Don’t give that ghost a body!

Casper the Friendly Ghost, Image by Wikipedia

Are you afraid of ghosts? If not, maybe you know someone who is. Either way, you should read on.

We human beings are endowed with sentience, that is, we have the ability to feel or perceive. Western philosophers call the “raw feels,” like the pain of a headache, the taste of a pleasant cheese or the impression made by a stranger who catches your attention for whatever reason, “qualia.” There is a debate between those who believe that qualia exist and those who don’t, but that is beyond the scope of our consideration this morning.

I was speaking with a co-worker today about a general sense of “pressure” that she was feeling over the last few days. She couldn’t pinpoint its source, had a hard time describing exactly how she perceived it, but she was sure that there was a greater quantity of this so-called pressure than normal.

I’ve noticed over the years that pressure patterns, like solar or water waves, tend to ebb and flow in periodic cycles. Their periodicity is not always predictable, and some pressure waves affect more people than others. Some pressure waves relate to the rhythm of the week, where, for example, Mondays are typically more pressure-filled than Saturdays. This is perhaps an effect of the work schedule of most people, yet the pressure in that cycle seems to have taken on a life of its own.

Being sensitive as we are, we are hard-wired to perceive feelings, whether their source is a visible, known quantity, such as a brain freeze from eating an ice cream cone too quickly or an invisible, unidentifiable quantity, such as a bad feeling from having “woken up on the wrong side of the bed.” It is the latter type, the feelings with no known cause, that I would hope to shed light on this morning.

“Ghost” or “phantom” feelings are those feelings that come from out of nowhere. They have no rational, materialist, logical explanation and they can be annoying, persistent and downright perplexing. The infamous “bad hair” day is an example par excellence of a day haunted by ghost or phantom feelings.

Virtually everyone I know has had some type of experience with this and I am not so concerned to explain why these happen as I am to offer suggestions as to how to act when they do.

To begin with, I would like to propose a new way of looking at these pesky feelings that have no obvious source (neither person, place nor thing):

Rule #1: Every ghost does not need a body.

The next time you have a phantom feeling, don’t rush to assign a body to it. “I feel bad” is typically followed by a flurry of activity, culminating in “it’s him” or “it’s her” or “it must be that!” Far too many people, places and things have been blamed for crimes they did not commit by people who didn’t know that there was an alternative to the blame game.

Rule #2: Every feeling you have may not relate to you.

Your receptive capacities are remarkable, but you might occasionally pick up disembodied feelings that have nothing to do with you. Assuming that every feeling that passes through your heart is yours can lead to unnecessary wear and tear on your body and mind.

One way to avoid this mistake is to eschew the habit jumping to conclusions. Make space for these ghost feelings to either reveal themselves for who or what they are or to disappear quietly from whence they came. This is a key to developing the ability to discern between that which is yours to handle and that which you are better off leaving alone.

Rule #3: Remember that you have a choice.

More Puddle than Path by Joanna Paterson

If there is a puddle or a thorn bush in the road do you automatically and unquestioningly throw yourself at it and roll around in it? Why then do you do so when it comes to your feelings? Your feelings are an important part of your perceptive capacities but you are wise to remember not to let the tail wag the dog. You have a heart and a mind and they are meant to work together, like the branches of government, using a system of checks and balances.

In Conclusion

The next time the pressure comes on in your world, take note of your habitual reactions. It may be challenging at first as these particular habits can be so deeply ingrained in your behavior that it can be hard to see them for what they are. Be patient with yourself, take note of others’ habits, for they will provide clues as to what yours might be.

Once you’ve seen them you can then set out to change them. Habits are almost always changeable. There may be trauma that masks the habit from its possessor or that makes it more challenging to shift, but generally speaking, for most people, habits can be changed.

8 thoughts on “Don’t give that ghost a body!

  1. cinson01

    I regularly enjoy the quality of your posts. Outstanding subjects, vocabulary, grammar and references. The above photo by Joanna Paterson is a great visual example of the internal dilemma you are outlining. Curiosity as to what you’ll come up with next keeps me coming back. Have a great weekend!


  2. Isabelle Kearney

    These points about pressure are so practical. The thing that I often think of when I’m feeling pressure is to be extra careful in the decisions that I make and why I make them – are they emotional? are they analytical? is it the right time to make a decision? If so, do I feel to the best of my ability that it is balanced and well-considered?

    Even though we may feel pressure, as you say, we may not know where it is coming from. It is good to watch ourselves and others to learn how to handle such an important aspect of our lives.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s