Focus on Feelings

The question is not “what do I want to do?” or “what goal do I want to accomplish?”. The question is: “what do I want to feel?”

For example: “I want to eat a slice of pie.” But it’s not the pie I really want, it’s the feeling of sweet satisfaction that comes from the experience. Even if the pie was bland, consuming it should be enough – but it’s not. The flavor must align with my expectations, and I don’t want to be rushed and cram it down my throat, and I want a pleasant scent in the air so as not to interfere with the pie’s aroma. The pleasure of the pie comes from the feelings it inspires, not from an emptied plate.

In other words, external attainment is NOT the goal. The external world simply provides excuses to feel. We want to feel, but we also want something to justify those feelings. Bear in mind that “feelings” come from within, the external things aren’t the source – we simply like having something to look at while we feel, or having a narrative to follow. We know this is true because of all the fictional tales we consume in books and movies – these resources provide fodder for feeling despite their intangible nature. Even our imagination creates fantasies that draw out our emotions.

In other words, we don’t need to find specific external triggers for feelings. WE generate the feelings and choose where to apply them. For example, we can love a toy stuffed animal. The object isn’t the source of the emotion, it’s the canvas upon which we paint our feelings. There’s no need to pursue an exact external outcome, we just need to cultivate the feeling we want to feel (such as delight, wonder, accomplishment, appreciation).

Therefore, a more appropriate question might be: “what object or condition will allow me to easily apply my preferred emotion?”. In other words, I could lower my expectations while receiving the exact same feelings for less effort. This is efficiency. You SHOULD want to feel the best you can feel – why not? The point being: if you strain to attain, that’s your choice – it means you’re withholding your feelings, preventing them from being applied to the things readily around you – you’re being picky.

For example, it doesn’t take much to feel like a champion. Play a low-skill video game, watch a heroic movie in which the character triumphs, organize a kitchen drawer, tidy a room, lift some light weights, daydream about winning an award. Every feeling is within reach as long as you don’t get judgmental about it. Does it cheapen the experience of existence to keep lowering your expectations until you achieve satisfaction? No, that’s just good gamesmanship. And once you feel like a winner, perhaps the external world will start treating you like one.

Feelings Exercise

I feel apprehensive but I don’t enjoy the sensation it evokes. I feel a tension in my chest and my thoughts parade unpleasant scenes within my mind. Therefore, I’m going to alter my mood by imagining an opposite feeling. I’m going to dump into a daydream that demonstrates a feeling of confidence and surety.

“There I am, powerful beyond all reason, energy flowing from my appendages, shaping everything around me into exactly as I expect – no mystery or surprise anymore, as my surroundings become me – and I am calm, a gentle creator that forms lighthearted merriment within a world of joy.”

Well now I feel calm and in control, my apprehension has dissipated. Daydreaming about a simplistic scene was enough to influence my mood – serving as an antidote to the poison previously in place. Instead of passively waiting for my apprehension to pass, I applied mental-discipline to displace it immediately.

I didn’t argue with my mind, trying to convince it to be calm. I went to the source, the very foundation, a structure comprised of feelings – and replaced it. There’s a certain ratio of emotions I want to feel, so I only entertain the ones I prefer in the quantity I select.

Dominant Component

It’s kinda weird to look at life from a “feelings” perspective and see their complete and utter dominance. Feelings are the primary component of experience, and therefore existence as a whole. Life is an emotional event – that’s it. In other words: it’s not what we do that matters, it’s what we feel about what we do that matters.

I watch a movie not because it has an awesomely original plot that absolutely blows my mind, I watch it because it inspires me to feel something. Movies are typically a bunch of emotion-inducing cliches strung together. “Oh no, the main-character is suffering! Oh good, he’s doing something about it! Oh no, he’s challenged once again! Oh good, he’s overcome that challenge! Yay!”

