22 Feb Focusing the Lens
By: Lifebook Member John Vieceli
Emotions are an incredibly interesting subject. They have a certain duality that reminds me of a concept in Zen philosophy. The concept of: ‘You as center’ and ‘You as periphery’
- ‘You as center’ refers to you as the center of your world – inside yourself – and what occurs internally.
- ‘You as periphery- refers to the meeting point between you (internal) and the outside world (external).
When it comes to my emotions I use a philosophy similar to this concept. I look at my emotions as internal (how I feel and what occurs inside) and external (how I express myself to the world around me). Each emotion has two different focal points – one facing inward and one facing outward.
Each of us has a unique emotional fingerprint. We view the world and ourselves through our distinctive lenses. Here are my two vantage points.
You will always find what you choose to look for
When it comes to emotions, it all begins with me. Emotions are generated from within first and foremost. If I’m not feeling right, the lens through which I view the world won’t look right. So I strive to be happy. I have made a conscious choice to “focus” on the great things in life. This is what brings me the most joy and happiness. My lens is wide open and ready to capture any of the beauty life shows me.
I could certainly choose to focus on the bad things that are happening in the world. But instead, I’ve made it a point to actively search for the incredibly positive and beautiful things. These things make me happy.
I was recently in Bali. It’s an amazing country full of emerald green rice terraces, perfect sunsets and the warmest people on the planet. There is also an incredible amount of garbage and litter everywhere you look. While, of course I see the garbage, I choose to see the beauty. I have found that choosing to see the great things in life naturally filters out a majority of the negative things. It can even make them more beautiful. With positivity and beauty comes curiosity, which keeps things interesting and expands your active search and discovery of the things that make you happy.
You can be sure that negative things will cross your path, most of which are out of your control, so you have to consciously direct your focus. Negatives are endless, but so are positives. It’s what you choose to experience that makes up your emotional life.
Use what works
Recognizing an emotion has never been difficult for me. On the other hand, expressing my emotions was sometimes very challenging. I had done an enormous amount of thinking on why this may be, but I really hadn’t arrived at a satisfactory conclusion. I eventually decided that why I wasn’t able to express myself was less important than figuring out how to express myself. I started by analyzing what my process was.
Several years ago while I was cleaning out a closet, I found a box of old cards that I had written to a college girlfriend. One of the reasons we broke up was that she felt I wasn’t emotional enough – I didn’t express my feelings freely. While rereading those cards I realized that, while I may not have been verbally expressive in our relationship, I was very expressive in my writing. I started to think about the how I had expressed my feelings over the years and I discovered that whenever I shared how I felt it usually occurred through writing. Writing my feelings allows me to clearly process them. I found that when I would express myself verbally, my mind had all of these jumbled up ideas and feelings. When I would go to say them out loud I tended to fumble over myself and jump around in a non-linear fashion. I would inevitably get frustrated because I felt like I wasn’t expressing myself and I wanted what I was saying to be perfect and precise. Verbally it never worked that way for me. When I write, I can take the time to sort out my feelings, and make them clearer and more concise. I can express my emotions perfectly. I realized I had gotten so lost in trying to verbally express my feelings that I missed the different form through which I was able to successfully capture my emotions and share them with others. I realized that writing was just as valid as speaking.
That discovery was a break through for me. It was like I was able to rip through a jacket that was 5 sizes too small. It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and try to fit yourself into that standard. We often ignore our natural strengths and focus our energy on improving our weaknesses. Today, I still prefer written to verbal communication, but I have noticed a great improvement in my ability to express my feelings verbally. For me, learning about myself and how I process things has been the first step in having a healthy, happy emotional life.