Reflection: Not just for mirrors, yo!
In this post, I share a real exchange I had with my therapist recently. Having described my day as simply “good” and struggling to explain why, I was pushed to go deeper and explore the emotions and feelings behind the events of that day.
How was your day?
If you’re anything like me, you might throw out something like ‘I had a good day, thanks.’ And when asked why your day was good, you’ll probably go on to rattle through all the things you did, leaving no one–including yourself–the wiser as to why the day was actually good.
Just like ‘fine’, good is one of those words that’s lost its way, steadily devalued from overuse. It doesn’t help that so few of us are easily able to ascribe emotion or feeling to our use of the word.
As an adjective, the definition of good most applicable to this story is this:
Good: giving pleasure; enjoyable or satisfying.
Looking at this definition gives us all the cues we need.
… all highly desirable outcomes that manifest from experiencing positive emotions and feelings.
Before we go on, let’s take a look at the list of things I rattled off in that exchange I mentioned earlier:
- I had no fixed schedule
- I took time to go deep on my writing.
- I read my book in Starbucks.
- I ate lunch alone.
- I walked the reservoir.
As you can see, all of these things accurately describe the what of my good day, not the why.
None of these facts speak to how they made me feel.
Are you an observer of your own story?
Be under no illusions, all decisions are rooted in emotion. And whenever we do something, there are absolutely feelings present.
If that doesn’t ring true for you, chances are there are a couple of things going on.
- You are not paying attention to how you feel when things are happening.
- You are somewhat aware, but not taking the time to fully digest and reflect on the feelings you experience.
Again, if you’re anything like me, this is not likely a conscious choice.
I mean, it’s not like I go through life filling every possible silence with a mantra of ‘I will not feel. I will not feel.’
I have a strong, and seemingly unhealthy, tendency toward perpetual motion. Pushing through things, good and bad, at a rate of knots. Ever forward.
On the upside, progress.
On the downside emotional detachment.
I am learning that, conscious or not, detachment from your feelings doesn’t lead anywhere good. In fact, it can very much leave you wandering through life as an observer of your own story.
That’s great! So how did it make you feel?
So let’s revisit that list again, and this time, explore the how things made me feel, and how those feelings culminated in the assertion that I’d had a good day.
I had no fixed schedule.
This made me feel like I had choices, that I was in control of my life. Let’s call that, empowered.
I took time to go deep on my writing.
I felt like I was in the zone and really productive. Let’s call that focused.
I read my book in Starbucks.
It was great to have the freedom to go and sit in Starbucks read. To exchange pleasantries with strangers. Watching people come and go made me feel part of something. Let’s call this connected.
I ate lunch alone.
I ate alone, without distraction and I really enjoyed the process of simply eating. Slowly savoring every mouthful. The flavors. The textures. Let’s call this present.
I walked the reservoir.
It was great to get outside in the middle of the afternoon. The sun felt warm on my skin, my senses bombarded with the scent of summer carried on a gentle breeze. I walked and thought deeply on my day. Let’s call this mindful.
For the next part, try not to take these terms literally.
Even I am not yet one hundred percent sure that I would use these specific words to describe how I felt.
Nonetheless, instead of simply good, I am now able to describe my day as an empowered, focused, connected, present and mindful experience.
These are the feelings that led me to good.
Feelings, schmeelings: Why is this important?
I know, I know. It’s tough to be all touchy-feely, right? To explore our feelings. To stop and reflect on exactly what we are feeling, and why.
But it’s important. It really is.
For one, acknowledging and exploring your feelings stops you being a voyeur of your life. From thinking about yourself in the third person. From emotional detachment.
Second, this practice gives you the means to achieve another good day, even if you don’t end-up doing exactly the same things.
I know that not all my days can or will go exactly like this one. And yet, by identifying how each of the activities made me feel, I can seek out opportunities to recreate those feelings in other ways.
Even the smallest of actions can elicit the positive feelings you might associate with having a good day.
Want that feeling of control and empowerment?
Block a thirty minute appointment on your calendar and choose how to spend the time.
Want to feel present and mindful?
Eat lunch alone a couple of times a week. Take your food somewhere quiet, no phone, no book. Just experience eating. Explore how the food makes you feel; mind and body.
So what now?
My primary goal with this piece was simply to share. To impart valuable insight from my own struggles with emotional detachment and feelings of emptiness.
Bear in mind, this is very much a work in progress for me.
Through force of will, I’ve successfully decomposed the events of a single day and tried to explore how it made me feel. But it wasn’t easy, and it’s a long way from being a natural process.
I also suspect that the biggest challenges for me are yet to come. In repeating this exercise for the bad days.
It’s certainly easier to make the time to sit and reflect when you’re happy, and in a calm, collected state of mind.
How will I fair when I am feeling low? Despairing. Adrift on the ocean of futility.
Honestly, I don’t know.
But I am resolved to put in the work and see where it takes me.