Dreams! We all have them! From the simple joy that comes from being happy in your life to the grand dreams of career success, mega millions, and other material or worldly goals, all dreams are valid and necessary. They serve a purpose for us as humans living our lives. They give life some meaning, some value, and some direction. They offer the potential of a map to help guide the way. They aren’t the only reason we’re here, but they give us a reason to show up everyday and that in itself is enough.
But boy do we argue with those dreams! We have such an emotional attachment to those outcomes that it messes with us when we try to move forward. It messes with our connection to the dream and how we see it. It messes with our focus. It messes with our ability to allow ourselves to go after the dreams that we want. Our emotional attachment to what we want creates a level of dysfunction that we simply don’t acknowledge or understand. This is where focus matters because we have the ability to understand it, we just have to take the time to do it. We have to put the effort into it and most people just don’t do that work.
Emotional attachment creates the feeling of neediness, like I can’t be happy until I achieve the goal or dream. It makes us sacrifice ourselves. We think we have to do things we don’t want to do to get to where we want to go. We think we have to sacrifice ourselves to have our dreams because the neediness creates a fear of not getting what we want. The fear is the thing we become aware of and react to. The fear drives the emotional attachment that we feel.
Having a healthy relationship with your goals allows you to care about your goals without the neediness and without the fear of not achieving the dream. You care about it in such a way that you’re willing to keep going through the challenges, but you’re not willing to sacrifice yourself. You’re willing to find ways to make it work that don’t require you to be miserable to get there.
The neediness gets you to make up stories about why it won’t work or what the problem with it is because the neediness comes from fear. Your job is to figure out what the fear is and then manage that. The neediness puts dysfunction into the relationship you have with your goal.
Think about what being needy does to a relationship with another human being. Chances are you’ve been on one side of this or the other at some point in your life. How did that affect the relationship? What did that create? The neediness creates a clingy feeling. It makes the person who is needy do things to get attention or create the feeling of connection. It puts dysfunction in the relationship doesn’t it? Well, the same is true when you’re talking about your relationship with your goals. You put the same dysfunction into that relationship and then wonder why it doesn’t work.
Don’t think that your goal isn’t talking to you or showing you that you’re adding dysfunction to it, because it is. Every time you try to take a step toward it and a problem shows up, your reaction to that problem is the indication of how dysfunctional the relationship is. Can you figure out your way around the problem? Is the solution obvious to you? Or do you just simply walk away and give up because you think the world is stopping you?
When I look back on my adventure as a writer, there are plenty of places where I allowed problems or the perception of a problem to stop me. I’ve argued with every aspect of my career as a writer from day 1 because I was terrified of doing my own thing. I was scared of the money stuff, which made me decide that I needed to sacrifice myself to make money. It made me decide that writing needed to be secondary because making an income was the priority. Needless to say that didn’t work.
I argued with what type of content to create, how much, and when. I argued with blogs, social media content, books, videos, and pretty much everything else because I wasn’t happy with the perceived failure of those things. What do you mean my book isn’t a best seller? What do you mean I don’t have a million likes on that post? My arguments with algorithms and audience size caused me to argue with everything. I wouldn’t just let myself create and allow that to be enough. I had to figure out how to make the viral post. I had to figure out why my programs only had 2 people in them. I had to argue with all of it, until I stopped arguing.
I stopped arguing when I realized that nothing was wrong. I was happy with my schedule. I liked the content that I was creating. I felt no need to change anything. I was totally comfortable doing what I was doing. The perception that I didn’t have enough people was just screwy, limited perception that I needed to ignore. All the weirdness would resolve itself if I just decided to keep going. But then something happened because that space allowed me to look up and take a breath. What about writing this book? Where does that fit?
The realization was simply that I didn’t want to do both at the same time. I didn’t want to try to make book writing fit in the box around content creation. I wanted book writing to be a sacred thing that I went and did for myself without all fussing of schedules and content. I wanted to be able to sit and write without the noise and the distraction of needing to get the blog written for Thursday afternoon.
Book writing as a sacred art that is separate from anything else that I do. It requires its own space, its own time, and its own separate focus apart from anything else. That means that I carve time out of my year to write my book. That means it gets separate space and I don’t argue with that. The world can wait while I write a book. It’ll be okay.
That doesn’t mean that I abandon ship. It doesn’t mean that I don’t allow for private sessions and some social media posting. It just means that I stop creating additional content so that I can focus on this sacred art. Book writing is a profoundly personal and important journey to me. It is the OG, the original, in my career as a writer. This was the purpose. This was the point. I wanted to be an author and a writer. I argued with it heavily because of how much time it took away from the public content creation that I made more important because of my fear of other things.
