Feelings As Weather

We start with a quote by Charles Dudley Warner: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” See, it's funny because he says that as if there were something we could do about the weather. By and large there isn't; our options are very limited.

The normal way for people to relate to feelings is like the weather. We describe how we feel, maybe brag or complain a little, but we don't do much about it. That's not 100% of the time; that's just normal. This “normal” way of thinking is a kind of thinking that produces the world we have today: it works as well as it works, but no better. What we are doing here is to introduce a different way of thinking, and my hope is that it will be part of producing a world that works for everyone.

I invite you to consider a viewpoint about your emotions. It's not the only valid viewpoint. There are lots of others and they all have their advantages and disadvantages, including this one. Some of them make more sense than others. If you have one, or more than one, I'm not asking you to throw it away in favor of this one. Just set it down for the time being, and consider this one instead.

(Perhaps acknowledge what you already think / know / are sure about / believe about feelings; a share around the room wherein everyone responds *just* to this prompt, not to each other, not to riff, etc.)

“It is the mark of an educated mind,” said Aristotle, “to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” That's what I'm asking you to do: All of what you think, believe, know, or are sure about, regarding feelings, put it to the side for the purpose of this conversation. Cool?

It All Causes Itself

By Default

Most of the time, there's really not much pushing your emotions in one direction or another. There's an awful lot of time for you to feel how you feel 'by default'. So this isn't about changing the way you feel when things happen; it's about changing how you feel normally, at any time, for no reason.

  • If you're not in a 'default place' right now, you shouldn't do this.

Feelings From Thoughts

Feelings come from thoughts. You think, and then you feel. Can you think of a time you felt before you thought? Probably not. You see someone you really like, and there's a thought–“I really like that person” or whatever it is for you, and then you feel however you feel towards that person. You get a bill, you think “Oh, great,” and then you feel frustrated or whatever. Your boss asks you if you have a minute and you think “am I in trouble?” and then you feel nervous. You think, and then you feel.

FIXME Feelings have you.

So where do thoughts come from?

Thoughts From Context

Thoughts come from the context you live in–your beliefs and assumptions, your upbringing and culture, etc. Inside of your context, only certain thoughts are possible. Let me say that again: Inside of your context, the context within which your thoughts arise, only certain thoughts are possible. It's like the saying, commonly attributed to Einstein, that we can't solve the problems we have now with the same thinking we used to create them.

FIXME Thoughts have you. If it's really you thinking, then stop!

Chemicals From Feelings

Memories

We know now that remembering or imagining a situation is as real to the mind as actually being there. Athletes imagine themselves succeeding as part of their training, because it actually makes them succeed more of the time. I'm not saying that you should live life imagining times gone by–far from it. But if you can do this with memories, could you do it with feelings as well?

Review

  • Feelings arise from thoughts. You think, then you feel, and you feel what you felt because of what you thought.
  • The thoughts you can think are limited by your context.
  • Depending on your brain chemistry, some thoughts are just not going to be possible.
  • Your feelings are, therefore, at the mercy of the world around you. What happens to you dictates how you feel.
  • Remembering or imagining a situation can be as real to your mind as being there.
  • Remembering a specific event changes the memory.
  • Your memory and imagination are, therefore, ephemeral. You are in total control of them.

Exercise

This process is basically simple:

  • Think of a time you felt happy, and while you're thinking about it, feel happy.
  • Think of a time you felt angry, and while you're thinking about it, feel angry.
  • Repeat for other emotions–maybe sadness or embarrasment, maybe infatuation or love, maybe anticipation or excitement, maybe arousal?
  • Notice that, a few moments ago, you felt happy. Remember feeling happy, and feel happy.
  • A few moments ago, you felt angry. Remember feeling angry, and feel angry.
  • Repeat for the other emotions.
  • Now feel happy.
  • Now feel angry.
  • Now feel other emotions.

This is not the same as “choosing to be happy,” though on the surface it seems that way. To be precise, it's creating happiness right now, by remembering happiness.

Please do not use this to run away from your life!


I was a little drunk the other night, and was reflecting on my obsession with maturity, “doing the Right Thing,” having integrity, and all that. The thought occurred to me, doing the right thing all the time, having integrity, and all that, are not going to make me happy. Building a world that works for everyone, or even building a world that works for me, isn't going to make me happy.

Wait, what?

No, really: While I was drunk, I felt happy; I had the experience of being happy. The next morning, I woke up and still felt really happy, and thinking about how happy I'd been made me happy too. Even right now, thinking about it, I feel happy.

It's like money, I think. A life that works won't make you happy, but a life that doesn't work really gets in the way; in the same way, money doesn't make you happy, but not having enough gets in the way.

This page needs to be refactored.

tactics/happiness.txt · Last modified: 2014/08/19 11:18 by naptastic
 
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