Finding your own understanding
Not sure if the “woo woo” stuff is something that fits for you?
We know that not everyone is into talking about their feeeeelings. How we feel and what is going on inside of us is a personal matter. And sometimes it’s all so confusing and complex that it’s hard to talk about, let alone really get to our deepest cores.
And now that there seems to be an upsurge in pop psychology media, wellness communities, spiritual teachings, and personal development blogs, it can all seem a little bit too much. Especially when we all have different understandings and labels for our own inner worlds.
What are “feelings” anyway? Does each person experience them the same way?
How do our feelings, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs all interact with each other — is there a linear causality, or do they just all form one big ball of stuff inside?
And what about this intuition and spirituality talk? Doesn’t each person have their own beliefs?
Scientific and academic research can tell us a little bit about our psyches. But often these studies are based on the research subject’s description of their inner experience, which isn’t observable to the researcher and can’t really be measured. The studies of our inner lives have to depend largely on self-reports, and we can only really compare those reports against each other and extrapolate meaning from them. We can observe and measure behaviours and actions, but it’s really hard to definitively grasp the internal motivations for them. If subconscious aspects (things we don’t know that we don’t know) are influencing us, how can we report them to researchers to be studied?
There are also philosophical and spiritual concepts that have been examined and discussed for thousands of years, through a variety of traditions. These spiritual concepts aren’t provable either — they are merely a way of understanding our human experience while wondering if there is a wider aspect (outside the physical realm) as well.
So research and theory about our inner lives are largely informed by the stories we tell about ourselves and the meaning we give to these stories, which are influenced by our emotions, feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and how we act on those aspects. This subjectivity makes all of this seem like obscure “woo woo” stuff which doesn’t necessarily appear logical.
When you read this blog, and any of my other work, I use terms and labels for our inner experiences which have been mostly informed by my own inner experience and educational understanding. I don’t want to presume that my experiences and understandings are the same as yours.
The terms, labels, and definitions which you see here may or may not reflect your own inner experience and understanding. Please feel free to take whatever fits and leave what doesn’t. Just go with whatever definitions make sense to you.
But to avoid confusion, I’m giving brief and loose definitions of some of the key terms which I use in the Lingo List below.
Check back from time to time, because I may keep adding to the list!
The Lingo List
Action. The behaviours that follow our subconscious or conscious choices.
Awareness. Bringing the subconscious into the conscious. In other words, it is the process of allowing what we don’t know about ourselves to become known.
Belief. A belief is a subjective personal truth — one that is accepted and fixed until we personally decide to change it. Our belief systems are a collection of feelings and thoughts, which are informed by our emotional memories and confirmed by the stories we tell ourselves about their meaning. Beliefs can be subconscious or conscious; they form lenses through which we view ourselves, others, and the world. Beliefs can be passed down through the generations, or across our wider systems and societies. Our beliefs form our identities.
Beliefs serve a purpose. They can limit us or they can empower us. They can separate us or they can bring us together in love. We can tell which effect is operating by the way we feel: loving empowerment feels freeing and the limitation of separation feels constrictive.
Communication. A conversation between any two or more people, which can be conveyed in words, or by body language, or energetically (eg the spread of a mood).
Conscious. The emotions, thoughts, beliefs, intuitive knowings, patterns, habits, etc. that we a) are aware of in ourselves (things we know); or b) are aware that we don’t know (things we know we don’t know — aka things we know we need to investigate in order to become aware of them fully).
Discernment. Making a choice according to our own needs, wants, or preferences (e.g. setting boundaries, choosing who to be in relationship with, or deciding what actions we want to take in response to someone else’s choices).
Emotion. An emotion is the label we attach to a feeling (e.g. sad, happy, angry). Emotions are influenced by our thoughts, beliefs, and perspectives. Emotions are not bad or good; they are just forms of information.
Feeling. Feelings encompass our entire inner experience. They involve our physical senses (what we feel in our bodies), our emotions, our thoughts, our beliefs, our intuitive knowings.
Insight. Insight occurs as we become more conscious, but we can confuse it with mind’s conceptual understanding of an aspect of ourselves. Instead, insight reflects not only the mind’s understanding, but also the emotional, physical, and intuitive embodiment of this understanding. When we develop insight, we know and feel it deep in the core of ourselves. But the word “develop” is a bit of a misnomer, because insight is received intuitively, not sought by the mind.
