Feb 21

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It just keeps on turning

I’m currently working with hundreds of NHS staff who are undergoing a major change initiative. Their friends have been made redundant, and many don’t know what roles they will have in six weeks’ time. They often walk into the training room feeling scared, stressed, angry, frustrated and uncertain.

This gave me an opportunity to explore a different way of understanding ourselves and how we experience the world, which I’ve been learning more about recently, and it goes like this:

We only ever experience the feeling of our thinking. When the delegates (or any of us) are thinking angry thoughts, they feel angry. When they are thinking stressful thoughts, they feel stressed. There is no direct correlation between our material circumstances and our feelings. Our thoughts are the things that make us feel.

“Poor them though, of course they feel like that, how could they feel anything but that?”.

The response to this question walked into the training room in the form of a lovely chap called Frank. He has an important leadership role in making these changes happen. Frank told me the project faces some significant challenges and he was up against a tight deadline. In similar situations, his opposite numbers in other areas have been at their wits’ end, visibly distressed. Frank had a calm smile on his face.

I commented on this, and he said he felt at ease about the situation.

Frank illustrates the point that our experience of the world is not tied to the actual world, but rather it’s tied to our thinking about the world. At the moment I was speaking with him, Frank was thinking thoughts that were full of ease. His colleagues were thinking more distressing thoughts.

Throughout the day the delegates noticed that as their thinking naturally changed, their feelings towards the project changed too. They felt playful, happy, overwhelmed, relieved, resigned and excited in turn.

And the thinking (and the resultant feelings) will continue to turn, without any effort at all, as they do for us all.  Simply noticing this turning seems to encourage our natural state of easeful feelings to re-settle a little more swiftly. It also helps to remember that while the clouds of fear, anger, frustration, stress and angst are blotting out the sun, above them the sky is always blue.


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