Feelings Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since I started a “feelings” experiment. But a couple days into it, I received internal inspiration to start something new and specific – basically a hobby. So that’s what I’ve been busy with. Then I received internal inspiration to do another thing, and I did that too. I also had a couple “bad days” where things just weren’t going right, but I kept doing my new hobbies regardless.

I wasn’t able to change my feelings during those “bad days”. My thoughts were a dumpster fire (as usual), so any attempt to “daydream” a better scenario didn’t work. The only thing that kinda helped was imagining the physical sensation of a pleasant feeling, like “joy” or the feeling of being “powerful” – it didn’t last long.

Note: a “bad day” is one in which a series of external unpleasant circumstances parade through your day while you feel like a hopeless loser.

So “bad days” are still something to watch out for, like a storm rolling through. Not even feelings could counteract it. But I will say, that my initial foray into “feelings” seemed to work very well. But after all that stuff I started doing, it’s been long enough that I’m out of the initial mindset that got me thinking about “feelings”. So either life is rewarding me for taking the correct path – or it’s throwing up distractions to keep me off the path – hmm.

A couple weeks ago, I had a major revelation about “feelings” that seemed to impart a significant insight that I could readily express. I had all the answers I ever needed! Now? “What are feelings? The sensation of hot and cold? I don’t get it.” My mindset has shifted back and I’m simply doing my new hobby stuff now. I KNOW the “feelings stuff” was working – but without the accompanying mindset, I can’t grasp it. This pattern repeats itself over and over: revelation, insight, understanding – then a little time passes and it’s gone. I go back to an everyday-life outlook and I lose the higher perspective.

And that’s why this 10-year-old “blog” is so repetitive and cyclical. Insights don’t last, and after some time the same idea becomes insightful again. My perspective drifts and shifts and I grasp different things at different times. For example, my ability to understand computer-programming comes and goes. I was just looking at some code I wrote a few years ago and I couldn’t understand how or why it worked. It was well-written and very neatly organized, but I’m just not in a programming mindset at the moment.

Or I’ll stare at my woodworking tools and wonder how I ever had the skill and patience to craft some of things I made with them – things that seem so tedious and intricate. Or I’ll look at old essays and think “wow, where did this come from? I can’t imagine devising these ideas or explaining them so succinctly.” But round and round I go. I suppose I’m in a daily-life mode of thinking right now. I’m only writing this entry because I felt my experiment required an update.

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.

Feelings Factory

What are some of the greatest things you can do on planet Earth?

Create a globally reconized company.
(Henry Ford, Steve Jobs)

Write fiction.
(William Shakespeare, Stephen King)

Become a globally known celebrity.
(Elvis Presley, Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Invent something impressive.
(Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell)

Produce art of some sort.
(Leonardo da Vinci, someone on YouTube)

Leave Earth and go to Mars (ironically).
(Elon Musk…?)

To me, the list doesn’t seem impressive enough to justify human existence (no offense). It makes me think that the specific tasks we perform on Earth aren’t that important. Maybe existence is more about the feelings we feel.

The feeling of struggling toward accomplishment. The feeling of triumph. The feeling of making mistakes and failing. The feeling of recognition by others. The feeling of being first, an original. The feeling of entertaining or influencing others. The feeling of wonder or amusement. And of course there’s the feeling of falling in love or being loved.

I think we can all feel these things, just at different levels or in different settings. It’s also apparent that this world produces lots of narratives – but if we honestly examine those plots, they don’t justify human existence either. They’re repetitive, they rely on bumbling characters, and they’re not that interesting (where’s the magic and robots?). So the point doesn’t seem to be great storytelling. BUT, these narratives DO force participants to “feel”.

Earth is a feelings factory. It’s like a large-scale soap-opera designed to milk feelings from inhabitants. And if we don’t experience enough stimuli from external sources, our imagination fills the gaps, producing visions that thrill and enthrall. We’re perpetually prodded to feel something. But unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter whether we find the feeling pleasant or not.

In other words, it’s not exactly humane. Although maybe we consented to this experience. What’s exercise or a roller-coaster but the process of subjecting ourselves to discomfort for the purpose of improvement or entertainment. Even education has an element of strain and frustration. And of course the shows and books we consume certainly depict all sorts of suffering. And if you consider the scale of eternity, a little unpleasantness doesn’t mean much – so maybe that’s it.

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.