What is the main reason for all (emotional) human suffering?
>>The meaning we give to inherently meaningless events<<
As humans, we have this need to assign MEANING to everything that happens. And with that meaning comes the categorization of things as “positive” or “negative” for us or others. Subsequently, with that categorization, comes emotional response. Things categorized as “negative” elicit negative emotional energy, and vice versa. And negative emotional energy leads to suffering (in many forms, either with the emotion itself or with the destructive behaviors it leads to).
Read the rest of this post to learn a simple 5-step process to quickly turn any negative emotion neutral or even to something positive.
As I explained previously, humans have a need to assign MEANING to everything that happens (it’s essentially a survival mechanism). But the real truth is, no event is inherently bad/wrong. It’s a human assigning a meaning to it that categorizes it into something positive or something negative. An event is not inherently, universally (all times, all places, to everyone) positive or negative. Shakespeare’s Hamlet even recognized this—“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Morty Lefkoe, creator of the Lefkoe Belief Process and founder of the Lefkoe Institute, helped thousands of people—individually, and in institutions and organizations—relieve emotional suffering based on the meanings they assigned to the events of their lives, including violent criminals and those who experienced extreme traumas. Although he passed away in November of 2015, his work lives on through his writings, his Institute, and those he trained to use his techniques.
One of them, the Occurring Process, I absolutely love, use frequently myself, and share with friends and clients to quickly dissolve stress and negative emotions.
Below are the 5 simple steps of the Occurring Process.
1. Notice the negative emotional response you’re having to an event
2. Notice the meaning(s) you’ve given to that event that has produced those negative emotions (how it’s “occurring” to you; how you’re viewing or interpreting it)
3. Clearly distinguish between the event and the meaning(s) you’ve given it (event ≠ meaning)
4. Ask yourself what new meaning(s) you can give to that event that would be more positive or neutral (come up with at least 2).
5. Notice if the negative emotion becomes positive or dissolves with the acceptance of the alternative meaning(s). If not, go back to step 3.
A few notes:
The event could be very old and the emotion is coming from an internal “rehashing” of that event (often prompted by a similar situation in the present or someone mentioning the past event). Whether it happened a moment ago, or from childhood, this process can help extinguish both.
For Step # 3, recognize that no events have any “inherent, universal meaning.” Events can have consequences that are absolute (e.g., when it rains, things get wet), but not an absolute meaning (e.g., rain just IS—it’s neither “good” nor “bad.”)
For Step #4, this doesn’t necessarily mean you come up with a new meaning that makes you smile & dance. It could be that you come up with a meaning that allows you to take some action that makes you feel helpful or empowered with choices. Or it could be that you create or recognize an opportunity that, if acted upon, could bring value to yourself or others.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with alternative meanings that could be more neutral or positive, here are three suggestions:
1. Doing some EFT on how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking can really help. Remember that EFT shifts the brainwave activity from hindbrain (fear, stress, protection, fight/flight/freeze) to forebrain (creativity, logic, reason, growth, possibility, calm), opening up new ways of thinking and processing information. (If you want to know more about EFT, read this previous blog post.)
2. Another possibility would be to ask others who are not involved in the situation for their perception or interpretation of the event. A more neutral party, or someone who has successfully gotten through a similar situation, or someone trained in taking a “higher” or more enlightened perspective or approach to life, can provide insights or interpretations that were not apparent to you, but you can accept as other possibilities for looking at the situation.
3. Play the “but at least” game. Come up with ways that it could be WORSE than what consequences appear to be present in the situation and compare those to what is true about it (e.g., you’re on the side of the road with a flat tire—but at least you didn’t swerve out of control and get into an accident; but at least you have a spare; but at least it’s not raining while you change it; but at least you ‘re not alone on a dark, deserted road; but at least you have a cell phone to call for help; but at least you can call AAA to help you out; etc.).
Once you practice the steps of this process in real-life experiences, you’ll find its profound value in shifting you out of negative, reactive emotional states that drain your energy and often lead to destructive behavior patterns, and into more neutral or even positive/happy emotional states. Soon your brain will learn to do this for you more quickly and automatically, and it will become the natural thinking process.
“How can I look at this differently?” “What can I gain from this experience?” “How can I redirect the energy or consequences of this event in a more positive way? “How can I find or create value in this situation, so it doesn’t seem hopeless or pointless?”
And eventually, you can find yourself not giving ANY meaning (good or bad, right or wrong) to events, just going with the flow without emotional upset. This doesn’t make you an unfeeling, unsympathetic robot. It simply allows you to be the calm and supportive presence in the storm to those around you still wrapped up in assigning negative meaning to their events and running around like the sky is falling, without you becoming drained or reacting in unproductive behaviors that DO have true negative consequences.
CALL TO ACTION
1. Go through the 5 steps of the Occurring Process with an event you’re currently having stress or negative feelings about.
2. Notice how you have changed the way you’re feeling or thinking by the time you get to step # 5.
3. If you had a good experience with this process, please share that in the comments below to help encourage others to give it a try.
4. If you’re having a hard time with any of the steps, please comment on that as well so I can comment back to help you.
5. If you need more assistance effectively shifting your response to events you’ve experienced or reacting better to life’s challenges, please contact me so we can discuss working privately together.
Do you need help controlling or redirecting your emotional state, behaviors, and responses to life’s apparent challenges? Is this affecting your business or life? I might be able to help. Schedule a complimentary MMM Business Strategy Session or Personal Performance Consultation with me to identify and change what emotions and behaviors are holding you back from being and doing better in life and/or business.
Did you like this post? Did you get something helpful from it? Did you take some action that lead to a good result for you? Do you disagree or have something to add? Please leave a comment below to share with others.