Learning from Awful experiences – Insights from the Wilderness #79

Dick Rauscher talks about getting “caught up” in strong negative emotions so that you quickly forget that all unhappiness is created in our minds and how we can change these habits.

Learning from Awful experiences

“Wow! What an awful experience!”

“The nerve of that person!”

“I can’t believe she said that!”

“This can’t be happening to me!”

“This is terrible!”


The next time your ego begins to talk to you this way, “know” that;

  • you are in the process of shutting down your ability to look deeply into the reality of the moment,
  • you are rapidly losing self-awareness, and
  • your ego is quietly reinforcing the sad story of your life that it uses to strengthen your sense of self. You are sliding into an illusion created by your mind that will make you very unhappy.

Instead, learn to use the “awful” moment to wake up and pay attention to the emotions going on inside.

Remind yourself that your ego tends to focus on unpleasant things because it helps you build a stronger sense of “self”. In this case, a “self” that is having a simply “awful” experience.

When you are “caught up” in strong negative emotions you quickly forget that all unhappiness is created in our minds. The only way out of this illusion is to recognize that we are hard wired genetically to be hyper alert to “bad, threatening, dangerous” things. Our brain is simply putting us into an aggressive fight / flight mode.

When you have “awful” experiences remind yourselves that you are not being attacked by sabre tooth tiger. You are simply reacting to something that your ego emotionally “believes” is a threat to your sense of “self”; a paper tiger illusion created by your own mind.

When you understand this, you can calm yourself and look deeper into the feelings and search for the learning’s embedded in the experience. Only when the experience is acknowledged and accepted will the learning or lesson in the “awful” experience be revealed.

For example, rather than reacting unconsciously and sliding into a primitive fight / flight mode, you can “choose” to pay attention to the feelings and use them to awaken your consciousness so you can look for the lesson the universe is offering you.

You can use the strong emotions as a flag to remind yourself that the experiences you have in life are not meant to make you happy or unhappy; they are meant to make us conscious; a warning that our ego is creating mental illusions to control our life and create unhappiness.

In other words, you can “choose” to be pro-active, not reactive. Reacting is asleep, unconscious, and primitive. Choosing is awakened, conscious, and enlightened.

When we intentionally choose to live life awakened and present to the moment, we can literally begin to rewire our brain. Over time, looking for the lesson in every experience, including the positive experiences we have, will become a habit.

You will no longer use “awful” experiences as an excuse to begin a war with reality.

Looking back, I now realize that some of the best wisdom and learning’s in my life came from experiences I labeled awful at the time. My inner resistance to those “awful” experiences clearly put me emotionally at war with reality.

I remember some of the big “awful” experiences and can still review them in my mind so-as-to extract the learning’s that were contained in them, but I have to wonder how many little “awful” experiences came and went without learning anything from them. I have to believe I would have grown a lot faster had I paid attention to them instead of pushing them away.

Awakening to the moments in our life that we label as “awful” is an important source of wisdom that we would do well to embrace, not resist. Resisting those “awful” experiences only strengthens our ego’s sense of separateness and blocks us from those deeper insights that would help us embrace happiness and joy in our lives.

We assume we have free will and choice, but that is often not true. Unless we are awakened, fully self-aware, and living in the moment, we are far more likely to allow the primitive ego of our inner-child to continue unconsciously knee-jerking our way through life strengthening our sad sense of “self” one “awful” experience after another.

The key to true spiritual growth, happiness, and personal transformation is “allowing” reality to be what it is.

Life is the classroom that teaches wisdom. The important question to ask yourself is a) are you going to choose to be fully present to the lessons it brings you, or are you going to b) unconsciously doze off in class?

You and I can’t change “what is”, but if we can remain awake and aware, if we can learn to pay attention, we always have the choice to change ourselves.

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2 Responses to Learning from Awful experiences – Insights from the Wilderness #79

  1. Linda January 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Thanks Dick, excellent article. When I am really caught in this ‘awful’ experience moment, I also find it helpful to quietly say to myself, “Who is Truly having this awful experience?” This question helps me to disengage, however its advantageous to be awake when it is happening, so you can catch it.

    Thanks Linda

    • DickRauscher January 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

      Hi Linda…..staying awake is always the challenge when we are caught up in heavy emotions. And you’re right, the part of us having the awful experience is of course our ego….the part of us that takes things so personally. Our true self is simply having an “experience”. Thanks for the comment. Glad you liked the article.

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