Columns
September 22, 2017
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Mind Body and Spirit

Steven Campbell
Managing our emotions
September 15, 2017

 

We say something without considering the shockwaves, or blast off an email without sleeping on it.

When we press the ‘Send’ button, the damage is done. 

Sadly, this is happening a lot in America. Barely a day passes without a tweet causing another uproar. Right now, managing our emotions has become a very tricky business.

And this raises a question, “Am I in charge of my emotions, or are they in charge of me?”

This was never covered in school. Consequently we find ourselves stumbling around with a royal flush of feelings – ranging from joy and excitement to fear and anger, without a manual on where our feelings are coming from or what to do about them.  

Realize this first: Your feelings are not coming from what you read in the newspaper, or hear on the news, or watch on television. They are coming from your beliefs!

This is one of the most exciting psychological discoveries since psychology began in 1879. According to Dr. Albert Ellis our feelings do not primarily come from how we were raised, or what we have done, or what we read in the newspaper, or hear on the news, or watch on television.

Do you know where our feelings are coming from?

They are coming from our beliefs about how we were raised, and our beliefs about what we have done, and our beliefs about what we have read in the newspaper and beliefs about what we hear on the news, and our beliefs about what we watch on television.

However, as Dr. Ellis reveals in his 1961 book, “A Guide to Rational Living,” we can change those beliefs. In turn, this has been validated by decades of research in cognitive psychology all over the world.

In fact, it’s not your feelings which are preventing you from doing something, it’s your beliefs that are holding you back! Your feelings are simply following those beliefs!.

For instance, when you believe, ‘I’m too frightened to speak.’ your brain not only agrees, its job is to make sure you cannot speak!

However, when you say, ‘I am frightened, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot be a good speaker,” your brain believes that too and then becomes obsessed with finding ways to make you the best speaker you can be.

What is even more exciting is that according to Dr. V.S. Ramachandran in “Phantoms in the Brain,” your brain doesn’t care whether what you are saying is true or not.  All it cares about is what you tell it!

While it is incredibly difficult to suddenly change what we are feeling, we can change the beliefs that are causing those feelings. In fact, our feelings can become our closest friend, rather than our most dreaded enemy.

Rob Kendall discloses three facts about our emotions which can help us make this so.

We cannot turn our emotions on and off like a tap. Our feelings, like our beliefs, come and go whether we like it or not. The idea that we can instantly banish them is unhelpful. They are what makes us human.

You are not your emotions. You are a person who not only has values, commitments and beliefs, you also have emotions.  When you think that your emotions and you are one and the same, you are being hijacked. However, when you pay attention to your emotions without becoming them, they can no longer determine your behavior.

Emotions are neither positive nor negative. The human brain is wired to categorize things as positive or negative. We therefore see joy as positive and fear as negative.

However, this creates some problems. Suppressing our negative emotions only tightens their grip.

So what’s the alternative?

Quit attaching your feelings to ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Follow their lead. By paying attention to them, they can help you uncover the beliefs that are causing them and then introduce you to some new possibilities:

Some of your feelings are based on beliefs that are good for you to keep.

Some of your feelings are based on beliefs that maybe…just maybe…it might be good to reconsider.

Dame Judi Dench has won an Oscar, two Golden Globes and 10 BAFTA awards. She also says that the more she acts, the more frightened she becomes.

However, rather than counting it as a negative, she treats her feelings as a companion. Her fears may not feel comfortable to her, but she makes no attempt to resist them, ‘I have the fear,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t be without it.’ Perhaps this is the reason her on-screen characters brim with humanity.

 A psychologist told me years ago that your feelings are attempting to tell you something about you and your beliefs. They can become your mentor. Don’t say they are bad or good. Follow your feelings where they are leading you. It is our beliefs that can get us into trouble. 

 However, we can change our beliefs, and when we do, our feelings.... follow!

 

Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent” and conducts “The Winners Circle” every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. Contact Steven at 480-5007 or go his website at stevenrcampbell.com to ask about his one-day free monthly seminar.