I was driving around the city yesterday and meandered into a shop where I got stuck in line behind two middle-aged women who were in the midst of an intense conversation. I listened in on what they were saying. One of them had recently been divorced. Her husband had left her for a woman who was 20 years younger. She had dedicated her life to the building of a perfect successful lifestyle. Her marriage was a union based on social success and business growth and she had played the part of the perfect housewife as well as raised three children who were now off at school. Now, that union had collapsed and her lifestyle had collapsed and her identity had collapsed with it. She told her friend that she felt like she was just going through the motions in life, like she didn’t even know herself anymore and like she was completely lost. After seeing the amount of people that I have for one on one sessions over the years, I can say that feeling lost is a common sentiment amongst people today. And it is a common problem for one reason, people have been taught to ignore their internal guidance systems. And what is your internal guidance system exactly? Your feelings and your emotions. Think of your emotions like a compass or a navigation system in your car that tells you everything you need to know about yourself and about your desires and about navigating the world and making choices. When you ignore your emotions, or prioritize other things than the way you feel, it is like going on an expedition in uncharted territory with no compass.
If you are disconnected from your own feelings and emotions, you are disconnected from the truth of you. This means you will feel unknown and like a stranger to yourself. When we say “The truth of you”, what we mean are things like, what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy, what you are thinking, what you believe, and most of all, what you really want, need and desire. These things are the only real accurate measure of who you really are in this life.
Now pretend you started ignoring your internal guidance system over twenty years ago, when you were very young. How far off track do you think you could get in twenty years? Potentially you could have gone so astray from the truth of yourself that you have had to tune out your emotional guidance system all together. Perhaps you went so far astray that you now experience numbness. When you do something that is not in alignment with your own personal truth, your emotional guidance system starts alerting you, (just like a navigation system in a car) that you have missed your exit. It does so, with the use of negative emotion. In order to continue in the direction you are going, you need to 'tune out' to your emotional guidance system. You have to be listening to something other than your own guidance system. Maybe it is another person (like your parents) that you’re listening to, maybe it is a coach, maybe it is a friend, maybe it is society at large that you are listening to… either way, your thoughts (which are not the same thing as your feelings) have been swayed by them and you aren’t listening to yourself. It’s like taking duct tape and taping over the top of your compass and turning the volume down on your navigation system. You will experience this perpetual ignoring of your emotions as a deadening or a numbing within yourself. The good news is, your compass never stops pointing north. Your navigation system never stops talking to you about your truth, no matter how far down you have turned the volume or how much duct tape you’ve used. So all you have to do to get un-lost is to tune back into your feelings and emotions and listen to the personal truth being conveyed by them. And be very honest with yourself (even at the risk of hurting other people) about your own personal truth.
Most of us were raised in a punishment and reward parenting setting. This means, when we were children, we learned that the only way we could get love, was to be good. We want to be good people so badly that we forsake our own truth (our desires and true personality) to make other people happy. We think that this is what makes us good. Really, it just makes us lost. You have had to get what you want in round about ways instead of in straightforward ways. And ironically, this means that you line up with people who are not compatible with you, so you will feel fundamentally flawed. You know on some level that you are surrounded by people who are nothing like you and who would most likely reject the truth of who you really are if they only knew it. So you begin to not only feel lost, you begin to also feel alone. You do not know that if you allowed yourself to tune back into how you feel and re connect with yourself and your own personal truth (because would no longer be in the vibration of self rejection), you would begin to attract people into your life who truly are compatible with you, and who would be in approval of your own personal truth.
Anyone who is lost suffers from a deeply suppressed story of self-rejection. And when we are in a space of self-rejection, we can only attract people who reject the truth of who we are. This means that if we are gay, we will be surrounded by religious fundamentalists who hate gays. This means if we are afraid of intimacy, we will attract all kinds of people who need us and pull at us for intimacy. This means if we crave intimacy, we will attract all kinds of people who are independent and whom don’t want to give their time and energy to us. This means, if you are an artist, you will be surrounded by people who are practical nine to five workers, who constantly put down irrational, impractical, irresponsible people who think it’s appropriate to follow their heart. You get the point… But the sad part is, because of this rejection that we feel from the people around us (which ultimately stems from our own rejection of our own truth as children in order to fit into the world we were raised in), we begin to feel as if there is something fundamentally wrong with us.
