The door slammed as Tom stormed out of Cliff's office. Cliff had shot down the proposal, just as Tom had feared. Just like every time before. "What's it going to take to break Cliff's love affair with control?" Tom seethed in resentment. "How many times am I going to have to fight this battle?"
It's likely that Tom is so invested in his own view of things that he can't see how he might have more influence than he's using. Feelings can be powerful disablers when our wishes aren't being realized. Tom and Cliff had history and that history poisoned Tom's unconscious beliefs about his chance to bring about his desires. Until he's aware of this unintended self-sabotage, he will be confused and disappointed by his results and left feeling powerless and angry. For now, for Tom, life sucks; but it doesn't have to. Feelings are influenced by our expectations, which are based on our beliefs. If we are experiencing what we want (expect/believe), then we feel happy and life is good. If we are experiencing something that we do NOT want (expect/believe), then we feel that life is dealing us a crummy hand.
What if feelings don't exist for the purpose of merely "observing" what is and giving it meaning? What if feelings are directives - self-generated decisions, based upon beliefs that cause what we experience? Like many fundamental truths of life, we often have the cause-effect relationship backwards.
It's easy to understand the fallacy of the first example. To get a raise, you generally need to work harder FIRST. Working is the cause - a raise is the effect. Raises don't cause work. When did you last see someone work harder after getting a raise - beyond a day or two? You may not always get a raise by working harder, but it's highly unlikely you'll get one any other way.
The second example: I'll love you back if you love me first, turns love into a bartering tool. We're afraid of being vulnerable, so we insist that the other person step out on the limb first. Is that really love? Love isn't something we get from another, it's a personal choice to become loving. It's a way of being first, then it's a gift you share. The one who insists that their partner love first is dealing in fear, not love. And even if the partner does express love first, it's unlikely that that love will be felt by the other. Love is born internally (cause) or it's never experienced (effect).
The last example may be the hardest to challenge. I'll be happy when I get what I want. We are surrounded every day by the message that our happiness depends on external circumstances. If we don't have the car we want, the house we want, the clothes we want, the job we want, etc. - if we feel we are lacking whatever we believe causes happiness, we feel unhappy.
Quite some time ago I heard Oprah talking about dieting. She was acknowledging how hard it was to not let feelings of hunger tempt her to reach for the potato chip bag or cookie jar. When her diet coach told her that those feelings of hunger were all her fat cells shrinking, she gave hunger feelings a different meaning and could rejoice when she felt hunger (knowing she was accomplishing her goal) instead of feeling deprived. We might use that same logic to understand other challenges in our lives differently as well. We've probably all been in a place where we felt hopeless or defeated. We've all had disappointments and pain - when life didn't live up to our hopes/expectations/beliefs. We may have even succumbed to self-pity, anger, or resignation. Because our life did not meet our wants or expectations, we chose to feel badly.
Yes, chose to feel badly. Because all feelings are a result of what we tell ourselves that things mean. Some who experience disappointment choose to take action and change things. Others choose to run away or pretend it doesn't exist. But, either response is reactionary - giving power to the circumstance without understanding that the circumstance is an effect, not a cause. The cause was the combination of expectations, personally-determined meanings, and erroneous beliefs that our quality of life is determined by our circumstances.
Let's go back to the beginning of this writing when I asked: "What if feelings don't exist for the purpose of merely observing what is and giving it meaning? What if feelings are directives - self-generated decisions that result in what we experience?" You are the cause, life is the effect. You are the artist, life is canvas. You have the power... life is your agent fulfilling your directives.
Consider that last word deeply. Directives. Through the thoughts and feelings you choose, you direct life to become. When those choices are unconscious, you will often feel surprised and manipulated by what you experience. But, it's a mistake to believe the effect didn't begin with you as the cause.
That's why every self-help guru and personal development author will echo that to live a life of true fulfillment (conscious expectations/beliefs matching experiences), we need to become conscious of what we're directing life to be. How?
Work backwards. Look at the effect (your experience) and imagine the natural cause of such a result. If you're experiencing disappointment, what kind of internal choice could result in disappointment? It might be easy to decide that disappointment comes from unmet expectations and that the expectations you have are worthy and just didn't happen - beyond your control. But, we get what we give (because in the giving we create the results of receiving) - it's a universal law. So, you might have lofty conscious expectations, but the actual unconscious energy you are sending out into the world, attached to those lofty expectations, is the belief that it won't happen. That is what you are creating; so it doesn't happen.
For many, this is a bedrock shift - a fundamental change in the way we understand our relationship to our beliefs and experiences. In other words, it's a revolution in awareness. For now, consider playing with the following ideas: