Follow your feelings when they lead you to well-being but absolutely follow your wisdom guidance when your feelings aren’t leading to what’s most needed.
Can you see the tendency most of us have to let our feelings rule our inner lives? If you look closely, you will very likely see that your feelings are a continuous flow inside you. But if you don’t intervene or understand how important your needs and the needs of others around us are, you will be defined by and follow what you feel and not get to what you need.
If you’re sad and aren’t able to start to observe this feeling closely, then it will stay with you undeterred and uncared for as it remains fixated inside you. Similarly, if you are angry and don’t see it with your awareness, you might let it run its course where it will likely create harm. All this happens without an intention or putting our attention to finding a way to greater peace, intimacy, trust and even just a clear perspective.
Throughout history, you can see a similar theme — how feelings have largely dominated lives without the benefit of bringing our hearts and wisdom to them. This has shown itself through wars, alienation and a lack of seeing how everyone could be cared for. You can see a version of virtually the same nature in everyone, with a variety of extremes with world leaders. This expansion of our heart and wisdom is an acquired skill or level of development and is vital for us to develop this capacity. We need to do this personally and for the benefit of the world, especially because of the very real dangers we all currently face.
How can our wisdom guidance help us navigate our feelings better?
Does it make good or great sense to focus on your wisdom or wisest thoughts instead of forcing yourself to change your feelings directly? For example, do you have an inkling of realizing that wisdom would be a good replacement for guiding you when you don’t feel good? Or do you think you can change what you feel by an act of will or demand? For example, have you tried to change your feelings when you feel really injured, agitated or frightened?
Can you also see that you are often left wanting to feel better while you feel bad to no avail? Does it make sense to you to learn new ways to focus on your wisdom or wisest thoughts instead of trying to change your feelings directly? Is this insight enough to make you intrigued about how to develop this capacity in a greater way?
My experience, both personally and professionally, is that when it comes to deep feelings that we’re experiencing, we will compound them or deepen the intensity when we try to stop them from existing. As the common saying goes, “What you resist persists.” My experience through 50 years of working with a great variety of people is that resisting our undesirable feelings is like putting gasoline on a fire.
In my time of greatest need and suffering, it became evident that listening to the intelligence or wisdom inside was still accessible, and was the best, dominant, and positive influence in my life. So when I felt exhausted, anxious or depressed, I started with asking myself important questions that came from focusing on what is possible that led to me to guiding suggestions like, “You know you’re not doing this on purpose” or “Focus on what you can do or think, rather than what you feel.”
Such statements of support and guidance allowed me to stay focused on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t. I taught myself to stay focused on the next actual thought, action or movement I could really make. I didn’t want to continue to try to change my feelings — that would be an utterly futile endeavor.
As the song in Frozen 2 goes, “Focus on the next right thing.” This kind of thought is several times easier to understand when we see it in our kids’ movies. It encapsulates instincts from earlier in our life, before we’ve been exposed to the goals that our society has set for us.
Seeing your feelings clearly is a vital first step toward greater fulfillment
Take a look at whether what you are reading makes you intrigued and motivated enough to learn more about your needs and the needs of others so that your feelings don’t dominate in directions that don’t fulfill you. This is a time for deep awareness and honesty, as it is not part of most of our conditioning to differentiate our feelings and needs.
It might be that this is only touching you in your mind or that you have doubts about whether you can identify and implement your needs. This is a natural first step for most people, and it is also very viable to realize that it is the beginning of a new path. Keep inquiring as to whether you are interested enough to identify your needs and learn how to best guide yourself to break up the monopoly of your most distressing feelings.
It is important to realize that you can’t even get started on this intervention until you can see your feelings clearly, ask questions that will have the potential to guide you, and begin to explore what needs would be most helpful to you. For those who have a hard time differentiating and articulating both our feelings and needs, it will be a helpful starting point to see the list of challenging feelings and essential needs that you can download for free.
Once this understanding of the basics of your feelings and needs becomes accessible to you, there are numerous alternative ways to empower your needs to guide you and utilize your wisdom. There are several different methods of grounding this insight into tangible pathways. Some of these include, amongst others, developing your ability to ask healing questions like, “How can I best care for me?” or “How can I best respond when I feel… anger, hurt, fear etc.?”
We can also listen to the suggestions that come from these questions or inquiries. We need to try to understand both and follow the wisdom that will be given. The ability to both ask the questions, hear the suggestions, and implement them are part of caring for yourself and others when feelings are in danger of dominating your inner life.
Some helpful language to encourage your journey toward your wisdom
Asking questions or ‘inquiry’ is a master key to accessing our wisdom. For example, the question that works for many feelings like hurt, loss, fear, anger, impatience, etc., will be something like, “Given that I’m feeling frozen in this feeling, how can I best take care of myself? What thoughts, actions and qualities would guide me given that my feelings will take me in circular quicksand-like directions?” It is vital that we don’t just go through the motions and recognize that these questions are a key turning point when we take them inside us with depth.
Thinking deeply about the answers to these questions will guide you to one or more of the qualities and actions on the Introspective Guides. This is so simple in principle that it is something that I have found that children as young as eight can identify what they need. Then the critical point is to ask another question. “Now that I know what the needs are, how can I best implement them?”
Your wisdom might suggest that you need to let your feelings know, “I can see you, and it is perfectly natural. But, given that you can’t change these feelings, focus on tolerance and acceptance. When you’ve been able to do this with any and every feeling it’s now a movement toward well-being and fulfillment to ask “What concretely do I need to change my thoughts to, do simple actions or contain them, and what qualities do I want to find that place inside that generate the qualities from my heart through access the intention to be embodying that quality.”
As this is clear to you, do your best to apply this personally and ask — “What is my specific feeling that is most troublesome, one that is repetitive and affecting my quality of life in a negative way?”
Then, because you can see what has been a lifetime of various levels of suffering, ask the next question, “What thoughts, qualities and actions do I need to focus on to be most resilient with this feeling and accept the feeling at the same time?”
Take your time, and maybe you could do it as you read this article. Or know that you’re going to come back to it later, preferably as a resource for whenever you need it throughout your life. By giving this your sincere intention and awareness, you will access the guidance that will most allow you to accept your feelings and live your life steering it toward your own fulfillment with your unique guidance.
It will also aid you in communicating your feeling, if you are with someone who is developed enough to help guide you. However, if there isn’t anyone who can help, you can learn to develop it as a solitary process.
If this or another parallel process is already active in your life, use this as a reminder to do it whenever the challenging feelings arise. It is a new way of responding in life with our wisdom and putting that in the first position, rather than dominantly or reacting from our feelings.
You can also learn how to become aware of your tone of voice or the tone you have inside yourself. We can find a place inside us that wants to care for ourselves by seeing these tones and qualities. I often refer to it as an intention to move toward healing or caring. This is a golden way to start to intervene, even with our most difficult feelings.
There are many more strategies and practices that are included in both the book Awareness That Heals — Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges. The Awareness that Heals podcast will also support you as you make your way through your feelings and needs. To help yourself get started, you can use the free guided meditations that will help you look at the link between your feelings and core needs — they are freely available for you here. Please check out the several guided meditations under Chapter 7.
I hope that this glimpse into the dangers of perpetual dominance of ongoing challenging feelings and the realistic path of finding and following our needs touches a place of motivation and optimism inside of you.