“We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos, negativity, and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy.” Ellen DeGeneres
What do you do when confronted with an angry person? How do you find peace when confronted with chaos? How do you find happiness when there is too much negativity in your life?
CHAOS SEEMS TO SURROUND US
It is a time when keeping chaos at a distance is more difficult than usual. The news is filled with natural disasters like the fires in California or the floods in Louisiana, with the insults Trump and Clinton hurl at one another, and with the wars in the Middle East that are making normal lives impossible for millions of people. In addition, racism and misogyny have raised their ugly heads in a way that makes them impossible to ignore.
How do we find happiness in the midst of this without totally withdrawing from society? The secret lies in how we experience our minds and emotions because the thoughts and comments we hear lodge in our mental spaces and become part of memory. The more negative ones feed the ego that is always ready for more drama.
Because this is a presidential election year, we have a particular challenge. We want to learn about the candidates so that we can make good choices about whom we vote for, but the particularly negative nature of the race this year makes that a challenge. Whether or not we believe what the candidates say, their words and emotions, especially Donald Trump’s, affect our “pain body,” an aspect of the ego.
LEARN TO CALM THE “PAIN BODY”
Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose defines the “pain body” in this way: “The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body.” (p. 142) He also points out that people who have active pain bodies tend to attract hostility and conflict. Others can feel the negative energy that is so strong in them and will react to it by lashing out or avoiding that person.
So the pain body is that part of the ego where we store the emotional pain we have suffered throughout life. It is always hungry and feeds on drama, so negative feelings and ideas activate it easily. We start to feel angry, hurt, or offended in some way. We want to react quickly without thinking, and so we easily find ourselves embroiled in conflict or self-pity and at odds with the person offending us.
DO WE ALWAYS CHOOSE UNHAPPY STORIES?
What is at the core of these unhappy feelings? Tolle says, “Only emotion plus an unhappy story is unhappiness.” For example, why are so many people attracted to Trump’s negative remarks? Because he activates and supports their unhappy stories. He feeds the pain body. So instead of speaking to what is good in us and our society, he convinces us that our lives are awful (and some truly are) and only he can fix that. Like many politicians, he speaks to people’s emotions and ignores any contradictory facts.
ONLY WE CAN FIX OURSELVES
The reality is that no candidates can fix us. We can only fix ourselves by not attaching to the negative stories they perpetuate. We must find peace in the midst of chaos by going within and centering ourselves. Then we are able to see healthy solutions to the problems that haunt us and are able to differentiate between the candidate who has real solutions to the country’s problems and the one whose ego promises whatever will make him look powerful.
Becoming aware of the pain body, releasing our unhappy stories, and learning to be present and accept what we are feeling will allow us to be happier because we can then feel who we truly are.
By observing our own reactions, we can become aware of the kinds of events or comments that set us off. When we are more conscious, we can choose a different path of behavior.
BE CENTERED IN THE MOMENT
In those moments when the pain body is activated, we need to be in the moment, feel what we are feeling, and release our need to react. Having practiced meditation, I know how peace feels and I try to release any need to react. I want to simply be in the moment and observe the story that is emerging. If I can choose not to attach to the negative emotions and ideas being expressed, I can choose not to experience the unhappiness inherent in the reaction of the pain body.
Every time I feel my pain body activate, I ask, “Do I really think this? Do I really feel this? Do I really need to respond to this? Should I just let it go? Then I affirm only what I believe is true. Each time I learn more about who I am. Whether we like it or not, working with the pain body and letting go of our unhappy stories, can change our lives—and maybe our country.
As Ellen DeGeneres said, “We all want to be happy.” So, in addition to learning to live in a healthy way with our pain body and not letting it run our lives, we need to focus on what is good in our lives. What do we have to be grateful for?
GRATITUDE ALSO LEADS TO HAPPINESS
Personally, in this divisive time in our country, I am grateful that Hillary, a well-qualified woman, is running for president and has a good chance of winning. I wasn’t sure I would ever see that in my lifetime. Despite all the negative things that are said about her, the fact is that she has worked to help others, especially women and children, all her life. She has demonstrated she knows how to get things done that help people, and she doesn’t segregate people by race or gender.
When we focus on gratitude, we support what is good in our lives, what we have together and in community as well as in our individual lives. That is our greatest source of happiness.
©2016 Georganne Spruce