Well, let’s start with this past week’s reflections, shall we? Good. Here we go.
Alright, so this past week, I’ve been reflecting a lot upon inspiration. What is inspiration, where does it come from, how can we get more of it, and what do we do if we run out of it. Very important questions. And?
Well, this week I’ve also been reflecting upon the creation of a new series. A series that can encompass a multitude of topics, and, yep, this is it, and inspiration will be the first topic.
Some of these developmental discussions will be longer, and some will be shorter. It will depend.
Alright, for this entry, let’s tackle the first question on inspiration. Ready? Good. Let’s go.
Where Does Inspiration Come From?
I really do love this topic, as it seems so simple, right? Inspiration, well, it’s all around us. Some people say they find nature inspirational, or other people in their lives, such as their friends and family, or coworkers. And, that is beautiful. Truely. Yet, there is something missing here. Do you know what it is? Hm.
It is the viewpoint. Meaning?
That inspiration does not live outside of you. Nope. It lives inside of you. We look outward and place inspiration onto other things and people, yet that inspiration comes from within. Always has come from within, and always will come from within.
Why does this matter to your development? Good question. Here is one, of many, reasons why.
When we know inspiration comes from within, we stop looking outside of ourselves for our own inspiration. Being aware of the source of our inspiration is important to our development, because when we fully realize that our inspiration comes from within, we are not bound to the changing tides of people and things. Simple. And?
Well, we know that change is inevitable. It is part of life. Yep. And, when we get clear on the fact that inspiration does not live in the changing world, that, in fact, it can be developed, and maintained, regardless of external circumstances, we become more powerful. Really.
Does that mean that we don’t ever feel down, or stressed, or sad? No, it does not. We are meant to feel all of our emotions; to feel them, know them, and learn how to talk about them.
And, yet, we can still find our inspiration even during the most stressful times. Why? Because even though we may consider a situation stressful, we know that our inspiration is always there. Waiting for us.
Alright, so what can we do to connect, or reconnect, to our own inspiration? I think there is one thing we can all do that will assist in making our connection, or reconnection, to our inspiration stronger. What’s that?
Make time for yourself. A must.
When we create time for ourselves, to be with ourselves, just for ourselves, we get to know ourselves better. And, the more we know ourselves, the more clear on our own inspiration we become. Really.
Next time, then, when things are really hectic, and you are feeling overwhelmed, stop. Stop doing what you are doing, and go for a walk, sit down under a tree and look around, or look up at the beautiful stars in the sky. Stop and just be.
For it is in this space, where your inspiration will find you.
The Leadership Psychology of How We Think and Feel
This past week a colleague of mine and I were talking about leadership. Well, to be more accurate, we are always talking about leadership. Fun.
Anway, this colleague was talking about the upcoming leadership group training they would be facilitating, and they were talking about how important it is for leaders to understand how they think, feel, and act.
After reflecting upon the concept of thinking, feeling, and acting, which I totally agree with, another concept occured to me. Speaking. Also important.
Thus, the idea for this first-half of the two-part article on Developing the Self was created. Before we get into our discussion, however, let’s reset the first installment in the Leadership Series.
We also discussed 2 things that are very important to be clear about early on in any leadership development journey, which are
Understanding your leadership style.
In this second installment, we will discuss understanding yourself as the very first step in a leadership development journey. Why? Good question.
Let’s take a look, shall we.
There are two ways we will approach this discussion.
Ready? Good, let’s go.
Right, so, what in the world is leadership psychology? Well, in this context, we are going to address two main concepts. Thinking and feeling. Both are very important to understand for anyone in leadership.
If you don’t know why you think and feel as you do, you’ll never be able to understand how and why others think and feel as they do. Simple.
And, as a leader, you must understand how the people in your team, organization, business, and or family, or friend network think and feel. Very important.
Having an impact starts with us. Each of us. Understanding how and why we think and feel as we do is a necessity in any leadership role. Any and all leadership roles.
