I remember sitting on my bed in my early twenties and realizing with a sudden revelation that I did not know how to feel joy. In fact, in analysis, I concluded then that in the past several years I had not recognized many emotions. Generally I felt anxious, nervous, over-concerned, shy, out-of-place, insecure, depressed, sad, and worried. That was all I could feel. I could not feel anger. I could not feel love. My feelings for my significant other were all wrapped around fear of abandonment. I could feel fear.
I went from extreme emotional highs to extreme lows. I now believe this was not biologically induced. I think I made myself purposely cycle through thought-processes. If I was not extremely high (overly-anxious, overly-obsessed, overly-concerned), I was extremely low (unable to leave the house, fatigued, depressed). There wasn’t a manic high of joy, elation, grandiose thoughts, and magical-viewing of the environment and self. In the high-state there was only this inability to let go of fear, which led me to act out (OCD-like behavior, rituals, non-stop analysis) in order to eliminate thoughts. In the low-state there was the same inability to let go of fear, but my efforts to eliminate the thoughts were displayed through withdrawing, sleeping, and retreat.
I still go through these same states. Though I now know what the middle ground of emotions feels like. I think I “make” myself go through these states in an attempt to feel joy. I used to only feel joy when I was transitioning from one state (low) to the other (high). And even then, only for a fleeting moment.
In the past, and at this moment, I cannot experience this sensation of fleeting joy/happiness without the anxiety tagging along and questioning me, like some annoying tailgating friend I attempted to shake of millions of times before: “Are you sure you’re happy? Is this happiness? Will it last? How do you know it is happiness? Why are you happy? Are you being selfish? Is this self-based?”
My being seems incapable of holding onto this type of joy, and joy alone. This joy has to have companions of suspicion, dread, over-analysis, and such. And I utilize the word “have” because that is how the experience registers for me.
In the same line of thought, my extreme lows which include the inability to move, the discomfort of being me, and the fatigue of simply thinking, comes too with a posse of entities—emotions garbed as “why again,” “what is happening,” “why can’t I control my own self.”
This doesn’t feel like a mood disorder to me, though I see how my behaviors, and possibly thoughts, would present themselves as so. To me, this teeter-tottering is always pinpointed to an exact spot of awakening to the highest step of anxiety or lowest step of deep sorrow. I can find a reason. I can in retrospect see where I was switched from one extreme to the other.
Typically, I feel the mixture of joy and dread when I have 1) Accomplished a goal that I was afraid I would never accomplish; 2) Accomplished a goal in which I was fixated from the start and glad to be done; 3) Completed something I was dreading for days; 4) Received good news after worrying about bad news; 5) Received a compliment about my appearance, as I am insecure about the way I physically look.
In review, each of these supposed “joys” is accompanied by a fear or “negative aspect.” For example, in number one, “I was afraid,” and in number two “I was fixated.”
For a long time, this was the only way I could feel sporadic spurts of mixed joy: by attaching a fear or negative aspect, and then with some stimuli (another person, place, thing, event, words) the negative aspect is momentarily released and that moment of release feels to me akin to joy. For me, when the negative aspect I placed on self is temporarily removed, joy steps in.
In fact, in my mind, and in my scenario of feeling, I cannot feel this type of joy without first attaching an element of “negativity” and/or “fear.”
In contrast, in my moments of fear, in my low state, I have attached hope or the “best case scenario.” I create in my mind the release, the escape, or the rescue and I wait. I set myself in a cage, much akin to a prison, where I’ve locked myself away in darkness, and then wait. What I am waiting for is the removal of deep pain, and I have decided, somewhere deep in my mind or spirit that this removal will only happen in a specific way. For example, in sighting past experiences, this might be, this release of pain through the removal of a stimuli: an illness going away, a person coming and going, a meeting passing, a phone call received.
