It’s been Christmas, and I’ve been mostly going with the flow of the holidays, no definite plans, no expectations about what we’ll do or what I want, just a chance to chill and enjoy whatever’s in front of me.
Which is all very well ‘in theory’, but somehow I never seem to be in that perfect glow of ‘happy’ all the time.
That’s OK, I think it’s normal to be in and out of different feelings, so I’ve been observing myself and laughing at what I *think* is making me feel less good and what happens when I seem to feel positive again.
I’ve definitely felt a lot of appreciation, joy and gentle happiness, but I’ve also felt moments of mild disgruntlement, irritation even.
But why? How does it work and what can we do to create a more positive experience?
(By the way, this doesn’t just apply to Christmas, it applies to life, work, business, family, pets, partners and everything around us!)
What I noticed was that the disgruntlement and accompanying dissatisfaction definitely seemed to be created from the outside. From my husband who gave me a present of (yet more!) kitchen equipment. I could hear my mind asking “doesn’t he know that we’re trying to de-clutter — what was he thinking!??”
Or from my youngest son who’s been a bit snappy and I find myself wishing he could just chill out.
What it looks like is that those things are affecting me — other people and their behaviour is causing me to feel irritated or ungrateful.
But that really isn’t so.
The dissatisfaction I’m feeling is coming from me. Only me. Or rather, it’s coming from my desire for things to be different.
I only feel ungrateful when I’m thinking about ‘the stuff’ and therefore wishing my husband hadn’t bought one more thing to go on a shelf. I can feel myself calculating how many weeks, months, or years I have to wait before I can put it in the charity shop pile. And then my thoughts spiral to wishing he hadn’t bought new, but had bought from a charity shop, at least then we would be recycling and re-using…
((Please — don’t tell me you haven’t had thoughts like this about someone or something in your life!))
When I think this I’m falling into the spiral of (my) need to make things different from the way they are.
I’m failing to see the love and thought that went into the present choice; I’m failing to have compassion for his wanting to put his feelings into form, whatever the form. I’m failing to see love, and therefore I’m failing to feel love, and I’m failing to create a loving feeling in myself, and between us.
It’s the same with my son and his irritability.
When I want him to be different, I’m failing to see that he might be tired, or he might be a little frazzled with the upheaval of the social changes and the poor nutrition of his first semester of university.
When I drop this, and only see love, then I feel love.
This isn’t a question of empathy, of seeing someone else’s perspective rather than my own. It isn’t about seeing it from their point of view — although I realise what I’ve written sounds very much like that.
This is about perspective, any perspective, never being true. Ever.
As Gustave Flaubert said,
There is no ‘true’. There are merely ways of perceiving.
Trying to make sense of what is causing us to be happy or sad is like trying to grasp hold of a hologram that changes shape as you turn it around. There is no ‘real’ there is only the shape that is appearing to you.
And, there is what is creating the hologram. There is love.
When I see that everything is a creation and by wanting to change what I’m seeing — and feeling — I am allowing myself to be pulled deeper into an illusion, I am falling into the trap that there is something real in front of me. And that by going deeper I can make sense of it.
Trust me, there isn’t anything real in my illusions!
Just as I can immerse myself in a great novel and see the perspectives of the characters, I can also step back and leave them to be the words on the page.
When I can see that those characters were created by human imagination, I can see the creativity behind that. The art. And the love.
When I see what makes us a family, it’s the same. I see the love, not the shape of any individual experience. And, in seeing the love, I fall into the experience of love.
And who doesn’t want more of that?
About the author
Cathy Presland is an expert in human-centred leadership and transformative change. She has more than two decades of experience in government and international organisations and her focus as a coach is to support impact-driven individuals and organisations to improve their performance, leadership and peace of mind to enable them to make more of a difference with the work they do.