The Dangers of Emotionally Feeling Good

“The Dangers of Emotionally Feeling Good”

by Kelvin Chin
Meditation Teacher & Spiritual Coach


I just watched a documentary on Netflix about a religious group where members would do wild meditations jumping around in apparent ecstasy. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Feeling good is generally a good thing. But is it everything? And is it the best metric to use to assess something’s value in our life?

Merely judging our sense of happiness and well being against whether we emotionally feel good is the norm in our world culture. There is no doubt about that. 

Just look at most best-selling self-help books, workshops and gurus, TV ads (“buy this and feel good”), the pharmaceutical and mental health industry (“take this pill and feel good”),  religious teachers (“believe this whether it makes sense or not because it’ll make you feel good “), and even our educational system (“read this version of history because it’ll make you feel good about your country”). 

Basically any sector of our society. They all preach this “feel good” notion of happiness.

But is it accurate?
Is it foolproof?

It’s Risky

What can make us feel good?

Many things can…

  • High self esteem

  • Good physical health

  • Healthy diet 

  • Loving friends 

  • Meditation 

  • Exercise

All those are arguably good for us. 

But what about…

  • Alcohol? 

  • Drugs — prescribed and “recreational”?

  • Groups that support our beliefs, whether religious, cultural or political — at the exclusion of others?

  • Cults?

Hmmmm…maybe not so great for our short or long-term health.  Alcohol is a neurotoxin, drugs have negative side effects, and exclusionary groups and cults limit our thinking to “their” thinking.

But…wait a minute, they make us feel good, don’t they?

The Power of Emotion 

It is indisputably powerful. 

All emotions whether positive or negative are strong moving forces in our psycho-emotional daily life.  Excitement. Joy. Serenity. Love. Anger. Sadness. Fear. 

So it’s no wonder that we all gravitate towards them. However, not only do we naturally experience those feelings — I mean you cannot prevent it — but — and here’s the rub — we also have a tendency to place more weight, more credibility in them as metrics, i.e., as a yardstick, to measure many of the choices we make in life. 

Why?

Because the feeling of feeling is so intoxicating. So alluring. Even if it’s not just feeling good. Even the feeling of feeling badly can be intoxicating to some. Or the feeling of feeling fear — look at how popular death-defying rides at amusement parks are…

And when the feeling is so intoxicating, we sometimes shelve our thinking — yes, even our common sense — in the hope of continuing that enjoyable feeling. Sometimes even well past the point when we “knew better.”

Ever experienced that in, let’s say, a relationship? “I knew I should have left him months ago, but it was so thrilling to be with him…”

The Power of Thinking 

I know that some people put thinking and feeling in the same category. After all, they’re both mental experiences, right?

But at least for the purposes of our discussion here, I think it’s helpful to separate them and look at them individually. 

“Thinking” I’m defining for our narrow purposes here as “thinking rationally, analytically, clearly without cognitive dissonance.”

I think we all understand what thinking rationally and analytically means. In layman‘s language I think we would call it “using our common sense.”

What I mean by “thinking clearly without cognitive dissonance” is not coming to conclusions or making statements that do not make logical sense with our thinking process or prior statements. In other words, coming to conclusions that just don’t fit with what we are saying. Without cognitive dissonance means thinking free from stuff that doesn’t make sense, or said another way, it’s without contradictions.

For example, telling our kids: “Stop playing video games for hours on end! You should give your brain a rest and go outside and get some exercise!” — while we sit on our couch day and night watching hours of TV. That’s cognitively dissonant. In layman’s language we sometimes call it “a mixed message.” We should more honestly call it “a wrong message.”

Or, the health coach or healthcare professional who treats patients and advises them to exercise regularly, and make healthy food choices — yet himself eats at fast food drive-through windows and smokes cigarettes. 

And of course all of these examples affect us individually, personally, when we are the “dissonant actor.” We are not immune to the ill effects of thinking and acting dissonantly. It can cause inner confusion, relationship problems, and can even negatively affect our physical health.

So we can all probably agree that thinking clearly is important. Not only for good parenting, but also for our own individual health and well being. 

The problem is that for most people “thinking clearly” is a big, giant snooze. It’s boring. It just ain’t sexy!

