Investigation is not the point of actualism. Feeling good is.

I found that to effectively explore emotions to the point of (virtually) eliminating them I had to experience them fully. Only by neither repressing, nor expressing, nor in any way rationally twisting the emotional experience could I meticulously observe, become fully aware of and sensibly contemplate on what is happening in my head, heart and guts and thus investigate the root cause of that particular emotion - Vineeto

The above is important to bear in mind. For it is only by being utterly open to experiencing emotions, does the opportunity arise to bring a sincere attentiveness to them and to eventually neutralise their worst effects. Remember that ultimately actualism is not about ceasing to feel, but about ceasing to be. So it is not the case that we are trying to eliminate feelings with investigation, but simply to feel happier for longer and longer. By doing so we begin to get intimate with the nature of being at its core. Whenever there is an impediment to feeling good, then one needs to find out why one is not feeling good. This is especially the case when one has tried to feel good and failed Investigation needs to be carried out with sincerity. Often when one wants to quickly get back to feeling good too quickly, it can lead to 'poisoning' one's intention and result in a 'flight into feeling good' that does not feel genuine. The end result is that the bad feelings which were there all along, unresolved – come back. Investigation is an essential part of actualism and it needs to be embraced with gusto. There has to be a real curiosity about who you are at your core. Bad experiences are a valuable opportunity to interrogate your being. It's as if a serendipitous cross-section of 'you' has been cut open to reveal who 'you' are at the core.

Not all investigations need to go 'deep'. In-fact it is preferable that you try and get back to feeling good quickly once you realise what the 'bad feeling' was if possible. There is a possibility of being too enraptured by the investigative process, where that in itself becomes your actualism practise.

CLARIFYING THE EMOTIONS: Often when one is not feeling good there is a vague sense of unease, unhappiness, anger, sadness and so on. Also one has barely begun to feel something when one starts berating oneself for having dared to have a bad emotion; you feel ashamed for lacking the emotional continence and control you expect of yourself. You can even find yourself telling yourself off for being a 'bad actualist'!

  1. Categorise it

So the first thing we do is get clarity on what we are feeling. Firstly and very simply are we feeling a) bad b) neutral or c) good? Beyond good there is also feeling d) great e) excellent and f) perfect – but we won't talk about these here as the point of this lesson is to focus on when we are feeling less than good.

2. Unpack it Often there may be all manner of things mixed up in bad feelings. See if you can break it up into component parts e.g. I am standing in a grocery store que, when a dour and angry looking man cuts the line in front of me without a word. I feel bad as a result, and find that this feeling stays with me long after I have arrived home and put the groceries away. I try and 'power through' it initially, but the feeling lingers. I decide to investigate. Firstly its obvious I am feeling bad. At first there is only a vague sense of unpleasant unease. As I look more closely I see bits of anger and shame. I have recurrent thoughts of revenge on this man, things I could I done or said to him. As I dig deeper, I experience a sadness at my humiliating helplessness in this situation. I can see a tendency to push all of these feelings aside and tell myself I am feeling better, as they are quite painful and difficult to tolerate. I might have a feeling that I have failed in my efforts to feel good, that I am a 'bad actualist'.

It is also good to look at the context and the detail. What was it about the man that got you angry exactly, was it his attitude, the look on his face? When exactly did you experience the emotions in question. As you can see we've categorised the emotion as a 'bad' one. We've discovered various parts of it: anger, sadness, humiliation, shame, defensive moves to get out of the feeling, shame about being a 'bad actualist' etc. It can be a great relief to experience this level of clarity with regards to one's emotions. Sometimes just this is sufficient to melt the hold that the emotion has on you and make you feel good again. Shame can be a particularly sinister feeling, as it can cause a 'white-out' thus preventing you from getting to the core of the emotion. Be as kind and gentle with yourself as you can. Be your own best friend. It takes time and patience to unpack feelings that are laced with shame.

4. Going back to Neutral/Good.

Sometimes a bad feeling is just too intense for us to work with it or investigate it. No sooner do you start, that you just get rail-roaded by it and find yourself going in circles. If this is the case (and it often is even when you have experience with emotional investigation – just quit and give it more time. See if you can get back to at least feeling neutral. This is a key thing to remember if you are repeatedly struggling with emotions. If it is a particularly intense emotion, which has a long history of triggering you, it might take several goes before you manage to make sense of it.

3. See its Deep Structure

a) Themes

Over a period of time of investigation, you will notice that it is often the same themes that keep repeating. Usually everyone has their own pet themes on loop. In some sense they are what preoccupies all humans, but one's own idiosyncrasies, personality, gender, culture and life experience will shape the quality of these themes.

There may be themes of thwarted love, loneliness, shame, feeling disrespected, feeling out-competed, envy, unfairness, discrimination – to name but a few. It is helpful to find your own major themes or trends in how you feel bad. What circumstances typically trigger these bad feelings? You can diarise these if you like to help you keep track of them. Talking about it on the Slack forum or with a friend, can be useful too.

b) Beliefs/Fantasies/Feeling Structures

Once you have spotted the trends see if you can identify deeper beliefs, fantasies or feeling structures. You need to bring thinking to your feelings so you can identity their outline, their texture and their sape. What can be helpful is seeing where in your life a particular feeling occurred e.g. A feeling of loneliness that you may notice sitting in front of the TV on the weekend. Go 'down the rabbit hole' with a curiosity, like an intrepid explorer. This feeling of loneliness might be one of your 'Top 10 Themes'. You may remember this familiar feeling in multiple settings, say, when you were at a friends house a week ago or when you were in the playground as a child. This sort of 'scan' may help you realise deep beliefs or fantasies that you hold about your self 'worth' in relation to others that happens independent of setting. Perhaps it relates to an old wound resulting from a past relationship? Perhaps there is a sense that the presence of another is experienced as nourishing and their absence leaves you feeling ill at ease. Perhaps it relates to a certain societal sense that social dignity necessitates companionship on a weekend, or else one is a 'loser'? See if these beliefs 'resonate. There is a danger here of picking too broad or generic a belief or one that is empowering 'you' in a clandestine way e.g. 'society wants me to be ashamed of loneliness, but I am good enough on my own!' Generally moving from the more particular, idiosyncratic – to the broader and more societal beliefs is preferable. c) Relating the above feeling themes to the instinctual passions. These are the feelings that can broadly be said to be universal of the human species. They are related to fear, aggression, nurture and desire. See if you can relate your emotions to something like a core of feeling within you. That which is a primal 'ball' of nebulous affects that one feels oneself to be. You will realise that with many intense feelings when you get right down to it, there is something that cannot be reduced any further. The only thing to do then is to accept that this is who 'you' are at the core.

c) See the good feelings that are maintaining the bad feelings

Once you have some familiarity with investigations and know your broad feeling themes, your basic fantasies and beliefs – then, you can start to explore the good feelings that are often responsible for shoring up the bad feelings e.g. Feeling of loneliness may be due to your venerating of feelings of love and belonging. Feelings of being dejected and ashamed may relate to your prizing of good feelings of status, pride and social respectability. Becoming sincerely aware of the good feelings, behind the bad feelings can be a powerful experience. Sometimes this realization is enough to unravel years of bad feelings and painful emotions that you have been experiencing.