Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Choosing Your Emotions

Did you know that you choose your emotions?  They are not caused by external events.  They are caused by your own choice, your own decision of which emotion you are now going to experience.

Most people react quite badly to what I have just said, even though it is the absolute truth.  Perhaps you are one of them?  Here is what you might say:

"Do you think I would deliberately choose to be miserable?"
"I am angry because of what just happened, not because I want to be angry!"
"How can I choose to be happy when something like this happens to me?"

The common theme here is that it is events around us that create our moods.  "I am angry because ...".  We externalize our emotion.  We are victims.  We want to be happy, but we cannot because ....

It really doesn't matter what words you put after "because ...".  It doesn't matter, because whatever you put there is NOT the reason for your negative emotion.  YOU are the reason.

It is true that external events can trigger emotional responses.  And in some cases those triggers are very strong.  I am not denying this.  But the final decision about what mood you are going to be in comes from you.  No matter what the trigger, no matter how strong it may be, it cannot force you to experience a particular emotion.  Only you can do that.

Learning to maintain positive emotions no matter what the external circumstances may be is not an easy task.  It is not even necessarily the right thing to do.  Negative emotions have a purpose.  For example, if a loved one has just died you will have a mix of negative emotions, including grief.  It is important to pass through that grief.  But the grief is not caused by the death - it is a choice we make in reaction to the death.  A choice we SHOULD make.  The same thing applies, to a lesser extent, to other negative emotions.  You mustn't bottle up your feelings and try to pretend you are happy when you are not.  Choose to experience those negative emotions at the right strength and for the right time.  Then let them go.  What do I mean by "the right strength"?  I mean they should not be so powerful that they make you do things you should not do and would not choose to do in normal circumstances.  Don't, for example, become Michael Douglas in the film "Falling Down"!  Certainly don't fire a gun in MacDonalds because they have stopped serving the breakfast menu and you want breakfast!

Begin learning to control your emotions just by choosing your emotions in every day circumstances.  Choose to be happy when you would otherwise perhaps have been in "neutral gear", when nothing particularly bad has happened but neither has anything particularly good happened.  Choose not to be angry when a driver cuts you up or does something else that is silly or perhaps rather dangerous.

How do you choose the right emotions?

If something has happened which would normally make you angry, try to see it in a different light.  For example, the driver who cut you up - maybe imagine he is completely naked!  Now think about how silly he looks and laugh.  Or in a neutral situation where you would normally be a bit unhappy for no particular reason, think back to an event that made you happy and imagine yourself there.  Feel that happiness, then bring it back with you.

There are, in fact, many techniques you can use to choose the right emotions.  Some are quite specific.  Look out for training on "state change" - in fact I will probably write a blog article about creating "state change", so keep an eye out for it.

For now, just accept that you are in control, that whatever emotion you are feeling has been chosen by you.  If you don't like that emotion it is within your gift to change it.

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