An entire article, nay, book can be written about how we think in regards to, well, just about everything in life. Leadership included. It’s that important.
In fact, how we think drives everything else we will discuss in this article. It all starts with the mind. The quality of our mind. Meaning? Good question.
As I’ve written about in other articles, human beings are meaning-makers. Meaning, pun intended, that we take in data, information or stimuli, and we convert those stimuli, whatever they are, into narratives.
We do this to make sense of the world, and our place in it. A simple example can illustrate this point.
If my thinking is about the past, and all of the wrongs I’ve suffered, or bad things that have happened, I will bring these thoughts, feelings, verbalizations, and actions into the present moment. And?
I, in essence, will recreate the past. Reliving, as possible, past trauma again and again. And, so will everyone else I am interacting with and in relationship with.
However, if I am aware of my thoughts, and how I think, I can work on the thought impressions, called samskaras in sanskrit, and, over time, release them.
When they are released they stop showing up as a thought. It takes time.
These samskaras, thought impressions of old patterns and habits, loose power when you inquire into why they are there in the first place. Meaning, that creating self-awareness for a leader is a crucial aspect of leadership development.
When we have some sense of our own self, we can step outside of those thought patterns or habits and create new ones.
And, it is in the creation of new thought patterns where true empowerment is found for leaders, first, yes, for themselves, and then for their teams, organizations, families, and friends.
There are four things I do on a regular basis to increase my self-awareness.
Each of these contributes to self-awareness in unique ways, and they combine to increase clarity, calmness of mind, well-being, and insight into who you are as a human being, and how you relate to yourself and everyone else. Very important.
As was aforementioned, how we think really does affect, even predict, how we feel, speak, and act, and how we feel on a general level and even on a more specific level, which is very important.
Important to how we relate to ourselves and everyone else.
I grew up in a household where people definitely displayed emotion, yet it was still hidden, and definitely not talked about. And, that’s not a demerit. Why?
Because my parents were not shown how to understand their emotions and then how to constructively talk about them. It is far more normal, especially in the United States, than people might imagine. And?
Not helpful to your own development, nor is it to your teams, organizations, families, or friends. If you don’t know why you feel the way you do, you will not understand how others feel.
And, if you are unable to understand how you and the people around you feel, you cannot talk about feelings in productive and constructive ways.
However, when you know how you feel, understand why you feel as you do, and learn how to talk about emotions in healthy ways, you can navigate more complex conversations and situations as they arise.
And, in leadership roles, nay, in life, complex situations and conversations happen all the time. Sometimes every day.
In addition to meditation, diet, exercise, and weekly coaching, there are a couple of other things I do to understand my feelings and emotional state.
Journaling, and reflecting upon how you feel, is a very important process; especially when we are truly interested in understanding how and why we feel as we do. Some questions I typically ask myself are as follows.
What is the feeling that I am feeling?
What is the thought that is driving that feeling?
Where did that thought come from?
When you understand what you’re feeling, what thought is driving the feeling, and where the thought came from, you can begin to acknowledge the feeling.
When we can acknowledge how we truly feel, we can then release that feeling once we’ve gained true understanding. And, true understanding may mean working on a thought/feeling combination for some time.
Now, I’ve written most of this section with an assumption in mind. That, the work we do to understand how we feel, is needed mostly when we experience “negative” feelings, or emotions.
The emotions and associated feelings that bring us pain, discomfort, worry, and anxiety, for instance.
Why is it important to work on these “negative” emotions and feelings?
Because if we don’t understand how we feel and why we feel as we do, we will regularly give out all of that “negative” emotion to other people. And?
And, then, yes, we are giving out all of our anger, frustration, sadness, or whatever other feeling we have to everyone around us, and we are doing so unintentionally.
If you want to see an example of how this looks, just go to the grocery store and hang out for a while. You will encounter someone that is completely unaware of their emotional state. It won’t take long.
