Have you ever experienced staying in the swill? By staying in the swill I'm referring to that heavy feeling that you put on like a cloak day-in and day-out because you're trapped in your thoughts of worry, fear, or doubt. You try really hard to focus on things you're grateful for, or opportunities that lie ahead, but you generally end up back at square one, feeling like crap. You maybe even have moments that give you hope for a better feeling because you laugh at something, or a wonderful idea or memory passes through your mind; But the moment those positive thoughts cross through and they bring you peaceful feelings, the swill thoughts (or what I like to call, thought turds) pop into your head like the school marm who catches you laughing during a test...
"Don't you dare begin to feel at peace and relaxed, you have to focus on all the things you're worried about!"
Well let me tell you, I have absolutely been experiencing this state of mind for the last week, and am feeling like I've finally emerged through the other side of the fire - a little scathed, and A LOT relieved...
So what in the world happened? Well, I had an experience over the holiday break that was pretty traumatic and put me in an immediate low mood. Like, permanent nausea, rash on my face (literally) type of low mood (my skin likes to make sure I know where I'm at in my state of mind, isn't that nice?!) And as I remind clients and students in my What Moves You community, when you're in a low mood, it can be difficult to see life clearly, to hear the positive intention behind what others are saying, or to even register the positive experiences in life that are happening all around you.
Why is that? It's quite simple actually. We are experiencing life through the lens of our thinking, every moment of every day. Even though it is quite seductive to think that life is happening TO us, or our feelings are coming from what's going on around us, we are in actuality ALWAYS having an inside-out experience; Looking at life THROUGH the lens of the thoughts swirling around in our heads, each and every moment. Being that I had had a traumatic experience, there were multiple things going on inside me:
- For days following I was trying to make sense of what happened. Why did it happen? How could things have gone differently? And so on...
- I was constantly trying to make sense of an upsetting situation that was over and I obviously couldn't time travel to change it, so I was in a perpetual funk. A low mood. A sadness.
- Due to the funky low mood, even if I wasn't thinking about the specific experience, I was seeing life through those lenses - like a pair of glasses full of fingerprints and smudges. I couldn't see clearly; My state of mind was shot. So every little aspect of my life that I had a stressful thought about was amplified ten-fold.
How was I able to overcome the thoughts and therefore the funk? Number one, I had to remind myself that I'm human and it is OK to get swooped up into the negative thought storms once in a while; Surrendering to that understanding in itself began to auto-correct my state of mind. I began to appreciate and love myself for having had the experience, and that it was truly over and in the past. Every time I thought about it, I was making the choice to hit replay on that movie, so I finally made the choice to stop hitting replay.
You see, our feelings come from our thinking, not from the world around us. So every time I was hitting replay on that movie, even if just for a moment, stress and anxiety riddled my body. From there, if I thought about normal life stressors about my life or work while in that feeling, those stressors felt so incredibly real and huge and heavy, they seemed out of my control and I would freeze. I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide away from the world. Mind you, if I were in a positive state of mind, those life stressors would of course still cross my mind, but I would easily be able to let them pass or they would motivate me into action, therefore moving them through my mind without even trying.
Bottom line is, we are the thinkers. No one is climbing inside of our heads crafting our thoughts for us. We have a huge bandwidth for a massive variety of thoughts that we think all day, every day: the construct of who we are (I'm introverted, I'm funny, I'm sarcastic), judgements of ourselves or others, memories & experiences; To what we plan to eat later in the day or what pen we choose to pick up to write with, and EVERYTHING in between. We have so many thoughts crossing our minds at the speed of light, that we often can't keep up. But the more we have an understanding that we are the generators of all those thoughts, and we have the free will to pick and choose what to pay attention to OR we can just observe them flowing through our mind like a ticker tape at the bottom of our television screens, the more at peace we are. As Elsie Spittle so wisely said in her book, Nuggets of Wisdom...
Remember that the nature of Thought is pure energy, so it flows. Use thought wisely - let negative thoughts flow through your mind. Then your natural well-being will rise to the surface.
So dear reader, I hope this shines a little light on where your life experience is coming from, as well as some peace of mind that thought storms and low moods happen to each and every one of us. Having the understanding of where my feelings and funk were coming from, sure helped me to trust that I didn't have to be afraid of what was happening to me, and I knew it would all inevitably pass. But darn it, life can be hard, it will throw you punches, and it's OK to have to work it through sometimes.
See you again next week, XO ~