amazing version of who we are. We lose, but we also gain through these experiences. It usually just takes us a little longer, or feels a little more difficult to identify what we have gained through loss, pain, and struggle.
In the past few months ( probably longer) I have stumbled upon ways to describe experiences, the good and the bad, in a way that is less scary, less tiring, less antagonistic. We all like to look back on ‘surviving’ difficult times, as it helps us to justify the pain, justify our decisions, justify our reactions or the ways that relationships have played out. But there are even more constructive and positive-feeling ways to think about our experiences, not just after they have ‘tested us’, but as we go along in our everyday lives and encounter these things, at their beginnings.
Michael Brown, the author of “The Presence Process” suggests another way to describe what we see as negative happenings in our lives, the ‘upsets’ he calls them. At the core of it all he, like many others who have talked about and shared positive or more loving perspectives on what life is and how and why it happens the way it does.
We all know, on some level, that ‘shit happens’. That means good shit and bad shit. We do not, however, all believe that everything is leading us to something better. Michael Brown suggests that we identify the ‘upsets’ or become conscious of them in terms of our reactions to them, and change our perspective on what events like these mean to us in the moment. Instead ‘upsets’ he suggests we recognize upsetting, triggering, or challenging events as ‘set-ups’. When we discover a ‘set-up’, instead of an ‘upset’, our reactions are naturally more discerning, naturally even more conscious that a situation may not have as much negative to do with or to say about who we are or what we deserve (etc.).
The presumption changes. Seeing a set-up, rather that an upset allows us to not believe everything about the situation, for us to consider the possibility that there is an ‘out’, and ‘out’ that proves that we are, in fact, more free from drama, from being obligated to suffer through the consequences of something removed from us.
The set-up, Brown suggests, is an opportunity for us to reflect back on our own intentions, our own path, and whether negative events should or could take us aware from our intentions, our positive intentions, whether addressing or reacting to a situation will set us back or give us even more freedom. Set-ups are like twists in the road that challenge us to keep our eye on the direction we feel most honestly and genuinely feel good heading in.
Probably the central reason I am writing this blog entry is that this concept of the ‘set-up’ and Brown’s perspective…the perspective he suggests we can take on the journey, is one that assumes that our path is a productive one with momentum…that the set-ups are moments of choice which are easier when we know ourselves better and better and when we listen to our felt experience, feelings of (dis)comfort in our bodies and emotionally. Abraham Hicks calls these set-ups “contrasts”. We may be going along pretty quietly, peacefully, excitedly, however, and all of a sudden be faced with events, people that seem to not fit the positive or productive momentum or pattern we had going. Again, life is ‘testing’ us, setting us up, or presenting us with contrast so that we don’t forget to check back in, so that we remember that life is about growing through knowing ourselves and through getting to know ourselves, by growing inwards while we grow outwards.
Nothing is meant primarily to make life unpleasant or painful. Set-ups, Upsets, contrasts…are all a means to an end. I think we get caught up in the happenings around these things because…the truth is, we do not know what the future holds. We don’t know ultimately what the point of it all is…we’re not supposed to…
I reach it after I spend time trying to let things in…While or after I do things that help my body to heal, that allow my mind to relax a little, that remind me that I am not alone.
The process of realizing that I haven’t done those things, thinking about doing them, making the decisions to do them, actually going through the motions…Well, that can take forever it seems… And the feelings that flow in during that process, those steps, those periods…they are mostly feelings that doubt. Feelings of doubt. Feelings that try and keep me on a path that hurts. Feelings that are threatening. Scary. Feelings that are scared.
But, as Michael Brown says: “the only way out is through”.
On the other side is…eerily quiet…accommodating and uncomfortable silence…and becomes peace. Real peace.
I believe that I have something on top of me in the morning
– doesn’t want me to get up
– doesn’t want me to be around
– wants me to be quiet
– wants me to be nonexistent.
So the things I need to shift my vibration are blocked by this disbelief. The disbelief that I should even be here or get up.
Is it true?
Do I have someone or something on top of me that is too heavy for me to get up. To get out of bed?
