After my last post “Dissolving the mirage of pain: If life is an illusion, can we dissolve the illusion when in pain?”, some of you asked how my visit to the vet went.
At that time, I did an exercise to minimize my fear by remembering good things from my previous visit and anticipating good things for the next one. After the exercise, I wasn’t as fearful anymore. In fact, I was looking forward to going.
Almost everything I was looking forward to happened – tuna treat afterwards, playing hide and seek before mommy put me in the kitty stroller, travelling in the kitty stroller, possible friends at the waiting room (including the iguana) and new adventures. But, not everything unfolded as expected.
When I tried to befriend the iguana at the waiting room, he bit me!
I was stunned. And so was everyone else at the waiting room. To make matters worse, the iguana’s human mommy yelled at my mommy and accused her for failing to stop me from aggravating the iguana.
The bite tore my skin at the side of my neck, and I began to bleed. The startled receptionist alerted the vet immediately.
The vet carefully examined and treated the wound. She applied pungent ointments and wrapped a huge bandage around my neck. Then my worst fear surfaced when she reached for a big needle.
I screeched with fear when I saw the needle. It was a tetanus shot. She assured me that the shot will keep my safe from possible infections.
Needless to say, I was quite shaken from the entire experience. Since it happened, I’ve been taking longer naps. I’ve been spending as much time as possible under my pink blanket with red love hearts. Even the tuna treats couldn’t cheer me up.
I kept wondering why this happened to me. What did I do to bring this upon myself?
Mommy often says that when you think good thoughts, good things will come your way. I thought good thoughts and I was excited that day. Bites and injections never crossed my mind. I didn’t even know that iguanas bite. And I was nice to the iguana. I couldn’t understand why he would do this to me.
After days of wondering, it finally dawned on me: why not!
Why wouldn’t he bite me? That’s what he does. He’s a biter.
Reconsidering what’s good & bad
Instead of focusing on my inability to attract good things all the time by thinking good thoughts, I reassessed if the things I wanted were actually good for me.
I questioned if a friendship with the iguana would have been good for me in the first place? Upon reflection, I can honestly answer: no. He wouldn’t have been good for me because he’s a biter. And sooner or later, he would bite.
I’d rather that he bit me before we became friends than discovering later that he’s a biter. And fortunately, the vet was around to treat my wound immediately, even if it involved a big needle.
After realizing this, I was glad I didn’t attract what I wanted. However, I still felt distraught from the incident.
I was distraught because I expected to be his friend. And when I tried to befriend him, he didn’t respond the way I expected.
Being distraught had nothing to do with the bite. But, it had a lot to do with my expectations.
I was so invested in having my expectations fulfilled, that any other outcome was unacceptable. In other words, I was deeply attached to the outcome. I didn’t get intentionally attached to it. But, at a sub-conscious level, I did.
Why did this attachment happen at the sub-conscious level? It happened because my mind equated this potential friendship with good things. The ideal outcome for me was that I would be friends with the iguana. The more we idealize something, the deeper our attachment grows.
I wouldn’t have been as anguished if I were bitten by a bug from the garden.
A bug bite could physically hurt of course. But, at a psychological level, I wouldn’t be disappointed at the bug. This is because I don’t have any expectations from a bug. And my mind never associated friendship with a bug as being “good”.
So, it’s our mind’s labelling of what is good and what is bad that causes so much psychological pain.
Does that mean that we shouldn’t try to label circumstances as “good” or “bad”?
No, because often the labelling happens without us being fully conscious of it. The labelling is often the results of our beliefs, values and expectations based on what we thought would bring us happiness. Our subconscious mind does this, without us even being aware most of the time.
In our minds, we often build our lives before they happen, disallowing the possibility of experiences and adventures that we never dreamed possible. In this way, we limit ourselves to our mind’s constructions.
Removing the filter of good & bad
What we can try is to look at the situation without the filter of the good/bad polarity. Examine it without labeling.
If I were to remove the label of “good” or “bad” when thinking of my interaction with the iguana, then the incident no longer impacts my emotional state as much. In fact, it’s not the incident itself, but what my mind associated the incident with that made it more painful than a bug bite.
When I remove the filter of “good” when thinking of my possible friendship with the iguana, it no longer bothers me that my efforts to befriend him failed. In fact, I’m glad it didn’t work because he’s a biter.
And, when I remove the filter of “bad” when thinking of the biting incident, then the memory of it loses the power to upset me. I still don’t like what happened to me, but I’m no longer saddened by it. And, I can understand the valuable lessons it taught me.
The lessons are that some creatures may bite because that’s what they do. And that no matter how hard you try, some beings will not reciprocate your friendship and love.
I also learned that I was protected by a greater force that wouldn’t allow this friendship to occur. This unseen force knew what I know now. It is wiser than my thoughts. And it knows beyond what I consider “good” or “bad”.
Unreciprocated friendship or love doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. But if you continue to seek their friendship and love because you have not removed the filter of “good” from your expectations of what that friendship means to you, then you will start to feel that there is indeed something wrong with you.
Likewise if you don’t remove the filter of “bad” when something unwanted happens, then you will inevitably feel like a victim.
Instead of asking: why do bad things happen, even when we anticipate good things? Let’s ask: what’s “good” or “bad” for us in the first place? Or even better: what do we discover from unlabelling circumstances as “good” or “bad”?
So, try this exercise next time when something that fails to meet your expectation bothers you. Maybe the relationship you invested time and efforts on failed. Perhaps the promotion you worked hard for was given to someone else. Or maybe you accidentally twisted your ankle a day before the hiking trip you planned with your best friend for months.
Look at specific scenarios without the filter of “good” and “bad” or the filter of “wanted” and “unwanted”. You will be able to identify the life lessons.
You will find the exercise “Removing the Filter of Good & Bad” in the free e-book I without Me: For your Journey Within & Without. This exercise will help you find peace and freedom from disappointment when life bites.
With loving purrrs,