Your Life Fears vs. Your Life Force
The news was on. An urgent female voice was explaining:
"The 15th of January has been statistically proven to be the most depressing day of the entire year."
Guess what the date was? You got it.
I was lying in my bed, doing nothing. The sun was glowing with a tender heat on the rim of my lips. I had my eyes closed, to make way for the bright tinted orange to shine through my lids.
It's a cure I've identified a long time ago for my blues.
Just like my kittens, I always fall right on my back when I see the sun covering my blankets in such a brilliant warmth.
It was a strangely beautiful day to be depressed, I thought.
But depression is a hard war to battle. I knew this far too well.
I’ve witnessed it not just once. I’ve tasted it too. I’ve even lost a dear friend to it.
Yet, why aren't we all talking about it? We all know what it is, don’t we?
Most of us had had a scare or two, when it came knocking on our doors.
Some of us are still chatting with our demons in our living room. We keep them guests in our inner houses, then we wonder why we always have to face them.
To be honest, I'm actually glad I've experienced such episodes myself.
Now I know how to handle my blues. How to get myself immediately excited. And the most important lesson of all, how to not confuse my emotions with my being.
"I am sad" is a common statement. Isn't it? But we are not sadness. We can not be an emotion, we can only have an emotion. We can only feel an emotion, but we are not it.
And that is something entirely different. We are so much more than our sadness.
Yet, we’re all facing the blues
I could perfectly recall a party we attended this Christmas. I was socialising, talking my way through different clicks, moving my body gradually towards different people, curious of what they've been up in these last few months. A theme stuck out in all encounters.
Everyone was facing or had just came out of a tough patch in their lives, but they barley knew why they were having such emotions.
Everyone was more or less, confessing their anxieties and fears. To me, it wasn’t at all depressing, not then, not even on the 3rd Monday of the year - the calendar date of depression.
I just felt it was plain human. I was glad they could open up that way and talk to freely about what they've been facing. I liked them even more like this, honest, real, human.
It's okay to feel sad, sometimes, right? It makes you aware of your emotional investment. It makes you know you still have a heart yearning and a few daring dreams to pursue, even if you don't feel like you're ever going to reach them.
A recipe for sadness
I rolled over and started writing, while the sun was still joining me. I just felt like talking about it over here. I think there’s no better day to reach out in the darkness, then on a sunny, yet terribly depressing day. Right?
So let’s see. Why are we so scared? So anxious?
So worried of what we think we’re doing wrong?
I think there isn’t just one thing that’s stirring us up inside. Actually, I think they’re a bunch of tiny little details that make up a nasty image in our over-thinking little heads.
Mostly, I think we’re sad because we’re missing out on the true wonders of the world, while we’re stuck inside four walls, in front of a screen.
We’re missing real connection, real emotions, in an attempt to look like we have it all together.
We’re missing the point, when we’re choosing how we’re spending our time.
We don’t aim for the mere experiences that instantly and irreversibly fire us alive or that give us a deep sense of meaning. No. We’re doing what’s safe, what’s familiar, you know, what we’ve always done and people have always been doing. Even if it’s killing us inside. Even if it’s painful.
But here I am, challenging you not to be part of that misery.
I’m saying this not to turn the knife another notch, but to remind you of the choices you DO have. You are allowed and you can spend your days being in a blissful state. Being untouchable by any type of energy monsters.
There is a way.
You have a secret sword that magically shows up in your pocket whenever there’s a use for it. You can slice up your demons any time they up on the doorstep.
And after you've cut them to pieces, you'll notice they were never real.
Your secret weapon: Framing
You know what that weapon is? It’s a little thing called framing.
Us humans are meaning-making machines. We are innate storytellers, even when we don’t have a crowd. We tell ourselves stories of who we’ve been and who we’ve become. Then we beat ourselves up and insist we’ve actually not changed one bit, nor could we. But we have and we can. And we will change so much more in the coming future.
You see, the same experience could be interpreted as positive by one man and as negative by another. The only difference is the meaning they give to what had happened.
While there are people who lose both their limbs and believe it had opened up time to search their heart and become incredible writers or philanthropies, fathers or true lovers, there are others who wouldn’t find reason in living anymore without the ability to walk the earth. The contrast is bewildering.
It isn’t at all about religion, nor about motivation or even innate character. It’s about how you frame it. About the story you tell yourself, explaining what and why something happened to you and not somebody else.
