Why You Need to Get Your Feelings Dirty

Photo by Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash

For the last few months, I have developed a routine that I follow pretty much every day. At some point during the day, I will bring a halt to everything I do, bump the laptop screen down forcefully, and take a walk towards the only place in a walking distance radius that still has some green remaining in it and keeps the appropriate levels of noise to the bare minimum.

During my walk, I will take a bright cold coffee, breath in the clean air, and try to take a meditative break from the constant hustle. What’s important during this process, is that I ward against all negative thoughts and try to keep a clean mind in an attempt to give some room to the brain to relax.

But a couple of weeks ago, an unlucky incident took place that put me into thoughts. As I arrived at my usual coffee shop, I gave my order with my particular preferences to the woman-employee but I realized that she was rather absent-minded. I took notice and I repeated the order thinking that she didn’t hear me well and watched her as she dashed off to make me something totally different. Obviously…

Of course, that wasn’t anything of a good reason to ruin my vapid-smiling meditative attitude so I calmly asked for a different one based on my initial instructions.

The woman skirted with annoyance bounced back at me for the fact that I didn’t declare my order properly, and went on to amend it anyway just to keep the peculiar customer happy, which gladly avoided to point out the mistake in her thinking process.

Now, I live in a small town. People most of the time are overly nice in a way big-cities would never fully grasp and we like courtesies and conventions that grease out the daily interactions and make our days somewhat easier.

The normal thing for me to do would be to never set foot in that store for a while and pick another place to have my little coffee from. That would work best in maintaining my good attitude and keeping my process intact for this last resort of calmness in my day.

Yet something didn’t feel right…

As I continued my walk afterwards, I realized that this instinctual response of aversion was a common pattern in my life that was blocking many roads in other areas as well.

I would never pick projects to work on, if I knew I would have to deal with people we didn’t like each other that much, independently of how good the project would be on its own. I would stop visiting places if I knew certain people would be there and in general, I would do everything I could, to avoid the bad emotions these encounters would entail.

But I thought some more about it and realized there were even more cases. It wasn’t only some obscure occasions that I avoided awkward situations once in a while. Most of my behavior was rooted in the feelings of others and I would decide on specific paths in accordance with them even in cases that my choices made a difference.

I would sabotage relationships if I was to feel someone was holding a grudge, I would give up on hobbies or even drop out of classes, just to avoid the acid feeling of dealing with the bad emotions others may had towards me.

You could literally do anything to me as long as I didn’t believe that you didn’t like me.

It would be easy to dismiss this case as an isolated incident that only happened rarely, but it became progressively obvious that not only it influences a good chunk of our decision-making, but many people deny themselves the passion that was fueling them just for this particular reason as well.

Jerry Seinfield is a world-renowned, famous comedian that has actually named the 12th greatest one in the world by comedy central. In 1989, he started the sitcom television series named ‘Seinfield’, which aired on NBC and went on for 9 full seasons, which by the end of it, was the highest-rated show in the United States.

When the time came to discuss the plans for the future he was offered the whopping amount of $100.000.000 just to agree for one more season. Both fans and producers were exerting a big amount of pressure and there was not really any particular reason for him not to accept the offer.

I mean, who wouldn’t take a deal like this?

But still, Seinfield declined to the surprise of everyone, and when he came to answer for his decision in a recent interview with Tim Ferris, he put it down like this.

“We did it nine years and that was as far as it could go before it was really going to stop cutting through the water in that beautiful way that it was doing. That’s why I pulled out of it before I had to, before anyone wanted me to, because I didn’t want to be on a boat that was starting to struggle. I didn’t want to have that experience. Even more than that, I didn’t want the audience to have that experience.”

He went on to analyze how progressively more difficult a comedy becomes the more people you add to the mix. He said the different types of comedy art are similar to the various kinds of vessels that exist in the sea. Stand up is like a surfboard, that you puddle out on your own and you try to catch the energy all by yourself. TV series is like a big boat, that takes many more people to accomplish and requires more discipline, and then you have movies, which resemble a yacht, that everyone wants to participate in and there is a tone of money thrown at it.

The more people you add to the mix he described, the more difficult it becomes and “the faster you’re going to struggle to maintain its progress through the water.”

It’s obvious that there are many hidden aspects in all these creative endeavors that we never get to see as an audience. We can’t really know how hard it is to coordinate something as big as this was or how tough it can get to constantly provide quality material to people.

But if there is something certain, it is that from the moment someone is granted with the label of a ‘genius’ or ‘one of the best’, he carries so much weight on his shoulders that chances are he might quit the very thing he knows how to do best just so that he can breathe freely again.

When I initially listened to the interview, I couldn’t help but immediately relate how tough it must be to deal with others emotionally, at such a high-stake level game. If you really pay attention to it, you will realize that the main issue wasn’t for him to create something less than his usual quality-level, as much as it was to disappoint the people watching the show.

And that is a fear that influences many people in their decisions and manifests in a number of different ways that we barely realize.

In her book ‘Big Magic’, Elizabeth Gilbert describes how one of the best writers of our time, an author that won numerous rewards and people appraised her work left and right, refused to write any other piece apart from the one that made her famous.

Harper Lee wrote the book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in 1960, with phenomenal success, but never wrote anything else for decades. And when she was asked about the possibility of doing it she replied with a few simple words.

“I’m scared”

Elisabeth Gilbert writes,

“Because Lee never elaborated more definitively on her situation, we will never know why this wildly successful author didn’t go on to write dozens more books in her lifetime. But I wonder if perhaps she had become pinned beneath the boulder of her own reputation. Maybe it all got too heavy, too freighted with responsibility and her artistry died of fear”

It’s sad to realize that many of our actions are dictated by the emotions of others instead of our own. Through a magical transference, it is as if their thoughts pass on to us and block us from fulfilling our path. And that’s why I gave a new challenge to myself to not only accept the fact but to go contrary to it and purposefully challenge it. I will keep getting my coffee from the same place as I used to do, and when it happens to face the employee grinning her nasty look back at me I will secretly welcome it. Maybe it won’t be as pleasant as it was but at least this way I redirect the process to the things that really matter…

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Exploring People, thoughts and feelings. Join me at philipbaker.net

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Philip Baker

Philip Baker

Exploring People, thoughts and feelings. Join me at philipbaker.net

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