Emotional Quicksand

Jim:    Greetings, and welcome to our continuing life adventures of our Fishing Without Bait adventures.  Mike, this is quite a journey we’ve been on arriving at the present.

Mike:    Yes.  It has been.

Jim:    Some of us have had to travel a long way – not in miles, Mike however, but in time.  Quite often, when some of us are so far into the future and so far into the past it’s quite an arduous journey.  What a trip it is to arrive at the present.

Mike:    It feels like even though you’ve gone maybe to work, or maybe been at home, or maybe been with family that you’ve done that long haul for the holidays perhaps, and even moreso.

Jim:    Have you ever – during your life have you ever heard someone say to you, or maybe perhaps you’ve said to someone Earth to Mike.  Earth to Mike.  Can you come back?

Mike:    Very much so.  A lot of times when my wife is talking with me and I’m not very responsive.  I’m just not there.  And, I tell her I’m just not here right now.  

Jim:    That’s acknowledgment.  And, that’s awareness.  However, for everyone’s purpose, let’s pretend that we’re in the present moment – that everyone out there is in the present and will try to shut off the distractions.  And, let’s pretend that our trips have been cancelled into the past and the future, at least for the next few minutes.  So, Mike, again what’d I’d like to go back to and talk about – reviewing the basic concepts of when we’re in recovery from time traveling and those concepts are honesty, open-mindedness, and a willingness to try.  When we talk about acceptance, I again refer back to our friend Fritz Perls, who was the founder of Gestalt theory who spoke of acceptance as permitting yourself an openness – which of course his honesty, and awareness – which is mindfulness, to feel about who you are rather than who you are not.  Quite often, Mike, how often do we concentrate – do we think about who we are not rather than who we are?

Mike:    Oh, the grass is always greener on the other side, or in another person’s body or situation.

Jim:    So how often do you say I am not this, and I am not that?

Mike:    Very often.  Often, looking around at other people in similar industries and say man, I wish I had what that guy has.  And, then I step back and say maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be when you get to that point.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, again and again, Mike, we speak of ceasing to struggle against our thoughts.  We continually speak of ceasing to fight against anyone or anything, which means no blocking – no suppression.  Mike, have you ever seen anyone in quicksand?

Mike:    In the movies.

Jim:    In the movies.  And, what generally happens in quicksand?  What’s a natural reaction for someone when they get into quicksand?

Mike:    It’s a sort of scramble, and move toward solid ground.

Jim:    You struggle, don’t you?

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    You struggle.  So, quite often when we get involved in these negative thoughts thinking about who we are not rather than who we are, we struggle.  You’ve seen people struggle in quicksand, have you not?  Perhaps not in real life however – what generally happens?

Mike:    They sink.  They fall.

Jim:    They sink.  It’s natural to struggle.  It’s a defense mechanism, is it not?  However, when we’re caught in that quicksand – and quicksand is made up 90% of water, is it not?  So, again, how do we get out of that?  How do we do that?  Let’s take this for an example.  Let’s take a martial arts exercise.  When – I don’t know if you’ve ever been involved or watched martial arts – when someone comes up and grabs you from behind, what’s your natural tendency?  Your natural tendency would be to squirm and struggle.  And, what would they do?  They would just increase the grip all that stronger, would they not?  So, one of the martial arts techniques is when you’re grabbed from behind is to make yourself completely limp – to lessen the pressure on that person’s arm so you can possibly slip out of it.  And, again, the idea is when you’re in the quicksand, when you cease struggling, when you lay flat and you accept the quicksand like the water and you can actually float on it.  You can actually make small movements and use the quicksand’s fluidity against it and get out of it.  What we do is – through the mindfulness what we do, Mike, is we talk about doing what is the opposite of our instinct, which is one of the reasons why mindfulness is such a – it’s a wonderful concept to talk about is it not?  However, putting it in practice is another story.

