Sometimes I wish I didn’t have feelings. Most of the time I enjoy my world of feelings, but there are certainly times when this world seems to betray me. There are times when the expression of certain feelings can betray my thoughts and intentions, and this is the challenge that we are all faced with reconciling. Our thoughts are not our feelings. Our feelings are not our thoughts. And we are not defined by either. We must separate the difference between feeling a certain way and the logical expression of our true selves.
We can’t control our feelings, but we can control our actions and words. Anger, fear, and disgust enter our psyche uninvited, but we are still tasked with welcoming these guests and showing them proper courtesy before granting them farewell. There is a second alternative and it is becoming painfully obvious that this is the route that many of us tend to take.
The second alternative is to let these uninvited guests stay. If they stay long enough they become like family. When we are at home with anger, fear, and disgust we seem to never go hungry for validation. These new guests will always give us a means to direct these feelings. Our appetite can become insatiable, but our guests seem to have an endless capacity to feed us.
Once we let fear, anger, and disgust take up residence in or psyche we become like a hammer searching for nails. We always find them. We make up imaginary slights and identify enemies at every turn with no provocation. There will of course be times when we are indeed slighted or faced with an enemy, but in such instances, we are tasked with going about the unpleasant business of entertaining our guests, but we must remember to have them take their leave in a timely fashion.
Once we are at home with these new guests, intolerance becomes the paradigm for which we most closely identify. Control over our environment as well as the thoughts and deeds of others becomes our goal. We become incensed at any proof that others are not complying with our values. We increasingly identify with our in-group in a way that ingrains “Us vs Them” dichotomies and this often becomes our new religion. Defensiveness in service of our values becomes all that matters in life. Humanity and individuation become lost in the ego-aggrandizing and narcotizing affects of needing to be right.
Once this path is taken, we tend to fall even deeper into the abyss of intolerance, pulled down by the insidious grip of anger, fear, and disgust which can lead to a state where we no longer care about being right. All our energy may then be invested in finding ways not to be wrong. This journey can take us into what could be viewed as a psychotic episode where there is suspension of all truth and facts in service of denying any semblance of wrongness, and to the casual observer, this may be viewed as insanity.
As a society we don’t officially view it as insanity however, because we all understand what if feels like to be gripped by our ego/fear. Yes, ego is fear. Because we all suffer from the mass insanity of the ego at one point or another, we understand the illogical and psychotic nature of this behavior perfectly. We understand it so well we often fight it with the same psychotic ego energy that the other person is using. We find ourselves no longer above pettiness and our standards of decorum become non-existent. We are then left with a culture where those that call for compassion and tolerance become the crazy ones. Crazy intolerant ego energy and all the crazy inane behavior that comes with it soon become normalcy rather than insanity.
We are all tasked with understanding that we are innately susceptible to experiencing certain feelings and then looking for manifestations in the outer world for validating them. This is often called rationalizing, confirmation bias, or reading too much into things. We can trick ourselves into thinking our feelings are valid reflections of positions we should take in matters of importance, but they seldom are.
Each one of us must make the choice to allow love and compassion to be our permanent residents, but we often fear the vulnerability that this entails. Love and compassion only enter through open doors—they don’t break in like anger, fear, and disgust. Love and compassion force us to accept that we do not always have the answers and that sometimes we may be wrong. Accepting that we can be wrong is frightening and invariably leaves us feeling vulnerable. Facing this forces us to be more compassionate with ourselves. This vulnerability is at the root of why our ego energy becomes our chosen shield. We are afraid of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and our unwelcome guests know this. They foster insecurities and want us to hate ourselves with the same fervor in which we project our animosities onto the “others” that threaten to usurp our control. This self-hatred ensures we stop trusting ourselves, leaving us vulnerable to be led astray by demagogues and conspiracy theories that incite suspicion and defensive posturing. Only treating ourselves with compassion will grant us the permission to make the contributions to society the world needs from us. Self-forgiveness opens the door to tolerance. How can we be accepting of what we perceive to be weakness in others if we do not accept weakness in ourselves?