When it comes to two brothers with the same upbringing, one may find his childhood terrible and traumatising, while the other would be excited about their parents flaws and how they made him stronger.
Some find strength in their hardship, others end up believing that’s all life has to offer to them.
listen to your story
You see, even the bad things in life are relative.
So take a minute and think this through:
- Are you a victim?
- What is making you a victim?
- What is the victim story you are telling yourself?
- Then, ask, is it real? Is this the only possible way you could picture it? Frame it?
- Are you taking the whole context in sight?
- Are you taking all perspectives into account?
- Are you taking a stance from all angles, placing yourself in all shoes of the people involved?
Wonder how other people, especially those involved, would tell the story you are in. What would they notice? What do they even know?
Remember, you can’t blame anyone for not reacting to your emotions, if they don’t know you’re having them.
When you identify your victim story, it will be hard to write or even say out loud. But you must call it as it is: nothing else than a story.
A story that may blow out of proportions if you let it linger too much in the darkness.
Now that you’ve distanced yourself from your victim story, you no longer confuse it to be part of you, or worse, your entire self.
You are only a victim as long as you believe yourself to be one.
"No one has a right to consume happiness without producing it."
- Helen Keller
We're chained like elephants
When I was in Thailand, I learned an incredible, yet sad story about these glorious animals.
Elephants are taught to be helpless from early on —That's how you tame them.
They're smart creatures and quite beautiful beings, just like humans.
But, just like us, they're trainable. And not always in a good way.
When a wild baby elephant is trained to obey a human, they're caught in chains and put behind a skinny fence. The baby elephant is too small to be able to break free from the chains nor the fences, so it starts believing he has no chance to escape. He lets go if his ambitions and tries to adapt to his new life circumstances.
He learns to be helpless. He learns to feel powerless in front of a human. In front of a small, weak fence.
When he grows up, he becomes a giant. Literally.
We've all seen how big an adult elephant is, but here's the thing, he can't.
Or even if he could, he still doesn't know just how much he changed. He has no idea what he's capable of now, because he's stuck, thinking what he's been thinking ever since he was a poor little baby.
Take this as an analogy. Don't be an elephant tied in chains that he can easily break.
Don't let a fence hold you back. Understand that it’s only your mind that conceives it. You have not yet discovered what you could do with your power, your strength, your wit, your desires. You have just never really tried.
If what you've learned about yourself was a long time ago, it isn't relevant anymore.
Not at all.
a victim vs. a victim story
So first, identify the story, second, tell the story from a few different angles, then, question yourself if the story you’re using to understand yourself or to excuse yourself, is worth keeping.
You could always throw it away, in the trash of the past and walk straight up towards a brighter future. But you first and foremost need to know where you’re coming from, before you know where you’re going.
So be true to yourself. It’s human to be sad. It’s fine to have a victim story. But it’s not fine to BE a self-made victim, as you identify yourself with your story.
It’s also not fine to fight for your sadness.
Never convince yourself you have plenty of reasons to be sad. Become aware whenever you're doing it. Be mindful about your emotions.
There are always just as many reasons to be bright. Maybe not happy, maybe not satisfied, but definitely curious, amazed, craving, touched or impressed.
As long as you look for reasons to feel down, you will. And not only on Blue Monday, but on every other. So train your mind to actively look for all the reasons there is joy in living.
Make a list if you may. Make a mental note whenever you notice yourself truly enjoying something.
Reach out to anything that makes your heart feel just a little bit fuzzy and dedicate your life to it. I don’t care it’s going to make you weird or broke or even terrified, as long as it excited you to your bones.
In life, I can't promise you happiness every single day, but I can promise you there is a way to feel truly alive every single day. To feel larger than life, larger than yourself and way larger than your small worries.
Happiness is a bad goal to have
We’ve generally got life all wrong. You can’t look for happiness.
Happiness, is tricky, because it’s actually a side effect, not a goal.
We can’t look for happiness, because it’s hidden out of sight.
We can only pursue acts of curiosity, of love and of passion, then, thanks to our darling meaning making brains, we allow ourselves to feel happy.
We find happiness while we're pursuing other things. The things that make sense to us. The things we truly believe are important.
And that’s the thing. We need to allow ourselves to feel an emotion that is always available to us. Isn't that crazy?
So you either give yourself permission to feel that way whever you want to, be training your mind to focus on what you're grateful for in your life or in the world - or you go on an epic quest, guided solely by your intuition, and find happiness in the moments of wonder, surprise, coincidence and love.
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions."
- Dalai Lama