Mike:    Right.  It’s – a lot of these are really good ideas and then people have trouble, you know, it’s fine to put them in practice when everything’s going well, but what happens when something falls off the rails?  Something unexpected happens?  Which is the moment where these practices mean the most.

Jim:    Sure.  And, when you were a child – have you ever seen a Chinese finger trap?  When you put your finger in and the harder you pull the tighter it gets.  How do you get out of a Chinese finger trap?

Mike:    Don’t you just kind of relax and it gets out.

Jim:    Indeed you do.  You relax, put your fingers together and take one out at a time.  However, when we naturally – if we’re caught in a trap, what’s our natural tendency?

Mike:    To wriggle and pull at every way that you can.

Jim:    To wriggle and pull and to struggle.  And, the more we struggle the more we get caught.  And, it’s the same way with our thoughts, Mike.  If we are not mindful and aware of them – able to label them, we struggle and we get caught, just like quicksand.  And, just like in a Chinese finger trap.  I’m going to refer back to our good friend Krishna Pendyala and his great book Beyond the PIG and the APE.  Remember what we talk about the ape is – avoiding painful experiences.  And the pig – is pursuing instant gratification.  Mainly, we do that through struggling.  And, this is the type of psychological pain that we inflict upon ourselves.  Mike, I’m going to refer to an article by a young lady by the name of Katie Paul and it’s entitled How to Survive Quicksand and it’s a guide to uncomfortable feelings, and I have the website that you can refer to.  And, what does she talk about?  She talks about a simple acronym called NAME.  The “N” of course, is to notice – to be aware, the mindfulness, to be aware of what is going on around you – to be aware of the thoughts without struggling against them.  The second one, the “A” in the name would be acknowledge it by name.  Give it a name.  Give it power.  Give it the emotion that it is – whether it’s sadness.  And, describe the sadness, everything about it.  So, what we want to do is rather than struggle against that feeling – struggle against that thought, we want to make room for it.  Quite often what we want to do is force it out of our body, force it out of our mind.  However, we can’t deal with it unless we make room for it, acknowledge it and bring it into our body.  And the next thing, what we want to do is to expand awareness.  What that means is to sit back and become the observer, Mike, and find out whether there are other feelings or emotions present.  When you’re feeling sad, that’s an overwhelming feeling, isn’t it?  And, that’s kind of consumed.  And, you struggle against that sadness.  How often, when don’t we step back and become aware of other thoughts and feelings and emotions that may be surrounding you.  Think of a little time where you’ve been sad, Mike.

Mike:    Okay.  

Jim:    Think of a time when you’ve been sad.  Perhaps it was at a funeral.  Perhaps when you lost a job, lost a romantic relationship – anything like that.  Okay, so that’s – you’re consumed there.  And, you’re struggling against that.  However, is everything in your life bad?

Mike:    No.  Just that one thing.  And, no matter how significant you feel like that one thing is, you still have the rest of your life – the rest of the things in your life. 

Jim:    Indeed.  So, if you turn your mind, should you turn your mind and notice the other emotions, thoughts, and feelings that are there – they are not of sadness.

Mike:    No.

Jim:    However, we’re not forcing the sadness out.  We’re making more – we’re actually making more room for it by acknowledging the other things that are present.  Mike, I’m going to ask you a question.  Why do we continue to do things that don’t work in our lives?

Mike:    Isn’t it the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results?

Jim:    True.  True.  So, some things in our life do work, but we seem to be so stubborn, don’t we?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    We seem to have our minds set, unable to have the open mindedness, the honesty, or the willingness to try.  In our next podcast, Mike – I just opened this subject up.  So, in our next podcast what we’re going to do is we’re going to explore this concept of why we do what does not work and take this mindfulness a step further to learn how you can incorporate it in your life to learn how to perhaps to live a life out loud, to live a life of meaning in every single moment.  Until then, we’ll speak again.  

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