I had a fascinating conversation with a young man who is a brilliant entrepreneur; innovative, creative, and wise. In the last year, as I’ve conversed with him, I’ve seen him move from insecurity into his true nature, becoming confident, and certain in the direction he wants his business to go.
On our call, he described what was new to him, how he was realizing more deeply that it’s not about the circumstances or surroundings we may find ourselves in that create a negative feeling, it’s about our thinking of the situation that creates the negative feeling.
Then he went on to say that he was still struggling a bit with feeling some negative emotions about other areas in his life, and feeling like he could do better. He asked what I thought of this, and if I had any answers.
I reflected for a moment, then said, “It seems to me, Chris, that you already know the answer to that yourself.”
He looked puzzled. “What do you mean? I’m feeling a bit stuck.”
“When we first began to talk, you mentioned that you were seeing beyond the negative feelings about a particular situation you found yourself in, and that the situation then became positive, and you felt good about it. Is that right?”
“Well, yes, that’s true. But. . . “
I gently interrupted him, “You know how I feel about “but”, right? It’s often an excuse that gets in the way of us honoring what’s right in our life, versus focusing on what’s wrong.”
Chris hesitated for a moment, then remarked, “You know, Elsie, that sounds a little like denial of negative feelings, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, I did see the evidence of seeing beyond my negative feelings in regard to the story I just shared with you. Yet I feel that we simply can’t ignore our negative feelings. We must explore them to some degree.
“When I found myself seeing beyond the negative situation I was in,” Chris continued, “I was exploring the matter with my team. It was at that point that I had the insight that it wasn’t the situation; it was my thinking about the situation. Then the situation changed, and I was able to see a solution. This new thinking also inspired my team to view the matter in a different way.”
“Let me ask you something, Chris. When you discussed the situation with your team, what state of mind were you in?”
Pausing momentarily, and looking very thoughtful, Chris then replied, “I had the thought come to me in that moment that we needed to explore the situation, and that thought came with calmness and a sense of knowing that it wasn’t the situation; it was my thinking.”
“Let me be sure I understand you. In other words, you knew it was your thinking in that moment, not the situation.”
“Yes, I knew.” Chris’s face lit up. “Ah, I get it. My state of mind was already clear when we began to discuss the solution. So we explored from clarity, not anxiety.”
“Exactly! Beautifully said, Chris. Exploring from clarity has a whole different feeling and result, than examining something from anxiety.
“Let me reinforce what you’re saying, Chris. Ignoring negative feelings doesn’t mean denying them. Negative feelings are actually helpful in the same way that a red light or stop sign is. The negative feeling alerts us to stop the thinking we’re having in the moment.
“However, it’s important to know that we don’t want to linger at the stop sign or we may get hit from behind. I’m saying that we don’t want to take those negative feeling onto ourselves so that we suffer from them. Instead, we “see” them and learn from them without the suffering.
“Syd spoke of this from the beginning of his teaching. At first, I also thought this was denying the problem, and I argued with him about that. He did that thing of his that used to annoy me. He smiled! And refused to argue!! I would ruminate over the situation I was stuck in and would find myself even more entrenched in “but”, “I can’t”, “it’s not that easy”.
“Finally, the penny dropped, just like it did for you, Chris. I began to “see” that it was my thinking, not the situation. “Seeing” resolved the matter with clarity, without suffering.”
Chris let out a long sigh, and a beautiful smile came over his face. “So that thing that Syd did, when he smiled at you instead of arguing, it really annoyed you, did it?”
“Yes, at that time of my learning, it sure did.” We both broke into laughter and the call was ended.