A Lifestyle Lesson Learned at Target
We all know the utility and sanctuary of high vibing emotions. Gratitude, excitement, elation, bliss, and enjoyment are good for our minds and great for our bodies.
They’re food for our soul.
And many of us actively seek these experiences. If we’re going to therapy, it’s likely because we want to be happier. If we’re eating well, it’s likely because we want to be healthier. If we’re seeing a career counselor, it might be because we want to be wealthier. And if we’re worshipping in community, it’s likely we’re seeking more freedom.
Even these lifestyle lessons are designed to help you get the most out of your life, which includes feeling higher emotions.
Unfortunately, we humans have created cultures and institutions that feed off lower emotions like worry, anger, resentment, envy, and terror about what’s going to happen next. And these institutions have made us a little addicted to such experiences.
Have you ever gotten near zero in your bank account on a Thursday only to be totally relieved once you get paid on Friday?
Have you ever seen an ad for something designed to make your life easier only to feel totally empowered once you bought it?
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through social media obsessively when you can’t sleep?
Our sense of worth, safety, and social connection are all emotions that are preyed on by predatory systems like the job market and tax system, economy of consumerism, and social media.
They often give us rewarding feelings like pride about our paycheck, pleasure from the newest phone, and connection from social media.
But here’s the kicker…
Usually these feelings are fleeting and fake because the problem - scarcity, boredom, and separation - are actually created by these same systems in the first place!
For example, have you ever walked into Target for pens and walked out with $100 worth of stuff you didn’t even know you needed?
I know I have, and this is because the whole shopping experience is meant to amplify the lower emotion of YOU DON’T HAVE THIS and then give you the high afterward of NOW I DO.
To avoid getting caught in this addictive cycle, we need to first notice that it’s happening, stop it in its tracks, and then start addressing the lower emotion underlying it all.
SEE: Watch your impulses.
It’s a lot easier to observe our behaviors than feelings. This is because humans are socialized to pay attention most to what we see. Even though the ultimate goal is to notice our sensations and feelings first, it’s sometimes easier to observe what we do.
When do you reach for cookies?
At what point in the day do you spend the most time on social media?
At which stores do you overspend your money?
What do you do first when you get that paycheck you’ve been waiting for?
Simply notice your patterns first.
STOP: Then, stop yourself from doing it.
Just don’t do the thing.
Of course that’s easier said than done, but it’s very important that you stop doing the thing that’s giving you the relief and reward.
When you do the behavior - overspend, overshop, feel relieved from a paycheck by rushing to buy groceries - your brain is releasing dopamine and increasing your addiction. Not only does this reinforce the relief, but it also reinforces the crisis that’s been created in the first place.
As long as you’re doing the behavior that gives you the good feeling, you’ll never get to the underlying cause.
So just don’t do the thing. Don’t eat the cookies. Don’t go on social media. Don’t go shopping. Don’t ritualize and emphasize your paycheck so much.
START: Now pay attention to your sensations, stories, and signals.
Once you stop doing the thing, something will happen. You’ll experience uncomfortable sensations in your body, a script will start playing in the form of stories in your mind, and you’ll start signaling through different behaviors.
What happens when you don’t do the reinforcing behavior is that you make space for the underlying emotion that’s triggering the whole cycle. This eventually - not right away - reveals the real need that must be attended to.
You might notice you reach for cookies when you’re exhausted. When you can actually feel your sense of being tired, you can sleep instead of devouring a whole sleeve.
You might realize you reach for social media right before you go to sleep, when you’re feeling the most separate and lonely. You might instead meditate and connect to the parts of you that are ethereal, eternal, and always in community.
You might notice that shopping is something you do when you’re bored. Allow the boredom to sink in long enough to reveal something healthy that might entertain you instead.
You might notice the relief at being paid by a paycheck makes you feel worthy, worthwhile, and whole. In this case, you might explore your life’s timeline to see when you experienced that first fracture of yourself.
In allowing the underlying emotion to surface, you’ll get to the crux of what’s actually putting you in crisis and create new patterns that support your happiness, health, wealth, and freedom.
MAGIC MANTRA: Let the wound be revealed.