tba, revised draft
Is it acceptable to you to run your life based on false and/o misunderstood signals and emotions that are harmful?
LOTS OF WRONG PERCEPTIONS, FEELINGS, THOUGHTS...
In You Are Not Your Brain, by Schwartz and Gladding, they identify your brain as a passive learning instrument, which, accordingly, often prone to have incorrect patterns of perceptions, feelings, and behaviors, such that we need to be careful to spot "deceptive brain messages". Basically, the brain sends signals but it also receives signals that it matches up with patterns.
"If I'm feeling this, I better eat to soothe it right away" is a deceptive brain message (and/or interpretation, from the brain, of course!) in that it has an incomplete solution and/or bad data that may cause long term harm.
Or "I can't solve this discomfort any other way", so you numb yourself with some substance, instead of engaging your higher brain to intelligently figure out what is needed to solve/resolve the discomfort. If we don't do the latter, we are stuck in the former!
Even considering discomfort as a danger to be avoided is an erroneous brain message. Discomfort is just discomfort.
Basically, we need to look and ask and develop a discernment ability to be able to understand what a feeling means or doesn't mean and also what will work for the overall good. And then we need to develop little practices that when repeating begin to rewire our brains to produce different feelings and behaviors - which will become so automatic that we can operate with great ease, doing the right thing without a struggle.
THE OVERALL PROCESS, AS A CONTEXT
To know how to deal with the process I've gotta know what the process is.
Occurence --> brain matches --> feeling --> interpret feeling --> act to relieve it.
with a pattern as discomfort
↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
The arrows all indicate ways we can intervene, except that the interventions vary in form.
1. An occurrence happens and there is an automatic matching by the brain that happens before we are aware of it. We have no control over that, as it happens before we are aware of it. We do however have the ability to change the patterns of the brain, such as belief reformulation and installation or even using the thinking processes, such as writing or explaining a concept.
2. We also have the power when the thought comes up to ask "is this true or untrue?" and if it is untrue to decouple or at least minimize the effect.
3. The occurring feeling will pop up quickly but can be ameliorated by our thought above plus also evaluating it as no big deal.
4. When there is a feeling, we can correctly interpret the feeling and not overreact or misact. We can then choose to be with the discomfort, knowing it is no big threat, until it passes. This will give us the ability to not act in an inappropriate way.
5. But we can also learn a new way to act to deal with it more directly and effectively without harmful side effects.
FEELINGS CAN RUN OUR LIVES - OR WE CAN
Feelings can run our lives if we're unintelligent about it or we can harvest them for our best benefit.
We hugely misinterpret our feelings and body signals, doing the best we can, given our level of knowledge and how we've learned. (And then we add judgment and feeling bad in a "pile on" of negativity - like after a football player is knocked down and all the players pile on top of him - except that you're doing that to yourself, piling on big emotional weights to burden you down.)
WHAT I NOTICE
I not only misinterpret my feelings but I also "make up" something and then believe it is true, rather than made up. [Note that psychos believe that irreality is real. On the other side of the spectrum is the healthy thinker who sees what might not be the truth and also recognizes that what he made up is only made up and therefore cannot be a "truth" "out there", where reality exists.]
I don't need to get into "suffering about my suffering" or "making a problem from possibly having a problem".
We make ourselves wrong or we bemoan something we see so that we are adding many interpretation and judgment created problems to our life - creating needless suffering. This is a central theme of the Buddha - see that you create needless suffering and then deal with the sources! Read Suffering And Struggle In Life.
Note that a "feeling" is actually an assessment of "good" or "bad". It is a "thought" and not a reality. The actual body sensation is real - a tightening up or a racing of the heart, or whatever. The "thought" behind it, unless there is a real physical threat, is not true, is not real, is simply a story about what is going on.
EXAMPLES FOR MYSELF
Depressed or a stuffed up nose?
I notice in myself that if I feel stuffed up in my sinuses around my nose and below my eyes I initially think "oh, I feel depressed". And then I made myself miserable, instead of doing something about it. Finally, after journaling about it, even though I didn't feel like looking at it or "working" to move the pen, I realized that I just have stuffy sinuses to handle. So I developed a little procedure and wrote it out on a card to put in the bathroom on how to unstuff my nose - and how to not cause it through eating late at night, which caused some reflux, and avoiding dairy products. Plus I added alot of water to clear out my system in an alternative way.
Sleepy or sad?
I notice that when I get up in the morning and I didn't sleep enough and I "feel" as if I don't have energy, I also seem to feel sad. And then I make this the truth and then I feel bad about it and life. I feel a 'sense of loss'. I am truly in the land of vagueness and (mild) hysteria (in the sense of emotional upset without any foundation). My normal reaction is to just be listless or to divert myself to something meaningless that occupies my brain. But as I look at it now, I see that it is merely a tired feeling of some sort and I have misinterpreted it, because of similarities possibly, as feeling sad. The cure is physical primarily. I need to move my body. And, as soon as I can it would seem to be a good idea to get my body exercises, so that I am generating the "good" chemicals. Score 1 for me, as I released myself from a spiral of "oh, shit, this is bad" (similar to most people's "oh, this is awful", which then plunges the person into a descending spiral, reinforced by more and more negative thoughts).