It happens all the time, every day. As was aforementioned, especially in the United States, where there is still, yes even in 2020, stigma about talking about our emotions. Not helpful and extremely unhealthy.
Now, understanding our feelings does not mean that we run out and tell everyone that we meet that we are frustrated, for instance, and here are the reasons why. A paradox? Yes?
Understanding your emotions and why you feel as you do, helps you do the exact opposite.
When we understand why we feel as we do, we can hold our emotions more, and find the right times to talk about them in appropriate ways; meaning healthy and constructive ways. Very important.
Alright, though I have more to say on both of the aforementioned topics, for now, that concludes the first part of this second installment in the leadership series. Next?
We will take a look at Leadership Sociology. And, yep, you are correct, Leadership Sociology and Leadership Psychology are connected. They influence each other. A reciprocal relationship, if you like.
For now, remember, leadership psychology as defined here, understanding how we think and feel is an important first step in developing ourselves, yes, as leaders, and even more importantly as human beings.
When we are open to our own development, we can create contexts that are growth-oriented for everyone. It works that way.
Remember, it starts with you, with me, with each of us. Therefore, when we catch ourselves looking outside of ourselves for answers to why we think and feel as we do, we must remember to look within.
Because, my friends, within ourselves is the only place we will find the answers.
Meditation is and has been an experience that, well, quite frankly, has transformed my life. How? Yep. Here are three ways.
Increased focus – the focus you develop in meditation, focusing on the breath, or some other object, carries out to every area of your life.
Developed patience – sitting for any duration of time, free of people and distractions, can be difficult, thus, doing so, greatly develops your ability to be patient. Both with yourself, and, of course, with others.
Greater presence – when you sit in deep concentration, you also get to know your own mind much better. Meaning, that you can see your mind as your awareness grows. And, with a more expansive awareness comes an ability to shift your attention from yesterday and tomorrow to today.
When we intentionally create quiet time for ourselves, to be with ourselves, away from all people and distractions, we are able to breathe, reflect, and just be.
It takes time and assistance to develop a meditation practice. I mean to really develop a practice that is sustainable.
Meaning, learning from someone that has been schooled in the art of meditation is helpful. I still see someone regularly about my meditation practice, and, well, as I’ve written before, about all of life.
Remember, it takes time to develop a meditation practice. Example? Sure, here you go.
My initial meditation practice, what I then called breathing, was only once or twice a day for 2 to 5 minutes at a time. I could literally only sit still for that long. Yep. Today? Well, today, my meditation practice is much longer.
It just takes a dedication to practice. Practice daily, get some coaching, and it will come. Really, it will.
Someone once told me, we are what we put into our bodies. I know, I know. A very common saying, and you’re right. Yet, it is also very true.
I spent a lot of years putting very unhealthy things into my body, yet have learned the truth of the aforementioned statement.
It’s really about energy and clarity. When you eat more whole foods and put less refined sugars into your body, you do have more energy, and equally more clarity.
What does that look like? Well, there are countless iterations of healthy diets. Really. What does mine look like today? Sure. It’s pretty simple.
Fruits and veggies
Beans, nuts, and some grains
That’s basically it. Now, there are other things I do eat, for instance, I removed dairy from my diet about a year ago, so I now eat a dairyless oatmeal yogurt product. However, the core of my diet is listed above.
Now, also know that diets iterate. For instance, though at the moment, I’m not eating eggs, for example, eggs have been in and out of my diet several times in the past three years. Yep.
Well, when you combine eating healthier with meditation, guess what? Your ability to be present also increases. And, there is another benefit. What, you ask? Yep.
Clarity. With a healthier diet and regular quiet time for ourselves comes more clarity. Fun.
This is a fun one, as there are two ways I think about exercise today. Ready? Here we go.
Cardio and exercising to exercise – sounds funny, maybe? Well, what I mean is exercise, such as running, jogging, or hiking, lifting weights, if you like, and biking.
