The kind of thinking, “I’ll be happy when,” can be so problematic because of what it does to the now. It takes us out of this present moment, our present feeling. It posits the thought error that you will feel something different when your circumstances change. It’s disempowering and leads to so much suffering now because you haven’t met that goal.
One of the stories I hear so much in my practice is this: I will feel better about myself, in my life, in my relationships when. When XYZ happens I will be happy. At peace. Calm. Grounded.
I will love myself when I buy the house, get married, have the kids, get the degree.
Often we throw our New Year’s Resolutions to the wayside because we are focused on the thing and not our true motivation. We don’t focus on what we want to feel and believe about ourselves so we can achieve that goal. Instead, we focus on the external guidepost as a stand-in for our truth.
Let’s be real, my darling perfectionist overthinking codependent darlings: your goals are likely based in fantasy, not reality anyway.
They are so often these wild notions of what a human can do, like: I will feel better when I get the raise and the promotion and buy the house and fit some clothing size and do these 473 tasks today and everyday. When you don’t achieve them, of course you beat yourself up for ever having them in the first place.
I think this whole notion is particularly problematic when it’s about self-acceptance. I will love myself when I lose these last 10 lbs. I will stop berating myself on the regular when I stick to the magical morning routine all the blogger gurus tell me to.
As you learn about, practice using and become more familiar with the Thought Work Protocol and how to use it to change your life, you’ll gain more ease with seeing the thoughts that cause your feelings in the moment or soon thereafter.
As you start to see those habitual thoughts that lead to you feel sad, frustrated, angry, etc. it’s so common to want to change your thought immediately. It’s called thought swapping, emotional or spiritual bypassing. It’s a way of buffering, of not doing what the Thought Work Protocol is built for, which is helping you feel your feels.
This is a very common habit that does not serve you. When you have the tool of Thought Work, it can be so tempting to want to jump to change your thought.
But if you’re not feeling your feelings, you’re skipping the real growth.
So, when you feel your beautiful mind saying “Gah! This thought makes me feel terrible! I need a ‘better’ thought, STAT!” I want to invite you to breathe, pause, and slow your roll.
You heard me.
When our goal is sustainable, life-long healing we can engaging our neuroplasticity. This is our brain’s ability to shift out of our default thinking and to believe new thoughts. We also engage our somatic experience of being alive, of feeling our feelings deeply in our bodies.
The work is not done by simply choosing a new thought or taking a different action. It is about increasing your awareness on the daily.
Get meta with it—think about your thinking, and notice what you’re feeling in your body in response. Then you can create a mindset in relation to your perfect nervous system and its regulation.
That awareness is so vital, and that’s the huge shift for so many of us.
We can step out of our habitual codependent and/or perfectionist habits of not feeling our feels.
Our habitual externalized worldview has kept us worried about what everyone else is feeling. Instead, we can start to get in touch with what the subtleties of our feelings feel like in our bodies, as vital messengers to and for us.
The thing to remember is that whatever we hope for, wish for, dream of, set goals around—what we really want—are the feelings we think we’ll have when we get those things.
The marriage. The picket fence. A bigger apartment. A new car. A ‘better’ job. A relationship with X, Y, Z characteristics. All the things.
You want the thing because of how you think it will make you feel in the future, and because thinking of that future feeling now can feel quite lovely.
So you get to ask yourself what you really want. What do you really want to FEEL and what is that goal a stand-in for in your life?
Because the rub here is that getting the thing won’t actually make you feel any different. Studies are clear that when you lose the weight, you wanna lose more. When you cross the finish line, you wanna go again.
When you’re chasing a feeling, you’re gonna keep chasing a feeling, and call it goal-setting.
I’ll invite you, my love, to grab that journal and write it down, freestyle—no spell check, no grammar check. Just a wild list of your heart’s wildest desires on all planes.
New car. New job. New relationship. To lose weight. To gain weight. To get the degree. To start the business. To close the business. To buy the house. To sell the house. To have the kids. To feel at peace not having the kids. On and on.
Get detailed, really write it out. I’ll wait.
Now. Deep breath in, long breath out.
Flip the page from that wild list of your wildest dreams and your wildest desires.
The next step is to go a layer deeper and to ask yourself what you really, really want.
This may be the same or different from the last exercise. See what comes up and get really present with it. Write it down.
Look at that list and ask yourself “what else, what more, what’s that deeper layer of what I really really want?”
Give yourself a few minutes to write that out, pause, and come on back.
Now, deep breath in, fill that belly, and out.
