“Nothing is wrong, but I just don’t feel right.” This is the way clients often describe their situation when we first meet. Everything is more or less ok for them, but…
The word “but” is a warrior for truth. It crosses out a pretty picture painted before it, and gives a more honest assessment of what is going on.
“It looks great, but…” (…but not enough.)
“I want to participate, but…” (…but I won’t participate.)
“I love you, but…” (No one wants to hear what comes after this “but”.)
When nothing is wrong, it is easy to dismiss discomfort as a “first world problem”. Clients often do; they ignore the situation much like a dull, persistent headache.
You can function with it, appear ok to others, but you know that it is not normal for you. Masking the situation with a painkiller is a one-time temporary solution. Then, you’ve got to dig deeper.
When you don’t feel right, it is not true that “nothing is wrong”. It just means you haven’t figured out:
a) What exactly is wrong
b) The extent of the impact of this “whatever is wrong” on your life
c) Ways to remedy (or correct for) “whatever is wrong”
So, how do you figure it out?
Part (a), “what exactly is wrong”, can often be figured out through extensive analysis.
Why: If you are an analytical thinker, it may help you to at least know what’s wrong, so you will know “it’s not nothing”, and you’re not going crazy.
How: Consider various aspects of your work, your health, your family, hobbies, activities, and people in your life. Think what you want to see happen in different areas of your life, and compare to what is actually going on; adjust your actions accordingly.
Challenge: If you could do this solo, you probably would have done it already. It helps to work on this with someone who is a fantastic listener and is practiced in asking good questions (therapist, coach, possibly a friend who knows you well, and has your best interest in mind). It is not easy, because you may have to face things you do not want to see, or things that are not easy to solve: ethical dilemmas, conflicts between your career and family identities, a relationship that looks better than it is, a looming decision that will hurt one way or another.
Interestingly, you can figure out the extent and the remedy for “whatever is wrong” without figuring out exactly what it is.
Part (b), the extent of “whatever is wrong”, can be evaluated by learning to sense how far off you are from your baseline normal (i.e. how you feel when everything is truly ok).
Why: A sense of “I don’t feel right”, it is usually not a result of a cell-by-cell check, and often, not even system-by-system check. It is a holistic awareness of all of your systems.
How: With self-awareness, you can first learn to understand your baseline normal and then notice when you shift from this baseline, even when you can’t precisely explain the reason or nature of these shifts. (Ask me if you want to know more.)
Challenge: This is just not easy for analytical thinkers who are used to reasoning rather than sensing through problems. You’ve got to employ sensing as a way of knowing.
For part ( c), finding a remedy, even if you don’t know precisely what is wrong, try rapid experiments, and see what makes you feel better or feel worse compared to your baseline normal.
Why: Wayfinding, or “knowing as you go”, will bring you closer to a possible solution than standing in place.
How: If at all possible, experiment with the following:
-Spend time with people who bring you joy
-Give your time, attention, and money to what truly matters to you
-Take time to consider a possibility of doing different work, different projects, in a different place, notice how these possibilities make you feel
-Say “no” to whatever does not feel harmonious to you
-Change your physical environment and notice the impact
(Yes, I realize these are “first world solutions”; still, if any of them are within reach for you, they can be extremely effective in changing the way you feel.)
A piano tuner adjusts each string by comparing its sound to the pitch of a chromatic tuning device, until the note’s sound syncs up with the frequency of the device. It is not possible to tell in advance precisely how and by how much the string will have to be tightened to sound “just right”.
Similarly, we can only approximate and sync up our current state with what feels better, often without knowing exactly how many steps to take, and in which direction.
If nothing is wrong, but you don’t feel right, adjust course. Ask for help, if you want to make the journey faster and easier. You are a natural Wayfinder. You got this.