I Feel Bad But I Don’t Know What I’m Thinking–What Do I Do?

Why Why Why Do I Feel Bad?

Here’s a Grace Note slightly reworked from 2012 when they were young.

But such an important and common question when it comes to The Work: what if I’m not sure what I’m thinking….but I feel bad? How do I do The Work if I can’t identify my unhappy thoughts?


I received a wonderful question today from an inquirer that was very familiar.

The question went something like this: I know mentally, cognitively, intellectually that things are OK when it comes to (fill in the blank–relationship, my kid, money, my weight, career, death, success, time, enlightenment) but I don’t really FEEL it.

It’s not sinking in. I still feel upset, unhappy, depressed.

Boy, I’ve had this experience before!

The intense desire for things to be different than they are, the persistent wish to feel better about something.

  • I want good, happy feelings at work
  • I don’t want to have this anxious, nervous feeling in my stomach
  • I want excited and romantic feelings in my relationship
  • I’m not sure what life is for, what I’m doing here
  • I’m ugly, fat, addicted, wrong
  • I don’t know what to do about my kid, my spouse, my friend
  • Money just never seems to work out well for me
  • There’s never enough time

It seems like these kinds of blanket thoughts don’t really target a specific person or a very specific situation that is clearly disturbing.

It’s more like there’s a general worry, a wide, broad uncomfortable thought, or this feeling of doom, loss, worry, fatigue….something is off.

I say, just start with the thoughts you have and brainstorm, if you feel uncomfortable or “off” or worried or sad or stressed in any way.

Right here.

Start writing down what you want, what you need, what should happen or shouldn’t happen.

If you DID know what was bothering you, what would you write?

Think about all you object to.

Make a list. Write for 30 minutes.

You might notice something interesting happening.

You’re writing all your complaints down….and if you’re like some people I know (OK, me) you can get a little dramatic, and begin writing down the worst that could happen.

It’s not such a bad thing to move in this direction, contrary to popular belief about being positive all the time.

Let yourself go there.

It’s not the whole of you, it’s only part of your mind, doing it’s worst- case thing.

Give it a voice.

When you feel uncomfortable, troubled, anxious, melancholy….

….what’s the most horrible thing you can imagine about your life?

Several times I have done the Work on the worst thing I can imagine ever happening. (We have the opportunity to do this on the second-to-last month in Year of Inquiry, so I’ve done this exercise at least once a year in the past 3 years).

Part of me didn’t even want to think about it, the images were so terrible.

The first time I thought about the worst that could ever happen in my entire life, it was my children dying.

Recently, I thought it would be even WORSE if they died and it turned out to be my fault, like for example I was the driver of the car that had the accident.

It’s so weird and counter to our positive thinking mindset that it’s hard to write about it here!

What a weirdo to tell about my greatest fear!

But unexpectedly, down at this level….

….The Work begins to do pretty amazing, magical things.

I used to have thoughts often that were negative and frightening. They were nightmares. I would get myself to NOT think about those things.

Often with distractions of pleasure.

A good movie, intense conversation, hugs, beer, wine, reading, eating, smoking, planning, shopping, work, drama, rescuing someone, saving the day, cleaning….these are all great distractions from negative thinking.

But stopping, just stopping and investigating the worst that could happen all the way through….is an amazing experience for the mind that loves to flip around and play with fearfulness.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look….No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear…the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away.”~ Pema Chodron

You can do it. Sit down with a pen and paper.

Once you have a list (and it may be much shorter than you think) hold that vision in mind (your worst case scenario) and answer the six questions on the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, keeping in mind the one most disturbing situation you’re investigating.

Then ask someone to facilitate you in The Work. See how you will survive the “worst” that could happen.

The more I practice this, the lighter I become. It takes time.

It’s so worth it.

If you need the help of others doing The Work together, join me at one of the following events in September:

  • monthly meetup 9/20 from 2-4 pm in Seattle
  • mini retreat Saturday 9/19 from 1:30-5:30 in Seattle (a little more in depth and focused plus 4 CEUs)
  • Sept 25-27 three day retreat Seattle
  • join Year of Inquiry with a whole group of dedicated inquirers ready to work together on the phone (add 2 retreats in Seattle to really get to know yourself and dive into your inquiry)

With others, I notice, my investigation of uncomfortable foggy feelings has led to awareness of uncomfortable and stressful thinking, has led to realization through inquiry, has led to laughter beyond those swirling, stomach-aching, sad, discouraged feelings.

When I do The Work as a practice, like meditation, mind has become much more peaceful.

So has life.

“An unquestioned mind is the world of suffering.” ~ Byron Katie



P.S. For any of the offerings, check out the Work With Me page at Work With Grace and follow the links to read about or register, or write me any time

One Reply to “I Feel Bad But I Don’t Know What I’m Thinking–What Do I Do?”

  1. Only at that special time of the month do I feel this way… Hopefully I can remember to do this at that time!

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