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Muddy Water, Let Stand, Becomes Clear

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

In seeking to understand my foolishness, I am becoming wise. The process of cognitive restructuring seeks to allow the feelings in our guest house to fully unleash and wipe out our guest house. As Lao Tzu wisely puts, over time the muddy water becomes clear if allowed to be left undisturbed. Let the negative emotions fully express their desires and ideas. Simply observe.

Monitor such thoughts, beliefs and observe if there are recurring patterns in your life. Allow such insights to further develop by visualizing these feelings speak aloud and act out their emotions, even as they cause damage to your property. Discover what is important that they are seeking to protect you from.

I know for me that anger manifests when I seek to control what I cannot control, I have the certainty that my energy can be released through such anger, and the anger serves me well (to release pent up stress and anxiety arising from my inability to have a grasp on an issue).

What are your own patterns, thoughts and beliefs?

The process of allowing the negative emotions in the guest house to fully enter our inner being is the beginning of cognitive restructuring. This is where we monitor the feelings, observe, reflect and ask ourselves if we still need to hold onto the beliefs and thoughts in our patterns, and ask if these serve our greatest good.

As Rumi and Lao Tzu both suggest the necessity to be fully present to the emotions, and to let the dust settle, I hope all of us can achieve the same mindful review of such recurring negative feelings.

Wisdom from desolation

I may not have the solution to stop being desolate ever again, neither do I want that to happen for me. In fact my cycles of consolation and desolation is what creates growth in life. My kensho and satori moments of growth. I see desolation states as messengers prompting me to act, enabling my body to be primed for action. More often than not, desolation at its core, arises from a genuine, pure and good desire to love and care about something that matters.

Desolation is a signal to act

The state of being negatively impacted by an emotion is in itself a signal. That signal may mean the body is warning me that I need to act. Either by a physical act or to focus attention on the topic and think up solutions.

In changing my mindsets about a feeling of desolation, I am telling myself that my body is helping me focus all my energy and effort to work on what matters to me.

Let the chaos settle and its good intention is revealed

The signal to act does create havoc and chaos to the otherwise normal way of life. Yet as the water is only muddied by our continued stirring and ruminating over the matter at hand, the solution is to mindfully allow the feeling to enter the guest house, and let that emotion settle down.

After the guest settles down, the momentary awareness comes and the desire from the messenger becomes clear. Muddy waters if let to settle, unravels the gift of clear and pure desire. The desire is what makes us react or feel overly impacted about the situation. Because we care about it and do not know how to control or solve this difficulty, we become attached to the negative feeling and we fuse our identity and being with this feeling. Yet in my book, I stress that we are not our feelings. What these feelings come to tell us, or warn us about is we perhaps care deeply for this matter, sometimes we care too much or too little about it. We have to do something.

Hence the desire to care for something is usually pure and good in itself. There is nothing wrong in wanting things to be in order, to feel loved, or to love. However the moment we allow ourselves to be consumed by the desire, our entire being is corrupted.

Cognitive restructuring to see wisdom from desolation

I propose a 3 step observations to build resilience when it comes to feeling desolate. The next time a situation triggers a negative feeling to enter our state of being, give ourselves time to let it arrive and settle down.

Monitor post events in the past whether there is any repeatable patterns that create a tense or chaotic moment in your life.

For me there are plenty of situations at home where I am almost going berserk when my 3 year old son insists on his ways rather than mine. I get into an escalation of heated arguments with him, I react loudly, he reacts and my wife has to intervene and if not, both father and child end up in a very bad state. Over time, I realised this pattern arises from my inability to control and fix things. Not wanting to surrender to the situation and let things naturally flow, I enforce my will on my child which is obviously not what he can process or accept. When he is trapped in his reptilian brain and the fight response is triggered, there is no way to calm him down, except for me giving in, pacifying him, distracting him. This makes me feel worse than before. I feel disgruntled by this unjust outcome and my energy lingers. My son of course is sensitive to this peeved father and cannot quite settle down until I am calm.

What do the feelings say about the situation? My desire to get him to do things my way is often what I opine is good for him, that desire is borne from love and its intent good and pure. The feeling resentful is actually saying to me I feel rejected, unappreciated and unloved by my 3 year old! Flipping it around, the feeling is revealing to me how deeply I love and care for him.

The other message in this situation is itself my need for control, for orderliness and structure. This too is good, it helps regulate a growing child and sets the parameters for how we engage as a family and where the rules are laid. Yet my fastidious enforcement of the rules bring about a distortion of the earlier mentioned desire to love and be loved. It is unloving to act irrationally loud or even violent with my child.

A negative self belief could be that my child does not love me. A more distorted belief system would be that my child needs to obey me to show he loves me. Obedience equates to love. This is how my belief system would corrupt my ego.

How do these feelings serve me? In the heat of my emotions, the intense feelings help in the way I know and am familiar with, to put things in order. Even if I cannot get my son to conform, I would have let out steam, which releases the welling up of feeling unjust and the simmering anger which I had been suppressing. Essentially, this protects me from a full blown meltdown.

Post trauma, such desolations forces me to discern what is actually going on in me. It tells me to contemplate and figure things out because I really love my son.

I hope that the 4 step process helps reframe your thoughts and snaps you out of repeating patterns of negative emotional states as well.

4 step approach to reframe negative emotional patterns

  1. Monitor patterns in repeatable situations that lead to negative emotions and describe the feelings in detail.

  2. Ask yourself what the feelings are saying, you may even visualise feelings as guests in your guest house and find out what they have to say.

  3. Are there any negative beliefs that you have about yourself or the situation and can they be reframed or viewed in a different perspective?

  4. How do these feelings and emotional patterns serve or protect you. Is there a better ways to feel safe and secure?

Here's an infographic of cognitive restructuring, to reframe mindsets and shift states.

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