Contemplative exercise – yep, really. What I mean here is taking a walk, by yourself, no headphones, phones, or other distractions, and just walk. Just like that. Contemplation time, just for you.
Both are important. Why?
Well, being active, and in motion, is good for the body and mind. It gets all of your muscles and joints moving, and gets your heart rate up.
And, spending time with yourself on a walk, for instance, is very healthy for your mind, and yes, your body too.
We all need time by ourselves, to contemplate, to just be present to all that’s around us, free of the myriad of distractions that typically hold our attention. Very helpful.
Okay, this is a very important one for me today, and, well, it is also important for you, and for everyone.
When we spend time inquiring into why we feel the way we do, we gain insight on what’s happening with ourselves, yes, true, and we also gain a better sense of our own humanity, and our shared humanity. Truth.
When we ignore our emotions, regardless of the type, guess what? They just sit under the surface, and sort of fester, if you will.
They don’t just go away, especially those emotions we would associate with “negative” experiences, thoughts, or feelings, such as sadness, worry, or anxiety. Yep.
Spending time writing out how we feel daily, if possible, has been a helpful practice for me. When we do this, we can ask ourselves questions, such as, why did that incident or situation, bother me?
We can then trace it back to where the originally thought, experience, or feeling originated. Takes practice, yet is a super helpful and therapeutic experience. And?
As we work through our emotions, we become lighter. Really. We end up carrying less emotionalness inside of us. And? Yep, we also become more present. True.
Alright, so we’ve covered 4 areas that contribute to our overall well-being, and presence. That was fun.
Here are some closing thoughts to round out our discussion.
Meditate, or create quiet time for ourselves
Watch what we eat, reducing our intake of refined sugars and increasing our intake of whole foods
Get exercise, including contemplation time
Work on our inner-selves and our emotional well-being, well?
We understand ourselves much better. And?
When we understand ourselves better, guess what? We know when we are present, and when we are not; and, when we catch ourselves being distracted, we can let go of that distraction, regardless of what it is, and refocus on the present moment.
After all, it is really only the present moment that we ever have. Yesterday and tomorrow do not exist. Really. And guess what?
The more present you become to yourself, the more present you become to everyone and everything. It works that way; and is presently beautiful that way.
Right, so I was getting ready to write this post about something totally different. Namely, about Medium, the writing I’m working on this week, and one or two other topics. And, then?
Well, it occurred to me that I’ve not written about COVID-19 in a while, and I wanted to return, as if I’d ever really left, to the pandemic to discuss what some people are talking about, and some are not. Why? It’s hard.
Breakdowns, breakthroughs, and our emotional self. Hm. Alright, stay with me.
Because destigmatizing breakdowns is important. They happen to us all. Really. Even if we don’t have access to the language to know that we are in an emotional breakdown, for instance, they happen. And?
Acknowledging and accepting our breakdowns is important to fully understand what’s happening within ourselves; and, to get to that insight delivered via breakthrough that will come on the other side of our breakdown.
Example? Sure. It’s very present for me.
In conversation with the team yesterday, well, some of the team, I received feedback that I didn’t see coming. Not at all. And?
Well, the feedback was excellent, and was timely and needed, yet the due date for the work that is affected by this new information is this week.
Right, so I went into breakdown, and stayed there for a couple of hours. What did this look like? Well, it looked like I was doing the rest of my day, driving to physical therapy, then to the store, then finally home.
When I got home?
Well, I showered, and then sat for my evening meditation. And? On the other side of my meditation, many insights occurred, which I captured for the following morning, this morning, in fact. And?
Well, getting back into the conversation this morning with new insight, a new perspective, and an additional colleague created a new way forward.
Yep. Did I see that possibility while I was in breakdown last night? Nope, not at all.
Yet, the more breakdowns and breakthroughs I go through, the more inner-knowing I have that an insight, or a combination of insights and perspectives, will deliver a solution to the issue.
