If given the opportunity to choose between a pleasant thought and a negative thought which would you choose? Would you choose the thought to be angry, afraid, and sad or would you make the thought a foil-lined box of candy? Would you make the thought chop your legs off or launch you to new confidence?
I’d choose the happy one, the one that soothes. You probably would as well, but there is evidence of many, many, thoughts out there. There are people full of fear, rage, and various degrees of discontent. Looking at how we charge ourselves with these feelings, the way we do our cell phones, is interesting.
Frustration is a good starting point. In a simple cause and effect world something happens and we respond. If that event is frustrating, a good idea is to let our frustration out and move on with a clear slate. A lot of people were frustrated by the national media coverage of Atlanta’s response to this week’s snow storm, but we don’t just let that out and go onto to pleasantness. We keep reminding ourselves how frustrated we are about it.
6:30A.M. – News coverage of the weather.
6:35A.M.- We want to spit our Captain Crunch. “This isn’t our fault! Typical, find somebody to blame! Atlanta couldn’t win either way, blablabla. I hate the media! I hate Twitter with ever cell of my body. Does this coffee taste funny to you? Screw you, Al Roker!”
10:30A.M. You’re in the car, in a city far away from Atlanta, and you get in some traffic. You start thinking about the situation there anyway. Frustration brews again, and radio reports add to it. You could change the station, but you don’t. You ride that frustration into the front window of Walgreens. “I have to get some Advil. My head hurts.”
Most of us revisit the same thoughts over and over, and it doesn’t matter if they are pin pricks to our body. When you feel frustrated, your muscles clench, your comfort decreases, your blood pressure rises, and only a medical expert could tell you what happens on a cellular level. We do know that our bodies recall trauma.
Why We Do This
We don’t like feeling frustrated, but we keep charging ourselves with a frustrating tonic. We combine frustration with self-righteousness which feels good. We’re tired of feeling wrong, being unable to affect what we’d like, so a dose of feeling right hits the spot. Every time we argue a point to the vacuum, we charge ourselves with righteousness and accept the frustration as a side order that doesn’t do damage.
Talk to someone who has anxiety. Ask them why they feel anxious, and they cannot always name a direct reason in their environment. “I don’t know why I feel this way. I’m here petting my cat.” In cases of chronic anxiety we have to ask ourselves whether the thoughts of yester-year have been running on a loop. It’s a radio broadcast that we’ve got so used to that it’s now a din. All we really are aware of is the angst in our physical awareness. Our bodies don’t feel right. We start feeling a victim to what our bodies are doing. We adjust our lives according. We either try and escape the sensation or we treat without looking deeper.
If we separate our identities from the thoughts, if we see them as a passing train outside ourselves, maybe we could choose better cars to visit. Maybe we could endeavor to notice the good more often than the bad. Maybe the good would make our bodies feel better and even inspire us to add more happy cars.
When we own our thoughts as permanent limbs, it’s easy to see how negative ones hurt. They make us hate who we are, because who could love someone who hurts himself all the time? Guilt builds up very easily around food and careers. We want to enjoy eating. We want to enjoy work where we spend the bulk of our time, but we tell ourselves that’s a wrong impulse. We deprive ourselves with diets until we feel guilty about every bite. Poke, poke, poke. We tell ourselves to tough out bad jobs, because it should be “the grind.”
Our bodies know that when we pick up a cupcake, it’s time to feel guilty. Our bodies know that when we smell the air freshener in the office, it’s time to start the “whatever” you feel about your job. Carry this through your day, and who do you want to be: the pin cushion or the little strawberry out in right field?