But when I finally stop arguing with it and allow it to balance naturally, the time out is the only strategy that makes sense. It is the thing that I wouldn’t allow myself to do until now. I’m excited about this. I’m over the moon that I finally have the power to shut down the public content creation and just write for a while. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks of my life as I carve out this book.
You’re with me on the journey now. This is real time. I started writing this essay yesterday not knowing where it was going to take me. I finished up my content for the week earlier today and now I’m ready to fully focus on book writing for the next couple of months. That to me is more exciting than anything else right now! I can’t put into words how excited I am about this journey and what it will uncover.
You see your kind of has two parts to it: It has the known and rather predictable outcome and it has all the unknown little bits and pieces you find along the way. Most people are terrified of the unknown. Those little bits and pieces are scary as hell simply because they are unknown and unpredictable. We like to have all the answers. We like to know what’s going to happen, so predictable outcomes are a really good thing. But then the mind moves to questioning what will happen along the way. That’s all the unpredictable stuff that the mind doesn’t like. Your job is to simply manage that so that the mind can’t be a runaway train. It’s not allowed to inject a bunch of fear into the equation.
You can teach the mind to get excited about the unknown instead of terrified of the unknown. It turns into a scavenger hunt where you just go explore and you don’t worry about anything. When you make life a scavenger hunt it allows the brain to relax a little bit and things don’t have to seem as scary. When life makes you question what’s going to happen next all the time, you get paranoid really easily. The mind makes up a lot of stuff that causes fear and anxiety. Most of it never happens, but the mind loves to tell a good story and it does so quite willingly every chance it gets.
I made up stories about how I would lose my audience and I would have to start over or I would end up homeless because I wasn’t making money. Those stories were incredibly valuable because they taught me they weren’t true. They taught me that I didn’t have to worry about those things because they weren’t going to happen. They taught me that the fear they offered me was unnecessary. There was nothing to be afraid of. They taught me that I have the power to override those stories and do my own thing anything. They taught me how incredibly valuable my book writing goals really are to me. They taught me that I’m not willing to walk away from that goal no matter how much fear my mind wants to throw at me.
I learned how to make my dreams more important than the stories of the mind and the fear the mind wants to offer. Now remember, the mind is just trying to protect you. It’s not really doing anything wrong. Our job is simply to recognize the strategies of the mind and change them when they don’t work for us. We have control because it’s our own mind, we just have to make the effort to actually take control. Usually most people just let their mind do whatever it wants. Notice how far that’s gotten you in life. As Dr. Phil would say, “how’s that working for you?”
It’s not, right? Letting the mind be a runaway train doesn’t get you very far. It offers lots of crazy stories and ideas that generate all kinds of emotion, and all that emotion keeps you stuck because the emotion is the thing you react to, not the thought in your mind. It’s the emotion that actually gets your attention because you’ve tuned out your mind. The emotion is what you react to, not the thought. Half the time, you can’t even tell me what the thought was. That’s how little you’re paying attention to your mind. You just know you feel like crap, you just have no idea why.
The mind is a runaway train that generates random ad hoc emotions that you’re stuck in. You have no control over it because you pay no attention to thing that causes the emotion - your mind. All emotions come on the back of a thought, whether the thought is conscious or not. Your job is to be aware of your thinking as much as possible so that you can stop the cycle of random, crazy emotions that you’re stuck in.
The funny thing is that the emotions are so overwhelming that some people are terrified of them. They actually want to stay in their head, but still tune out all the thoughts. So now they don’t like their emotions so they tune those out and they don’t pay attention to their thinking, so they end up all but abandoning themselves. They create this limbo for themselves. They create a neutral space between their thoughts and their feelings that they hang out in, while they acknowledge neither of those things. They feel disconnected, confused, and lost. Gee, I wonder why. Maybe it’s the lack of acknowledgment of their own thoughts and feelings that’s the problem.
I used to be an emotion avoider. I totally get it. I didn’t like my emotions and so I abandoned them and got stuck in my head. My mind started telling all kinds of crazy stories and generating massive amounts of fear that I avoided dealing with. Guess what kind of a cycle that created? Want to feel like crap all the time? I can give you road map for free. Don’t control your thinking, ignore how you feel, and try to control everything around you. Yep, that’s a disaster in the making. Meltdown anyone?
You can’t get there from there. It won’t work. We have to deal with the things that are going on inside of us if we intend to get to where we want to go. You can’t avoid everything all the time and you don’t get control over everything. You have to learn how to manage yourself within the experience so that you can be okay, live your life, and not need to tune out all the time.
The fear of dealing with yourself comes from the fear of the unknown. You don’t know what you’re going to find. That scavenger hunt isn’t just any old scavenger hunt, is it? You don’t know what you’re looking for. When somebody tells you it’s a scavenger hunt and they hid jelly beans everywhere, you’re happy to go on that adventure because you know what you’re going to find. There’s no surprise in that. But when you go on a scavenger hunt of thoughts and feelings, you have no idea what you’re going to run into. That causes you to make up a story of fear and anxiety about the unknown future.
