July 18, 2020

Why Your Feelings are Unreliable

"This is bullshit, Thatha." I protested.

The older gentleman who we fondly called Thatha - grandpa used to watch us play cricket, encouraged us when we played good cricket, scolded when we had brain fades and offered words of wisdom when needed.

And I certainly needed to figure out how to play well against a new kid on the block - Sriram who was taking me to the cleaners.

Sriram was a left handed all-rounder - a brilliant batsman, an excellent bowler and a smart fielder and with his left arm spin he was bamboozling batsmen and wreaking havoc against the rival teams.

Sriram and I never played in the same team because the unwritten rule was that teams need to be balanced and having the top 2 cricketers in the same team meant the match was essentially over even before it started.

As someone who always wanted to improve my game and ready to take on a challenge, I preferred him to be my opposite number.

When I played him the first time, I was cautious and treated his bowling with respect since he was an unknown quantity and a mystery bowler.

Over time, he got himself into a groove and started dominating matches with his fine batting and bowling, especially his bowling.

He had a whippy action and released the ball quickly - imparting spin and drifting into the leg stump and as soon as it landed, it magically changed directions to spin away and knock the off stump or catch the outside edge of the bat to be gobbled by the keeper or slip.

His spin was a thing of beauty.

I tried different things- blocking my stumps, opened up my stance to get a better view of the trajectory of the ball, going down the pitch to dominate him, but nothing worked.

I was his bunny and he had a psychological hold on me.

I was desperate to break through the stranglehold and that's when Thatha came to my rescue.

He said, "You are making the same mistake over and over again. Sriram is a very smart bowler, he varies his pace and flight a lot, so you just can't be swinging at every ball. The odds are in his favor."

I asked, "What's the way out?"

He replied, "Sweep.... you need to sweep him, that's your best option."

As someone who never played the sweep shot, I wasn't too keen on the idea, but I absolutely detested the idea of Sriram dismissing me again.

So I started practicing the sweep shot.

It was horrible - I absolutely sucked at playing the sweep shot and as I went down on one knee, I would often lose balance and either miss the ball or repeatedly got hit all over my face.

I was so frustrated that I protested, "This is bullshit, Thatha."

He warned me immediately, "Hey, watch your mouth" and asked me to keep trying.

I again resisted, "But I don't feel like playing the sweep shot. It's awkward and just doesn't feel right."

He replied, "That's your problem, you are a natural and instinctive player, this is one of those rare instances where you are forcing yourself to think, adapt and attempt something new. It's not going to be easy or comfortable. But if you want to excel in your game, you need to be prepared to do things that you don't feel like doing."

I still wasn't convinced.

He inquired, "Do you have school tomorrow?"

I said, "Of course, I have."

He asked, "Do you FEEL like going to school?"

I replied, "No, I never feel like going to school, I hate it, if I had my way, I would spend all my time just playing cricket."

He persisted, "But you will be going to school tomorrow anyways despite you NOT feeling like going to school and NOT wanting to go to school."

I nodded.

He pointed out, "So you CAN do things even though you don't feel like doing them..."

I smiled at him and appreciated his words of wisdom.

My struggle practicing the sweep shot continued but I persisted and when I faced Sriram the next time, I swept the very first ball handsomely for four.

He was genuinely surprised - not necessarily by the fact that he was hit for four but the ease with which I hit him for four.

Throughout the innings, I regularly swept him and runs started flowing from his bowling which made him nervous and vulnerable.

Sensing he was under pressure, I immediately went on full aggression mode and smashed him to all parts of the ground.

It was one of the most satisfying knocks I had ever played and I was over the moon.

From that game on, Sriram lost his hold over me and I was no longer his bunny.

The tormentor became tormented as I repeatedly went after his bowling.

Later, Sriram and I played for the same team in mini tournaments and we enjoyed playing with each other especially when we batted together and bowled in tandem.

The point of this article is to not gloat about my trivial success against my childhood rival but share the wise words of 'Thatha' who reinforced that we don't have to act based on our feelings and in fact we have a choice to act despite not feeling like taking action.

When I was lost and depressed, I went into a dark shell because I was feeling crappy most of the time.

And because I was feeling crappy most of the time, I acted based on my feelings - withdrew from the outside world, stopped communicating with friends and family and battled my depression alone which only made things worse for me.

I had forgotten 'Thatha's' golden words- you have a choice to act contrary to how you feel.

In the book, 'Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself', Joe Dispenza warns us how overly relying on feelings can be detrimental to transforming our lives.

“Warning: when feelings become the means of thinking, or if we cannot think greater than how we feel, we can never change. To change is to think greater than how we feel. To change is to act greater than the familiar feelings of the memorized self.”

In the movie Shawshank Redemption, Red played by Morgan Freeman perfectly describes the psychology of a prisoner for life.

"These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That's institutionalized."

Depression is like that prison wall.

The longer you are depressed, the harder it is to break out of it until it becomes a part of your identity.

As Red points out, "They send you here for life, that's exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyway."

Being trapped in a never-ending spiral of depression feels no different.

About the author 


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