Practicing happiness 07

The answers come when you surpass them.

When you feel good, answers come without effort.

Last night I managed to feel better by letting go of my old internal struggle, and within minutes I discovered something remarkable.

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know I’ve been obsessed with mysticism for more than twenty years, and in the past week or so I’ve been writing about disorganised attachment.

So imagine how I felt when I came across this study into mystical experiences among people with disorganised attachment.

The paper argues that people with disorganised attachment have a propensity for mystical experiences due to trait absorption.

I just found my deeply personal lifelong efforts to transcend the paradoxical injunction of disorganised attachment written up in a Swedish psychology paper.

The authors are at pains to say this doesn’t delegitimise mystical experiences, in fact they argue it may be a worthy therapeutic goal.

For me it validates my deeply felt need for transcendence, and at the same time it helps me release that need a little.

Once again I credit my persistent work at feeling better for this insight. I can enjoy the insight because I feel better, not the other way around.

Practicing happiness 06

This series is a way of keeping me focused and honest with myself. Am I really practicing feeling better? Or am I going off on interesting tangents?

Tangents are fine, but the habit of ignoring how I feel is not fine.

Feel better is the bottom line, and it deserves to be my primary focus.

Over time it’s becoming clearer that I’m just not used to feeling better. Used to running off intellectually? Yes. But that hasn’t brought me the lasting happiness I desire.

Perhaps intellectual escape served me for a time. Perhaps it was better than the alternatives. But I have new alternatives now.

Maybe it sounds strange to say I must get serious about feeling better. Yet it’s an easy work and a light burden.

All it takes is practice. And my unwillingness to practice will dissipate in time.

Unresolvable problems: the paradox of disorganised attachment

The paradox of disorganised attachment is that we have a biological need for closeness, security and comfort from parents or caregivers even when those parents or caregivers instil terror and a sense of threat in us.

Children with disorganised attachment are placed in a “paradoxical injunction” by the caregiver, according to Professor Erik Hesse from UC Berkeley, activating both an approach and a move away tendency in the child.

The search for answers

Spiritual teachings promising freedom from fear don’t necessarily work for people suffering from a disorganised attachment.

In my case, the search for spiritual truth and “answers” is an attempt to overcome the paradoxical injunction; yet the answers I found were too generic or insufficiently tailored to my circumstances of temperament and upbringing.

But it’s not just a matter of insufficient answers: the very act of searching can be seen as part of the disorganised dynamic…trying to overcome the feelings of fear and satisfy the need for secure attachment albeit in a highly abstract and intellectual way

Searching is therefore a symptom or expression of the paradoxical injunction, and is itself paradoxical – a search for answers that is never complete.

When I search I feel like I’m approaching a resolution. But in fact I’m acting out my approach, sublimating the desire for secure attachment with a caregiver into the desire for a spiritualised state of freedom and peace.

And that’s why it fails, because from within that dynamic I can only conceive of such a spiritual state as implicitly very difficult to attain.

The search is my attachment.

Resolving the unresolvable

How can this unresolvable problem be resolved? I think the only way to stop the cycle is before it begins, to stop feeding it with my search and acknowledge how I’ve kept it alive all these years.

I already know from my Abraham-Hicks work that I can feel better easily. And the more I practice feeling better, the better I feel.

I’ve also observed that my need to search for answers has been disruptive, making me feel worse in the long run despite the allure of finally finding a resolution.

On the most basic level I have an association of love with terror and security with instability. Things that are “safe” don’t offer the deepest happiness and things that offer happiness are beset with obstacles and threats.

But I can be mindful of this association now. I can observe it, see the pattern, and begin to let it go, instead of acting on it and thereby keeping it alive.

Feeling better: the smallest possible improvement

Just a quick addendum to the previous post: let your feeling better be the smallest possible improvement.

That’s how slight it is. Don’t try to have some kind of brutal shift in your emotions. For me (and others who habitually try to hard) it’s better to aim for the slightest improvement in how you feel.

You know why? Because the slightest improvement is achievable. You can do that. And there’s immense value in knowing and seeing and confirming that you did it.

You did it. You felt better at will. And yes it was slight, but you know it was the right direction. Slight improvement after slight improvement, just whenever you remember; if it’s all in the right direction then you’re really getting somewhere. You’re really practicing the right movement.

Take all the stress and urgency out of it. In your own words and your own way just find the smallest improvement to your feelings right now!

Practicing happiness 05

I can choose to feel better.

It starts small. It’s a tiny, gentle change in direction.

It’s a choice to feel better, regardless of circumstances.

You can choose it again and again and again, choosing that “feel better” feeling, just because you know it’s better than anything else you could do right now.

Just feel better! Modestly and gently feel better, and over time you’ll start to get the change in direction. You’ll start to feel the difference as you practice.

Old problems might come up, new challenges might arise, but I promise that you can practice feeling better through those as well.

And then what?

After practicing like this (and some other things arising and resolving) it suddenly became clear to me that when I feel better I’m actually turning to the presence of God/Source/inner being within me.

The better feeling is God’s presence, my Source, pure positive energy, and I’m just letting myself feel it.

When you feel better you are aligning with God, with Source, and the true source of all love and happiness within you.

So keep practicing! Feel better now…and now…and now. Ask yourself “what would feel better right now? What’s the best feeling thing I can do right now? How can I relax and feel better?”

Every time you choose to feel better your power grows, and it accumulates faster than you realise. It’s just that it’s a small and gentle and modest shift. But that’s all it takes. You don’t have to go anywhere or do anything dramatic because alignment has always been so close by all this time.