Finally, ask yourself how you believe you’ll feel when you get what you want.
Happier, more secure, more loved, more confident…
You’ll find that in every case, it’s the feeling you desire.
More than the job, the relationship, the chocolate cake. At the end of the day, that’s phenomenal news when you consider that our feelings come from our thoughts, which we get to choose.
In my life, this realization has been an absolute game-changer because it means I no longer need to wait around for what I really want. I no longer need to put off feeling good or better about myself until I’ve hit some goal. I no longer want to rest my joy, my peace, my confidence on something outside of myself, like achieving or producing or hitting a goal.
If I want to feel loved, I love myself harder.
I put down the codependent cassette tape thinking that says that I need someone else to love me harder to prove that I can be loved.
If I want to feel joy, I find the joy in my heart, and create more joy in my every day.
I honor the complexity of life and that not everything is joy-inducing, and that’s okay. While we don’t do false positivity in this family, I do recommend finding a way to hate your situation 1% less each day. Find the moments of beauty and joy when and where you can, even when things feel terrible.
If I want to feel worthy, I celebrate my own worth on the daily.
Each and every day. Because I was born worthy of love, completely perfect and amazing, and so are you.
Your conditioning from your family story, from the patriarchy, from white settler-colonialist stories about who is good and who isn’t just got in the way of you believing and knowing that.
For example, let’s say you keep fantasizing about moving to the country from the city.
Surface reasons may include:
More space, cleaner air, trees and nature, quiet, less stress.
If you keep asking yourself why a billion times, as many times as it takes, you’ll start to uncover your deeper driver. This is what you really value and want that is generally not the thing. Rather, it’s that feeling you want to feel when you get the thing.
In this example, to feel less stress, less worry, more peace. To stop thinking about things like pollution, subways, people, overcrowding.
What’s desired with that desire, to not have those thoughts, is less stress, less worry, more peace.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a thing or wanting to feel a thing.
But if you, for example, want to live in the country because you think it will make you feel peaceful, you’re missing the opportunity to cultivate peacefulness within yourself Right Now. Exactly where you live—without having to change anything at all external to you.
When you believe the goal will make you feel better, smarter, safer, happier, more self love, you’re giving away your power.
If you believe that you can find peace in every cell of your body, a life with less stress and less worry is yours to create for yourself.
You start to really believe that and program that into your mind by choosing those thoughts. Love up on your inner childrens. Resource and regulate your nervous system as you bring this new belief in. All of these practices create a new neural groove, by starting to choose yourself in a new way.
You stop giving your power away to the fantasy that a move to the countryside will solve it all for you, cause it can’t. It won’t. To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn: wherever you go, there you are. By believing in your capacity to build that internal peace, you do the most amazing long term sustainable healing work. You build trust in your perfect self, vs telling the story that something needs to change for you to feel okay.
No matter your circumstances the one thing you control is your own mind and thoughts in relation to those circumstances.
If you want to change the circumstances, and you like your reason why, do that. But don’t’ do it because you want to feel differently.
I love it when you have goals and wants and desires—when you’re in touch with them and they’re for you and not for anyone else. This can be challenging at first from a place of codependent thinking.
If you don’t feel safe where you live, move. If you want to train for a marathon, go for that promotion or ask that human to marry you, do it. Do it.
But do it because you want to do the thing: you want to be the person who takes care of themself, who runs, who gets married, not because of the feeling you’re chasing.
What’s extra amazing coming from codependent thinking is to run a check and make sure that your dreams and goals are just for you. Make sure they are not to please anyone else or to keep them from being upset or disappointed. You aren’t doing the thing to get anyone’s approval.
The more you can recognize how you want that accomplishment, goal or dream to make you feel—the more you can cultivate and give that to yourself now.
It doesn’t matter whether you get that thing, reach that milestone or not, because it becomes immaterial. It’s no longer about the move, the relationship status, the external marker of success. It becomes about you generating the feelings and energy you want for you, now.
This shift can open up clarity and space in your mind, body, and spirit.
Then ask yourself if you really want that thing or if you just wanted the feeling you thought it would bring you.
Do you really want that thing? Or do you want to make others think well of you, approve of you and appreciate you for doing or getting it? Or, is it really just for you?
Breathe into it. Practice asking yourself why. Hold judgement-free, open-hearted space to get really real with yourself about your wants, feels and needs.
Be aware of your own internal motivation and intention when you’re setting those gorgeous goals of yours.
Thank you for taking the time to read Feminist Wellness. I’m excited to be here and to help you take back your health!
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