If I simply documented the physical activities I perform in a day, life would seem extremely dull and kinda dumb. “Stand, walk, expel vocal emissions, chew & swallow, sit, think, move hands around – and repeat those actions throughout the day until finally lying down.

But if I documented the emotional rollercoaster I experience everyday, that’s where the excitement’s been hiding! “Oh no, time to get up, I’m worried! Oh phew, made it through another morning. Oh no, I have the entire rest of the day left! What’s that!? Something unexpected!? WHY ME!!?? Oh, I got through it. I’m worried though!? What if something ELSE happens!? Oh, the day’s over, THANK GOODNESS!! Oh no, time for sleep!? I can’t sleep!!!”

Silly me, I had been trying to rein in my thoughts this whole time. But thoughts are just the tiny perceptible tip of a giant underwater emotional iceberg. It’s “feelings” I should be concentrating on. But on the bright side, emotions are relatively easy to manipulate – as popular media readily demonstrates. I could argue with my thoughts all day long and remain right where I started by the end of it. But daydream about playing with a rumpy-bumpy frolicking puppy? “Aww! Too cute! Okay I feel better!”

Fanciful Feelings

Start everyday with the feeling of “delightful anticipation”. For example: “How would I feel knowing today is the day I discover my purpose, my passion, the task whose undertaking inspires long-term feelings of fulfillment.” Wow, I can’t wait!

It’s the opposite of how I usually start the day, which is with pessimistic prognostication. “I hope today is only slightly worse than yesterday – and not a lot worse.” Why not make it wildly optimistic instead? You would think I’d have given up on pessimism because so much of the awful stuff never came true. So why not give idealistic expectation a try?

Before breakfast, I imagined the feeling of having a great time eating delicious food. Unfortunately, I was a few minutes late and it was cold – so not as flavorful as I hoped. I didn’t entertain feelings of disappointment though, I imagined other things as I sat eating. I mean, I did complain a little but saw it irritated my wife. I then imagined the feeling I’d get from saying something funny, making her laugh. I proceeded to say some amusing things and she chuckled a little. Overall, a success I think.

Here’s an important distinction to make: imagine the feeling you’d feel while experiencing an awesome circumstance. It’s not about the actual scene or situation, the significance comes from the feeling it inspires. It’s not about the process or the pathway to attainment, ignore the logistics. It can be completely fanciful – you’re only after the positive feeling it inspires. Imagine yourself in this awesomeness, how do you feel?

Feelings Alert

“Oh bother, I’m feeling upset. I feel unworthy, unloved, unappreciated. It feels like I’m missing out on so many things. I feel as if nothing goes right in my life. It feels like everything is horrible.”

“Oh no! He’s upset! Sound the alarm! We better figure out what’s causing this issue so it can be fixed!”

“First, let’s do an overall scan of his current life-situation, maybe there’s a lack of fulfillment there – a hole that needs filling. Let’s also scan his childhood for early signs and symptoms that might trace back to his current problem. Also, scan his thoughts, what’s he been thinking about lately!? All hands on deck!! This is NOT a drill!!”

Or, I could choose not to have those feelings and bypass the rigmarole.

“I notice I’m feeling bad. Hm. Perhaps I’ll daydream about a scene that I’d enjoy. There I am, feeling triumphant! I’m a winner, praised by those that appreciate me – I feel their love. I did it, I AM worthy, I feel worthy. This worked out great, everything’s great, I feel great!”

My earlier complaints are gone. I feel better. Who cares what my current situation is. Who cares what my childhood was like. Who cares what I was thinking about. I choose to feel something pleasant. Turns out, it doesn’t matter why I felt bad before – logic won’t help. I just need to write-over the unpleasant feelings with better ones.

Any cheap, low-quality plot can manipulate feelings. The reason why I feel a certain way isn’t special. I could’ve been watching a soap-opera and applied its plot to my own life. Feelings are dumb and they’re evoked with dumb story-lines. This is fine, but it means feelings aren’t valuable – they’re a dime a dozen. This also means that whatever inspires a feeling isn’t special either. I can choose to make it special, but that’s a decision I make – it has no control over me.

