The strange thing is that most people let what they observe dictate their emotions. That’s why when they see something they don’t like, they feel bad. So instead of changing their thoughts and emotions around what they see, they insist on being shown something good so that they can feel good! But that’s really outsourcing feelings. It’s giving your power over to an external source because you can’t always choose what you see: it’s there, right in front of you.
That’s why we say that you can’t control reality only your reaction to it, or something along those lines.
Before I go into an exercise that’ll allow you to dial up your thoughts and thus your emotions, here are a few preliminary thoughts on the subject.
When you wish you could feel better but don’t know how to, it’s often because you want to go from overwhelmed to ecstatic! Or put differently, go from feeling bad to feeling good. This is very difficult to accomplish in one foul swoop. You have to go in incremental stages and it can require practice.
Also, emotions can be very inconvenient. Not only to people feeling them, but also to people who have to bear the brunt of them. Just think of being next to a bawling child on a plane. You can’t get away so you start feeling resentful because it’s inconveniencing you. The parents are most likely embarrassed and I don’t think the child is enjoying it either. So much more of a reason for being able to change emotions.
But what about your own anger? How can that be useful to you and inconvenient to your surroundings? Nobody likes being in company with an angry person; it’s just not nice. We pick up on this and to avoid being on our own when we’re angry, we hide our anger. We camouflage it to be acceptable to other people. BUT, it’s always better to feel angry than depressed or unworthy because you can take action from a place of anger. You’re very unlikely to be able to take action from a place of feeling unworthy or depressed, guilty or powerless.
So when you want to get rid of inconvenient or disagreeable feelings, just think if you’re trying to make life easier for others or if this feeling is doing you a disservice. If you can move to a better feeling place, then do so. If not, use the feeling place you’re at to take action. Anger like all other emotions is meant to stream through you. Not to stay and fester. However, don’t choose just any action or behaviour to get rid of it. It’s often the behaviour that results from an emotion and not the emotion itself that’s objectionable. Think of being angry and hitting somebody. Unless you’re two years old, this is unacceptable. You can’t however help the emotion so you better come up with a different reaction to or behaviour of that emotion.
You process through emotions easily through movement. Just getting your body to move. Try just getting up from your chair, try walking, running or even better dancing and see if you’re still able to hold onto your emotion. Most likely you’ve dropped it. That’s nature’s way of dealing with emotions. You can’t hang onto emotions for long anyway, because emotions last on average one and a half minutes! Try it out: sit down and feel angry, sad or frustrated intensively for more than one or two minutes. You can’t.
If you feel stuck in your emotions, it’s because you keep returning to thoughts that fuel this emotion. So what you really need to do is to change your thoughts around what bothering you. Here’s how you can do that:
Imagine the nightmare scenario of somebody having promised to pick your children up from school but then forgot to. Imagine yourself on a business trip to Australia with your children at school in Europe. I bet you’d feel pretty powerless. After all, you couldn’t possibly make it before the school shut. What would your prevailing feeling be? Powerlessness? Rage? Well, I’m suggesting that rage is preferable to feeling powerless. At least rage can spur you on to act (here without harming the person who forgot to pick up your children who’s fortunately on another continent.)
Having felt a good dose of rage for a while, you’d probably naturally (and by that I mean unintentionally) move onto anger and then blame. These two emotions are already making you feel better, wouldn’t you agree? Wouldn’t you rather be angry than enraged? Not to mention blame. How delightful it can be to let yourself off the hook; nothing to reproach yourself with, after all, you gave somebody else the responsibility so you’re entitled to blame. Already feeling so much better than dis-empowerment. Maybe you went directly from powerlessness to anger to blame? This is very personal. Just think that anything is better than powerlessness.
From blame there is but a short step to worry, and you could just be the sort of person who would choose to worry next. I’m of course joking because few people would consciously choose to worry; they’d just slip into it, most likely from habit! A better feeling place to be in would be disappointment, disappointment in the person who didn’t do as asked. You’d be totally justified in never asking him or her to pick up your children again… or anything else for that matter. You could also taste a bit of irritation because you made sure to spell everything out for this person. Do you see how you’ve gone from feeling powerless to irritated?
Before feeling “only” irritation, you might want to make a few calls to other people on the same continent as your children so that they get picked up. In fact, before making one of those calls that’d solve the problem, you could have let in a flicker of hopefulness, couldn’t you? I mean, you wouldn’t bother to call anybody if there was no hope of them being able to act. So you’ve now gone from utter powerlessness to hopefulness without having actually done anything! You could even be entertaining a bit of wholesome optimism that the problem could be solved without your children coming to harm. Now that’s a turn of events, from powerlessness through rage to anger to worry only to end up feeling optimism! Without having taken any action!
