Why do we do what we do? The answer is we do things because of how we think we are going to feel. The problem is that we believe that we should feel happy all the time. We believe that we are in this big pursuit of happiness. And so life becomes a journey, a race, and we think that the goal, the finish line, is happiness. This idea is so ingrained in most of us that we’ll go to great lengths to appear to the world that we have arrived. We are happy. And so we upload photos and videos to Facebook and Instagram. We publish the experiences and the things that everyone could interpret as “you have a happy life.” But the truth is that we are unconsciously using these platforms as the front stage of the story that we are playing in real life. In the backstage, we find all the messiness: the broken props, which include loneliness, sadness, anxiety, shame, and a big pile of other negative emotions. I attribute this behavior to our naiveness of thinking that it’s possible to be happy all the time. If this were the case, we would not know the meaning of happiness. Just as we know it’s daytime because the sun sets at 8:20 pm and nighttime takes its place, and we know cold because we feel hot, we also know happy because we know sad. So if we accept nighttime when it comes, and we accept that we’ll get cold in the wintertime, why do we work so hard to push away sadness and all the negative emotions that we experience as Human Beings? What if we are supposed to experience positive emotions 50% of the time and the other 50% of the time we are supposed to feel negative emotions? If we believed that our humanness was designed this way and there are no mistakes in this design, we would not be so quick to want to recall all the negative emotions in our lives and replace them with positive ones. In our attempt to run away from the negative vibrations in our bodies, we seek out to do something that will make us feel better. This action is called buffering. We can buffer with things like cupcakes, alcohol, shopping, sex, work, and Netflix, to name a few. When looking back at my life, I know that I buffered with cooking and salsa dancing. These buffering activities will eventually have consequences. For example, you eat that extra cupcake, and you’ll gain weight, shop for the new dress, you’ll have more debt or less money to save towards your financial goals, work long hours, and you miss out on time with your partner or child. After my divorce, I avoided my pain with dance. I could not miss one opportunity to be out there dancing the night away. I could not imagine being alone with my thoughts and emotions because they were so painful. You may think dancing could not possibly be harmful. And you are right. One cupcake, one episode of “Explained” in Netflix and finishing that project at work are not posing any danger. But when we depend on them to help us feel better and run away from the natural flow of negative emotions that the 50% of life offers us, and we start to partake in excess, that’s when the negative consequences begin to accumulate. For me, dancing took me away from focusing on rebuilding my life after my divorce. It created a considerable delay. So even though I was happy when I was dancing, I would beat myself up for the lack of direction and uncertainty I had created in my life. Suddenly, the 50% of my life that was negative started expanding with the cumulative effect of my time on the dance floor. The doses of dopamine (feel happy hormones) were short-lived, so I had to get more and more. The more I was dancing, the further I was getting from my dreams of rebuilding my life. I went from a 50% negative (which included the negative emotions from my divorce) to an 80% negative (the net negative effect of not designing my new life.) Sometimes we get so deep in the buffering that we don’t even recognize it. Sometimes the consequences are more evident such as in the case of gaining weight or debt. So how do you know if you are buffering? Remove the buffer (don’t eat the cupcake, don’t buy the pair of shoes, don’t drink the glass of wine, and don’t finish that work project tonight.) What are you left with? Do you like how you are feeling? Give yourself space to feel. If the emotion you experience is negative, you are probably using those things to buffer. I can identify buffering so clearly now, and it’s so empowering to know the root cause of it. The good news is that we have control over it, and it starts with accepting the half of life that is negative. This half is composed of emotions, and if we are willing to feel them and not react, resist or avoid, I promise you, none of us are going to die from experiencing these vibrations. Allowing this half to be a part of us is what being a human is all about. Let’s embrace humanness.
If you are ready to make a change in your life and you know that overspending in getting in the way of reaching your financial goals and you think you are buffering with shopping, please contact me to schedule a complimentary discovery session.