Meaning that, yes, the changes that will need to be made will take time and coordination, yet there is workability. There is a way forward. And, there always is.
And, when we are in breakdown, we can’t always see these possibilities. And, that’s okay. Yes, scary at times, yet perfectly normal.
That, for me anyway, is the essence of a breakdown. Being unable to see far enough, due to my entanglement, in those moments, within my own self.
Being in touch with our emotional self has never been more important than it is today.
The pandemic has ushered in many more unknowns. Really. Many more unknowns for all of us. Personally, familially, organizationally, nationally, culturally, at every level. Every level.
Tonight I am very present to the beauty in accepting and being with my breakdowns as they occur. Staying with them, going inside of myself to see what’s there, and to the knowing that insights will come. They always do.
When you are feeling overwhelmed and a breakdown is imminent, remember, you are not alone. They happen to us all, and in the long run they are beneficial.
They simply mean you are growing as a human being. Growing into yourself, through yourself. Beautiful.
Have you ever heard of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)? Hm. Either way, know that although I’ve been a highly sensitive person my whole life, I had never heard this phrase until about 2 years ago. Here’s what happened.
About 2 years ago I was at a team building event, and we had one of our instructors come and talk about the highly sensitive person.
It only took about 10 minutes for me to get it. Yep. Then?
As I reflected upon the information I received at the teambuilding, and the new information from the book, so many things occured to me about my childhood, youthood, and adulthood.
I could clearly see my high sensitivity, what was then labeled as shyness or actually derogatorily called being sensitive.
I internalized my shyness and sensitivity as a problem for many, many years.
What I could have never known as a child, youth, or even as an adult previous to a couple of years ago, is that being a highly sensitive person is also a paradox, and a gift. Yep. How, you ask?
Sure. One, question first.
What do you think of when you imagine someone that is highly sensitive; or what association do you make? It’s okay. It’s not a judgement.
Did you see someone in a position of weakness, or in need of help? It’s okay if you did, today it’s normal.
What I am showing you is that in language being sensitive is associated with weakness; and, that that same language is what is used to experientially socialize children to think of high sensitivity as a weakness.
Now, though I am pleasantly surprised that the definition leads with receptivity and capability, it soon enough gets to easily hurt or damaged. Unfortunate, and just plainly not ture.
What is true is that being a person with high sensitivity, like most things in life, is a paradox. How, you ask? Right, well, let’s take a look shall we.
First, let’s explore high sensitivity. Now, know that my experience with the topic of high sensitivity is in being a person with high sensitivity. Meaning, that I’ve not read much about the topic.
Alright, ready? let’s go.
What is High Sensitivity?
Having high senstiivty pretty much means as it sounds. That, in some aspects, people with high sensitivity are more sensitive to external and internal stimulation.
Here are a couple of examples.
People might be highly sensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, smell, and emotions, both their own, and other peoples. There are many ways these sensitivities manifest, which you can check out on the Highly Sensitive Person website.
More often than not, people that have high sensitivity do not know it. Some don’t ever end up knowing it, and some, like myself, do. Approximately 15 to 20% of the population has high sensitivity.
The issue with not knowing, is that people with high sensitivity may end up internalizing their sensitivity as a problem, which is unhealthy and can be destructive.
Many people with high sensitivity end up using unhealthy coping mechanisms, like substance abuse, to bury their sensitivity and inability to understand and cope in more healthy ways.
And, the paradox? Yep, here we go.
High Sensitivity as A Paradox
I label high sensitivity as a paradox to push the limits of language and experience, of what is known. Important. Example? Of course.
I know several people with high sensitivity; and, all of them are clear and strong.
Yep, they are sensitive, and sensitive in different ways, yet that sensitivity makes them clearer and stronger.
In language, as we discussed, sensitivity is associated with a weakness, or deficit, which is simply not the case.
When people that are highly sensitive know about their sensitivity, they can learn to cope with their higher sensitivity, and, in many cases, higher emotional input and output in more healthy ways.
