Relapse. When negotiating the pitfalls of the mind, things are a lot less clear than picking your way across a hazardous landscape. Things rise suddenly and unexpectedly from the subconscious. We’re caught off guard, we lose our balance. And suddenly we find ourselves stuck in a trap of anger, hurt, or self-loathing, and sometimes all of the above. Days, weeks, months, even years after we’ve picked ourselves up and continued on, we fall back in the same trap.
It’s because we can’t see the trap, don’t know it’s even there. Some people, if they become stuck too long or fall too many times, may finally open their eyes and see the big hole they’re sitting in. They may then be able to go around it in the future. Others might become stuck in one hole, and be forced to find a way out. The experience should teach them how to stay out of that hole in the future. The holes of the mind are kind of like black holes- we can’t see them, but we know they’re there by the effects they have on matter around them. So, the blind spots of the mind may become apparent when we notice their effect on how we manifest our realities. Relationships may suffer. We may be unhappy. The world can seem set against us. It makes sense, then, to study the terrain of our minds so that we can better navigate it. To make our way to our destination instead of getting stuck. Because getting lost in the mind can be the same thing as losing it.
As for ‘relapse’, I’ve had one. Nothing major, just a sudden and unobserved slip into that negative mindset, or putting on the ‘shit tinted glasses’ (as opposed to rose tinted), if you will. The mind does something strange in those instances, where you feel like you would do anything to escape from the present situation. It drives people to say and do foolish things. It drives people to drink, and worse. Like depression, it’s something you fall into and see no way out of, though thankfully it doesn’t usually last as long as a bout of depression- I was over it by dinnertime.
After my “selfish emotions” were triggered, I recalled “not thinking or acting from selfish impulses”, and there was again that feeling of “how could I forget”. I’ve taken a Vipassana* course to learn to meditate, and feel that what we learned there has a strong correlation to being able to function from a better place than from selfish impulses. Selfish, or “bad”, emotions have a physical component. It’s kind of hard to describe how this feels as it’s not always a discrete feeling. It could be a feeling of constriction or sickness in the pit of the stomach or the chest. It could be more in the head or throat. But it’s a generally toxic feeling, and one that can ruin your day. I can better observe these sensations now, whereas before I would have just been the feelings. Being able to detach from the feelings, even for a few seconds, has in turn allowed me to match these sensations with their emotional component. That way, if I’m thinking that a certain so-and-so is a bitch, for example, I can notice that tightness in my chest and throat and realize that I’m thinking from the “selfish” part of me. Invariably, this selfish part of oneself is wrong. You thus realize that you’re doing something that you don’t really want to be doing at that moment.
Being selfish means cutting ourselves off from the people and things around us, and operating as if only we mattered. When only we matter, things that go wrong are always taken personally. We get a sense of outrage, then those selfish feelings come up under the guise of “self-protection”. So, those toxic emotions are fundamentally selfish.
Keep in mind that repressing these selfish emotions is not a good approach to coping- I have tried that for about two seconds and know that it does not work at all and in fact would make things much worse had I really tried to do it. Awareness is the key here. Now that I can be aware of what is happening in my being, I can shift my thoughts somehow. Actually, the shift seems to happen almost automatically when you realize you are operating from the “selfish place”. The shift is one from a mind fogged with negativity to a clear mind. It’s like coming up for air. The body relaxes when the mind does. Amazing stuff.
Controlling the emotions has become very important for me as I get older and see more clearly the consequences lack of control can have in real life. Always flying off the handle at things imagined, or having a mindset that is constantly judging people, tends to ensure that you will be a lonely person. I don’t have the talent or inclination to manipulate people into being friends; I expect a true friend to accept who I am. At the same time, being an asshole means that you might repel someone who has the potential to be a real friend. To be fair, and maybe it’s a holdover from this selfish mindset I’m trying to get over, I do think that a lot of people ARE assholes in a similar way. I mean, I believe we usually all have some good deep down unless we’re that lost, but it seems to be the norm rather than the exception that people are judgmental. For me, though, it was becoming more of a problem, so I’ve been forced to deal with it.
*Vipassana is a meditation technique that focuses on cultivating awareness. It’s ten days of meditation nd you take a vow of silence for those ten days. You don’t even make eye contact with anybody. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.