We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.Walt Disney
There was a ride that I loved at Valley Fair, an amusement park near where I grew up, when I was a kid. It was called the scrambler, it would be jerk from side to side. I had friends who hated the scrambler. It made them feel sick and uncomfortable. Kind of like how I feel on a rollercoaster with a steep drop. Unable to predict what’s going to happen, the climb is the worst part – when my thoughts start to spin out of control. I worry about how I’ll feel when the car starts to drop. Will I throw up like that first time I rode it? Will I scream? Will I fly out of my seat? Will the brakes not work?
It’s the unknown that is terrifying. The fear of how I will react to the unknown. How I will deal with what comes when the drop begins.
When I teach mindfulness, I encourage people to be curious about themselves. To look deeper when they feel something. To wonder about what is underneath the emotions they’re able to name. To be a detective about themselves and their emotions.
But curiosity is also terrifying.
Clients are often scared about what the might find out about themselves. Some fear that they might be more deeply unhappy than they think. They worry that they might discover things about how they feel about their lives or the people in them. It can be scary to look to closely at your life because of the fear that you might not be a good or worthy person or that your life might need to change.
Emotions can feel like a rollercoaster – a scary one. Rather than a joyful, fun ride, it’s scary and overwhelming. It seems safer to stay on the teacups. A ride where you’re in complete control over how fast it spins and how intense the ride.
Often clients are reassured when I offer them permission to not change things if they decide they are happy with the way things are. To give them control over their teacups. Knowing their emotions doesn’t mean they have to act on them. They feel reassured and are able to look and to consider their lives in new ways.
Mindfulness teaches us that our decision-making should come from the place of wise mind where reason and emotion overlap. Even if your emotions are telling you one thing – urging one action, reason can counteract those urges and contradict those sentiments.
Here’s the thing about the teacups, though. My family loves them. We love them when we’re laughing hysterically seeing how fast we can make them spin. When the world blurs and the car feels like it might spin right off the track. It’s the not knowing when the siren will go off and the ride will stop. That’s what makes it fun. Just riding them without spinning is fine, but it lacks some of the magic.
Safe is good. It’s SAFE. But it’s also often times disconnected and without joy. We don’t get to choose which emotions we experience. If we want to intense joy and happiness, we need to experience the lows of sadness and pain. Emotions operate on a spectrum. If we limit ourselves to the safe middling amounts of emotion, we miss out on the intense experiences of the ends of the spectrum.
We need to open ourselves up to the emotions we’re feeling. To look at them and really experience them into order to feel like we’re actually living our lives. We think we can control our emotions, but we can’t. What we are doing is controlling our experiences and limiting ourselves.
Without the spinning it’s not as fun.