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!”

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.

Annoyance Theater

The thing about immersive theater is the collaborative aspect, as it’s often ill-defined. Are there scripted actors? Improvisation? Who’s who? Is it co-crafted emergent entertainment or a specific story that’s written out and witnessed in close proximity. I suppose that ambiguity is part of the fun, making it a dance with give-and-take and a bit of mystery and surprise.

I think in this world, the input of the audience is taken into account to some degree. But to what degree I’m not sure. For example, I’ve been having a very uncomfortable morning for the past few hours. That’s not even atypical, as I’m uncomfortable a lot. But this morning seemed more frustrating than usual, filled with a bunch of circumstances that seemed tailor-made to incite annoyance. Why? What did I do to invite such unpleasantries? And what kind of production would go through the effort of portraying such things?

Maybe like a timer in an escape-room, pressure is put on the audience to act. I feel the pressure, but I’m honestly at a loss – where do I apply my output in order to relieve the pushing? I need a hint. In an immersive theater there’s usually someone pointing the way. Maybe I skipped the introductory instructions. Maybe I’m just supposed to keep looking, but with a keener eye backed by increased dedication.

I gotta be honest though, the show I’m experiencing sucks. I really just want to sit in a chair and observe. Every part of this immersive stuff has been too intense or unsatisfying – just overall uncomfortable. If I’m a beta-tester in a soon-to-be-released immersive simulation that allows players to experience human life on Earth, my report is not going to be a positive one. No one should have to experience an endless procession of dissatisfaction. It’s just torture at some point.

P.S. I can obviously perceive the negative tone of this essay. I am also at the statistical nadir of human happiness i.e. mid-life. Is this more of a mid-life crisis manifesting? One of the specific points a participant must endure in order to get the full experience of humanity? Maybe one day I’ll look back at this and laugh joyfully, surrounded by the things I love and fully satisfied in the life I live. Here’s to then.

Chatty Trickster

I mentioned this point a couple days ago but I’ll re-tell it because the realization stood out as significant in my quest to overcome negativity.

I was standing there the other day and my mind started suggesting how subpar something was. As I listened to the complaint, I began thinking: “hey wait a minute, my mind has a nasty opinion about EVERYTHING – so how can THIS particular circumstance be below-average if they’re ALL below-average”. At that moment I felt as though I’d been tricked. A long-term trick too, one that took an embarrassingly long time to notice.

Was my dumb mind making me believe that I’m having a low-quality experience? What makes it low-quality? What criteria is being used to judge against? Or is my mind simply labeling everything “bad” by default? Is my mind and its constant-criticisms the actual source of my general dissatisfaction with life?

If true, that means I should withdraw effort from fulfilling my worldly desires (my mind will only sour the outcome anyway) – and I should instead concentrate all effort onto stopping my mind’s influence on my experiences. (Note: I’ve probably had similar realizations over the years, but such notions fade quickly as I lose myself back into daily life.

Quite simply, my mind cannot be trusted – its opinions are toxic. So, how do I stop my mind from influencing my experience? The typical answer I come up with is: by utilizing awareness and mental discipline. But if I’m still dealing with this issue, that method doesn’t seem very effective. And I can’t usually sustain it for very long, as daily-life seems to suck me back in. But what other options exist? Hm….

Dissatisfying Source

Something I’ve noticed in myself and others, is a tendency to blame a particular condition or circumstance as the source of dissatisfaction. Logically then, one would assume that fixing the condition or circumstance would result in a state of satisfaction – but I’ve noticed that it does not. The attainment of a desired outcome doesn’t produce contentment. In fact, it often elicits a worse feeling. With nothing to blame for ongoing feelings of dissatisfaction, a distressing dilemma can arise.

“What is causing this unrelenting unhappiness!? Nothing seems to satisfy! Won’t I ever feel contentment!?” It appears to me that the root cause of dissatisfaction lies outside the bounds of the fulfillment of one’s desires. In other words, if you attempt to cure discontentment by acquiring something you want, you will fail by your achievement. Another way to put it: by winning, you’ll lose.

I don’t think chasing goals is inherently bad, it’s a game like any other. But believing that attainment will bring a sense of satisfaction is totally and completely wrong. That’s not where you’ll find it. You’re not unhappy because of a condition or circumstance or because you lack something you want. You’re unhappy because you’re perplexed. You don’t know what’s happening here, yet you’re sure that something’s wrong with your situation (which is illogical and demonstrates your confusion).

How could your situation be “bad” if you lack a definitive metric to measure by? Maybe it’s good? How would you know? Yet, you can prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that fulfilling your wants will leave you even more dissatisfied. Try it, you’ll see. You’ll be no less empty – you’ll remain full of discontentment.

