By the end of this article you’ll have a clear understanding about what is actually causing your feelings (it’s not what you think it is) and what to do if you want to feel something different.
Emotionally Tossed Around
What is happening in our lives sure seems to have the ability to emotionally toss us around.
- When it’s finals week, we feel stressed.
- When our girlfriend dumps us, we feel discouraged.
- When our roommates don’t do the dishes, we feel frustrated.
- When our parents ask about our grades, we feel pressured.
- When we’re in a social situation, we feel self-conscious.
- When we have a hard time finding a job, we feel desperate.
The problem with this way of thinking, is that it puts us at the mercy of our lives. We feel yanked about, not being able to catch a break. We feel uncertain and often worried about what new difficulty is just around the corner.
We end up in this trap where: when life is good, we feel good. But, when life is going badly, we feel badly, too.
And the truth is… with the way life goes… we really DON’T know what’s around the corner. Sometimes things DON’T go the way we want. We can’t control how hard our finals are, how our girlfriend feels about us, our roommates, or parents, or social situations, or whether we get the job we want, or any of it.
What Should We Do?
So, what should we do? How do we feel better, without changing a single thing around us?
The first step is truly understanding what causes our feelings in the first place.
The way we feel never comes from outside of us, ever. Our feelings ALWAYS come from what we are thinking. Don’t believe me? Let me share a pretty specific example from my life.
When Grandpa Passed Away
A couple years ago, my grandpa passed away. He passed away, mid-morning, while my grandma was on a walk.
Now, the moment my grandpa passed, his actual passing didn’t cause me to feel anything. It didn’t cause my grandma to feel anything, either. It is not as if, the moment he passed, everyone that ever knew him felt immediate sadness. In fact, I was going about my day feeling quite content.
Much later that afternoon, though, my mom called and said, “Grandpa passed away earlier this morning.”
That is when I started to have thoughts.
Lots of thoughts.
I’m going to miss him so much.
I hope Grandma is ok.
This is going to be difficult for so many people.
It wasn’t until I had those thoughts, that I started to feel sad.
There is ALWAYS a Thought
So, it was never your finals, or your girlfriend, or your parents, or the social situation that made you feel anything. It was your thinking about these things.
And when you slow it all down, and take a minute to notice what YOUR brain is actually thinking… you’ll start to see what I mean.
You’ll start to notice that somewhere in between the thing that happens and the feeling that is produced, there is ALWAYS a thought.
It probably looks something like this:
- It’s finals week (I’m not sure if I’m sufficiently prepared) = stressed
- My girlfriend dumped me (I wonder if I’ll ever get married) = discouraged
- Roommates don’t do dishes (They should be more respectful) = frustrated
- Parents ask about grades (I’m not living up to their expectations) = pressured
- Social situations (I hope everyone here likes me) = self-conscious
- Haven’t found a job (This might never work out) = desperate
CIRCUMSTANCES don’t cause emotions. THOUGHTS do.
Just Start Noticing and Slow It All Down
Now, when we first start noticing our thoughts, we tend to start judging them. Don’t do that. Just start by noticing your thought and how that thought is making you feel.
Also, don’t forget to acknowledge that sometimes you are just gonna want to feel sad, or frustrated, or discouraged. But, I encourage you to keep showing your brain that it is NOT the situation that is making you feel any certain way. It is the way we are THINKING about the situation that creates our emotions.
Want to Feel Something Different?
Want to feel something different? You are gonna have to start thinking something different!
If you are ready to stop being emotionally tossed around by the things going on outside of you do this:
When you start to feel anxious or stressed or any emotion at all, pay attention and slow it all down.
Then ask yourself: “What is it that I am THINKING that is causing me to feel this emotion?”
Just that one question will help you begin to take more ownership over your emotional well-being.