What Inspires Our Emotions?

Living Well

One of my friends lost out on a promotion at work and felt betrayed by his company. And from that point on, he made sure to include a hint of his feeling of betrayal in every internal company message. He didn’t want anyone to not know, or to forget, what had happened. And whenever anyone tried to help him consider a different perspective, he would list all the evidence, proving that he was betrayed. He practically ate betrayal for breakfast. And today, he’s still in the same place – feeling betrayed, un-promoted and unable to create what he wants in his life.

Feelings of disappointment are real. But blaming others and making them wrong keeps us stuck, feeling that there are no options and no way to free ourselves from pain.

Our problems begin with us, not others.

Our problems develop from what we believe about what others do and how we believe we are entitled to respond.

We dislike someone’s behavior, and we believe he or she should act differently. Then we put that person in a pile with all the other people who are doing that behavior. And we label them all as wrong or bad, and we look for evidence that supports the label. Then we find other people who believe the same, and we get them to join our camp and assure us that we’re right, believing that being right will make us feel better. And the result is that we end up with more of what we don’t like because, through efforting to prove that we’re right, we find more evidence that we’re right.

One of my friends is estranged from her father. She believes that he has a mental disorder because he’s done hurtful things and shows no remorse. And she stays away because she’s afraid he’ll cause her more emotional pain. I encourage her to focus on anything that’s working in relation to him, no matter how small it might seem. Instead, she just wants to show me articles that prove she’s accurately diagnosed his condition. The reason for focusing on something constructive is not to change him, but rather to allow change to take place inside her. A more positive perspective would let her feel better than being right does.

Negativity breeds negativity.

If people treat us badly, we have the right to hold them accountable and to take action to stop any abuse from continuing. But we hinder ourselves by going the next step: “You hurt me. You betrayed me. My life is miserable because of you. You don’t deserve my forgiveness. I’ll never get over this.”

If we feel hurt or betrayed by someone, and we chew on that bone for a while, and we wonder whether we should forgive the person, and then we chew on that bone for a while, we create more unpleasantness for ourselves, as our focus on the problem causes us to feel worse and worse.

Then it’s time to ask: Do I want to hang onto these unpleasant feelings? Does it serve me to continue re-living events that have already ended?

The secret to letting go of whatever happened in the past is to depower it by no longer giving it attention or meaning. It’s commonsense action toward nurturing ourselves, which should be our first priority.

Can we be betrayed?

No one can make us feel angry or hurt. But when we pretend that other people are determining our experience, we get to blame them for what’s wrong in our lives. And if that’s what we’re doing, it’s because we’re getting something out of it, even though it’s probably not what we truly want.

Acting sad draws attention. Pouting gets us noticed. Acting hurt gains us some sympathy. We may even like the drama of feeling offended and the sense of being right about others being wrong. And filling our need for attention this way can be better than going without.

People are going to do what they want to do. If we base our feelings and responses on that, we’re choosing to be a victim and we’ll suffer. And our lives will be a wild roller coaster ride of experiences and emotions where it will be difficult to experience consistent well-being.

We can choose our thoughts on purpose.

One of my friends believes his mom was domineering throughout his childhood, and he still holds resentment toward her. Every time he sees her, he gets angry again. And later, he guilts himself that he should forgive her. It would help their relationship if he’d focus on something about her that makes him feel good – which would require re-directing his thoughts, one thought at a time.

Many of us believe it’s impossible, or a bad idea, to control our thoughts. And we go through the day reacting to whatever we see happening around us, allowing people and circumstances to tell us how to feel – rather than being in charge of our attitude and our response to life.

When we choose our thoughts on purpose, to produce an emotion that we want, to maintain a consistent attitude, to cause desired results, we’re choosing to consistently experience well-being.

It takes a belief to have an emotional response.

A belief is just a thought we keep thinking over and over until we believe it’s true. And people and circumstances can’t affect us emotionally unless we have beliefs about them.

When we feel incensed and get angry, it’s because we already had a belief that said, “That shouldn’t happen. That person shouldn’t do that.”

Most of our beliefs originated when we were young. And until our childhood issues are resolved, we’ll keep casting people in the roles of our parents, siblings and authority figures, assigning them the roles we need them to play.

So our emotional responses to the people around us originate from something that’s already active in us, and blaming them isn’t appropriate. Before trying to fix what’s happening on the outside, we need to first deal with what’s happening on the inside.

We can experience harmony with any person, thing or situation as soon as we drop what we believe should be different about that person, thing or situation. So it’s vital to not use our past as a storehouse of evidence for holding onto a negative attitude in the present.

How can we manage our emotions?

Our emotions are goal-oriented activities that we do on purpose to achieve something we want. And feeling sad or happy is not the result of people or circumstances – it’s the result of whatever we’re thinking and believing.

To be in charge of our emotions, we need to name what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, the result it’s getting, and whether it’s the result we want. And if not, what do we truly want, and how can we best get it?

It will help to name our emotions precisely, based on why we’re doing them. Instead of saying, “You make me angry!” say, “I can’t stand it when you don’t do what I want you to do, and I choose anger to try to control you.”

We can’t stop what we don’t know we’re doing. But we can change anything that we’re willing to name.

We’re valuable because we’re alive.

Another person’s negative communication doesn’t affect our worth or our well-being. And it doesn’t need to be a factor in how we feel or respond.

When people strike out with insults, accusations or gossip, we’re never their target. We’re only witnessing symptoms of dis-ease in people who are hurting. And they’re symptoms don’t need to be contagious. No matter how angry, unkind or undeserving people seem, we can still keep our thoughts and feelings separate.

Most of the world returns anger for anger, and hurt for hurt. But we can live differently. By caring why people do what they do, we can hear their pain over their anger and refuse to give hate for hate.

Everyone we encounter is looking for unconditional love, especially those people who pretend they’re not. People who are afraid, impatient, irritable, and who lash out in anger, are really saying, “I need love desperately.”

If we handle our self-worth issues first – by feeling good about ourselves and our lives – we can function successfully, even in a world full of people who haven’t figured out yet how to feel the same.

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Author, Blogger, Contributor to The Huffington Post