Subpar to Par

How can everything be subpar when I haven’t experienced “par”. In other words, how can everything be below-average when there’s no actual average to compare to? I don’t have satisfying experiences, I have disappointing experiences – and that’s always the case. Maybe it’s because I’m comparing my circumstances to an “ideal” that only exists in my imagination?

That sounds like a trick my chatty-mind is playing on my experiential-mind. So there I am, experiencing life, my consciousness is quietly observing – but then, that bully of a mind starts with the imaginary comparisons. “Well this could be better! If they tweaked a few things, it would improve substantially! As it is, this experience is horrible!! It’s basically torture!” Hm, yeah that’s what typically happens.

So, all this time I thought I was having the worst experience possible. But it turns out that my chatty-mind just keeps trash-talking everything, so things seem like they’re the absolute worst. Yet they can’t be – you can’t have a “worst” if there’s no range of options – there’s no “best” or “just right”. It’s always some form of unpleasantness, it’s either “meh, this is lame” or “gah, this sucks” or “hmph this seems okay, but it’s probably bad”.

What’s the takeaway from this realization? That my chatty-mind is cruel and ruins everything. It’s literally the worst thing that’s ever happened in my experience of existence. Wait, that sounds like something my chatty-mind would say about everything else, yet I’m saying it about my chatty-mind. Hm, I’m not sure what the takeaway is. Maybe my chatty-mind needs a hug.

Habitual Negativity

I was wondering whether I could drop my “negativity habit” and develop a “positive practice” instead. Well it’s been a week and I thought I’d report my initial findings.

First off, I was questioning whether “negativity” was simply a habit I could dump. Basically I’d have to recognize when my mind’s swirling with gloom and use discipline to stop it. That’s something I typically do nowadays and it’s kinda doable. The problem with that, is it’s an endless game of whack-a-mole – just slapping down pessimistic ideas multiple times every hour. So the more relevant question is this: can the initial negativity be replaced and prevented altogether?

Essentially, I need to make a habit of positivity. I need to get my mind so used to thinking good-thoughts, that pleasantness becomes the default. As it is, my mind just spews trash all day and night. Instead of that, I want a mind that wanders pleasant paths, one that bathes in creativity, presenting enjoyable projects to work on, one that appreciates the world it lives within, one with a lighthearted attitude that always finds the fun.

As initially suspected, developing a positive practice IS a lot of work. When I catch myself steeped in negativity, I stop and say “Okay, the concepts you’re currently considering are what you DON’T want. Now, what is it you DO want, think THOSE thoughts.” Then, I have to sort through my thoughts and focus on the ones that suggest creativity, appreciation, or lightheartedness.

For example, “Hm, what do I want to draw the next time I go sketching? Hm, maybe some fantasy creature with a cool outfit.” Another example: “Wow, this incense that’s burning smells really good. Whoa, haven’t heard this song in awhile, it’s great.” And as the last example: “Ha, I just remembered my friend laughing so hard at dinner tonight, I had her in stitches!”

At this time, after a week of this practice, I believe it IS worth continuing this experiment.

One Wish

If I was only able to make one wish, I suppose it would be: for a mind that wanders pleasant paths. In other words: when my mind is lost in thought, I want it to think about awesome, interesting, lovely, delightful, always enjoyable ideas. As it is, my mind constantly assaults my awareness with pessimistic complaints about anything and everything.

Imagine waking up, greeted by a mind welcoming you into the world, painting pretty pictures of potential things to ponder. A mind that entices you into participation through advertisements of vibrant experiences. Whereas whenever I wake up, my mind just shouts nonsense at me, telling me how everything sucks and how today won’t be any better – probably worse in fact.

Imagine walking into a room and NOT experiencing the worst thoughts my mind can muster. Instead of anxious, pessimistic, and disparaging ideas; my mind invites a sense of wonder through curiosity and appreciation. “Wow look at that, it looks so interesting!” Unlike now, which is more like: “Ugh! Gross! This is dumb.”

I wonder if this is something I could practice? I’ve already gotten to a point where I can identify and mitigate negative thoughts – but that’s a daily game of whack-a-mole. If I could prevent those thoughts from popping-up in the first place, that’d be great. Maybe negativity is just a habit I could quit. Instead of simply dismissing negative thoughts, perhaps I could practice replacing them with more enjoyable ideas.

Hm, that sounds like a lot of effort – and I’m pretty sure I’ve had this exact same idea in the past. Although, maybe this time it’ll work. Perhaps I can more effectively imagine enjoyable circumstances nowadays. Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try. So the task is this: when you identify negative thoughts, don’t just brush them aside – stop and actively come up with a better thought, something delightful perhaps.