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The second hindrance: I don’t like it!

We previously started looking at the 5 main ways in which we block our happiness and wellbeing (the hindrances). We talked about wanting things that feel good, and how that can start to dictate our actions and become a real obstacle to happiness. In this article we will look at the second of the 5 hindrances, not wanting things that feel bad.

We don’t want to things that feel bad

Just as much as we want and cling to things that feel good, we reject and move away from things that feel bad. This has evolutionary roots, as things that are dangerous to us usually feel bad. It is a very helpful reflex when you when you touch something that is hot and you pull away, but it is less useful when the thing that does not feel good is inside of you, like an obsessive thought or feeling sad.

For me, the most powerful change that the skills of MindStrength have brought me is that I no longer fight my own reality. I used to be quiet stuck in ‘not wanting’ my experience to be as it was, and this created a lot of extra suffering. Once I learned that I could just allow things to be as they were, that fight stopped. It opened me up to much more calm and space to enjoy the experience with all its imperfections.

What mind mechanisms are at play?

The reason why not wanting things to feel bad is such a threat to our happiness is because when we reject the things we do not like in our experience, we are in a way rejecting our life. It is a fact that there will be things in all of our lives that we do not like and that we cannot avoid or control.

It feels so natural to move away from things we do not like, and it can be quite challenging to accept things as they are. This is because we have unique mind capacities that can easily lead us down the road of ‘not liking’ our experience and trying to fix something in a way that makes it worse.

Firstly, we have the capacity to judge our situation based on how we want things to be, and if things are not living up to our own standards, we don’t like it. When we have done this analysis (how is my current experience living up to how I want it to be), we try to fix the problem.

This does not work as a lot in our lives are not under our control. Look at the Corona virus and how it has spread. Sure, we can take some measures to prevent infection, but the fact that this virus is here and we have to adapt to our new reality is totally beyond our control. We also cannot control our internal state. What we think or feel, is just what we think and feel. If we move away from that experience, we can get ourselves very much stuck in worry, rumination and self-blame. You can check out session 8 of the masterclass about mind-modes to see what you can do to get yourself out of worry and rumination.

Secondly, we learn from experiences and can easily think ‘I did not like this before, I will not like it now, I am going to avoid the whole situation so I do not feel bad’. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy this is called ‘experiential avoidance’ .

This often expresses itself in suppressing, avoiding, or wanting to eliminate unwanted feelings and emotions. As said above, we cannot control these things and when we try, this can paradoxically, lead to the feelings and emotions becoming stronger.

How to relate well to the things we do not like

One sentence I read said ‘ as human beings we have begun to look at life like a problem to be solved rather than a process to be fully experienced’. I think this sums it up perfectly.

If we treat our experience as it is as a problem we need to solve we digging ourselves into a fight we cannot win. If we allow our experience to unfold and stay present for it, we can avoid a lot of the suffering. We let thoughts be thoughts, feelings be feelings and not let them dictate what happens next.

This is what we practice with MindStrength. It is a given that in life there will be things we do not like and do not want. Many of those things we cannot control and many of those will be happening in our mind only. This is where MindStrength can really reduce our suffering. We learn to be with the things we cannot change and we also learn to not create suffering in our own mind.

Dealing with ‘not wanting’

There are a couple of things you can do if you think your mind is stuck in ‘not wanting’ and you are struggling with being with your reality.

Here are three meditations that explore this further:

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Meditation

Explore not wanting (5 mins)

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Meditation

Explore not wanting (5 mins)

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Meditation

Awareness of experience (15 mins)

Start meditation

Meditation

Awareness of experience (15 mins)

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Meditation

Manage Corona anxiety (5 mins)

Start meditation

Meditation

Manage Corona anxiety (5 mins)