Well that’s the theory anyway. We’ll see how the previously mentioned experiment goes. The initial results are promising though – so far so good.

Feelings Experiment

For many years now, my strategy has been to attack my negative thoughts with great fervor and ferocity. The process worked to some degree. But it was a daily game of whack-a-mole where I bashed each thought as it entered my awareness. I could tell a thought was “bad” by the way it made me feel. In other words: whenever I felt bad, I would identify and eliminate whatever thought I caught stirring-up trouble in my mind. But in some sense, I resented my mind for presenting me with a limitless source of sour musings.

In addition to that, I adopted a worldview that allowed me to dismiss scary and worrisome concepts. This took a few years to take hold but I’m no longer plagued by fear. Now it’s mostly a general dissatisfaction that haunts me. Hunting down wayward thoughts doesn’t seem to be enough. I’ve recently started considering the importance of “feelings” and their prominence in the experience of existence. It seems strange to have dismissed their significance for so long.

Therefore, I’m currently engaged in an experiment in which I’m monitoring my feelings. Whereas I used to manage good/bad thoughts, it’s now good/bad feelings. But instead of bad feelings indicating a bad thought, I no longer care about the thought I was having – I must immediately change my feeling to a better one. This can be done by dumping into a pleasant daydream or by imagining what a particular pleasant feeling feels like. Feelings are relatively easy to manipulate.

Thoughts tend to fight back and resist. Feelings just kinda go with the flow. It’s easier to incite people with soap-operas than intellectual debate. You could explain how erroneous and corrupt someone is until you’re blue in the face – but if you mention how that person kicked a dog, it’s instant hate. The same thing happens with the mind, so skip the debate and just show it puppies. “Aww puppies!! So cute!!”

Feelings Galore

Why would a world exist whose purpose seems to be the production of feelings?

We can readily observe that the particular narratives used to generate feelings are low-effort and repetitive. We can also observe that both pleasant and unpleasant feelings are elicited – meaning, individual comfort doesn’t seem to be a concern of the system. We can also observe that the mind itself generates feeling-inducing thoughts within the imagination all the time. We can also observe that the physical tasks individuals do all day aren’t very significant, consisting of busy-work or time-wasting activities or entertainment of some sort.

Whereas the excitement and intensity of life comes from feelings. You could be alone in a house, doing nothing at all, and then anxiety takes hold and you no longer feel alone – you’re scared. Now those feelings are firing at full-blast. It wasn’t the activity that was significant, just the feelings.

If the system doesn’t care what type of feelings are produced, does that mean that individuals have the option of selecting the feelings they prefer? Let’s consider this for a moment: if the world is all about feelings, doesn’t it make sense to make them a priority? We already know that you don’t need high-quality narratives to evoke feelings – the ideas can be dumb. So, by telling ourselves stories that bring about feelings we prefer, wouldn’t we improve our overall experience of existence?

Perhaps I was barking up the wrong tree, focusing on thoughts – trying to piece together an infallible worldview. You’re not seeking a logical pathway, there’s nothing to figure out, you’re simply imagining things in a way that feels better – and it doesn’t matter how you got there. For example: I don’t have a workshop, but I want one. Such a condition sometimes makes me feel bad. Focusing on that lack and sadness is a dumb thing to do. As an exercise, I will now imagine what it feels like walking into my dream-workshop. I can feel the sense of wonder and excitement and the thrill of having so many tools at my disposal. Hm, you know what, that does feel better.

So every time I feel suboptimal, I should imagine what something better feels like. Time for an experiment: during the next few days, guard your feelings at all cost. If at any time you feel bad, dump into a daydream and imagine a situation that makes you feel good. Remember, the theme can be cliche and simplistic – nothing elaborate. And if you can’t even conjure that, just imagine you’re feeling a pleasant feeling. Do not at any time allow yourself to entertain a negative feeling – don’t analyze it, dump out immediately.

