The Rush of Authentic Experience
Does your partner ever push your buttons? Or does a boss sometimes remind you of your last supervisor that didn't understand you? You know, he or she says something that makes your blood boil, your temper flare or your feelings to get hurt. If you answer is "No, I've never experienced that.", you can stop reading now.
I bet you're still reading ... because it happens to all of us. We often understand that we are carrying around emotional baggage from experience in our past, and our current experience in some way reminds us of that time.
Sometimes we aren't really aware that our past experience is influencing our reactions in the moment - we just know we are having a very strong reaction to someone. What are these instantaneous feelings that flare up, eruption-like, and how can we avoid similar situations in the future?
When people or situations in our lives trigger strong emotion, we are usually re-experiencing feelings that we have had at one time or another in our past - reactions we have inadvertently been trained to feel by prior experiences. Reactions like these resemble habits in that through repetition they have become automatic responses to similar situations. These are called conditioned experiences.
There is a striking, yet simple, alternative to experiencing life through the lens of conditioned emotions. The alternative is called native experience where you become aware of the quality, or strength of your reaction and peek beneath your automatic responses to the world underneath your programming.
Native experience is allowing yourself to feel the direct sensory input of an event. If you let go and allow yourself to feel at a sensory level your unbiased thoughts and feelings about the situation will flow spontaneously. This is a good thing - both natively alive and fully natural.
Smell the Roses
Imagine, for example, that you are walking in a lovely, safe neighborhood you have never been to before and a beautiful rosebush catches your attention. As you look at a single rose, the vibrant color, shape and smell of the flower evokes a very positive experience. The immediate sensory experience of the rose elicits, or draws out, a direct response to the qualities flower. "Wow! That smells good. I want to smell them all!"
Now imagine that a bee has been feeding under one of the rose petals and as you take in a deep floral sniff, the bee stings your cheek. As you hop back in pain and utter surprise, you again have an authentic experience of the bee - not so good. You are having an immediate sensory experience with the native feelings of being stung - surprise and fear.
Exaggerating a bit, what if you were to sniff five more rose bushes on your route and each time you got stung by a bee. Chances are you won't be smelling any more roses in the near future. Even if you see a spectacular rose bush at the next house, a very negative reaction will quickly arise as your authentic, native experience gets overridden with fear.
We all have the option to reflect on our reactions when people or events push our buttons. We can pause and determine whether our experience is native - from immediate sensory experience - or conditioned from the faded memory of a past situation.