It does not “juice us.” Where’s the tingle, the chills, the shudder?

Right?

I know. I know.

An Emotional Need

But…
What if thinking clearly became an “emotional need”?

What if you somehow found a way to become “juiced,” uplifted, even excited by thinking? And then even more excited by thinking more clearly about yourself, your life, your surroundings, the world, the universe… 

That’s what I’ve come to realize about myself. You could call it a self-realization. Something that I’ve learned about myself in my eternal quest for responding to my inner voice — “Know Thyself.”

It makes me happy to understand more fully and to be able to think more clearly about myself and life’s issues. And even more so by sharing that to help others. I find that emotionally fulfilling. Ok, you may say I sound weird…and you wouldn’t be the first to think that!

Final Thoughts — Buyer Beware

But here’s the main thing to consider. 

I don’t think emotions and emotional needs are — at all — inherently bad. But relying solely on “feeling good” as our yardstick in life can be risky and potentially dangerous. It can lead to blind action and blind following. That is, acting blindly by yourself, say in a toxic relationship. Or blindly following others without regard for one’s own common sense. Without thinking clearly. 

And their self-interests may not align with yours. They may even be totally opposite to yours without your knowing it. 

But again, it’s not the feeling that is bad. It’s the blindness that can often result.

So caveat emptor (“buyer beware”). Or perhaps “thinker beware.” Our thinking mind needs to beware of being overshadowed by its feeling side, at the risk of our real happiness. 


Ignoring that balance
can be dangerous to one’s health and well being. 


Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within and coaching others in their self-growth for 40 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.OvercomingTheFearOfDeath.org or www.TurningWithin.org.

Crying is Not Weakness

“Crying is Not Weakness”

by Kelvin Chin
Life After Life Expert


We do a terrible job allowing ourselves to express emotions in our cultures worldwide. This problem does not just exist in the United States. I have clients now in 28 countries, and I’ve seen this problem everywhere, and in all social and economic strata. 

When I say “emotions,” I don’t mean anger, because that emotion gets expressed quite freely in the world. And I think that particular emotion is a result of two things: not accepting reality the way it is, and pent up emotional frustration.

As a result, the most widespread and unfortunately, the most accepted emotion that we see on a daily basis is anger. We see it in many forms — mothers screaming at disobeying children, husbands abusing their wives, teenagers bullying their peers, and wars on many continents. 

To be clear, I’m not here to address the complexities of all those different conflicts.

But I do want to address one aspect of expressing our emotions. Crying. 

We can cry for many reasons...

Sadness or Happiness
Release of pressure
Longing for someone, something or someplace, or 
Recognition — perhaps of an old relationship 

But it’s not a sign of weakness. 

In fact, I think it’s a sign of strength. It’s a sign of inner strength. A sign that the person has a high enough sense of self-esteem that he or she doesn’t care what others think and simply can express his/her emotions as they come up. 

Remember that — when you see someone tearing up and apologizing for “being emotional.”

Instead say, “No, it’s ok for you to express how you’re feeling in that way.”

Acknowledge who they are at that moment in that simple way. By saying that, you are saying, as our Native American friends would say, that you “see” them. 

Recognize that person as a strong person. Someone who may be more in touch with his inner self than you realize. An independent free thinking and feeling being. 





Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within Meditation and coaching others in their self-growth for 40 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.OvercomingTheFearOfDeath.org or www.TurningWithin.org.

Virtue

“Virtue”

by Kelvin H. Chin
Life After Life Expert


With the recent college admissions scandal dominating the 24/7 news cycle in the U.S., I was reminded once again about the idea of “virtue” that has been contemplated and preached about for millennia.

At first blush, one might think that virtue was totally lost in the minds (and hearts) of those (so far) 50 defendants indicted on March 12, 2019 in this $25 million (so far) scheme to gain access to elite colleges in the U.S. And from a certain point of view, I would have to agree with you. However, I think there is another perspective at play here.

A more insidious one that we as a culture should be aware of. Because self-awareness is the first step to change. And recognizing the need for change is the next step in doing something about it. Perhaps even doing something that is more aligned with one’s inner desires that may, at the same time, actually result in less harm to others — simply put, a more enlightened approach.