Selecting Perspective

What I see as the fundamental problem of existence is “perspective”. How are you looking at the world? It is perspective that determines the quality of your experience. Something can become “treasure” or “trash” through a single statement.

Tim: What’s that you have there?
Ron: Oh, just a rock I found, it’s nothing.
Tim: Are you kidding!? That’s a large chunk of jadeite!
Ron: So?
Tim: It’s valuable!
Ron: Oh wow! I had no idea! I thought it was worthless!

The malleability of value is absurd actually. It’s unreasonable how quickly and severely something can be valued and devalued in an instant. From relationships, to objects, to concepts, to styles, to actions and behaviors – it’s nuts how something can be suddenly adored or unapologetically hated. And the condition can even be reversed if new information comes to light!

So here’s what we know: perspective determines the quality of experience AND perspective can readily change. Therefore, a logical conclusion follows: I should be able to alter my perspective until I achieve a high-quality experience. In other words, I should be able to adopt an outlook that paints every scene in a delightful way. And because perspective can easily change, this task shouldn’t be difficult.

So why haven’t I done it? Maybe it’s simply a lack of effort. Have I tried altering my perspective whenever I notice I’m having an unpleasant experience? I suppose I haven’t applied it all the time. In fact, I tend to accept many unpleasant circumstances as physical facts that defy redefinition. “This is bad and will always be bad!”.

Although to be fair, some of these circumstances are physical ailments, and I’m not sure how to put those in a positive light. For example, what if I’m experiencing digestion issues, have a headache, or my skin has a sore spot on it, how can I reframe conditions that seem fundamentally unpleasant? Because if I can’t, it puts me in conflict with the world. “Oh cruel world! Why would you inflict such harsh punishment upon me!!? What crime have I committed against thee!? Or doth thou reveal thy true sadistic nature!?”

Here’s some techniques to consider. In these cases, you’re trying to justify and accept circumstances that are unpleasant by their nature. Essentially, you’re trying to take blame off the world and provide a quick and easy way to dismiss your complaints so you can move on and focus on something more pleasant.

Put the blame on yourself, chalk it up to laziness and lack of discipline. Although you know better, you allowed yourself to do something that resulted in a negative consequence. It’s just basic hygiene: if you don’t keep your body clean, it’ll eventually smell.

Accept that there’s a minimum amount of discipline and maintenance required by the world. For example, you have to watch what you eat – which foods and how much. The need for discipline and maintenance is good because it allows for deeper immersion, you have control over some serious consequences – you can actually crash your avatar.

Consider maintenance of the body as a bit of a dance that you have to figure out. It’s customized per person and you have to experiment with what works. Like any complex device, sometimes it’s more fun when it’s unreliable. The early days of computers was like that – it was fun when things broke and you had to track down the problem and work out a solution.

You could also accept some ailments as part of the character you’re playing. Oh, well he’s just the “can’t sleep” guy. Then deal with that aspect in a lighthearted way. “A good night’s rest? Ha, if you consider two and a half hours adequate! Then yeah! All rested, haha.” Or perhaps life is doing you a favor, maybe you’d barrel through life like an express-train if you were well-rested and full of energy. At least now you get to observe and enjoy from a slightly sedated state.

Another option is to think of the body as subject to “weather-like” patterns of periodic “good” and “bad” conditions. Have a sore on your skin? Well it’s just passing through, like a rainy season, it’ll move on eventually. And skin simply wears with age, like coastal erosion. “Oh well, just a facet of the environment I’m in.” It’s simply the ebb and flow of nature.

To sum up, perspective is everything. In every circumstance, select a spot that facilitates a pleasant perspective. In this way, quality of experience improves immensely.

Character Analysis

Thought exercise: Who do you want your character to be? But, he must be flawed, experience difficulties, be surrounded by a bumbling cast of characters, forced to make choices containing suboptimal options, have good and bad days, and live within a faulty world.