Further, because emotions are felt more, both internal and external, it provides the highly sensitive person with a gift.
The gift of feeling more, knowing more, and loving more.
Another gift is being able to sense where people are at emotionally. Super helpful always, and even more so in leadership roles.
It gives you the opportunity to meet people exactly where they are, free of any judgement. You understand your emotions more, and so you understand other people’s emotions more too. It works like that.
Being a person with high sensitivity has been a journey from thinking for many, many years that I was broken to the realization that I am clear about my emotions and stronger for my sensitivities. Much Stronger.
If you think you might be a person living with high sensitivity, I recommend you take the sensitivity quiz on the Highly Sensitive Person website.
Regardless of whether you are a person living with high sensitivity or not, it is important to remember that our senses and emotions are part of being human. We all have them.
Yes, some people are more sensitive than others to their senses and emotions. However, we all need to take the time to understand our sensations and emotions; time to be with them, and greet them with compassion and grace.
Along the way, please also don’t forget to continue to extend yourself that same compassion and grace. You deserve it.
We’ve all heard the term lonely, or loneliness, yes? Of course, right. Well, how often do you find yourself feeling lonely? Often, maybe? Especially right now, feeling lonely is probably more present for more of humanity than at any other time in recent history. Hm.
Alright, so let’s take a look at loneliness, shall we.
I want to better understand why it is that people associate loneliness with something negative, or rather with a negative emotional state. Sound familiar?
Yep, humans have a habit of turning certain emotions, like loneliness, into something that is negative, which is not at all helpful. Really. Example? Sure.
How often have you had someone ask you in a concerning way, if everything is okay, when you are emoting happiness? Sure, not often.
Now, how often have you had someone ask you in a concerning way, if everything is okay when you are emoting sadness? Yep. Exactly.
Why do we do this? Many reasons, some of which we will explore in a moment. Before we do, however, let’s define loneliness. Will be helpful for our inquiry. Here we go.
noun /ˈləʊnlinəs/ /ˈləʊnlinəs/[uncountable]
a feeling of being unhappy because you have no friends or people to talk to
the fact of a period of time being sad and spent alone
Right, there we go. What do you notice? Hm. I notice a few things. Okay, let’s pull these definitions apart a little and see what we get, shall we. Alright, let’s go.
Emotions and Feelings
Human beings have a very hard time with certain emotions. Yep, you know. Sadness, grief, depressed, anxious, and desperate, to name but a few; and, yep, loneliness is also a part of this list.
Now, why do you imagine this is the case? Is it that there are certain emotions that we are “supposed” to feel, while there are others that we are not supposed to feel? Hm.
Well, let’s keep in mind that you cannot have happiness without sadness, yet we concentrate so hard on happiness, that often, I think, it eludes people. Why?
Because we are so desperate for it to occur; and conversely, desperate for sadness to not occur.
Yet, as was aforementioned, there is another way to think about and to know our emotions. For instance, to know that sadness must occur for happiness to occur. Literally. That is not a figure of speech, as they say. It is truth.
Without knowing the depths of sadness, you cannot know the heights of happiness. They go together. Always have, and always will.
If someone tells you that they don’t experience sadness, or that they are happy all the time. They are mistaken. It’s just not humanly possible. We can know more avoid sadness than we can loneliness.
Loneliness, like sadness, or any other negatively ascribed in language emotion, is not a problem. It’s not. Loneliness will occur, and when it does it doesn’t mean that you are a problem, or having an issue because you are experiencing loneliness. It doesn’t. Another possibility? Yep.
It is possible to subscribe to a different way to think about any emotion deemed negative or an issue in language. It is.
We can subscribe to a world where emotions that we are socialized to avoid or resist are accepted.
Acceptance of all emotions is freedom. Freedom from dogma about certain emotions being “good” and certain emotions being “bad.” Emotions are not good or bad, they just are. Yet, at times, some might feel better than others.
