Do you ever get upset?
“I never see you upset. Do you ever get upset?” At least once or twice a week, someone asks me that question, as if they are expecting that someone who truly understood how the mind works must never be anything but calm and happy.
So sorry, that’s not how it works. There is no way to anticipate what might come into our minds, and sometimes, the thoughts we bring to our minds carry with them upset, angry, frustrated, negative feelings. Of course, I get upset, just like every other human being on the planet.
The difference between me getting upset before I learned how thinking works, and me getting upset now is that now I don’t care if I’m upset. It doesn’t feel important to me. It feels like a passing experience, sort of like a thundershower. And I know not to take it seriously because I know what it is — just a torrent of negative thoughts passing through.
The reason people don’t see me upset now is that I keep it to myself and don’t pay much attention to it, whereas in the past, feeling upset used to be my go-go-go!-signal to take action and, by golly, track down that person and give them a piece of my mind, or write that nasty letter and let someone know they couldn’t take advantage of me, or speak harshly to people I perceived as letting me down, or call a friend to seek commiseration.
Understanding how our minds work, and the nature of thought and experience, does not make us immune to upset. It just makes us disinclined to pay much attention to it. So what? It’s just my own thoughts creating the temporary experience of being upset. Let those thoughts go and different thoughts will come to mind. Then I’ll feel different. I know better, now, than to take seriously or act on upsetting thinking because doing anything in a low state of mind does not work out well at all. (Have you ever actually solved a problem by yelling at someone, or sending a nasty letter?) And I don’t need to burden my friends with my negative thoughts because it’s up to me to see them for what they are and let them pass. Talking about them just holds them in place. And among my friends, there’s no one who would actually discuss them anyway. I know the look — the look that says, “You must be kidding me? That makes sense to you?” In the world I live in, we’d both be laughing in a matter of seconds because it’s absolutely silly to get all worked up about the smoke and mirrors of up-and-down thinking.
So, sure, I have the feeling of upset, sometimes several times a day. But I see it as a signal to slow down, quiet my mind, and wait for a minute. When I get that tight, tense feeling that signals a droopy mood, I don’t try to figure out what’s up. I know what’s up. I am thinking myself into a lower mood. No need to feed that cycle. I turn away from it, rather than indulging it. And then, at the speed of thought, it goes away as other things come to mind, and I start feeling more like myself again.
Often, I ask my clients, “How cheaply are you willing to sell your peace of mind?” Usually, it has never occurred to them that they have to sell it or give it away to lose it, even for a second. Peace of mind is the natural default setting we fall back to as soon as we let go of what pulls us away from it. The only thing that can pull us away from it is our very own negative thinking that we’re making up, all by ourselves, seeing as real, and taking seriously.
The gift of understanding the Three Principles that explain how we create our own experience is that we’re always in the driver’s seat. We get to decide whether to stay upset, or leave it alone. We get to decide whether to take the risk the quick relief of yelling or hurting ourselves or someone else, or get the reward of the quick relief of quietly seeing our thoughts/moods for what they are: Nothing. Images on the screen of our minds. If they’re worthwhile, helpful and uplifting, we can hold onto them and build on them, enjoy working with them. If they’re petty and discouraging and gloom-inducing, we can turn our backs on them.
Of all the gifts I have received in life, the most precious to me is the deep realization is that I am in charge of me. Life is not in charge of me. Nothing can bring me down but me. If I don’t think my way into stress and sadness, I can handle anything life brings me with wisdom, insight and good will. I can get upset and get over it, and do no harm.
What could be better than that?