Why We Sometimes Don’t Feel ‘In The Moment’ – Free Ebook

Life is full of moments where we are meant
to feel certain things. The demand starts

in early childhood: it’s our birthday – and
we are meant to feel happy. Dad is going away

for two weeks – and we should feel sad.
Our school has won at team sports – and

we should want to join in with a celebratory
song. Adulthood continues the injunctions:

we should feel devastated at funerals, touched
and hopeful at weddings, enthused and moved

by our families, carefree on holiday – and,
in bed with someone we like, exclusively focused

on the act and its pleasures. But, in truth,
our thoughts are seldom exactly in sync with

outward events. They have tendencies to be
vagabond, unfaithful and unruly. We rarely

feel exactly what we’re meant to when we’re
meant to. Our emotions follow the script of

life with the lag and distortions of a badly
subtitled foreign film. Yet there are a host

of good reasons for this: – There’s a
lot more ambivalence in our hearts than we

are ever allowed to own up to in public. We
may love certain people deeply but at the

same time harbour profound and understandable
resentments and rage against them. No wonder

we don’t always cry as deeply as we ‘should’
at funerals. – To get through life, we need

to grow a tough hide; we have to learn not
to feel and not to register certain things

that pass through consciousness. Those among
us who’ve suffered the most, especially

at an early age, have had to grow masters
of the art of occasional non-feeling. No wonder

then that, when the time comes for vulnerability
and openness, we might not so easily be able

to access our more tender emotions. – Happiness
can be extremely worrying to register. We

are creatures who defend ourselves through
anxiety and cannot always readily give up

our vigilance, simply because we have a few
days off work and there’s a line of palm

trees ahead. – We may have grown suspicious
of large groups and fear their capacity for

intolerance and cruelty. It may therefore
be tricky for us to join in in any uncomplicated

way with communal cheering and celebration.
We may have some well-founded background resentments

against collective demands. – Finally, our
emotions tend to move far more slowly than

do events in the outer world. The so-called
right feelings may well show up, but rather

later than one might expect. We do eventually
feel grateful at the way the holiday went,

but three months after we’ve returned. We
do register that we are in love, or devastated

or in mourning or scared, but not as soon
as the world outside us might like. The inner

clock has its own rhythms and seasons that
won’t easily obey the outer calendar. Ultimately,

we often aren’t ‘in the moment’, because
we have the wrong map of what should be thought

normal at any given moment. It’s our expectations,
rather that our emotions, that are at fault.

To help ourselves, we should create a culture
which better accommodates the weirder truths

of the way we work: that does not have such
a strong script about what should be felt

– and where we are more ready to accept
the greater complexities of our minds. A lover

who isn’t always there in the act might
return if they aren’t pressured to do so

too actively; someone who isn’t happy on
holiday might grow a little more so if we

don’t demand that they smile all the time;
someone who isn’t delighted at a wedding

anniversary could eventually celebrate if
they were first allowed to be (understandably)

a bit sad as well. We should have greater
respect for the way we’re built. Not being

able to be in the moment isn’t a sign that
we are strange or defective, but that we have

started to be rightly faithful
to ourselves.

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