Virtue

What do most of us think when we think of the idea of virtue?

I think we think “doing what’s right,” “following the rules of the game,” “being a good person.” Things along those lines. Right?

I think that is a fair definition — at least that is the way we generally have thought of virtue in the past 2,000 years. In the times of Jesus, the idea of “sin” was really meant to be “not following the Jewish rules,” or “not following or obeying the rules of God, the Ten Commandments,” etc.

However, about 500 years earlier, around 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece, the idea of virtue meant something deeper, more intimate. It included the idea of “self-knowledge,” knowing oneself — so it was a more inward way of looking at the concept of virtue. I would argue that it was a more practical way of discussing virtue.

Because rather than arguing over whose rules about the world were right and wrong — and how closely you followed them — to determine whether you were a “virtuous person” or not, the Greeks in 500 B.C. instead looked within. They “turned within” and asked each person to candidly ask themselves what did they find. Did they like what they saw? Did they see anything that needed change? Did they do anything about changing it? Did they “love” what they saw? Did they embrace “who they were” from the inside out?

It was an approach of valuation that was “self-knowledge” focused. Internally focused. Not externally focused.

And yes, while it was most certainly subjective, it did cause people to pause, reflect, go inside, and be introspective. I think there was something healthy about that process that the wider Greek culture benefited from.

Fast forward to today, 21st century planet Earth, and specifically 2019 U.S. culture.

Material Wealth

Today, I think we find ourselves valuing money and wealth accumulation above all else.

We used to value innovation and education more so, and wealth was sometimes a side effect of those pursuits. However, I think in the past 50-60 years or so — starting in the late 1960’s — especially when executive compensation started becoming more tied to stock prices because their compensation was more and more based on the liquidation of their stock options, we have gradually moved more towards a valuing of money and the accumulation of wealth over all else.

We now value “who we are” — our personal identity — based on money and accumulated wealth — whether real wealth or just “perceived” wealth.

A few in our culture have “real” accumulated wealth — hedge fund managers, professional athletes, “A-list” TV and movie stars, CEO’s of Fortune 1000 companies, a handful of big law firm partners, and former U.S. Presidents. But most of us are not that. Most of us just have “perceived” accumulated wealth — driving a Mercedes on a 3-year lease, living in a 5,000 square foot house with a $10,000 a month 30-year mortgage, or maybe living in a 400 square foot studio apartment but carrying a $3,000 designer handbag. That is perceived accumulated wealth. Not real.

But it represents the aspirations of our culture. It represents the values of our culture. To be “seen” as wealthy because “accumulated wealth” means “respect.” It means “I am somebody” in our current U.S. culture.

“I am important.”

At any cost.

Because we have become a culture of “the ends justify the means.”

Anything goes. Even paying people to take your child’s college entrance exam, or photoshopping her pics to send to the universities feigning your child’s ability and even interest to be on the coveted school athletic teams! And I bet that many more than 50 parents are guilty of having done so — I would guess the number is much closer to 100,000 nationwide. Not all wealthy like the celebrities, hedge fund CEO’s and law firm partners in the current criminal lawsuit. But many more parents from the next tier down. That is my guess.

Because it is a reflection of the values of our 2019 culture. Money has become the metric to measure the “value of a human being.” Not their wisdom, moral compass, kindness, or their ability to bring happiness to others. 

A New “Virtue” Going Forward

Yes, even in ancient Greek times, money and wealth accumulation existed. There definitely was an aristocracy — the wealthy and the working class, and even slaves. But virtue in terms of “looking inside” each Greek, regardless of social or economic status, was also highly valued as an integral part of the culture during much of that period.

Even 400 years later, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius — who was an avid student of Greek history and philosophy and fluent in Greek himself — eschewed his aristocratic birth and in his youth chose to sleep on the floor as was the habit of Stoic philosophers. “Turning within” was an integral part of his life, not just as a child but throughout his adult life.

I think today we need to get a grip on who we are as a culture, and as human beings as a whole. Because we have lost touch with who we are. We have externalized “who we are” and “how we value ourselves” so much that the college admissions scandal we are mesmerized by now is simply a symptom of a deeper disconnect.

