A few weeks ago, I was woken up early on a weekend by our dog, which left me irritated, and thus providing me with an excellent everyday example of how life plays out for people. In these next few paragraphs, I’m going to suggest that the bother I felt wasn’t actually caused by getting woken up, but was caused by the thinking I did within my own head. I’m also going to suggest that’s true of all of the ups and downs we have in life, not just the trivial stuff, that the ride itself is actually being caused by the activity inside our own minds and is NOT caused by how life is unfolding around us.
So let’s start with this trivial example. The long and the short of it is that the family dog showed up in my room early on a Saturday morning, forfeiting the rare and coveted opportunity I had to sleep in. So right away I was bothered and pointing blame at my husband whom I assumed had left our bedroom door open. As I sat there and stewed, the thought crossed my mind that I often get awoken at all hours by my kids when they have nightmares, fall out of bed, etc., and yet I don’t get bothered in the least. That seemed reasonable, because in my mind, getting woken up by the dog really could have been avoided and was the result of someone’s negligence, so naturally I’m going to be bothered. In contrast, kids having nightmares can’t be avoided and isn’t anyone’s fault. By this reasoning, my bother at being woken up by the dog (due to my husband’s negligence) was perfectly justified and appropriate. But here’s the problem: as soon as it seemed justified and appropriate to me, I was basically stuck with feeling bothered and wronged.
As I sat there being the martyr, something didn’t sit well with me. I was conflicted by the fact that my husband never seems to be annoyed when I wake him up. I often go to bed after he’s asleep, and although I try to be quiet, I do wake him at times, and yet he simply doesn’t get bothered. He doesn’t think about whether I’m doing something negligent or avoidable. That’s always been a little puzzling to me, but I just figured he didn’t get bothered by things like that because:
He’s more easygoing about a lot of things because he has that kind of personality. Some people need more sleep than others so getting woken up is a bigger deal to those who need more sleep. I’m always getting up with the kids so sleep is at a higher premium for me
But in a moment of honesty, I had to admit that right after the dog woke me up, I came up with what the cause must be, decided the incident was someone’s fault and could have been avoided, and then became annoyed. I wasn’t annoyed before I came up with a ruling.
At that moment, what I saw was that my annoyance wasn’t actually caused by getting woken up, or by how much I needed sleep, my personality type in contrast to my husband’s, or the fact that it was avoidable and due to someone’s negligence. I was annoyed because of what my thinking did and where it went in the moments after I was woken up. My annoyance didn’t come from getting woken up by the dog, it came from within my own head through my own thinking.
This is the way life works for us every moment of every day. When we look out at life, it looks like people get upset because of what happens in life – it looks like whatever situation we’re in at any moment causes us to feel whatever feelings we land in. But I’m using this example to point to the fact that our upset doesn’t come from outside of us, it doesn’t come from what happens in life, but rather our upset comes from whatever thoughts we have about what happens to us. We refer to this orientation to life as a new paradigm, an inside-out view of life, in which life as we know it comes from inside of us, not outside of us. This orientation explains why some people get annoyed by getting woken up and some don’t, and why sometimes I get annoyed by getting woken up and sometimes I don’t. It all comes down to what happens inside my own mind as I go through life moment-to-moment and the criteria I’ve made up about when to be annoyed and when not to. If my upset came from being woken up, I would have been upset instantly, but I wasn’t – I laid there for a moment, thought about the cause, came up with one that involved blame and righteousness, and THEN I became annoyed. In the heat of the moment, we get upset so fast it doesn’t seem like there’s a pause between what happens in the world around us and the reaction we have to it, but when you slow it down, there’s a moment when your thinking creates a reaction for you. The reaction inside of us is what causes our upset.
In part 2 of this blog series, I explain the point I’m making but I use the principles that we often refer to on our website and in our materials so readers can see how it all fits together.