Note: It’s probably a good idea if he’s able to deal with problematic circumstances. For example, if I said my character is a leader that gets things done – he’ll be leading a bunch of screw-ups and he’ll need the mental fortitude to handle the many failures he’ll experience. In essence, the strongest character might be one that can effectively process discontentment.

My character, version 1.0:

“Life on Earth” is an immersive theatrical experience in which you’ll live as a “human”. In this flaw-full world, you’ll engage in wacky and dramatic scenes that’ll enthrall and appall. From experiential stories, to fictional depictions, to musings within your own mind – there are exciting narratives around every corner. Can you keep calm amidst the tumult in this land of endless storytelling!?

My character is a visitor to “Life on Earth”. My goal is to have an enjoyable time. I want to get a general overview of the environment, doing just enough to grasp the basic idea of what’s going on, nothing too intense. I’d like a small family so I can experience love and affection in my daily life. I also want to wield tools and interact with technology.

To live as a human, one must become human. For full immersion, any knowledge of my origin is gone from my consciousness and the world actively tries to keep me in the dark about it. Since I chose to visit an action-factory instead of a lifeless moon, I’m willing to accept a certain amount of uncertainty and surprise (it’s like getting into one of those giant wave-pools at a water-park). I’m here for the vibrancy of the experience after-all.

My character is a bit of a nerd, he’s generally aloof but enthusiastic about the stuff he’s into. He has difficulty communicating, participating, appreciating, and deciding. But I accept these “flaws” because all characters have attributes that distance them from perfection – it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Protagonists are always striving toward an ideal they can’t reach. The problems and peculiarities of the world are what make for the most interesting stories.

As for my character’s “strengths”, he offers an atypical perspective blended with a bit of humor. He possesses a robust resilience and a deep dedication. He has a way with logic and reasoning – always seeking to find the optimal, most logical solution to a problem. He strives toward an ideal comprised of a lighthearted attitude, an ability to appreciate, a proficiency in creativity, and a mastery of effective communication.

On a daily basis, he engages with life through a combined expression of his flaws, strengths, and ideals. He seeks understanding of the world he’s in. He follows his interests and consumes narratives wherever he finds them. He partakes in fun little hobbies and plays with tools. He’s also the goto guy when friends seek a certain complexity or depth in conversation.

Rainy Daze

I’ve been analyzing the problem of “bad days” for awhile now. The concept is this: all of a sudden you’re smacked with a bunch of unpleasant circumstances and you feel defeated – and it’s stuff you’d never choose to experience on purpose. Whatever I tried didn’t seem to have any effect on their occurrence. I couldn’t avoid “bad days” and I couldn’t really stop their momentum even when I noticed I was in the middle of one.

So my current analysis of “bad days” leads me to the conclusion that they’re similar to the weather. “Good” and “bad” days come and go like weather patterns – and sometimes there’s a rough storm. Additionally, this weather-pattern system is unavoidable i.e. you can’t stop the rain by being on your best behavior. BUT, the physical manifestation of the bad day and its intensity and the way it affects you CAN be influenced to some degree. It’s kinda like having adequate rain gear available.

For instance, I’ve noticed that the physical manifestations of my bad days are a lot milder than they used to be. This might reflect my softening outlook and attitude. So instead of an all-day power outage, I might see my Internet go down for an hour (and still have cellular access from my phone). Or instead of an all-day fight with my wife, I might spill some water on my shirt. I’m still annoyed, it’s all relative. Spilling water happened to be the worst thing that happened that day.

As far as intensity, it helps when I recognize when a bad day is forming. I typically try to calm myself down and tell myself that I’ll need to apply extra patience throughout the day. The problem though, is it’s rainy and sometimes you step in a deep puddle or slip on the mud. And of course your plans and expectations are kinda messed up, which is frustrating. I’m still trying to find an optimal way to deal with it. Maybe retreat for the day and find something quiet to do.