My good friend, Charlie, lost his stepson last month. His stepson was nine and suffered from cerebral palsy and other severe physical ailments. His body simply gave out. Very sad.
I met up with Charlie last weekend in Baltimore. We spoke about many things, including his stepson. Our time together, like it's always been with us, was special -- melancholy, yes, but meaningful and productive as well.
Yet, it was one thing that Charlie mentioned that kept playing over and over in my head during my ride home to New Jersey. He said, "It's weird, man; I feel so guilty for actually being okay on some days since my boy died."
Doesn't that just explain the arbitrary nature of thought, and the feelings that follow?
You see, our feelings are not initiated by what happens in our lives. Our feelings spring from the variable nature of our thinking. So, in spite of this tragic life event, when Charlie's head is free of thought, he feels okay. When his head is muddled with thought, he doesn't. Plus, Charlie's guilt (a feeling) is the byproduct of trying to figure out why in the midst of this misfortune he sometimes feels all right, since this analysis only places more thought into his head.
It might be hard to grasp, but this sensitive illustration shows that nothing on the outside is ever responsible for our feeling state on the inside. And the degree to which a person sees this will determine his or her level of resilience. For Charlie, then, the more he understands that his thinking -- and not his stepson's death -- is responsible for how he feels, the less he'll analyze this situation and the less guilty he'll feel.
Remember: No matter what happens to you, or your current emotions, always look inside -- to the variable nature of your thinking -- to explain your feelings. Like my friend, Charlie, you might not like the hand you're dealt in life, but you'll still be okay, find meaning, and carry on productively in spite of it.
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