When was the last time that you were so eager to do something that you couldn’t wait? How about stopping to just enjoy the moment, or “smell the roses”? I’m not talking about getting to the end of work so that you can relax, or worse looking forward to retirement, I’m talking about looking forward to actually doing (rather than not having to do) something. This is not “living for the weekend”. I’m talking about actually having something that you love to do.
If you find that you cannot remember the last time that you had that Christmas morning feeling, or even some activity that you look forward to, there could be a few reasons. One of the more common reasons is that there is simply nothing in your life that makes you feel excited or passionate or inspired at all. This can be the result of several factors.
The first factor is that in order to feel emotions we must be willing to feel all emotions. In our Prozac society, feeling bad is often seen as a choice–and not a smart one at that. But I disagree. In order to feel the range of emotions that we are capable of feeling you must be willing to feel the good and the bad.
It has been recognized that shutting out unpleasant emotions closes the door on all feelings. We cannot selectively feel only those emotions we want to feel. When we block some, we block them all.
Anger, fear, pain and loneliness are not pleasant feelings. Many of us have found ways to avoid experiencing this unpleasantness. We eat, smoke, drink take antidepressants, shop, watch television or play video games. We all have our own avoidance mechanisms.
These mechanisms allow us to focus on something other than the discomfort that we are feeling. No one alive can avoid unpleasant emotions forever, mainly because unpleasant stuff happens to everyone, but also because these emotions do not go away when they are not experienced. They get stored up in your body waiting for an opportunity to be expressed and having a detrimental impact on your health in the meantime.
Not allowing ourselves to feel emotions can be likened to holding a door almost shut. When the emotions start to come through the door we lean on the door, not quite able to lock it shut and a lot of effort (or avoidance tactics) is required to hold the door in place. Unfortunately, all of the good emotions are held on the other side of the door as well. Love, passion, joy and happiness get stuck on the other side. We increasingly become disconnected from not only the bad and uncomfortable emotions but we can no longer tap into the good emotions either.
Another factor that can get into the way of being passionate is that we’ve told ourselves that we cannot have what we want. Written this way that seems absurd, but we were all raised in a society that taught us how we were supposed to behave in order to be successful and acceptable. You need to have a job that will give you enough income to support yourself; good parents always put their children first; good little boys and girls do not behave that way; there is not enough time and my personal favourite, if it is not productive it is not worth doing at all.
Many of these beliefs are not even conscious; we have just learned to push aside desire when we know that we cannot accommodate it. I would love to sail, but I don’t have a boat and I don’t live near the water, so when I think about sailing I’ll delegate it to when I retire–for instance.
Finally, we have to be willing to listen to our own hearts and actually dream about what we would like to be doing. This type of activity, or non-activity, is equally discouraged in our society. Someone that takes time to do nothing is often seen as unproductive and I don’t have to tell you how frowned upon that is in our culture. You must be willing to be unproductive, to allow yourself to dream and fantasize about possibilities before you are going to be able to tap into what you really want.
Passion and excitement make life worth living. If you realize that you no longer feel passion at all, ask yourself if you are feeling anything. Have you learned to suppress all of your emotions? What are you doing instead of feeling them?
Take the time today to ask yourself what you would love to do (today, not some time in the future!), pay attention to what you tell yourself about why you can’t do it and consider the possibility that those reasons may not be true. If you can’t think of anything that you would like to do, take fifteen minutes to do nothing. Let you mind wander and see what comes up, it may amaze you.