There’s a very deep truth here that you will come to at some point on your journey - there is nothing there that you don’t already know about.
This adventure is the same as digging through a closet you haven’t cleaned out in 10 years. When you finally get to the back of the closet, you find stuff you forgot you had. You find some surprises in there sometimes. Is that a bad thing? Not usually. You’re okay with the process and so you go on the journey.
Well, thoughts and feelings are kind of the same way. There is nothing there that you didn’t put there. You may have forgotten you had it, but that doesn’t make it unknown. That doesn’t make it scary. That just makes it a little bit of a surprise. The idea of it being scary would imply that you didn’t put those things there. But how could that be? It’s inside you. Who else has access to that? Who else can reach inside of you and put things there for you? Nobody. No matter what they did to you, nobody can leave any treasures inside of you without your knowing. It’s all you. It’s all your own stuff. Nobody sneaks into your house and hides things in the back of your closet for you to find in 10 years. That doesn’t happen. Just like it doesn’t happen in your closet, it doesn’t happen inside of you either.
We make up stories to stop ourselves and we don’t question those stories. I’m here writing this to help you question the story. How can that be true? Does that even make sense? This story that we tell about what we’re going to find doesn’t make sense, you’ve just never looked at it closely enough before. You’ve never bothered to actually think about it.
Sometimes though, when we’re really hard on ourselves, we’re afraid that the truth is going to be that we’re awful people and that we don’t deserve to have anything that we want. This painful story of unworthiness isn’t true either. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in your life, you remain worthy the entire time. Why? Because you’re a living, breathing human being, that’s why. You don’t need any other reason.
We’re taught that we need to prove ourselves. We’re taught to look for outside validation. That’s just a lie that keeps you in the struggle. That’s just a lie that makes you feel like you’re not good enough all the time. It’s not true. You don’t have to stay in the struggle and you don’t have to spend your life proving your worthiness to anybody, including yourself.
The ego loves to prove itself. That’s what the ego does. The personality that the human body comes with wants to achieve in the external world. It’s just part of being human. So if we accept that there is a certain of wanting to achieve that comes with being human, then we can allow this just be what it is without arguing with it. The argument comes because we add unreasonable expectations to everything. We love to set the bar impossibly high as a way of making ourselves feel like crap. Why? Because it gives the ego and the mind a problem to solve. If the mind doesn’t have a problem to solve it gets bored. So it makes stuff up to keep itself entertained. The only problem is that you go along with this. You find it equally entertaining and so it becomes a cycle that doesn’t end.
Your work is to learn this pattern and understand it so that it can be broken. By bringing awareness to your own thoughts and feelings it allows you to gain some control. It allows you to move forward on your own terms. You’re no longer controlled by what’s happening in your mind and heart because you understand it.
Your dreams are yours and the ego is attached to them because of that. It wants to achieve them because that’s what the ego likes to do. It becomes an ego identification. The minute I say that I am a writer, my ego takes on an identification with that. It wants to become that. This also creates a problem, because now all the pain and fear I hang onto are also part of that dream. The fear and pain stop me. My ego gets in the way and I beat myself up or tell stories about how the world won’t let me. My dreams are now tied up in my identification with pain.
Is there a way around this? Yes. Understanding what’s happening and then working through all of it. Your job is to unravel the ball of yarn you’ve created for yourself. You can’t really get rid of your ego. It kind of comes with your human form. What you can do though, is figure out how to manage yourself so that you can move forward. That means understanding how the pain and fear operate within you so you can change those patterns and habits. Is that a big process? Yep. That’s no easy feat, but since I’m here writing this, it must be possible.
How do you work on understanding what’s going on? Stop getting so tied up in how you feel. I’m not anti-emotions. We can’t block our emotions because that’s unhealthy. We have to allow them to be there. We have to accept them. They are great clues as to what’s going on. They are a really good GPS that we can use, but here’s the thing with them: we aren’t really taught how to use them all that well.
When your emotions come up, what do you do with them? Do you wallow in them? Do you think honoring them means letting them get all over everything and shut you down for months? Do you think you just have to suck up whatever emotions show up? Do you believe all emotions are created equal?
Let’s bust some myths that I believe are out there, particularly in spiritual circles. First and foremost, your emotions are a hint at something they are not the whole show. You get far too easily distracted by them and they take you away from being able to understand what’s going on. I don’t believe healing is about removing or getting rid of emotions. Healing is about understanding emotions and learning to manage them. There is a vast difference there.
Getting rid of emotion would be desensitizing yourself. We’re not trying to do that. I don’t want to desensitize myself. I want to understand the emotion and allow it to be there without needing to react to it or have it end up everywhere. Emotion is a contained, temporary experience. The feelings are meant to show there’s something screwy going on. Your job is to feel the feelings while figuring out what’s happening.