Intuition. Intuition is the deep knowing that each one of us has within us. It isn’t fed by the mind, and it isn’t an emotion. It is an intelligence that doesn’t have an identity; but since we humans like to name things, we can call it the “gut,” the “inner compass,” the “internal guidance system,” the “higher self,” or the “Divine.” Whatever word you like to use for your intuition is fine. I keep trying to call mine Herman, but it doesn’t seem to stick. He doesn’t like to be labelled.
Judgment. A belief we hold about a person’s character or behaviour — usually about whether it is good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse.
Pain. Pain (the emotional kind) feels really really bad. It is a symptom of an underlying emotional wound — usually the lack of unconditional love — and our thoughts and beliefs about that wound. We will do anything to relieve ourselves of that pain, but the way we go about it often creates more pain.
Path. A path is just a direction in life, which we take as a result of our free will choices. The choices we make take us down one path or another, and sometimes we cross over and weave between them.
These choices can be made from the mind (what we think and believe) or the heart (how we feel or intuit). We often try to tell ourselves that the “right path” — the destined one that fits our higher purpose — will feel joyous and wonderful once we are on it. We also like to tell ourselves that the “wrong path” is the one that we take when we mess up, or feel really bad, or because bad things happen to us that aren’t fair.
The path is just the path. Sometimes we encounter obstacles and rough patches along it, and sometimes there are smooth and easy stretches. And if we live long enough, we’ll encounter both terrains and be able to make choices based on what we like or don’t like, and what we’ve learned about ourselves and others along our journey. If we decide to take the path that feels the best and happiest, then we’ll follow those emotions to inform the choices we make. If we decide that we’re okay with following a path that feels bad and horrible, because that’s what our minds are telling us to do (eg keep the steady job for the paycheque even if we hate it) then those beliefs will also inform our choices.
Personality. The personality is the ego; it is the equivalent of the really annoying mental mid-level micro-manager. It likes to control, organize and compartmentalize. It also likes to think it knows everything. It doesn’t.
Reaction. The ingrained and often subconscious pattern or habit which arises when we encounter certain triggers that bring up our emotional pain or limiting beliefs.
Relationship. The interaction between any two or more people (friendly, romantic, collegial, familial, intimate, or adversarial). But we can also have a relationship with ourselves (our conscious aspects and our unconscious aspects).
Response. After our subconscious reactions have become conscious, we deliberately decide to respond by making another choice or creating another pattern based on the awareness and insight we’ve developed.
Soul. The concept of the soul is the belief in a limitless eternal being, which is not bound by time and space, nor the mind or the body. It’s an energetic form, but none of us can really conceptualize what it actually is, or if it really exists at all, because we automatically try to define it using our minds (the ego/personality) and physical senses (the body). Some people connect the soul to a divine creator, or to a particular religion, or to a concept of Oneness. Others connect the soul to their own individuality. And still others don’t believe in a soul at all. When you see the word “soul” here on Insight Instigators, feel free to use the definition that fits best for you.
Stories. Stories are tales we make up about our experiences, based on our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. They have heroes, villains, main characters, supporting characters, and lots of drama and tension. Stories are written by the meaning we give our experiences — which become themes in our lives. We can be the primary author of our own story, or we can let others create our story by influencing us so much that we lose our own voice. We are all searching for a happy ending, but when we keep telling the same story over and over again, we get farther away from it. Stories need to evolve and characters need to grow in order to keep the interest going.
Subconscious. All the feelings, thoughts, beliefs, patterns, habits, and intuitive knowings that remain hidden under the surface of our conditioned minds. They are the things we don’t know that we don’t know about ourselves. Once we become conscious and aware of these aspects through insight, they are no longer kept within the subconscious.
Thought. A thought is a a piece of an inner monologue. Thoughts are influenced by, and reinforce, our emotions and feelings, and the meaning we give them. Repetitive thoughts which we accept as true become our beliefs. When thoughts are subconscious, we don’t pay attention to them or the running monologue. Instead, they continue to influence our beliefs without notice. When we pay attention to our thoughts, we can deliberately choose to accept them or change them, and that process will help us feel better or feel worse, depending on which belief pattern we are reinforcing with that thought.