There are days when living with the hangover of cancer and mental breakdown is like living with your own overhead weather system, just like Olaf the snowman from the Disney movie Frozen. Olaf is quite happy to have his cloud follow him, for without the constant stability it provides he would surely melt into oblivion.
My cloud, however, is an ever changing weather system. Sometimes I’m basking in the glorious warmth and vitality of the suns vibrant rays; sometimes I’m sheltering from the cruel howling winds that carry wailing demons delighting in waking any blissful slumber at night.
The only constant for me is its unpredictability.
Writing has not come easy to me of late. I’m finding it increasingly frustrating that the welcomed mysterious dimension that engulfs my escape when I become lost in words is eluding me.
So today, because I am having trouble expressing myself, I have decided to share with you one of my most favourite analogies of all time written by Dr. Russ Harris. Russ is the author of “The Happiness Trap. Stop Struggling and Start Living” and a bunch of other great no nonsense, easy to read books.
His writing style is friendly, humorous and engaging. If you are interested you can check out his site here.
My friend Majella over at majellalaws.com.au – Job Search & Life Coach and I have been long time advocates and ‘groupies’ of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). We love its commonsense and easy to digest approach to living life.
ACT is basically about living a full, meaningful and purposeful life guided by your values and was introduced to me by a beautiful friend and mentor who happens to be a much loved and respected psychologist.
I hope the following analogy may resonate with you too:
When living a full life we experience a full range of human emotions. Basic human emotions such as love, joy, curiosity, fear, anger, sadness, guilt, shock and disgust. Notice that six out of these nine basic human emotions are NOT feel good emotions, yet they are feelings that we experience repeatedly, no matter how wonderful our lives may be.
ACT argues that the natural state for humans is not happiness, or feeling good; rather that our feelings are like the weather, continually changing: at times very pleasant, at other times extremely unpleasant.
The inconvenient truth is that our feelings are like the weather – always changing, and often unpredictable. There are cold days and hot days; rainy days and sunny days. You can’t control the weather – but nor does the weather control you!
No matter how bad it is, you can choose to go outside and do whatever it is you need to. On a cold day, you can wrap up warmly and walk fast. On a hot day, you can dress lightly and walk slowly. And it is much the same with our emotions. You can’t stop sadness or anxiety or anger from showing up in your life – but if you respond to them mindfully, you can let them come and go without a struggle, and choose how to act when they are present.
The more we can accept this reality, the more we are free to live the life we want. Instead of wasting energy trying to control how we feel, we can channel that energy into effective action – doing things to improve our life for the better. So next time your feelings are running rampant, you might like to gently acknowledge this, and with a sense of humor say something like, “Hmmm. Looks like bad weather today.”
You can play around with this concept. If you’re noticing feelings of grumpiness or irritability, you might say, “I can feel a storm brewing”. You can use the weather as a metaphor to aid your mindfulness practice: you can watch your thoughts going past “like passing clouds”; you can notice sensations swirling around your body “like torrents of rain”. So remember this…
“You are like the sky, and your feelings are like the weather: no matter how bad the weather, the sky cannot be harmed by it – and sooner or later, the weather always changes.”
Dr. Russ Harris
Do you have your own cloud like me and Olaf?