However, know that emotions you typically associate with negative feelings can actually feel very therapeutic. Now, know that I did not live the majority of my life experiencing my emotions this way.
Most of my life I experienced emotions like many people.
Avoiding and resisting the emotions that we typically associate with being a problem, or an issue, like sadness and grief.
It’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve been able to truly experience these emotions and the feelings that follow.
And, I can tell you that is possible to emote and feel sadness and grief, and to do so in a way that also feels like a release and an unburdening of your entire self. That may sound a little dramatic, yet it is true.
When we decouple emotions like loneliness, sadness, or grief, from the typical ways people think about (and define) them, and socialize future generations to think about them, we are living in a new realm with new possibilities.
A realm where
experiencing all of your emotions is okay, is accepted, even embraced.
you are actually strength personified when you allow yourself to feel and experience all of your emotions and associated feelings in the way they happen.
future generations are socialized to understand their emotions in new ways, honoring the entire emotional spectrum as healthy and positive.
Happiness and Sadness
As I’ve written, happiness and sadness go together. The occurence of one is dependent on the occurrence of the other. Okay. What does that really mean?
It means that we don’t have to subscribe to the notion that because we are experiencing loneliness that we are unhappy. Really. Even though sadness and unhappiness are part of the definition of loneliness, it does not mean that we have to experience our loneliness this way.
Better language might be that, though we may experience unhappiness or sadness about being lonely, it does not follow that we will always feel the same way. Further, when we are unhappy or sad about being lonely, it’s okay. Being unhappy and sad are part of being human.
Really feeling and experiencing loneliness and every emotion that comes with being lonely makes being with people that more wondrous. It does.
Right now all across the world people are alone more than, in some cases, like mine, they ever have been before. And, yes, there is loneliness, and sadness, and, yep, unhappiness; and, there is also companionship, happiness, and joy.
It is really important to feel our emotions, and to accept them. All of them. It is being alive. When we desire certain emotions over others, we set ourselves up for disappointment. And, an expectation that certain emotions will show up more than others is not realistic.
It’s not how the world works, and it is not how being a human works.
When we release ourselves from the expectation, for instance, that we must be surrounded by people and be happy all the time, we have freedom.
Freedom from an expectation that is inconsistent with being a human being. And, inside of this freedom, we have the opportunity to create a new way to feel our emotions, on our terms and in our own unique way.
Companionship and Loneliness
Just like happiness and sadness, there is companionship (or friendship) and loneliness. And, just like happiness and sadness, companionship and loneliness function similarly, yet are just as important to consider. Ready? Alright, here we go.
Can you think of a time when you had lots of companions, and still felt lonely? Ah, very good. Me too. Therefore we can actually make the argument that having companions does not mean that you will not at times also feel lonely.
You will, I will, we all will. Again, being lonely sometimes is part of being human.
And, just like being with people and also feeling lonely, it is also possible that you will at times feel lonely, and not experience unhappiness and sadness. It’s true.
Even though the definition of loneliness spells out quite clearly that unhappiness and sadness are a byproduct of being lonely, it is not always the case.
Emotions and associated feelings are quite complex and simple at the same time. They occur. And, they don’t always occur the same way. They’re not supposed to.
In my estimation there are a couple of things we can all do to avoid traps associated with expecting to feel certain emotions one way versus another. Here are a few of those.
Expect emotions to occur and know that they will always occur differently. If you always experience them the same way, it could be that you expect them to occur that way.
Relieve yourself of the notion that emotions are supposed to occur how they always have, or how someone else has told you they should.
Decouple negative feelings from negative emotions. They don’t always occur this way.
Know that it is okay to be lonely sometimes. Actually, it is necessary. Really experiencing loneliness, and all the other emotions and associated feelings that come with being lonely, will ensure your experience of companionship will be that more wonderful.
Embrace all of your emotions. Resisting and avoiding emotions, like loneliness, or sadness, will only ever get you more of that emotion. It works that way.