A disconnect within.

We are who we are on the inside — regardless of color, wealth, nationality.
We are not our $650 per month Mercedes sedan. We are not defined by which elite university our kids graduated from. 

We are defined by who we are inside, which determines the types of actions and behavior we execute on the outside.

And to make those types of choices more in alignment with our desires that are less likely to hurt others, we need to “turn within” and develop ourselves from the inside out. That is the “virtuous” path that feeds us, that nurtures our souls, and that helps others in their quest for happiness.

A new — yet ancient — definition of “virtue” going forward is what is needed.




Kelvin H. Chin is an Author and Speaker. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Yale University, and Boston College Law School.  He can be reached at www.OvercomingTheFearOfDeath.org or www.TurningWithin.org.

“HAS SPIRITUALITY GONE TO THE DOGS?”

“Has Spirituality Gone to the Dogs?”

by Kelvin Chin
Meditation & Spiritual Teacher
 

A friend of mine just sent me an extremely troubling article about an investigative report aired today by an Australian news outlet, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), on the serving of dog meat disguised as “chicken” in Bali to the thousands of tourists who flock to that purportedly “idyllic,” tiny (95 x 69 mile) Indonesian island vacation and spiritual retreat hotspot. The Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) estimates that 70,000 dogs per year are killed and served to diners there. http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-19/evidence-shows-dogs-in-bali-brutally-killed-meat-sold-tourists/8620128?pfmredir=sm

And, it is not the dietary choices being made by cultures around the world that is the issue. It is the methods used to capture, cage and kill animals — the cruelty and excessive pain and suffering inflicted on the animals that is troubling, widely accepted by the government and culture, and therefore beneath any labeling of the culture as “spiritual.”

Those who label such cultures as bastions of spirituality are guilty of merely judging a book by its cover, without ever opening the book to read it. Being mesmerized by the number of temples and gorgeous natural landscapes, without looking deeper.

That article reminded me of my own experiences when I Iived in a number of countries around the world. Many of them are considered by most people as “highly spiritual,” and some have even been called “the spiritual centers culturally on the planet.” I’ve often heard those very comments from friends as they boarded their planes to these lands far from the U.S. — phrases they may have read in travel books, and maybe even heard college religion professors pronounce.

But are they? Are they truly spiritually more developed?

Let’s look more closely. 

How does Bali — to pick one of many so-called “spiritually-labeled” countries — justify the cultural acceptance of capturing and killing of dogs (or in other cultures, cats or other animals) for food and then openly lying to tourists about the meat being “chicken”? Or worse, the inhumane treatment that often accompanies the sad ending of those animals’ lives — the poisoning, the lynching, the muzzling and suffocation in plastic bags, or the shooting? What does it matter whether they be dogs, cats, chickens or other animals? The cruel treatment is not justifiable. And let me say at the outset, that the fact that Americans may also at times treat animals equally poorly, does not justify the behavior in other parts of the world. 

But we’re not here discussing the detail of the treatment of the animals. We are here to discuss the level of spirituality of the culture. 

And why do I think this is important, on a practical level? 

I think it’s important because so often Westerners travel tens of thousands of miles seeking spiritual sanctuary in places that they think are more spiritual than where they are coming from. The culture or place they are going to seems to attract them, putting them almost in a trance-like state as they book their flights to those far-off lands.

I have a different view of some of these far-off lands than most. I’ve witnessed this sort of in-your-face unethical behavior countless times as I’ve traveled the globe. 

My experience was that no matter how many temples, altars or public displays of reverence to ancestors, gods, or other deities that were on display in those countries, if you looked beyond those surface rituals, people were no different from the devout churchgoers in my hometown who professed much goodness, but often acted differently. 

So, the lying about serving dog meat in Bali is unfortunately not surprising. 

But there may be something that’s actually worse than the lying that I don’t think most Westerners realize.

When I worked for the President’s office at MIT, one of the many seminars I taught there was on cultural differences. And how different cultures communicated and therefore meant different things when they said simple words like “Yes” and “No.”

