I’m reading a book, a tiny book, and it’s one of those rare and exciting experiences where every other paragraph has me exclaiming to myself, “Oh really?” or “Of course!” It’s packed with little nuggets of wisdom that are at once simple and straightforward and yet are exactly what I need to hear.
The book is called Constructive Living by David K. Reynolds, and it’s perfect for people like me who often get waaaay too caught up in our feelings and the storm they create inside our heads.
On this cold and gray Monday morning here in Austin, I thought I’d share the book’s strategy for dealing with feeling discouraged.
Remember to begin by recognizing feelings pleasant or unpleasant. Don’t begin by ignoring or denying them. See whether they have a message for you about some action you need to take. Then behave responsibly. If the feeling remains, is there something else you need to do? If not, go on about living without excessive interest in the feeling.
Reynolds is paraphrasing a Japanese form of therapy known as Morita therapy. The message of the therapy reminds me of Eckhart Tolle’s message in The Power of Now and A New Earth, except that where Tolle is abstract, Reynolds and Morita are concrete. In times of difficulty, they say, focus on the now, our only reality, and they give specifics.
In this case, when feeling discouraged, Morita therapy recommends 1) accepting that you feel the way you do (not fighting it by telling yourself you shouldn’t feel that way, that you’re dumb, weak, etc.), 2) figuring out if the feeling is telling you to make a change, and if so, 3) doing it. Last but not least, if there are no changes you need to or are able to make, then 4) get back to brushing your teeth or doing the laundry or typing up that report, regardless of the feeling of discouragement. Eventually, the book says, the feeling will fade.
That last part makes me chuckle, because I know for a fact there are a zillion of my fellow humans (my husband being one of them) who know all of this without having to read it in a book. In fact, to them it seems about as obvious as opening an umbrella when it starts to rain. And yet to me it’s genius. Hey, we’re all good at different things, right?
I like also the overarching idea behind the therapy, which says that with practice, even those of us who give in to every feeling can become stronger.
There is something much bigger at stake here than the momentary discomfort of regret and discouragement. You are constructing a finer, deeper, stronger you.
That is why I started reading this book in the first place. I’ve become more aware of how much I get in my own way, letting my feelings of fear or discouragement or whatever prevent me from acting, and I’m sick of it. I want to grow as a person so that I can actually get some stuff done. OK finer, deeper, stronger self, let’s do this!
I wish you a cheerful Monday. (Or if you do feel discouraged, may you use it as an opportunity to get a whole lot of laundry done!)