Because it’s close, you don’t need effort. Because it’s close, you don’t need a reason. Because it’s close, you can always find it.

Just feel better, just a little bit better, just find a gentle direction of better feeling and do it again and again until feeling better becomes your new way of being.

Practicing happiness 04

When you feel like crap “just feel better” is the most unhelpful-sounding advice. After all, there are reasons why you feel bad right now, it’s not simply a choice, right?

Well that’s true: it’s not simply a choice; it’s also a practiced habit. That’s why feeling bad comes easier than feeling better, at first.

As I’m learning about attachment theory, I can see how feeling better is like a child turning to his or her parent or caregiver for security, comfort, reassurance and affection.

Perhaps the sense that feeling better is trivial or not enough is related to our attachment style? If we never learned to find genuine security and comfort with a parent or caregiver then we implicitly never learned to value simply feeling better when we feel bad.

Bitter self-reliance

For me the inability to find reliable security and comfort in my attachments led to a kind of resignation towards suffering, and self-reliance in seeking to avoid future suffering.

That’s why “feel better” seems insufficient to me…I never learned how. Ingrained in my childhood was more of a “endure until it goes away” approach to suffering, followed by an intense search for deeper answers that promised to help me “overcome” suffering forever.

And that pattern has helped shape my life. Alongside my perennial search for “answers”, I’ve done my best to avoid suffering as much as possible while also silently enduring whatever conditions I consider unavoidable.

Securely feeling better

That’s why feeling better is ultimately such a powerful thing to learn and practice especially when I feel like it’s “not enough”.

Every moment of intentionally feeling better is retraining my mind and body into a completely new pattern capable of maintaining equilibrium and balance.

Imagine what a difference that makes, to go from an attitude where suffering is inevitable (and can only be overcome through extreme effort) to one where suffering can be quickly and effectively neutralised and soothed, and the opposite – genuine good feeling – can be developed and grow.

That’s why those moments where I feel bad, and feeling better seems insufficient, are the most valuable moments to practice.

Practicing happiness 03

You can’t get ahead of where you are.

I used to be so impatient. If someone told me to take a walk each morning I’d refuse just because it didn’t sound like enough.

I’ve learned that a morning walk improves my whole day, but I arrived there so reluctantly!

I’d think “what’s the point? It might feel better, but that’s not enough. It’s pointless, it doesn’t change anything. I need something inspiring, something game-changing!

My old attitude would see me reject modest improvements because they were modest; but the dramatic changes were just too big.

It was a catch-22: I wanted something so huge that it would change my life. But something so huge was, by definition, out of reach.

Instead of walking around the block each morning, I wanted to climb mountains.

That’s what feeling better is. Just feeling better is a modest step that improves everything. It’s achievable because it’s so modest.

I wasn’t satisfied with such a modest step. I wanted to feel amazing. I wanted to feel great. And I wanted life to shore me up with circumstances that would make me feel that way.

That yearning still comes up, but I’m better at seeing through it now. It’s a false promise that anything can feel better than simply choosing to feel better. It’s just like refusing to walk the block because I’d rather do something more challenging.

The only reason I desire anything in life is because I believe it will make me feel good when I have it. But feeling better is a step-by-step path to genuinely feeling as good as I can feel in this moment, and doing so in a reliable, practiced, sustainable way.

Are you searching for coherence?

I recently learned about disorganised attachment and immediately wanted to share it with you all.

Attachment theory is all about our childhood need for secure attachment to parents or caregivers. But when those attachment figures are not available or unreliable it shapes our attachment and our subsequent view of life and relationships.

The original theory covered anxious attachment and avoidant attachment and I couldn’t see myself in either of those…or maybe in both? But that didn’t make sense.

Well it turns out there were enough people who didn’t fit either category that they created a new one: disorganised attachment.

Disorganised attachment means you weren’t able to find an attachment style that worked, because the people you turned to for security were themselves threatening and unsafe. As an adult you may struggle to find a stable way of relating to yourself and others.

If you find it hard to know who you are, or to understand others, this may apply to you. Listen to this excellent podcast:

https://www.therapistuncensored.com/tu61/

Practicing happiness 02

Systematic happiness

We tend to focus on happiness via outcomes and circumstances, getting things the way we want them.

But it’s much better to approach happiness as systematic instead, practicing feeling better consistently and continuously regardless of the circumstances.

Sometimes we even value specific outcomes more than feeling better. In my own search for happiness I’ve found that I tend to put so much value on finding “the answer” that I forget to feel better, and can end up struggling and striving instead.

But ironically when I practice feeling better systematically, answers just come to me anyway without any struggle.

So just practice feeling better and over time you’ll see that nothing else is as effective or consistent in finding happiness.

Practicing happiness day 01

It’s round two, folks! I’m back, doubly convicted of the benefits that just feeling better brings, over and against my drive to understand or problem solve or search for answers.

I’ve been confused, because thinking a lot gives me a sense of coherence and coherence feels good.

But in hindsight the most beneficial thing I’ve done in the past few months was my happiness challenge and related series where I simply focused on feeling better moment-by-moment and thought-by-thought.

It’s simple: if you only focus on things that feel better then eventually everything will feel better. It’s kinda foolproof and I’m pretty sure other breakthroughs that have happened are due to this deceptively humble practice.

Okay, I give up. Let me do this again. I’m going to focus on what feels better, focus in ways that feel better, look (more gently than before) for better feeling thoughts.