Here seems to be the tipping point, or the starting point of where my fleeting joy begins. While I sit readily in this cage of misery, I am creating the future of joy I hope to see. Whilst worrying immensely in a non-stoppable way and running through all the possibilities and strings of variable outcomes I can, I am in a direct way preparing to feel release and joy in the near future. This is to me, seemingly like a junkie in need of an adrenaline high. I am making myself increasingly low, so when the event or stimuli arises that apparently lifts me from outside of my self-inflicted prison, I am brought to a state of infinite fleeting freedom. In extreme emotion, I am brought high above myself and able to at last feel beyond suffering. I am creating my own high.
It is only in the in between state, between the middle part of prison and the freedom of elation that I feel the fleeting joy. I quickly rise past the joy to the state of high-anxiety, as the doubts and questioning sets in. This is why, after much processing about a possible scenario that could lead to my demise, failure, rejection or the lot, I will appear momentarily elated with relief when the scenario does not turn out in the thousand terrible ways I thought, but then I will quickly switch of the invented and created false feeling of joy and question my emotion. This will then put me in a state of shutdown, where I am wondering why I worried to the degree of physical and emotional, even spiritual ache, for the gift of fleeting fake joy brought on by a self-invented high.
Is this indeed a process I have created in an attempt to feel human? In an attempt to feel what “I am supposed to feel?” Am I lacking something or some chemical? I don’t think so.
I think this is the way my mind works itself out of confusion, in an attempt to unravel all the thoughts that are bombarding me, including all the stimuli, constant awareness, and confusion. I think this is my mind’s way of putting me into protection. I think in my cell of worry is the only time I feel safe from the world. To me, the fear-state is more liken to protection and safety than the joy state. For joy crashes and fear remains. Fear is predictable and stays with me as I loop and over-think; joy emerges as this falsehood and leaves me abandoned.
Do I like the cell perhaps more than I acknowledge? Is the cell the darkness I need to retreat to in order to renew? Am I, like the caterpillar, in need of continual metamorphoses? And if I am turning into a butterfly from the retreat out of darkness then why do my wings suddenly disappear?
In living, I have gained some recognition of middle emotions, the more subtle emotions of: satisfaction, contentment, serenity, connection, gentle-anticipation; but as these subtle emotions surface and are identified, I analyze where they have come from. I wonder which came first, my own thought, or the emotion; and often conclude my thought brought this emotion; and then I go into a place of deep thinking of when and where this thought came into existence that caused this emotion, and if this is indeed an emotion I welcome; and if this emotion comes from a place of selflessness, ego-release, and love. If the emotion/thought, both spun out together with thought in a slight lead, are not from a place of benefit for me and others, I then review why I have created these non-beneficial thoughts.
Where before for four-decades I was highly unaware of my own thoughts and emotions, and felt numb to the world, unless in a place of extreme anxiety or extreme low, now I am highly-aware of my experience, each moment analyzing and questioning my experience here, in this place I have been told isn’t really here at all. I have fed myself with so much factual data, through various sources and through moments of awakenings, that I cannot help but to try to place my own emotional/thought experience into a category.
My mind categorizes. I was built, I believe to a degree, to sort and categorize, to circumvent my emotional wiring and dig beneath and pull out what is occurring. I am a computer analyzing the computer-self. The mind boggles and I am left, wishing to do nothing but to be simple in the extreme, to wash away the complexity and start again anew and refreshed.
In an attempt to pull myself out of myself, I continually study and analyze, not just words and visual sources, but thoughts and happenings. I analyze the trees, the sky, the movement of all, even the invisible and untouchable. I analyze because I am attempting to take the moment I am set free from prison, to capture that fleeting flicker, and rise with this moment in true form of butterfly.
The dilemma is in finding myself lost in self, and reviewing the past data (Eastern philosophies of escape from mind), and then trying to understand this absence of thought, as I am built to a degree where the past ways of transcending (absence of thought; deep meditation in silence of mind) and completing the process of thought (silence and retreat after reflection) are foreign. I seem incapable of mastering my own mind enough to sit in the stillness of release. My brain appears so high-powered by some high-force that I am suited best for the prison of darkness as my retreat.
But there is hope, always hope.
And this hope is found in one way.