Why do we like to wallow in them? Because the feelings validate the thoughts. It becomes a cycle. I feel the feelings and it validates the thoughts that I have, so I think more of those thoughts and create more of those emotions, and we go around in a circle. Suddenly you’re stuck in this pool of emotions and you don’t know why. So let’s try this a different way.
When the feelings come up allow them to flow through, but keep them contained to that experience. If you need to have a fit for an hour, do it and then stop. If you need to cry for an hour, do it and then stop. Don’t attach it to anything. Don’t make anymore stories. If you mind goes on a tangent validating the emotions, don’t pay attention to what’s happening up there, just drop all of that. It’s just noise. It’s the mind validating the emotion it generated so that you’ll stay there.
Emotions are often just a distraction anyway because that’s the thing we pay attention to. That’s the thing we notice and because we’re so sensitive to our own emotions, we go off on our own little pity party for one. But that distraction doesn’t allow you to actually deal with why the emotion showed up in the first place. It keeps you in a loop of emotion.
The idea is to get some control here by keeping emotion contained, allowing it to flow through, and then immediately coming back to figuring out where it came from. Your job is to understand it, not just feel it. This is why psychologists and therapists make such good money. Think about what they are trying to get you to do - understand your feelings. Guess what I’m encouraging you to do? Understand your feelings. When you start crying at therapy, the therapist doesn’t stop the session. The therapist asks you about what’s happening. Guess what? That’s your work even when you’re by yourself.
If you need a therapist for this that’s totally fine. I’ve been in therapy myself in years past. There is nothing wrong with that at all. It’s good to admit when you need some professional help. The deal is, if you don’t need professional help, then you can learn to understand your emotions on your own if you’re willing to do the work and you can get over the fear of the process.
When I offer you the idea of getting control over your emotions, I just mean don’t let them get out of control. Don’t let them sweep you away. They don’t have to be a big deal. You can definitely make them a big deal, but they don’t have to be. You get to decide what happens with your emotions, nobody else. You can honor them without getting stuck in them.
The emotion is meant to flow, not stay stuck. You’re not meant to pull up a chair and stay put. You’re meant to go through the emotion and let it go. Don’t attach to it. Don’t store it anywhere. Don’t tell stories about it. Don’t argue with it. Don’t make it a big deal. Just let it be what it is. The emotion isn’t bad. It’s just not something you need to hang onto.
The reason I say emotions are a distraction is because you pay too much attention to them. They take too much of your focus. You spend too much time in them. They stop you from doing the logical work to understand what’s happening because you get too overwhelmed by them.
When I started this process, I definitely had a lot of built up emotions. I thought for sure I was heading for another massive meltdown as I started to logically process everything that happened in my life. Guess what? It never happened. I was terrified of my feelings, but that fear never materialized. I was able to process emotions slowly over a very long period of time by simply dealing with one thing at a time. I was taking on my healing process in very small, but logical pieces. Everything connected to itself and slowly unraveled as I moved through the process.
Yes, I did feel some emotions at points, but they were never overwhelming and they were always manageable. I was always able to go back and figure out what was going on afterward. I never got stuck in them for very long. I also kept them contained and ignored any stories that came up while the emotions were present.
The purpose of the emotions is to point you to what you’re thinking. They are hinting at unconscious thoughts. They are hinting at a problem with what you’re doing or thinking. Your job is to figure that out. They are a valid clue that people tend to focus on in unhelpful ways.
The emotion is showing you what’s happening, but you’re so sucked into the emotion you’re not actually paying attention. You can change that. Stop getting sucked in and start understanding what’s going on. Where did that emotion come from? What’s it trying to show me? Those questions will help you begin to understand the reason for the emotions.
You want to argue that we’re ignoring our emotions if we do that, but that’s just the fear of what happens if you do it this way. You don’t really want to understand the emotions because that means you have to do the work on yourself. Understanding them shows you where the problem is and then you’ll feel like you have to do something about it and that’s scary. Fear stops you every time. It makes you tell stories, true or not, and then you buy into those stories and stay stuck.
Your dreams succumb to these same ideas, fears, and problems because you’re not yet willing to get a grip on things and actually move in the direction you want to go in. That’s why I put dreams into emotions. There is so much emotion attached to our dreams because of the huge ego identification we have with them, that going after our dreams becomes a very emotionally involved process that we run away from regularly. This is something we can change, it just requires a lot of work to understand exactly what’s happening and why. The biggest hurdle is that you have to be able to do that with your emotions present. You can’t shut them down, you just have to learn to manage them.
Your dreams are possible if you’re willing to do the work to go get them. It starts with managing your thoughts and feelings. Ready yet? Let’s keep working at it.