Tired or "down"?
In the afternoons, I would experience what I now know as an afternoon slump, but I thought it was a weakness on my part (criticism of myself!) and that I should be able to not have that. But then I learned more about the natural rhythm and adapted my behavior by using either "The Pause" or, better, a Nap (The Power Of Napping). Or, one of my big ones, I misinterpret low hydration as being tired (or even stupid) - so the strategy is to not the general signal and then to drink water just in case. It usually (miraculously) works!
Upset or low blood sugar?
I could create anxiety about a feeling of anxiety or generalized by me as "upset". I was in the land of vague, until I checked in with my brain and my body. Clearly I just needed some food. And, of course, except for late at night, I learned it is not good to eat sugar to save me, as it created a worse problem later - and I do rather dislike the discomfort of low blood sugar, kinda like being in a stupor. Also, I did learn that a nap or relaxation pause did help out, especially when I thought I had low blood sugar but just needed a clearing of the brain .
A worksheet may look like this, though I'd possibly add another column saying what the old action was and the new actions I would take instead:
Description of the feeling My old interpretation My new/possible interpretation
Uneasy This is big. I'm "off" It is a erroneous, vague brain
message meaning probably
nothing. It's discordant, so I'll do The Pause, rest, or exercise
TRIGGERS, UNHELPFUL BEHAVIORS, ETC.
To inquire into this further, I asked myself what harmful behaviors do I engage in to relieve discomforts and what are those discomforts? The list looks pretty much like the standard list for everybody, with some variations on which frequency they do them.
Eating ice cream late at night. Might be watching tv and a bit "antsy", like I needed to busy myself with something. And then I also kept on eating in a zombie like state as I wasn't paying attention to the eating as I was mostly watching the tv program.
To interpret it as "hunger" might be inaccurate. Since this is late at night I limit my water intake, but I find that a little bit of water in between bites causes me to feel as "satisfied" as just eating the ice cream - and I would seem to need less ice cream.
Watch tv more than a minimum. I can't manage the world (via political talk shows) nor just be amused by Steward or Colbert or Leno or Letterman or Kimmel or Fallon. This isn't my direction nor anything that'll really do me much good. I recognize the studies that show we go into mild depression after about 15 minutes of watching tv. So if I feel like I "need to occupy myself" or "to not think so hard", then I know that this is a fallacious message - and I just do The Pause, sometimes the short one, sometimes the longer one, but five minutes makes an amazing difference even though it is so short. I'll have to figure out why, later.
Feel hungry so I must eat something. Well, I found after watching a tv program that being thirsty can feel like being hungry. So I'd drink a big glass of water and I'd be fine.
Feel "unsatisfied". Now there is a feeling that is hard to accurately identify. It is a bit vague. My mind can interpret is as an "existential dissatisfaction", pervasive and an indication about my life not being productive enough or not doing the right thing. So I'd go into a mild funk (a behavior, incidentally). Well, generally that is only bad thinking going on, and it is in inaccurate and meaningless. Unsatisfied can mean feeling unstimulated or bored. Or it could be that I need to get something done and/or work toward my purpose - in this case, I'd just get a little thing done, maybe even a short piece or some editing - and I'd feel satisfied. Here actually eating a meal was helpful in a concrete way as "unsatisfied" is a made-up in the brain false notion, mostly.
Feel "lazy". Of course, there is no such feeling, per se. It is a thought that maybe I'm efforting too much or I don't want to do anything...that I've "lost my motivation", that there is nothing to do that is meaningful or I want to do. It is always helpful when I look in my Reminders Notebook, flipping to what seems to interest me at the time, which seems to "fill me up", to fill up that hole I interpret as "feeling lazy". The list of activities is good as I can find something of interest. But even looking at my overall Power Statement or other such statements or a review of my strength or my accomplishments or a few good memories (using my Memories Book often or my Visuals book that has alot of inspiration). And, the good old standby taking The Pause seems to seemingly oddly make a difference - often disappearing that feeling of lazy, which may have been about feeling out of balance and getting back on center.
Exercising, as a decision not a "feel like", is a hugely productive behavior that has a good effect on weight (calories, plus I feel better so tend to eat less to soothe or calm) and energy, along with feel good chemicals. Plus I read on the treadmill, so I even feel better about it. Lots of "filling up" for me.
ANOTHER WAY OF DISCRIMINATING
I can use my basic reasoning power to know that there is no significance to a particular feeling, that there is no danger and no urgency. [On the sureface, this seems a "so what", but it is actually a central way of thinking that is vital to living a good life!]
If I can't still nail down what is going on, I'll just use The Pause which works for alot of it or at least has me feel better and more refreshed and capable and in charge or a nap or a walk or exercise. Most of the time the "discomforts" don't mean nothing nohow - and I've now become clear on this. Some of it is even seemingly random (actually non-meaningful, just fired off by some old brain pattern that is deceptive).
I will simply wait and see it as a feeling that will pass - and I'll be fine. A "deceptive brain message" will simply have passed through my mind, an electrochemical event, and that's all - nothing more, and nothing will have happened...really!