Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

On Feeling Good About Feeling Bad:

Manifesto III

B Cellars, Oakville, California, USA

July 28, 2019

"The moment when you really experience that you have created yourself being whatever way you are, at that same moment you will never have to be that way again."
"You don't ask 'Why Me?'  when it's raining."
...   speaking with Laurence Platt in Encounters With A Friend #30 (You Don't Ask "Why Me?"  When It's Raining II) 
"If you could really accept that you weren't OK, you could stop proving you were OK. If you could stop proving that you were OK, you could get that it was OK not to be OK. If you could get that it was OK not to be OK, you could get that you were OK the way you are. You're OK, get it?".
This essay, On Feeling Good About Feeling Bad: Manifesto III, is the companion piece to It is also the sequel to An Experience Like A Red Balloon, A Life Like A Concrete Form: A Manifesto.

It is also the prequel to On Being Your Own Best Friend.

It started off innocently enough ie it started off innocuosly  enough. It was a nice surprise to bump into her again. I greeted her with the rote "How are you doing?" to which she responded "I'm feeling bad.". "Oh? Are you sick?" I asked. "No, I'm just feeling bad" she said. That's interesting, I thought: she's not sick, she's just feeling bad - which is telling because earlier in the week it had occurred to me that if people say "I'm feeling bad" and they're not sick, there's a breakthrough in the offing.

Both of us had some free time, so we sat down under an umbrella at an outdoor café and ordered iced coffees in the one hundred degree plus dry California heat. On a whim I asked her to look at where  she was feeling bad. She just stared back at me as if the answer to my "where" question was so obvious that on a scale of one to ten, it merited only a "Duh!". But then she relented, and said "I'm feeling bad ... inside.".

That's fairly typical, I thought. No, I don't mean it's typical that we feel bad (which we do - from time to time). I mean it's typical that we relate to ourselves as if we're alongside our internal states  ie we relate to ourselves as if we're "inside". Actually it's more than that, it's waaay  more: it's we are ... that we're "inside".

Wanting to make my point and in so doing bring forth a classic Werner distinction, I asked her to tell me exactly what  is inside (pointing at my head). After a moment she responded (openly, generously I thought) "There's an entire universe  inside, Laurence.". "No there's not" I said, even though hers is neither an unusual nor an unintelligent assessment. Pressing, I asked her again to tell me exactly what's inside ie to enumerate it. "What do you mean 'enumerate  what's inside'?" she asked, "there's too much  inside to enumerate. It's infinite.". "No it isn't" I countered. "Categorize it" I insisted, leaning in. "Holding what's inside amorphously undistinguished as infinite, is for the most part what keeps us stuck.". "Really? OK" she bit, "so tell me what is  inside?".

"Try this on for size" I suggested, "not like it's 'The Truth'  because that'll just ruin it for you, but rather like it's a platform on which to stand and look (and if you see something useful, then take it: it's yours; and if not: walk on). All that's inside, are three things:

 1)  thoughts and memories;
 2)  feelings and emotions;
 3)  physical (bodily) sensations.

That's it. That's all. There's nothing else inside. Moreover if you look closely and unflinchingly, you'll notice all three are on full automatic. Yet we have it that if we feel bad from time to time, then something's wrong  even though we have no control whatsoever  over any of our bodies' normal, ordinary automatic internal processes. Intend your fingernails to stop growing? You can't. And A-Ha!  Here's the litmus test: if you could will yourself to feel good when you feel bad, you'd never feel bad.".

"It's entirely normal  for human beings to have some bad feelings at any given time automatically, just as we have good feelings (good feelings are on automatic too, yes?). The trouble may lie less in having bad feelings, and more in futzing  with them. There's nothing wrong with having bad feelings from time to time. But we're thrown  to resist the normalcy of feeling bad ie we resist the normalcy of having bad feelings. If you could get it's OK to have bad feelings from time to time, you'd stop futzing with them. You'd leave them be, and they'd leave you be. Look: ask, and you'll find everyone  has bad feelings from time to time. It's what's so  for us human beings. Owning  it as what's so, is how you feel good about feeling bad. That's when you stop being a human being who's trying not to be a human being.".

* * * a burst or two more of conversation, a refill or two more of iced coffee, a degree or two more increase in temperature  * * *

"Wait! There's another piece to this jigsaw" I continued: "Who you are, isn't what's inside. I know that may be a stretch for you. It was for me when I first got it like a possibility, and it is for many. Listen: who you are, isn't even located  inside. And if you've located yourself inside, consider that's a epic case of mistaken identity, a millennia-old  epic case of mistaken identity which has become so ubiquitous now and so widespread now and for which there's so much agreement now, that we simply assume it's true. Actually it's more than that, it's waaay  more: it's we are ... that it's true. But it's not. Who we are isn't inside. Who we are is out-here.".

"If you identify with what's inside, only then is it arguably true that you  don't feel good. But that's not who you are (it's not even where  you are). What's inside is just what shows up  for you. Getting who you are as out-here, doesn't change your feelings or make them go away. Rather it gives you a place to stand where you can tell the truth about them, a place to stand where you can be authentic about them. That's an entirely new possibility  than your erstwhile 'I'm feeling bad', yes?".

She started to speak ... then stopped ... then started again ... then stopped. I noticed the dithering so I interjected "Don't fight me on this. Just try it on for size. If it works, great. If not, you can always go back to feeling bad again, yes? (and if you do, I promise I won't hold it against you). Sit with it in your lap like a hot brick.". I knew she had very little to lose and a lot to gain. I watched her closely as she, to her credit, interacted with it, even considered it - as unfamiliar and as disconcerting and as un-status-quo  as it was to her. To an observer, it would have looked like nothing had changed on the surface of it ... and ... yet ... everything  had changed.

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