In a previous post I talked about the first 5 negative emotions and their messages. In this one I’ll finish the list of the 10 negative emotions that I have become aware of. Then I’ll go on – in another blog, at another time, to talk about what I consider to be the 10 emotions that have enhanced my life. But before I go there, let me return to the negative emotions that I’m looking at today, they are often linked together and I think they are:
4. Feeling overloaded
For many years I have been sharing this advice with people: “Don’t feel guilty, because you’ve done nothing wrong,” the main reason why I shared these words was because whoever I was talking to expressed feeling of regret. However, when we looked at the reason for their regret it was invariably cause by the actions of another person and projected, wrongly, onto my confidant.
Guilt is about regret, but personal guilt is about regretting what you as an individual have done – and nothing else. When I feel that I have breached my own standards I get caught up - in my own personal tsunami of guilt - and I feel out of control of all emotions because the guilt suffocates every other feeling I have. I then wrestled with the negative thoughts about myself for a long time; I was effectively behaving in a self-destructive manner. As with the natural tsunami the guilty feelings reached me with speed and power and disabled me from being active in my own life. It took me a while to take my own advice and realise that I did not have to feel guilty when I had not done anything wrong. I accepted that I was not responsible for the behaviour and outcomes of other people’s behaviour and that was the first step towards freeing myself from the shackles of another person’s guilt.
Guilty feelings would often lead to feeling overloaded and inadequate, followed swiftly by feelings of disappointment in myself. I became overwhelmed and then felt hopeless because I believed I had just too much to deal with. This was especially true when I was trying to make sure that everyone else was happy. At one stage of my life I was, foolishly – that’s what I think now – obsessed with trying to make everybody else happy; to do this I, of course, neglected myself and eventually this lead to feelings of loneliness. It may seem strange to think that there I was busy in everybody’s life but lonely in my own, but that was the truth. I knew hundreds of people but I did not have a real, honest, connection with hardly any of them. At this point I’m happy to say that that is no longer the case. When I really started listening to my negative emotions and their messages I began to make positive changes in my life.
It’s obviously not as easy as it sounds. Well, it wasn’t for me, at least. I mentioned being in a rut (in a previous post) and noting just how difficult it was to get out of it. I had cast myself in a caring role; I had decided that I would be the glue that kept my family and other groups together. It was something I perceived as needed so, in the absence of anyone else volunteering for it, I did it. I realised, before it was too late, that I was making myself super busy so that I could not think about the real things I was feeling; it seemed logical to me that if I was running here, there and everywhere for Tom, Dick and Harry and they were happy then I must be doing something right and I would be happy as well. This was not, in fact, true.
I remember that logic has more than one path to a solution; and in fact logic has several solutions. In any flowchart there are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ options and different conditions that flow from each path. I was effectively closing down all choice to say yes to myself. You see, the reason I relied on logic was because that was my career training. I worked in the Information Technology field from the time I left school. I worked with data for years: binary was my second language. I wrote computer programmes, I designed systems and I analysed and consulted with major companies about the most efficient way to run their businesses. And all the time I was unable to free myself from feeling totally inadequate in all areas of my personal life. My business successes were mirrored by my personal failures, but nobody but me was really aware of them for a long time.
I think it was a homeless man in a London underground station that changed my perception of looking after myself properly. I remember that particular encounter when I reeled in shock at the behaviour of myself and my fellow busy commuters towards him and then, on my first class train journey home from London that day I sat in my comfortable seat reading my newspaper and I recall starting to re-evaluate what was most important in my life, what was necessary, and what was a desire.
Once I began the real journey of my life, the one I am still on, the one I am consciously living, I began to change my expectations to be more appropriate for where I was at the time. I began to appreciate the messages and clarify the signals in my life.
Taking action is always possible, but not always easy or comfortable for you or those around you. Nevertheless it has to be done. Sometimes on my journey I have lost my way, and I almost gave up the dream at one stage, but I didn’t. I’m now back on track and moving again with new focus, confidence and excitement toward the next destination of my journey. Sometimes I still have to say that I really don’t know how this is all going to work out. As a society we are not comfortable with uncertainty, we are better with decisiveness, but not knowing everything is perfectly all right. It has been enough for me to know that where I was and what I was doing was not doing anything to improve quality in any (apart from financial) areas of my life. I am monetarily poorer but spiritually richer today. I have started making better decisions.
It is true to say that I have never been more content for more of the time than I am now. And this is all because I dared to listen to my emotional signals at that train station and make a change; I can honestly say, it is worth it.
Another phrase I would repeat for many years is: “If you keep saying ‘yes’ to everybody else – even when you don’t want to - you are effectively saying ‘no’ to yourself”, I have since changed the application of this to my life and, to paraphrase President Barack Obama, I am now saying to myself “Yes, I can!” to things leading to a positive change for me.