Alright, we’ve inquired into loneliness, and along the way also, sadness, happiness, greif, and companionship. Remember emotions and the associated feelings that come with them, just are. They are not good or bad, or right or wrong.
You will experience emotions at times as you expect. Yet, if you are open to the possibility that emotions will occur differently, and that they will also feel differently, you may be surprised at what you get back.
Have you ever considered hope and despair at the same time? Hm. I’m not sure that I have. I would like to. Thoughts? Well, let’s do a cursory look, and see what we get.
In 4 Reasons Why Language Is Power, I wrote about the power of language. We don’t typically consider the power that lives inside the language we use. It is very important. It shapes experiences, expectations, and trajectories that we set our lives on.
Well, look at that. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire about a result. Hm. Interesting. And, despair is defined as the lack of hope, or lack of such a feeling of expectation and desire about a result. Mm, this will be fun.
Expectations and desires for a certain [result] thing to happen
If hope is, at least as it is defined here, associated with an expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, when we hope we are essentially concentrating on a result.
And, if that result doesn’t occur? Then we may fall into despair, which is the lack of the expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. The issue?
We cannot have hope without despair. They go together. If you can feel hope, then it is equally possible to feel despair. Not a problem. Important, however, to understand. Why?
Often, people get upset or frustrated when in despair. Yet, as we can see from the language itself, it is only natural. If you subscribe to the feeling of hope, then you will sometimes feel despair. And, vice versa.
Another way to look at hope and despair
Another way to think about hope and despair is as two sides of the same coin. The world is full of these opposites. Sad and happy, life and death, and so on. For the world to occur as it does, they are needed.
Yet, we can create more power over these concepts by understanding that they always occur together. Meaning that if you are sometimes hopeful, you will sometimes feel despair. It is a must.
When we understand this as true, we can shift our thinking, and mindset to incorporate this apparent paradox with a new understanding.
The new understanding is that these concepts are one. Think about the coin analogy I’ve used in this post. A coin is one thing, yes? Yet, it has two distinct sides; head and tales. Hope and despair are the same. As are all pairs of opposites.
When do we run into trouble with these concepts?
When we expect hope, for instance, to show up more than despair. Why? Because then when despair shows up, we get down, frustrated, maybe even angry. Not helpful.
By accepting that despair is a part of hope, as sadness is a part of happiness, we increase our awareness about the fact that despair will come; and, guess what?
When it does, it’s okay. It’s normal to feel despair sometimes. Just as it’s normal to feel sad sometimes. If you never feel sad, or despair, then happiness and hope will elude you. True.
It is also important to welcome despair as much as you welcome hope. Why? Because when we resist feeling despair, we avoid it. And, when we avoid things, we actually attract more of those concepts into our life.
I avoided sadness for such a long time, that I was often sad. Really. Did I look sad all the time? No. It was internal. Yet, believe me, it was there. As was despair.
Yet, when you openly accept that all feelings happen, you create a space to be with them when they come. No judgment. Being in despair or sad doesn’t mean anything.
You are not having “issues” because you sometimes feel despair. Funny how we create language around “negative” emotions and associate them with problems. Not helpful. In fact, detrimental, and untrue.
What can you do?
When you are hopeful, notice. And, be hopeful. Be just as you are in those wonderful moments of hope. Or, happiness, joy, or elation.
And, when you are in despair, notice. And, be in despair. Be just as you are in those wonderful moments of having despair. Or, sadness, melancholy, or misery.
Our emotions come and go. It is important to expect them all to show up. All of them. And, to welcome them all. When we welcome them all, they stop having power over us.
In that moment of acceptance, we create a space to be with our emotions in a completely new way. Free of judgement and created meaning that one emotion is better, or should be more expected than another.
Remember that our emotions just are, and that hope and despair are two sides of the same coin. Just like the heads and tales of a coin, hope and despair are one.