Feeling good about feeling bad

I’ve said this elsewhere, but it pays to repeat it:

When you fight yourself, you lose – no matter the outcome.

In a coal mine, canaries are messengers. If you don’t like how they keep dying, then you’re not alone there. But if your solution is to attack the bird or fit it with a gas mask, you’ve misunderstood something fundamental.

As it is with mines, so it is with your mind.

When you get frustrated at yourself for feeling sad, for example, you’re like the miner yelling at a dead canary for being lazy. Not only will that not bring it back, you’re ignoring the real problem.

The problem ain’t a dead bird. The problem is your mine is filling up with toxic fumes.

Pretend, for a moment, that your unconscious is another person who lives in your skull. Freed from the minutiae of having to think consciously, this other person notices things that you don’t.

Sometimes, it spots potential issues before you do.

The problem?

It can’t speak any language.

All it can communicate with is emotions, instincts and gut impulses.

Maybe you’ve spent more time than usual by yourself. This other person in your mind sees where this is going – without regular social interactions, things will get less than great.

So they send you a little flash of loneliness, to motivate you to reach out and reconnect with people.

That emotional flash is a canary in your mind. It’s a signal, a warning – and if you don’t heed it, things will get worse.

And if you’re so foolish as to judge the canary for dying?

Well… again, think of your unconscious as another person. What would you do if someone asks you for advice, you give it, then they spit in your face for your efforts?

I’m sure you can imagine.

Emotions are signals from your unconscious. Even the bad ones. I’d say especially the bad ones, but that’s imprecise – all emotions, even calm serenity, are signals.

Yelling at a dead bird won’t help you. Neither will taking a deep breath and getting on with your work.

So what will?

There are five things you can do when faced with a signal from your unconscious. I cover them all on pages 10-11 of this month’s Phronesis Accelerator.

Doing anything else is probably a mistake.

You’re wise enough to not knowingly make mistakes, right?

Once you read these things – maybe more than once to really let it sink in – you’ll see how many folks make the wrong choices here.

You’ll see it in your own behaviour, too.

Luckily, that’s the first and hardest step to correcting it.

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