Is there someone in the kitchen who does not want me to be here?
If anyone else has a perspective on my accomplishments or productivity is that the first thing I listen to? Is it the most important?
Does my destiny as a person depend on the way that parents neglected me?
In what ways am I free today?
In every way
Anger makes you feel stirred up. For me it is triggered by a number of different things. And the feeling doesn’t start out as anger. It starts out as sadness or disappointment. Most often the sadness or disappointment at someone not coming their distance in a relationship. A lack of attention or regard or consideration. Or a failure of someone or just things in general to meet my expectations.
The first sentiment is a sadness. Which feels like it is off limits. When I was younger, if I revealed that I was sad or upset about anything I was told I was wrong or silly or bad or something along those lines. So I learned to hide or quash any indication that I was feeling that way.
Now, the best thing for me to do would be to be attentive to myself in the moment where I am feeling that, and prioritize my experience over others’ reactions.
Feelings are not wrong.
And we are not accountable to anyone else for them.
They tell us who we are, who we were, what our experience has been, and how to live (the same or differently).
When I quash feelings of sadness, disappointment, the feeling that I want to cry, or sulk, or sit alone or change my mind about something or someone, I eliminate a lot from my experience and my relationships about who I am.
Sometimes I feel so super sad about…
- how sad other people are
- the opportunities I have watched pass me by
- someone I like not returning my effort to get to know them or communicate or listen
- someone who has known me all my life and who says they love me not paying attention to or asking questions about what I say or my reaction to things.
- about our dependence on inanimate objects to relate to each other
- it being so long since I traveled abroad for any length of time.
- the length of time it takes for us to really get to know each other and ourselves
- the fact that we rely on so many superficial things to make ourselves feel good
- feeling lonely
- so many other things.
The anger comes when a voice in my head a or an appropriated reaction arises — telling me in less than a fraction of a second that I am wrong, or that I will be harmed for letting that sadness or disappointment show, or become any kind of action or reaction. The anger is immediate.
For the longest time I could not even see that process, it happens so quickly. I couldn’t tell the difference between feeling the pain of sadness and the pain of anger. Because there was so little time between them.
For me, the pain of anger shows itself in different ways than the pain of sadness, I discovered. The pain of anger shows itself in my silence, my tension, the movement (or lack of movement) of my body, a straight face, hesitation, un-fun scheduling, stories I tell myself about what other people are feeling or thinking, stories I tell myself about what the outcomes of my efforts will be, stories I tell myself about the reasons why some people do things, the stories I tell myself about how I shouldn’t be so lucky to go where I want, do what I want, the stories I tell myself about whether what I do or say or contribute matters at all, and in whether I believe I am entitled to receiving good energy, attention, gifts, efforts from people who enjoy being around me…
Anger is always a minus “-” equation. It has been a sentinel “a soldier stationed as a guard to challenge all comers” and isolate, exclude, darken, shade black & white, push away, scare, restrict, misread, threaten, strip, bleed…
Sadness does not kill life in the same way. Sadness needs to be free. Free to roam. So that people can see who you are… Anger does not tell us who we are. It tells us what things are not. Sadness tells us what we need, what we want, how, what, and who we love, what is missing, what our intentions are, the good path….
So, the beautiful thing about anger? When you feel it you know that you’ve forgotten to pay attention to who you are…
Taking care of your own needs and wants is the way to connection or maintaining connection, and a re-acquaintance with our authentic self. Getting to know our authentic self involves responding to our physical and emotional needs. Even if it means going out of our way amidst demands in our regular everyday lives.
The boost of self-focus and self-care can give almost immediate clarity. If it doesn’t, we just need to allow the time to let the guilt, self-consciousness, or discomfort that can be triggered by self-interest fade away. It will. It does. Every time. And what is underneath is what is real.
Don’t let feelings of inconvenience or obligation or discomfort change or challenge your self-care plan. Decide to do it. And carry through, regardless. You’ll transform. Quickly or slowly. But you will transform. And so will everything and everyone around you.