If we are out of touch with the way we feel and disconnected from our own truth, pretty soon we cannot figure out what we like and don’t like. We cannot figure out why we are doing what we are doing or how we ended up where we ended up. It’s as if we just let ourselves float into a tide and drifted here, to wherever this is. Emotionally, it will literally feel as if we have “drifted” or are “drifting”. This, along with emotional numbness, is the emotional hallmark of feeling lost.
Here are Ten Tips for how to go from lost to found.
1. Tune back into your emotions and express your emotions. Do a body scan. When you have tuned out and disconnected from your emotions, tuning back into the feelings and sensations in your body is the first place to start. Do a body scan. Close your eyes and start with your head, moving all the way down to your feet. As you do this, just take note of and be present with the feelings in your body. Try to describe them. Try to identify them. Print out a list of emotions and see if you can identify the sensation translation of that emotion in your body. Then listen to the personal truth underneath those feelings. Ask yourself why you think you might be feeling that way. If you have a problem following your emotional guidance system (which you do if you’re lost), set a timer to go off at random intervals during the day and do a body scan to check in with how you’re feeling. Record the results in a feelings log or a journal. After you have tuned into your emotions, express your emotions. They are telling you vital information. Let them tell their story. I have also designed a process for expressing emotions. You can watch that process on you tube under the title “How To Express Emotions”. Do this process any time you feel a strong negative emotion arising within your body.
2. Discover your feeling of inspiration and passion. Those vibrations are the opposite of the vibration of being lost. Most of us do not do things in our day-to-day life (especially in our work life) that truly make us passionate. We get too busy for passion. We lie to ourselves and say that the bills are more important than how we feel, or that a goal we have set is more important than how we feel. We allow our minds and the damaging beliefs that our minds are run by, to rule our being over the way we truly feel. This means, illusion will be running your life, not truth. Dare to admit to what you feel passionate about.
If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, it’s time to try new things. Try anything that captures your fancy and pay attention to how you feel doing those things. If you feel good, keep doing them. If you feel negative, don’t keep doing them. Take that pottery class you’ve always wanted to take. Go surfing. Buy that book on accounting. You don’t have to stick with anything. Trust me, if you truly enjoy something, you will never have to force yourself to “stick with it” because it will feel bad not to do that thing. You will be intrinsically motivated to do those things. Bottom line is, you’ve got to start looking for, recognizing and following your passion. Your purpose will only be known to you if you’re willing to follow your passion. And all people who feel lost, feel a lack of purpose and meaning for their existence.
3. Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing and why you feel what you are feeling. Personal inquiry should start and never stop if you feel lost. The more self-awareness you have, the less you will feel lost. Solicit help for this one as well if you need it. You cannot have enough self-awareness, and this should be an absolute priority for you.
4. Gravitate towards social interaction with people who feel emotionally good to be around and whom you feel a deep level of connection and intimacy with. If our social lives are organized around sports, hobbies, work or the Internet, we lack the vital interpersonal support that is necessary to our emotional health. If your social interactions are limited to people who share the same job, sport or hobby, your conversations will most often be limited to that past time which you happen to both share. The sport or hobby or career will be your only point of relation. Because of this, your relationship will lack intimacy. To lack intimacy, is to not invite someone into your internal world. If you don’t invite people into your internal world, no one will love you for more than what you do.
Beware that your family may not necessarily provide this sense of deep internal connection any better than work colleagues do. We cannot form the vital interpersonal connections we need to live a healthy life, until we allow ourselves to prioritize and seek out people whom we feel deeply connected to. This will make you feel an intense sense of isolation, no matter how many people you are physically around. That internal sense of personality isolation, lends to the feeling of being lost. A big part of feeling lost, is to be fundamentally untethered to other people.
5. Quit distracting yourself from yourself. Distraction abounds in today’s world. But we use distraction to further numb out from our own personal truth. We try to escape the painful feelings of having gone off course somewhere by tuning it out with porn addictions, focusing on other peoples problems, setting goals, spending hours on face book, and becoming too busy. In fact busy-ness is the number one mode of distraction for people who feel lost. To not be busy, is to have to be with yourself. Being with yourself and being alone are two radically different things. And it is most likely, based on where you are in life right now that if you are really with yourself, all your bells and whistles will be going off. It will feel like chaos or a depressed emptiness when you are really with yourself, because your internal guidance system will be telling you “we’re off course”.
