Welcoming the healing break of confusion
In my empathic approach to emotions, I’ve separated emotions into seventeen categories that are based on the unique actions each emotion requires. When I created these categories, I wasn’t trying to erase emotional nuance; I did it so that you could get a handle on your emotions and develop a working emotional vocabulary.
I identify two healing and protective emotions that I call masking states: apathy masks the boundary-setting emotion of anger (and thank goodness it does sometimes!), and confusion masks the instinctual and action-oriented emotions of fear and anxiety (when you need a break from input, or when there’s too much to process).
Both of these masking states are necessary and worthwhile, and it’s important to understand how and why they appear.
CONFUSION: The Healing Mask for Fear and Anxiety
GIFTS: Diffused awareness ~ Innocence ~ Obliviousness ~ Malleability ~ Taking a pause
WHAT YOUR CONFUSION DOES: Confusion is a mask for fear and anxiety, and it arises when you’re overwhelmed by too much input, change, and novelty, or too many tasks and options.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE: Nothing! Confusion can be a lovely vacation from overwhelm.
THE INTERNAL QUESTIONS: How can I welcome not-knowing and not-doing? What is my intention?
The message in confusion
This information is from my book, The Language of Emotions.
Confusion can be a frustrating state, but as it is with the masking state of apathy, confusion has a vital place in your emotional realm.
Confusion may also arise when your upcoming deadlines are rushing toward you, or when your excellent task-completion skills have turned you into something of a robot.
Confusion drops over your fears and blurs your instincts. It makes your focus misty and indistinct, almost as if you’ve become an impressionistic painting. It removes your certainty and it reduces your decision-making abilities.
Confusion also drops over your anxiety and stops you from completing your tasks, meeting your deadlines, or even making coherent lists. If you’re accustomed to taking decisive actions and knowing exactly what to do, confusion may annoy and frustrate you – but it has a vital purpose.
Confusion is a sign that your emotional realm is asking for a time-out.
The practice for confusion
First, can you welcome not-knowing and not-doing? If you’re like most of us, the answer is no. Nope!
This is not unusual; confusion lives in the deep shadow and receives little to no welcome.
Instead, we’re urged to know and do, know harder and do more, and then know all and do everything. There’s no time for confusion! We’ll rest when we’re dead!
Making room for the healing influence of confusion is difficult at first, but it gets easier.
All you need to do is nothing
And all you need to know is that you don’t know; not yet
You need downtime, rest, and space. Confusion can give you all that and more.
I’m a super task-oriented person, and especially when I’m in the flow of writing, I’ve been known to bat confusion away as if it were an annoying gnat. Luckily, I stopped doing that, and I’ve learned to get up and go outside or lounge on the couch and be confused.
No thinking, no plans, no activities – just me and my confusion hanging out in pause mode.
What I’ve found in those wonderful floating moments is that something important has been at the edge of my awareness and that I was in danger of rushing past it. I’ve also found that I’m simply tired and in need of a break, and in many cases, I’ll doze off and feel refreshed when I awaken.
Taking regular time away from focus and work is absolutely necessary.
If you’re rushing, you may be trying to skip something
A couple of years ago, I overheard my friends and aikido senseis Azzia and Nick Walker talking about rushing, and I heard the genius of confusion in what they said:
“If you’re rushing, you’re trying to skip something. Probably something tender. That’s where you need to slow down the most, and feel.”
Thanks, Azzia and Nick.
The practice for confusion is so simple, yet it has been made difficult by our push for certainty and rushing.
Confusion can help us learn to not know, to not do, and to slow down and feel into the mystifying genius of rest.
The practice for confusion is to simply, and profoundly, be confused.
Related post: Healing practices for confusion