I have been able to at last find rescue from my own self in the act of giving of self. When I come from a place of pure intention to give without recognition or reward, I am set free. This is where the butterfly is meant to fly.
What I have been doing for so long is releasing myself from the cage and giving myself the imagined joy. I have been trying to hold onto a joy for self, and to build up self with joy, as this is what has been demonstrated by society: to make myself happy; to be happy; to find happiness. But this is not right; at least not my right, if right was to be.
I am not put here to make myself happy. I don’t need to be happy. Innately, beneath this façade of thoughts that generates a façade of emotions, I am happy. And I know this. I am not confused by self. I am confused by the thoughts and emotions, because beneath I am a spirit having a human experience. But my suit, my human suit is not adjusted, it is open enough so that the experience of human is confusing, debilitating, and disconcerting; I have spent eons, or what appears eons, trying to master my thoughts and emotions, when the freedom is not found in mastery of the invisible and illusion: mastery is found in the release of this humanness.
There is no direct way to self, as I am already self. There is no direct way to free myself of thoughts and emotions, as they do not even exist. They are not real.
Yes, I feel. Yes, I experience. But ultimately after a lifetime of analyzing my own experience, I see the illusion I have created. And though I stand in a lonely place at times, in reality, in my reality, I am finally able to grasp joy, and this joy is not fleeting. This joy does not bring out invisible scissors that eventually clip and remove my wings. I do not bleed from this joy, nor do I suffer.
I am attuning self enough to know that false joy will not last, and thusly this false, self-created, and self-wanting joy feels poisonous to me. I want to spit the falsehood out, and bring out the reinforcement of armies with swords in hand and slice away at false joy with question. I feel attacked when the questions come, when the illusion of joy is destroyed, but I am not attacking anything but illusion upon illusion. I am not attacking anything but selfish want and selfish joy.
Joy to me is only found in giving. This is my place of joy. This is how I am wired. I have been trying to live like the rest say to live, to fill myself in order to be fulfilled. But I am ultimately fulfilled when another is fulfilled. I am filled when I am able to bring joy to another. I am filled when the love I have for another is received. I am filled when I know in my deepest knowing that I am not wanting for self and self alone. There is no way around this for me. I still take comfort in the fineries of good food, decorative clothes, and good friends; these can bring me happiness. But this is not a happiness that stays. I see this. I recognize this. And thusly, my mind creates a stage of battles, where I am once again made supposed victim as the questions slice away at the supposed joy. But I am no less victim than the tree pecked by the woodpecker. I am made home for the world, for the flying birds, when I am carved out and hollowed. And in this place, when the world slips inside of me for shelter, I am joy.
And so it is my journey begins with intention. If I set out to love the world, to give of myself freely, without motive for self, then I shall receive endless abundance and joy that I can time and time again return to and tap into. This joy might waver with the wavering of my thoughts and emotions, but this joy is there always. This joy is always there. This joy is love of others, and in so loving other, love of self. There is no non-benefit to giving and loving freely. There just isn’t. When I come from a place of love, I am free. When I do not, I am imprisoned. There is no other place for me than from a place of love.
I think now that I was made the way I am to force myself into finding love. Here I have been searching to love myself, to change myself, to change my thoughts and emotions, to change my way of being, when all along the key was so very simple: love.
Here I was searching to understand love, to understand love through ownership and misinterpretation, and needing and wanting, and sometimes constant desiring, but that is not love. Love is not found in the one or in the self. Love is not found through the desire to receive. Love is not fleeting. And so often the love I have thought I have found, though unrecognizable, unidentifiable, and uncomfortable, still did not fit. No matter how hard I tried to make love fit, it did not. That is because I was searching for a suit of love for me, something to wear to soothe and protect the suffering beneath. But garments age; they tear, they break; no matter what we do they disintegrate, they become outdated, they eventually stink. The only love that can complete me must be outside the self and unattached from the self, something so immense and immeasurable that fear escapes in the infinite abundance.
I know now how to be happy.
Happiness is found in the detachment of love from self, so that love may fly freely. For it is not the butterfly I am that needs to find and wear her wings, it is the love I am that needs to soar.