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Secondhand Life

I Didn’t Mean To Detach Myself

I misunderstood. I thought that detachment meant to detach from my thoughts and feelings. That was wrong. Now, I believe it means to detach from the perceived outcomes of the thoughts and feelings, not the thoughts and feelings themselves. To feel the feeling and think the thought, but not ascribe any importance to the result.

My analogy of having a guest bedroom in my mind and letting my thoughts and feelings stay there until they choose to leave is incorrect. That is not how to welcome guests. As a matter of fact, my thoughts and feelings are not guests at all. They are me. I should celebrate my happy thoughts and feelings. And I should comfort my sad thoughts and feelings. I should welcome them with open arms, merge with them, experience them, and when they have run their course, hug them and bid them farewell.

I’ve kept my thoughts and feelings once removed, separated from my self. Saying I didn’t trust them is tantamount to saying I didn’t accept them as a part of me. As a result, I’ve been half dead because I’ve prevented a major part of myself from living. This is why my numbness exists and where my passions have gone to slumber and die (see Killing My Feelings).

Treating my thoughts and emotions as unwelcome has separated me from life. All that happens out there needs to be experienced as what happens inside me, as the physical sensations and their accompanying thoughts and feelings. After all, my reality is what I create it to be inside me. By denying my thoughts and emotions, I’ve numbed out reality. I’ve only been partially accepting it and as a result, partially living it.

I’ve taken the wrong detour, gone way down a path I didn’t mean to go down, and ended up with a secondhand life.

Single Core Awareness

In an earlier post, Acceptance: I Think And Feel, Therefore Nothing, I talked about how I learned to observe my feelings and thoughts as they came into being. This implied that there was a separate awareness different from whatever was doing the thinking or feeling.

Currently, I believe that there is only one awareness, one stream of consciousness. That awareness first feels or thinks something, and then switches to examine the result of what it was like to feel or think that something (memory and physical sensations). There aren’t two awarenesses, one doing the experiencing and the other observing the first. It’s just one awareness doing the one (experiencing) and then the other (observing the results of the experience). Similar to how old single CPU, single core computers faked multitasking, the focus of awareness shifts so fast that it appears to be simultaneous.

A single awareness makes the gap in stimulus and response possible. Basically, the experience of feeling or thinking is first broken and then the focus moves to examining the resulting physical sensations in the body and the memory of that emotion or thought. If I get upset during a conversation, I stop feeling upset first, observe that my face is flushed, ponder what could be causing the irritation, and then decide whether to continue the conversation or leave. This timeout takes place in a split second and is a learned behavior.

In the past, my negative emotions and thoughts were short-circuited and weren’t allowed to cause bad behavior. The problem is that I was also prematurely aborting positive feelings and thoughts and never switching back from observing them. The positive emotions and thoughts were never allowed to grow to completion. Both intense hatred and passions were not allowed to come into being.

As a result, my experience of life was shortchanged. Instead of living firsthand, I was stepping back and observing myself living. In effect, I was living a secondhand life.

Just Be, Bad or Good

I want to fully experience my thoughts and feelings. To just be them. Good and bad. But I don’t want to act less than my best because of them. Surprising, I think I know how to do that.

The act of thinking and feeling generates judgments (of the persons and event) and expectations (of outcomes), which when acted upon can lead to adverse behaviors. So, I just have to not attach to the judgments and expectations so they won’t affect my behavior, right? I think I can do that with reframing and anti-expectations.

I’ve been training myself to switch back if I slip into observing mode. Once the feeling or thought died or grew as big as I was willing to allow it to, I used the observer mode to detach from any resulting judgments and expectations. This wasn’t easy to learn to do. I expect to spend the rest of my life practicing this. Over time, I’m hoping to train my awareness to experience an emotion or thought to completion before switching focus, instead of bouncing back and forth between the two modes.

I don’t plan to discriminate and to allow only positive emotions and thoughts to grow (while aborting the negative ones). Perversely, as a feeling dominant, I want to experience both the good and bad. Sometimes the bad can turn out to be good in the long run. And sometimes the good can turn out badly at the end. Life is perverse.

Acceptance Always

I’ve been thinking about the thoughts, not thinking the thoughts. I’ve been thinking about feeling the feelings, but not feeling them. There is a better way. It involves embracing thoughts and feelings as my self, giving them energy so that they can come to life and run their course, accepting them, celebrating them, forgiving them, sometimes acting on them and other times not, and then letting them go. To never attach or cling to what they may imply. To explore them without any intention to make them stay. Acceptance is the better way.

It doesn’t mean to act out my thoughts and feelings unless I want to. Just because I’m feeling angry, doesn’t mean I should be breaking things or punching walls. And it especially doesn’t mean mistreating and abusing others, physically or emotionally. It’s okay to feel angry, be angry, but not act angry. (Though in rare cases, it may be okay to act angry.)

If you ever accidentally detach yourself, I hope that my post will help you to find your way back.

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