The Power of Allowing

If you’re at all self-aware (or even if you just glance at magazine covers in waiting rooms), you’ve seen tons of articles about the power of positive thinking, the importance of acting as if you already have/are what you want, the science of happiness, and the Tao of Pooh. If you’re like us, you live it, mostly, and you believe in it, too. You’ve seen the magic that results from gratitude, intentional living, affirmations and remembering that your thoughts become things.

What doesn’t get talked about anywhere near as much, however–probably because it simply isn’t as much fun–is that no human being, no matter how evolved, goes around being positive 24/7. Bad stuff happens, from small annoyances and irritations to massive tragedy, and pretty much none of us reacts to it, at least initially, by jumping up and down and saying, “Yay! Death and illness and poverty and despair! What amazing learning opportunities!”

Even when they are. Learning opportunities, that is.

But let’s set that to one side, for a moment, because we’re not ready to talk about that. Let’s talk about the crap. The person or thing or job you lost. The scary diagnosis. The mean girls who hurt you. The intimate who betrayed you. The accident that cost you something important to you. The depression, the fear, the doubt.

What should you be feeling about all that?

Simple: exactly what you feel.

But won’t that screw everything up?  If “acting as if” you have the things you want works, then won’t acting as if your life sucks make your life, well, suck more?

No. Well, yes, a little. But mostly no.

Let’s pick an example. Let’s say your house and everything in it burns down tomorrow. Unless you’re scamming your insurance company (and you are among the half a dozen people on the planet who know how to set a fire that can’t be traced to the point of origin), there is no way you are going to feel happy or joyful or positive about this. It’s huge, this loss, even if no one was hurt and you’re all lucky to be alive. You just lost everything you own.

Whenever there’s loss, there’s grief. Because in every loss, big and small, there’s a small death of something, even if it’s the death of a dream or the death of how you thought your life was going to be. Maybe it’s the loss of the illusion of invulnerability. Maybe it’s the loss of your kids’ baby pictures. Maybe it’s the loss of an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind artwork or antique.

When you can get to a place where you can feel the good that can come out of this tragedy, acknowledging that positivity will be powerful indeed. But for most of us, the only way to get to that point is through the muck and the yuck. The surreal disbelief and denial. The anger and feelings of unfairness. The self-pity and depression.

And an interesting thing happens, when you allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, without judgment, without rushing it, without making things feel even worse by telling yourself that whatever it is you’re grieving “shouldn’t” matter.

You make it past the pain faster. That’s worth repeating: by allowing yourself to actually feel every inch and every minute of the pain that’s coming up for you, you create the space to honor those feelings and to make room for what comes next.

And what comes next is usually recovery, which will look as unique to you as your pain did. Maybe at first, you’ll find gratitude in all the things/people you didn’t lose. Maybe you’ll realize that some of that “stuff” wasn’t as important to you as you thought it was. Maybe you’ll realize that within this pit of sour pain is also opportunity: who will you be, what will you become, as a result of this tragedy? How can it serve you, better you, strengthen you, even allow you to serve others?

If you feel like you haven’t got time for the pain, I urge you, gently, to make some. Because pain denied is simply pain deferred, not pain avoided, and it will come squishing out at some future point when I absolutely guarantee you’re not expecting it, aren’t ready for it, and will likely splash your wounds all over innocent bystanders. It will last–and this is a very scientific calculation–about 15 billion times longer than if you had just allowed yourself to feel it and process it in the first place.

Allow all of your feelings, including the yucky uncomfortable ones. Because when we allow ourselves to feel all that we feel, we make room for the natural flow, for the tides to wax and wane, for the good times and feelings to come around and gently cradle us once again.

Do You Believe in Spooks?

The Cowardly Lion sure did. And look where it got him.

But jump ahead to the ending of The Wizard of Oz:  the Tin Man feels the power to love when he is given a mere trinket in which he has faith. The Scarecrow can suddenly parse geometry once he has a piece of paper labeled a “diploma.” The Cowardly Lion finds bravery inside a simple medal hung on a ribbon. And Dorothy learns that she has had the power to return “home”–to herself–inside all along.

We are what we believe we are. And so is the world as we perceive it.

Tell someone that “thoughts became things” (a phrase popularized by author Mike Dooley), and it may sound nonsensical to them. “If my thoughts become things,” they might say, “then how come I’m not rich? Because I’m thinking about a giant pile of gold bullion right now!”

It isn’t that simple. Mostly because of the collective belief of billions of humans that this kind of instant manifestation is impossible.

But even the most skeptical of people will admit to things like knowing who is calling without benefit of caller I.D., or wishing for a parking space and having one suddenly open up, or being able to scrape together just enough money when we really, really need it.

Our beliefs are the engine that drives our outcome. As Henry Ford, about as non-woo-woo a man as it’s possible to imagine, once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

So what do you find yourself thinking these days?

Imagine two people somehow having the exact same day: they go to their longtime place of employment, choose to work through lunch, and, at 1 p.m., are led into their supervisor’s office and told that they are being laid off.

Person One:  “This is the worst day of my life! After all the years I spent there, after all I did for them–the ingratitude just enrages me!  I even worked through lunch for those a-holes! What a disaster!”

Person Two: “Wow, I didn’t expect that. I mean, I was even working through lunch to get caught up. I guess things are tougher for the company than I thought. Well, I’ll have some unemployment coming while I figure out what I want to do next. Maybe this is the start of something even better for me.”

Okay, so the above is a pretty huge over-simplification, but only to prove a point: it doesn’t matter what happens to you. The story you tell and believe about what happens to you is what’s key.

So if you believe in spooks, or evil, or bad luck, or a cruel, indifferent world, that’s probably the exact experience you’re having.

On the other hand, if you believe in love, in learning, in bravery and in finding your way “home” to the best expression of yourself, that’s the experience you’ll have instead.

Flying freakin’ terrifying monkeys vs. control over your destiny. Hmmmmm.

Which Yellow Brick Road will you choose?