I apologise if this is jumbled or nonsensical in places. I didn’t want to heavily edit it for fear that I would simple delete it instead. Like much of my writing and life journey this is a work in progress. Eventually I will return and more critically edit/define what is here. Any feedback on what it appears to be saying to you, the reader, is welcomed. Clarity or clarification of thinking is not always achieved within our private thoughts.
“Pursuit of peace” doesn’t sound quite right. We are more accustomed to the concept of the pursuit of happiness. I posit that happiness is an emotional state, similar to that of sadness, anger, disappointment and guilt. It is transitory, even for the eternally optimistic. Life happens and circumstances can dent happiness. It can return but sometimes it is time for sadness or anger or just a tumultuous combination that cycles through so fast that individual emotions are unable to be identified. We can pursue happiness, obtain it, lose it or have it taken. Rinse and repeat. Or my idea is that we can pursue inner peace.
For this purpose, I define peace as a quiet, stoic pool of serenity deep in our core. The other emotions can wash over its shores but we can always dip back into that pool and stabilise ourselves. This would not be fleeting or interchangeable, instead it is always present, a constant backstop that means we can experience the full range of emotions available. Being able to stabilise within ourselves means that sadness has a harder road to try and embed depression and take over. Happiness can be appreciated because it is a pleasure not a constant state of mood – realistic or faked. I would hope that my pool of peace would enable a safe site from which to examine and explore the emotions that I experience and initially, understand what creates and sustains them, with the eventual goal of being comfortable in experiencing any emotion because there is no external causation or falsity in their presence. Whatever was being felt, did not threaten the sense of internal safety.
This core of peace would enable me to experience a greater range of emotions. Comfortable in the understanding that the other emotions are fleeting and will not devastate my sense of self as a whole. Being happy all the time and then experiencing extreme loss will not send me into a perpetual slump of depression. There will be sadness but eventually that will lift. Guilt can be experienced but it won’t be so encompassing that it colours every decision, eventually having such a stranglehold, that fear of harming someone else freezes any ability to make any decision. I am not talking about the life defining or threatening decision but simply any decision, what dress to put on, what time to eat dinner, whether to read or write etc, etc, etc.
My pursuit of peace is differentiated from the survival mode of being emotionally numb. I define being numb as being unable to experience any emotional state, or if they do it is limited to anger or depression but rarely happiness. This is not the transitory experience of extreme shock but something that creeps in and sets up as the dominant emotion, non-emotion. Explaining it in a more practical way, think of when you may have been hit over and over in the same spot. Like a child’s game to see who flinches first or bursts into tears (not the smartest game but then children explore everything as they experience the world). Eventually, the area can no longer absorb any further pain and is effectively numb. Repeated emotional blows can create the same end result, which may or may not become assimilated into the person’s automatic response to ongoing life experiences.
The numbed person can recognise the socially appropriate response and may or may not be able to portray it to the world. But their reality is that they never actually experience more than a superficial display of an emotion they can not feel. At a comedy show you laugh, at a funeral you cry. However, there is a difference between feeling an emotion and showing one. Sit in front of a mirror, frown, smile, cry, scream. They are all emotional displays but there is not necessarily any emotion connected or behind that display. I am not sure that this is always recognised or acknowledged. Either by the person doing it or those seeing it. How often do we ask a person how they are and accept their reply of “fine”. We might have failed to notice ignore that their tone was flat or they were dressed differently that we normally saw them or they didn’t give any eye contact. I once got told fine is really “Feeling Incapable of Normal Emotion”. In may ways that terms sums up the numbed person. I would ask what is normal emotion but that is for another blog.
I am not advocating for this pool of serenity being a substitute for a strong sense of self, of identity. Instead, I am addressing one of the challenges that can interrupt the finding, defining and solidifying identity, while leaving flexibility for responsive changes to the joys and abrasions of living. Stuck in a turmoil of broiling emotion or numbed to anything but the fake expression of an accepted emotional display can lead to a predominance of time being in that turmoil. Looking inward and trying to sort the knotted threads of emotion out, to be calm and composed because you are, rather than it is expected. Being preoccupied with the inner battles can mean that issues of identity are simply buried, removing a strong sense of self as the back stop to life’s knocks meaning the person is now vulnerable to being battered by uncontrolled and controllable emotion.
I advocate for the pursuit of peace and am seeking it for myself. My rationale is the awareness that when I have been suicidal, I was not seeking death in the sense of being dead and buried. That was in a sense an external solution to what was an internal problem. Instead, I wanted my mind to shut up and to find peace in myself. Not the pseudo-peace accorded through drugged ignorance of what state my mind was really in because the medication had completely submerged it. Part of searching for this is learning to listen to what I am really thinking in any give situation, being able to bypass the thoughts of voices from the past, fear or the automatic response purely in place for self protection.
Inner peace is no easier to achieve than the pursuit of happiness. I believe it provides a more long term solution to develop an inner core of peace before dipping into the other emotional states, one that remains present even when they smash the shores with overwhelming feelings. The experience of grief being a prime example. I would especially believe that after a period of numbness, this centre of solitude might be the perfect way to feel safe leaving the state of being numb that has previously served survival so well. For me, it became established after being an unconscious defense mechanism to the emotional and physical pain I was in. It is now an artifact of the past, like the rubble of buildings long left behind, preventing the required growth for the future.
Ways I seek peace are probably the same as anyone else. I do yoga to still my mind and concentrate on my body for a change. I like certain forms of meditation, like uninterrupted counting of my breaths to 10. If a thought intrudes or I stuff up the count, then I return to 1. This helps me to get used to pushing aside non productive or detrimental thoughts, or simply thoughts that may need addressing – just not now. I seek the control of what I think about and when so I am in control of myself and my emotions, rather than their controlling me and the ensuing chaos. The surprise gift of this blog is that after I write thoughts like these, I can let them go. If need be I can return to the writing and blog the changes that have occurred in my thinking and thus my reacting. I no longer have to them percolating in my mind – I can let go a little and that is peaceful.