by Rene'e LaMontagne
EMOTIONS: ARE THEY AUTOMATIC? (by Rene’e La Montagne)
“...for all practical purposes, we choose everything we do, including the misery we feel. Other people can neither make us miserable nor make us happy. All we can get from them or give to them is information. But, by itself, information cannot make us do or feel anything. It goes into our brains, where we process it and then decide what to do....we choose all our actions and thoughts and, indirectly, almost all our feelings and much of our physiology.”
–William Glasser, M.D., world-renowned psychiatrist
A few months ago, I was teaching a class to about 20 women, ages 20-75. I asked the question, “Can we control our emotions?” The majority of the attendees stated that emotions are automatic, that life situations cause certain feelings, and emotions are not consciously fostered or deliberately chosen, but are just a mindless reaction to life. Most felt that as women (especially), we are “controlled” by our emotions, and that our reactions are (just) “programmed.”
Then I asked another question, “Do you think that emotions could actually be choices?” That sparked an interesting discussion. Not many had ever contemplated that thought. Rumblings in the room came back to me as, “I can’t control what I feel!” and, “We (as women) are just built that way.” and, “We are women; we FEEL everything!”
As a woman, and prior to learning the tools and concepts taught in VisionLightTM Essentials, I, too, believed I was at the mercy of my feelings, my emotions. My whole life has been run by my emotions. Boy, was I in for a wonderful discovery! I pondered how many times I had “reacted” to life negatively, adding more turmoil and more complications to certain life issues and situations.
Fortunately, I have learned I CAN control—and even direct--my emotions.
Our paradigms are built by life experience. We choose to live by certain beliefs, philosophies, personal boundaries. We “react” to situations by an emotional filtering system that brings about a negative or positive response. Our past paradigms typically guide our interactions in life. People naturally respond to stimuli based on past experience—or, reactively, in response to an issue that “feels good,” or “feels bad.”
We can learn to control, foster, develop and manifest our thoughts. We can learn to navigate this world by deliberate choice, even how we feel, how we react, and how we ACT as a response to certain stimuli.
In the process of “unwinding myself,” I am learning what paradigms evoke negative reactions. (This is an on-going exercise for me, so I am still discovering and rebuilding the inside of me.) I analyzed my hot buttons, evaluated my belief system, and began unraveling the complicated past traumas that bring about certain negative emotions even today. I am recognizing triggers. I am exploring my fears, evaluating my comfort zone, my attitudes.
I am learning to STOP my deleterious thought processes that cause my negative reactions. Emotions ARE a choice and can be controlled and relearned. I certainly do not want to carry bad experiences with me throughout my lifetime; nor do I want to react to life unconstructively as old, ugly feelings surface. The “pits in my stomach” can be deliberately emulsified and dissolved. I choose to foster love and compassion, and if that is truly my life mission, I can assess what in me sabotages my deliberate choices to be a better me.
I recently lost my dear brother to cancer. We were close, and his journey through the agony of this hostile disease was courageous. We all knew he was dying, but, still, when that kind of news comes, it seems unreal, a dream, and hard to comprehend. He was here one minute, and the next, he is gone. I will miss him dearly, and cherish the memories we had together.
Walking through the grief process, the mechanics of thought choice is a new experience for me. Though I am practicing and (hopefully) mastering how to deliberately choose my thoughts, this is a big test. When I find myself caught up in the grief, I assess what is blooming in my head. If my thoughts are productive, I leave them and allow them. If they are debilitating and too hard to bear, I chose a new thought to replace the painful one, and my mind takes me on a journey purposely to nourish the good that has come from my brother’s death: he is out of pain; he is with the Lord; he is with my parents; he is safe and happy and is now awaiting my return to heaven. My heart still aches, but I am steering the ship in safe harbors. It would be dangerous to “mask” my feelings over his death. I believe I need to feel the loss, the pain. But I also believe I am approaching this in a very healthy way so that the loss does not overcome me or paralyze me. My emotions are “in check,” and though I have allowed myself to cry and feel the pain, I do not dwell there. I choose to re-direct my thinking and plant the seeds in my heart and head that will allow me to process and grow.
I submit to you that you, too, can learn to weed out and re-direct the thoughts and feelings that cause you distress and physical/mental anguish. It is a process; but it is still a choice. We can either let sleeping dogs lie, or we can proactively disarm those feelings that bring about negative gut reactions that sabotage our desire to grow/overcome/become.
I am learning to ignite my life lived by intentional design rather than default. I am transforming my problems into solutions, my barriers into breakthroughs, my defeats into victories. My personal relationships are improving, my business is thriving, my attitudes are expanding, I am realizing success in so many areas of my life. With the VisionLightTM tools, I am rebuilding me from the inside out….and I like who I am becoming! I REJOICE at all the possibilities ahead!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW TO CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS, SEE:
The history of the United States' Revolutionary War honors George Washington as its greatest general. He is known as the "father of the nation." His birthday was made a national holiday. His leadership style is studied and emulated. A great monument weighing 81,120 tons and rising more than 55 feet above the earth stands as a tribute to him in the great city named after him. All because of the choices he made in the hard circumstances that were thrust upon him.
Another man--equally fervent in the cause of independence as Washington--faced equally hard circumstances. His choices led him to a far different destiny: mockery instead of monument, shame instead of fame, traitor instead of triumph. His thoughts led him to feel he was betrayed by his country, which in turn led him to become the betrayer. Thought to be a greater tactical general than George Washington, Benedict Arnold's choices took him away from his friends, bringing the chastisement of superiors and rebellion to his heart.
Financially strapped and mired in thinking of deep unhappiness, Benedict Arnold nevertheless had command of West Point, a crucial defense post. In secretly coded letters, he actually tried to sell West Point to the enemy for 20,000 Pounds (about $3,000,000 USD today). He escaped capture, joined the British troops, relocated his family to London and died alone there in 1801. Ironically, he was unpopular in England as well. Seems like no one likes a traitor, even if he's your traitor. History has effectively erased his many acts of heroic valor in defense of liberty.
All in consequence of his choices.
In his great book Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes his experiences as a Jew incarcerated at Germany's Auschwitz camp during World War II. He noted that the Nazis took away every piece of property, including their clothes and even the fillings of their teeth. They took away every human right except one. He profoundly observes that they could not take away each one's ability to think and to choose for oneself what would become of them. He wrote:
Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human
freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to
choose one's own way. In the final analysis, it becomes clear that the sort
of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not
the result of camp influence alone... Fundamentally, therefore, any man
can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him--
mentally and spiritually.
You are free to choose how you will deal with life's circumstances, both its challenges and opportunities. That is the power principle. Will you crumble or conquer? Will you cower or cope? You have the power and the decision is yours!
Meanwhile, choose the right. Stay strong. And See The Change!
Jesse L. Dunn is an author and sought after teacher and speaker on the topics of human and corporate development. His motivating, entertaining and content-rich sessions have benefitted thousands. To bring him to your next initiative, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org