Today I noticed very clearly all of a sudden that when I am feeling rejected or lonely or unloved I can turn for a feeling of self-worth to my school work. I was getting home from helping a friend and then journaling about a tenant issue and as soon as I drove my bike into the driveway I realized that my mind went right to getting on the computer and grading papers… For the feeling of accomplishing something. I am actually super sleepy and super down and wanted to make myself work with the understanding that THAT would give me cred.
Then as I was going into the house I think I thought of a couple of other ‘to-do’ type things that I would normally revert to as well…things that I learned at a young age would give me attention or a feeling of there being a point to me being here.
I journaled this morning about the fact that I am absolutely terrified to display a sense of self-worth. To defend my self worth, my feelings, my experiences, my needs, my quality of life. That is what paralyzes me… Which is why I am also paralyzed by someone being angry with me… I don’t think that I have a leg to stand on because what I feel or think or do, or the reasons why I feel or think or do something are not worth anything to anyone else.
And the scary truth is…that that is true.
So, when I came in the house, and when I looked at the mess that is my place…I actually just plugged my phone in and laid down on the bed. Because the thing I needed most was rest.
Michael Brown, in his book entitled The Presence Process, insight-fully and creatively plays with words in a way that privileges other perspectives on the ways that we think about challenging experiences in our lives.
‘Upsets’ or the moments in which we find ourselves feelings or experiences that provoke a less than happy reaction. Our focus in those moments can be resentments, resistance, feelings of victimization, frustration, anger, fear — and our actions reflect these negative perspectives on ourselves and our lives.
Michael Brown has decided to refer to these moments or upsetting events as ‘set-ups’ instead. The dictionary defines this term as : “an event the result of which is prearranged“. The meaning here connotes a kind of situation that one can not have any control over…specifically in terms of reaction or behavior. And the reactions or behavior are presumed to be associated with habits or patterns that are not optimum or to one’s advantage. A situation may catch you off guard or trigger you into reacting in a way that you are tricked into or unable to see the options for reactions that you may have.
For me, wow — I encounter so many of these a day, and most of them originate not with a particular situation but in the way I interpret the moment, the situation I am in in the moment, the expectations that I have that I am not aware of, and the outcomes that I am afraid of.
– I am alone in my place: it is upsetting because I believe that I am alone. It is a setup rather than an upset when I think differently about the situation
-this guy that I miss doesn’t communicate with me in a way that shows he wants to continue to socialize, or anything. It is an upset because I am lonely. It is a set-up because it challenges me to see that this lack of communication is freeing me up…
– I am planning to head out of town with a guy friend on the weekend and I am reticent because we have never been in the same place/time for days on end. I am afraid of being found out to be moody, or boring, or controlling or critical, or unfun, or anything bad. It is a set-up because I need to focus outwards, on the things that I will enjoy…that I want to enjoy. On my intentions for the trip. On how I want to enjoy the time, enjoy the time with my friend, discover things.
What do I have or what do I want to have to bring to a relationship?
- I want to feel comfortable about myself…
- the belief that I have something to bring
- the understanding of who I am in the world
- something that won’t change in a relationship
- I want to feel focused
- I want to feel decisive about my livelihood…
I do make them.
I do feel lots and lots of things.
I thought that all of those things were wrong or unnatural, or bad….because of the ways that people reacted to me when I was very young. And then as I grew older.
So, at a very early age, I began to punish myself for having all of those feelings, feeling all of those connections. All of it.
None of it was wrong. I didn’t know what to do with any of it because those who were supposed to care for me and guide me were busy doing other things.
Now, I am faced with more of my truths than ever before, no one to guide me in how to live with them from moment to moment.
Only some new insights.
My connections are true.
They are so varied.
And they are different with everyone.
Some of those connections…I should not pursue very far. Some of them I should.
All of them are creating me somehow.
If others do not like my connection with them, that is their thing. It doesn’t mean that the connection I feel with them is wrong. It just means that we are not on the same wavelength at the moment.
Others can’t seem to ‘get’ a connection with me. Because they are not connected with themselves. (Like, my mother.) I keep myself safe from those.