And looking through that cultural lens, what you realize — and arguably what may actually be worse and more troubling — is that many cultures do not see it at all as unethical or “cognitively dissonant” to tell an untruth — a lie. 

In other words, they do not see a mismatch. 

I find that is the most troubling thing. Because those beliefs and thoughts are the foundation for subsequent behavior. For actual physical acts.

Ethically, they often view money as the primary motivator even more than we do in the U.S. Ethically they would say it would be stupid for them not to fool you if they can get money out of you. So ethically, they consider that the most important part of the whole process. Have you ever wondered why piracy in China is so accepted, why it is so much an integral part of the cultural norm? Why stealing of other’s intellectual property is so ho-hum normal? Why when you send your manufacturing drawings to them to build your factory, they are literally simultaneously building an identical factory a few blocks away to compete with your company?

And my experience has been that this phenomenon — this utter inability to see this issue as an ethical one — is not merely socioeconomic. In other words, it’s not just poor people who think and act this way. It is a cultural norm in some countries, up and down the socioeconomic ladder.

And there is absolutely no connection between that and their view on spirituality which is completely based on how many candles, incense sticks or fruit they have brought to the altar in the middle of the town that day. As long as they have met the minimal requirements of their “spiritual duty and rules” as set out by some authority figure, they are “spiritual.” 

Sound familiar? No different from how many times a week you should go to church in the U.S. As long as you’ve met that minimum requirement, you can go home and kick your dog, then ask for forgiveness the next time you go to church. 

In Bali, you lynch then eat your dog — in the U.S., you kick your dog. Either way, it is cruel and unacceptable. And obviously, non-spiritual.

I think it’s a reflection of the lack of depth and of the falseness of the “spirituality.” And I think it stems from the false belief in Enlightenment in those parts of the world, where Enlightenment or “spiritual perfection” is viewed as a goal to reach at all costs. Or in the U.S., in the widespread belief in Heaven and that all sins can be forgiven if church is attended. 

The ends justify the means. That is the belief ultimately. And so the behavior in their daily lives reflects that. Of course this is not true for everyone, but I think it is the predominant belief among many in the East, especially Hindus and Buddhists, and many in the West.

That’s the major spiritual mistake. 

Westerners are easily duped by the physical number of temples, altars and prayer events. They mean nothing in reality. They are external trappings, mere symbols of cultures steeped in ritual acts, a reflection of the illusion of true spirituality that is touted on the surface. 

Here’s another example of the disconnect between spirituality and the external world. 

I led a weekend meditation course for about 20 students hosted by a Buddhist monastery when I lived in Hong Kong. I was a vegetarian at the time. To my surprise, when we arrived at the monastery and sat down for our first meal, all the dishes were full of pork and beef. More meat than I think I have ever seen at a regular, normal meal growing up in Boston, Massachusetts. No exaggeration. 

When I asked our hosts, the Buddhist monks, why my request for vegetarian meals was not honored, they looked at me stunned, and said, “You are our guests, we want you to have what we cannot have.”

So, essentially they were saying they would love to be eating pork and beef, but because the Buddhist rules dictate that they cannot, they do not. Their spirituality was based on rules and being told what to do. Not based on what their inner voice was telling them they should do, or want to do. 

For me, as a young meditation teacher, that was an epiphanous moment. It showed me the illusion of spirituality, the depth of the illusion that exists in the world. If the Buddhist monks craved to eat meat and demonstrated their respect for me as their guest by serving me more meat than the normal American meat eater would eat in a given meal, that spoke volumes. 

So when we Westerners travel 12,000 miles and say, “Amazing, Oooo, Ahhhh, Wow…” at how spiritually beautiful the culture appears on the surface — judging it by the number and beauty of the temples, the freshness of the flowers on the altars, and the frequency of the prayer events — let’s not be the typical naïve Westerner blind to what is really going on. 

Just because a culture seems “quieter” than our fast-paced Western culture does not mean the people are experiencing more “inner peace.” Quiet behavior does not equal inner peace. And it most certainly does not equal spirituality.

As I said earlier, be careful not to be guilty of “judging a book by its cover.”


Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within Meditation and coaching others in their self-growth for 40 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.TurningWithin.org.

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