People, who feel lost, have a basic unwillingness to admit to where they are, because where they are is painful. If we are lost, we tend to say things like “I’m really good” when we aren’t. Or “I’m happy “ when we aren’t. Being in self denial may have been a the coping tool of choice when you were younger and had no choice but to deny your truth in order to fit into the family, but it is not a virtue to be in self denial. The only way you can find out where you want to go and how to get there from here is to admit to where you are, even if where you are sucks.
It doesn’t feel good to tune back into yourself when you’ve tuned out to yourself. In fact it feels like waking back up out of a sleep to the real trauma of a situation. It feels like admitting to the fact that your leg is broken instead of distracting yourself from the fact that it is broken. But the only way to heal and to feel better, is to admit to where we are and to be brave enough to be with ourselves wherever we are and really get to work finding ourselves and tuning back into the truth of how we feel and what we truly desire. So, what in your life serves as a distraction from yourself?
6. Invite meaning into your life. People, who feel lost, feel as if their life is void of meaning. Start looking into other people’s philosophies about the meaning of life. Try them on for size. Do any of them fit? Begin to question yourself about the meaning of life in general and the meaning of your life. What are you believing about the meaning of life? Does this belief system feel good to you or bad to you? It is true that becoming attached to a belief system to the degree that you are unwilling to question it is harmful to your well-being. But forming a belief system that feels right to you personally is a crucial part of living a meaningful and happy life.
7. Do not be afraid of loosing yourself. Nothing has gone wrong. In fact it is a spiritual truth that you cannot find yourself until you become lost. So when you look at feeling or being lost in this way, like it is a turning point to find out whom you are and what you really want to do, you’ll have less resistance to being lost, so you wont be feeding energy to being lost and you wont stay lost for very long. You are closer to truly knowing yourself than most people who think they are not lost, but are. If you know you’re lost, you know where you are… you’re lost. If we know we are lost, we know that our mission in life is to find ourselves. And when we start looking for ourselves, we will find ourselves. Everything we do can add to our knowledge of our own personal truth, and ourselves if we would only pay attention and inquire into our reactions and feelings. Is it possible to go astray? No. If part of your expansion on this planet is to know yourself and gain self-awareness, then you can only do that by going astray. This means that going astray was part of the plan from the beginning, so has something gone wrong? No. Something has gone right. You cannot ever hope to find yourself and understand yourself until you have first become lost and misunderstood yourself.
8. Stop being cerebral about happiness. If we are out of touch with our emotions right here and now, we form cerebral concepts about how to achieve happiness. Goal setters are the people on this earth, who are perhaps the most cerebral about happiness. We think happiness means reaching goals. The minute we think this, we are willing to forfeit current happiness for future happiness. The only reason anyone does anything, is because they think it will make them feel better. In other words, the only reason we do anything is because we think it will make us happy. We think happiness means winning that gold medal, or making that amount of money, or moving to that place, or marrying that person. We externalize happiness by doing this. We have no idea if those things will make us happier.
Quit worrying about your purpose. Quit obsessing over those things that are out there in the future, and start dealing with each individual day, as it comes. Are you currently trying to convince yourself that achieving some goal in the future will make you happy? If so, you have “cerebralized” your happiness and you are most likely ignoring or sacrificing happiness that is available to you right here and now, for the promise of future happiness.
9. Quit living too cautiously. Life was not meant to be lived too carefully. Letting self-doubt dictate your life, is a sure fire way to get lost. Now, you may not identify yourself as a cautious person. But if you’re lost, you are! You may not be cautious with finances, but you may be cautious with your heart and falling in love. You may not be cautious about getting close to people, but you’re cautious to try new things in your professional life. This fear prevents us from following our passions. This fear prevents us from finding ourselves and really being happy long term. We need to look our fear directly in the face. We need to examine it and understand it fully. The more we understand it, the less we fear what we currently fear and the easier it is to make self loving decisions.
10. It's time for a realistic game plan. Sit down with a piece of paper and give it the title "finding myself". Itemize 10 steps you could take to become less lost. Once you've made your list, choose the top three things and actually follow through with them. Your list of remedies might include the following:
If you take these items seriously and act upon them, you will begin to regain your position in the scheme of life and feel less lost.
If you are lost, the honest truth of your life is that life is not clear to you. Instead, it is murky. But remember, it is always darkest, before the dawn. And the light of the stars is only visible through the dark of night. When you stop struggling against what is (that you are currently lost), you are no longer in a state of resistance. And when you’re no longer in a state of resistance, answers start floating into your life and you will begin to really find yourself.