We live in a culture that has very much bought into the misunderstanding that external forces create our internal experience. Here are some examples:
“Well of course you are miserable! How could you not be with that lazy and insensitive husband who never helps with the baby?”
“Of course you’re depressed, that baby of your's never sleeps. Who wouldn’t be in terrible shape?”
“Well you’re definitely angry and irritable because of that horrible mother-in-law of yours. She’s always interfering and making judgmental comments about your parenting choices.”
Then, when we can’t find an external reason, and a person still has uncomfortable feelings, we just label them with a mental illness. “Oh well, they are just depressed. It’s hereditary.” Even more popular in the cases of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety is the famous: "Well, you know, her hormones must be off."
End of story.
Well, I’m here to tell you something. It might sound crazy at first, but it is actually very good news:
You do not feel external circumstances. You feel everything that you think.
All of your experience is created through the thoughts that pass through your brain. All of it. Let me say it in a different way. You are not sad, anxious, angry or depressed because of your husband, your sleep deprivation, or your mother-in-law or because “that’s just who you are.” The only reason that you ever feel any of these things is because of the thoughts that pass through you.
Thought creates your experience. And therefore, thought and feeling are really the same thing or two sides of the same coin.
The more I open to this reality in my life, the more I see it. I’ll notice that one day when I’m sleep deprived I feel good, and another sleep deprived day I feel bad. I’ll notice that a certain person’s behavior bothers me one day and another day it doesn’t.
Then there are also more vivid examples. The other night I was getting ready for bed and thinking about the fact that I’m about to have another baby. My first birth was rather scary, and the thought crossed my mind, “What if I died in this birth and my daughter was left without me?” Immediately, by body started to react. My throat started to close up and tears started to sting the backs of my eyes. It felt like the very life was being sucked out of me. The body’s ability to bring our thoughts to life is unreal. Nothing, absolutely nothing was happening. But it felt like I was living the situation being played out in my thoughts.
You know the other crazy thing? The minute I realized that I was dwelling on this horror story and that it wasn’t real, all of those feelings dissipated into thin air. It was like they never existed and like the thoughts never existed. You know the funny thing? They never did! But they felt so real all the same.
Once you start to see this, you stop the pointless battle of striving to change your outside circumstances in order to change your inner reality. Even better, you don’t have to take your feelings so seriously because they are simply a reflection of whatever thought happens to be floating through your mind at the moment. Both the thought and the feeling will change, and you are not impacted by them whatsoever. They’re simply the evidence of your brain’s capacity to imagine and your ability to be aware of what you are imagining.