Please notice that it could take a bit more practice to go all the way up to infinite joy, but here’s how you do it:
Imagine a clock. An old-fashioned clock with numbers going from 1 to 12. You want to dial in the emotion you want to change. In my example from above, it’s powerlessness:
1 o’clock: powerlessness. Your thoughts would be something like: “How could Tracy have let me down? My children are all alone and the school is going to close in half an hour! They’ll be standing on the pavement.”
You want to change this feeling of powerlessness into something that can spur you on to solve the problem and feel so much better. So here goes.
2 o’clock: Your thought is: “Even if they can find their way home, they’ll probably get run over!” Now that’s no good. You’re still powerless here and perhaps even starting to panic. Grab a different thought like: “How could Tracy have done that? Does she have no sense of responsibility? I’ll murder her if my children come to harm!” That’s much better; you’re feeling rage. You’re out of powerlessness and contemplating action! I’m not saying that you should murder anybody, so work with this. Sit with this thought and realize that of course, you’re not going to murder anybody. Take your rage down a notch to for instance:
3 o’clock: “Tracy is just such an irresponsible person. You couldn’t ask her to buy a loaf of bread let alone pick up children. I’ll never speak to her again.” Now, that calmed you down a bit, didn’t it? You just went from screaming murder to not wanting to speak to her again. Phew. This could be qualified as anger.
4 o’clock: Now’s the time to go into blame but there are many possible objects of blame. You’ve already been blaming Tracy a bit here, but feel free to go all the way: “If Tracy wasn’t so wrapped up in herself, she’d have remembered to pick up my children. She’s always thinking only of herself. She’s SO selfish!” If you start thinking: “I can never trust anybody again,” you’ll be dis-empowering yourself again. Much better start blaming yourself: “How could I have asked that Tracy to pick up my children? I KNOW she can’t be trusted.” Now you’ve put the blame squarely on yourself and are ready to start worrying. You could also blame the situation going something like: “This is all my boss’s fault! How can she expect me to travel across the world just like that? It’s so unfair.”
5 o’clock: Worry: “What if they try to find their way home and get lost? What if they’re kidnapped?” This’ll get you moving!
6 o’clock: Disappointment: Think about how Tracy disappointed you. “Tracy just doesn’t know how important it is to me to know that my children are safe. She hasn’t got children of her own and she can’t imagine what it’s like to be a mother.”
7 o’clock: Irritation: “It’s really impossible to take care of everything. How can anybody expect me to get everything right? I should have some help with this. NOBODY can handle everthing I’ve got on my plate. Why don’t other people help out?”
8 o’clock: Hopefulness: “What if I called Dan? He works shifts and doesn’t live so far away. What if he was free and able to rush out and pick them up? What if I just called him and asked? He’s so kind. I’m sure he’ll easily get the picture.”
9 o’clock: Optimism: “Of course he’ll help out! Didn’t he offer to help us out when we moved? In fact, I think I haven’t realized just how kind and helpful he is.”
10 o’clock: Positive beliefs: “People like helping out; it makes them feel useful. It’ll bring us closer and maybe I can do him a favour some time. Maybe I can invite him over for dinner.”
11 o’clock: Enthusiasm: “If I invite him over, I can hear more about his trip to the States. In fact, I know he regrets not having anybody to go with…. Maybe I could come with him. Maybe that’d be just the thing. Oh, maybe this means I’m ready for another relationship!”
12 ‘clock: Appreciation: “I’m so happy I’ve got friends eager to help me. I’m so glad I can ask people to help me out and that they might enjoy doing so.”
You’ve come full circle: you’ve gone from feeling powerless to appreciation of your friends. This was your effort and I think it was well worth your while. If you go back to blaming Tracy or feeling irritation, that’s YOUR choice, make no mistake about it.
Here’s some further inspiration If you want to check out How emotions are made, get Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book How How Emotions Are Made
For spiritual ways of dealing with emotion, read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth
For more spiritual guidance and other exercises, check out Ask and It Is Given by Esther Hicks
About the author:
Katrine Horn is a speaker and life coach who guides women to create the life of their dreams, to recognize their intrinsic value and release the illusion that life is a struggle. Katrine teaches women how to manage their emotions leaving them free to embrace opportunity when it comes their way. She helps them enter their Zone of Excellence where there are able to step aside to allow their highest good to find them.
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