What Am I Really Upset About?

JDecember 13,2016 Posted By drglenn

Depth Diving

Touching into and then inhabiting emotion and our feeling selves draws us in and down, toward the realm of being where we actually are at all times. Our thought process spins a seemingly entirely different world, of there and then. Emotions and feeling, experienced directly in our bodies have a very different quality of immediacy about them.

“There and then” is the world most of us seem to inhabit, most of the time. Yet whenever a person attains to any kind of bliss, any deep realization of the true nature of things they find they have awakened to now as the divine reality. They also awaken to the endless marvel of our capacity to create futures before they exist – this writing could not be happening without this marvelous gift. But implicit in this creation of futures is the distress of creating a future I who will unquestionably die, even with the best planning in the whole world and the most immense good fortune.

The momentum of our thought process compels us to attend to out there, in the form of circumstances seemingly separate from us which might be changed so then our emotions will be different. Thought focuses on there and then. And thought, by its very nature completely convincingly weaves a world that is separate and other than me: there is me, and my life; the world and I are nose to nose; I am trying to protect myself from what is external to me.

Real and True

What we miss in this hypnosis is that the real and the true is always here in this moment of now. Projecting a fantasized I person out into a fantasized future is an invitation to double-harm: the fantasized I person who exists tomorrow is imaginary, and therefore fragile; and the circumstances of tomorrow are completely beyond our control. Woe betides anybody who identifies with this non-existent character, as almost all of us do almost all of the time.

So what is to be done in therapy when someone shows up asking for help, ideally consisting of removal of pain and addition of pleasure, satisfaction, and joy? When a patient asks for their self to be bettered, healed, improved, or altered?

There are as many answers to this question as there are therapists. And, the answer depends crucially on the client. Some people will be entirely satisfied by cognitive behavioral interventions that give immediate relief, doing the trick they ask for. All they came in for was to get this problem squared away.

I may not be the best therapist for such a client. I’m interested in the largest possible promise of being human, a never-not-present timeless divinity that is utterly individual. To me, suffering is a call for attention to the place, here that hurts or has my attention now. But my thought process always tries to escape here, where the pain is in order to create a different future, one other than now.


If I follow this call for attention to what is present here in the moment I am led inexorably inward and downward. Inwardness refocuses us to the place where our interior reality can be directly experienced, moment by moment. Having made adequate empathic space for the story of self-and-circumstances necessary to set the stage, we turn to the experiences that show up now in the inner space of our bodies.

And, refocused inwardly from the compelling outward flow of events we realize the existence of a quality of presence that we barely know when we first turn toward it. It is never not here. Nor do we have any cultural mirroring – and certainly no depth educational process – about this intrinsic quality of wisdom which reflects everything and is utterly untouched, even by death itself.

Inwardness is contemplative and curious. Not assuming what we ordinarily take for granted opens us to a quality of beginner’s mind that we realize we were born with – and cannot get rid of. As we also realize how much the accumulated junk of belief and conditioning obscures this intrinsic loving luminosity we find we are discovering ourselves anew – for this luminosity is nothing other than our intrinsic self.

Inwardness can reflect thoughts: “The thought just came out of nowhere that there’s something wrong with this process.”

Location, emotional flavor and even a sense of intentionality can be discerned in inwardness: “And now I notice that thought of something being wrong came in from the right side of my head, and I feel slightly nauseous, and very distrustful and anxious, almost as if someone wants me out of this room where we’re talking.”

Body sensations and emotions show up as part of the flow of inwardness: “When you ask that I feel tears rising up in my chest.”; “Hmm, curious – when I mention my mom the whole right side of my body goes all dull and numb.”

Inwardness illuminates images: “You ask me if I can unfold that and I have a sudden image of holding up a golden disk as a shield, and much more important than the fact I’m protecting myself is that I feel completely in love with the way this wonderful disc shields me.”

“Downward” initially refers to below our necks. A common – and enormously helpful – saying has it that “You are never upset for the reasons you think you are.” We always have a reason for our upset – that is to say, we entirely believe the thinking that justifies our distress as existing out there in people and circumstances causing our upset. But pause your thinking for a moment, suspend belief in it for a while and shift attention to your bodily sense of yourself.

If you pause long enough to let the question “What am I really upset about?” infuse you and come to rest in your inner space you’ll discover that the portion of your upset appropriate for you to deal with is entirely in your own world.


It is the clinging to the false that makes the true so difficult to see. Once you understand that the false needs time and what needs time is false, you are nearer the Reality, which is timeless, ever in the now….If you need time to achieve something, it must be false. The real is always with you; you need not wait to be what you are. Only you must not allow your mind to go out of yourself in search.
–Nisargadatta Maharaj