When I was a kid, whenever I would get upset about stuff at school, whenever I would say “so-and-so is mean” or “Sister is being a butthead,” my dad always replied in the same way.
“No one can make you feel anything unless you let them.”
I called “bullshit.”
My reaction was the same every time he said it. “BULLSHIT AND WHATEVER.”
If someone does something shitty, I REACT. I react hard, and usually I react ANGRY. Anger is my go-to emotion. I like angry. Angry is safe. Angry is mental jet fuel, and it pushes me past and over all the crap that stands in my way. To say “no one can make you angry unless you let them” was just crazy talk. I was SURE of it.
except… I’ve been thinking. And I think I’ve figured something out, and I think I need to share it with you.
I think that he might be right.
[I can hear you now. “NO WAY AND BULLSHIT AND UUUUUUUUUGH AND DAMNIT, THAT CANNOT BE RIGHT. I have no control over how I feel.”]
I GET IT. I get that reaction, but you DO have control.
I get how hard it is to think that we have a choice over how we feel. My whole life I have heard at least one hundred times “no one can make you feel anything you don’t want to feel,” and every time I hear it I think it is total bullshit. I don’t believe I get to CHOOSE how I react to things. I just REACT. How can I possibly have a choice?
Simply put, “right now” is not “forever.” THAT is how I have a choice.
Long term, you do not have to feel anything you don’t want to feel. In other words, your emotional reaction is not the same as your emotional state.
An emotional REACTION is exactly what it sounds like. It is reactive. It is reflexive. Something happens, and before we can cogitate, logic-ize, or rationalize the event, we FEEL. We REACT. Our hearts and minds and experiences and perspective and perception and built-in filters all react to what has happened, and if you’re like me all of those things tend to react differently. The simultaneous, instant reaction causes a chaotic, swirly, confusing tornado of passionate feels. (Super annoying. It bothers me every time.)
An emotional state is something else entirely. I like those way, way better.
An emotional STATE is subject to intentional perception, rationalization, and CHOICE. I have the power to choose how I feel about something afterward, and I have the power to choose how I CONTINUE to feel about something in the future.
It does take practice, it does take time, but it CAN HAPPEN.
Ten days ago life delivered me a curve ball, a curve ball thrown ever-so-awesomely by my ex. It sucked. I was angry. To be more accurate, I was rage. I was fury. I was wrath and vengeance and retribution. I wanted to cause pain, return hurt, and make life very, very, very difficult for someone else ON PURPOSE AND HARD. The anger was the largest feeling in my swirling, emotional-reaction-Tornado-Of-Feels. Inside the Tornado I was also hurt, confused, furious, baffled, overwhelmed, pissed off, lost, suspended in mid-air, mentally absent, and then angry some more.
My emotional reaction was so large and passionate that I felt deaf and blind. I could not see what was in front of me, or hear what was being said. I had conversations I don’t completely remember. I could not think straight. I could not concentrate. Just like a real tornado that swirls and destroys and whips everything in its path up into the clouds where it hangs in the air for a bit before it comes crashing down to earth, the emotional-reaction-Tornado-Of-Feels picked me up and held me there. I was suspended in mid-air, breath held, confused by the crap swirling around my head, just waiting.
And waiting, and waiting.
Yesterday I got tired of waiting, and I decided to change my emotional state.
an emotional STATE is subject to intentional perception, rationalization, and CHOICE. I have the power to choose how I feel about something after it happens, and I have the power to choose how I CONTINUE to feel about something in the future.
I have zero ability to choose for other people what I think is right for them, and I have no right to choose for others what I think is best. *I* am not *THEM,* and they are not me, and there is no way for me to accurately know what they need. That is for THEM to decide.
All I can do is make the best decisions possible for me and mine with the information that I have, allow myself to react to what happens TO me, and then CHOOSE MY EMOTIONAL STATE for what comes next.
Still easier said than done, but here are a few thoughts I had that might make it easier:
First, let’s change Dad’s famous saying a little bit:“If someone makes you feel something you don’t want to feel, CHANGE THE SITUATION.”I like that a lot, lot better. THAT is something I can get on board with, and honestly I think that’s more of what he meant.
If someone is making you feel like crap, LEAVE.
If someone makes you feel like you’re less or worthless or not important, STOP THEM. Speak up. Tell them “NOOOOOOOOOOOPE,” demand your worth, and stick up for yourself.
Next, let’s add in this saying:“No one can make you think anything you don’t want to think.”Although my emotional reaction is not under as tight of control as I would like it to be, my thoughts are my own. Always have been, always will be. I am master and commander of every single thing that is kept in my head. Sometimes thoughts are PUT there by others, through text or words or conversation or behavior, but whether or not those thoughts STAY is completely up to me.
Way, way too often I believe that we as people (and women in particular) set aside our mental power and logic to roll around in the muck of our emotional reaction. We FEED on the emotion. It makes us feel alive. We like the drama, the borderline chaos, and the heart-and-gut upheaval.
I suppose that’s okay every once in a while. When you feel joy, reveling in it and enjoying the moment is important. When you feel grief, sitting in it and working through it brings closure.
A problem arises, though, when we have had plenty of time in the emotion but we don’t want to let it go. Overly-held emotion consumes our attention, requires a lot of time, and manipulates our purpose.
Which brings me to my next point,“Time is finite. Energy is finite. Attention is finite. Thoughts are finite. LIFE IS FINITE.”Is the time, energy, attention, and thought you’re spending on the feelings you’re dealing with worth the feelings themselves?
The average human has about 70,000 thoughts per day. I would (humbly) consider myself significantly above average, particularly with regard to the business of my brain, and I bet you I have about 125,000 thoughts in a day.
A lot or a little, I can only think so many things. Yesterday I asked myself, “Is it worth wasting even ten of those thoughts on something that makes me unhappy?”
NOOOOOOOOPE. Not even a little bit.
I am a chronic overthinker by nature, and there are those times when my brain packs a bag, does not talk to me first, and just leaves. It goes off on its own to have its own adventures and journeys, and I’m left behind to chase after it.
Even then, though, I am not powerless. I can distract. Reassign priorities. Redirect thoughts and energy. Set things off to the side, put thoughts in a box and put them on a shelf. I have the power to think what I want, and I do not want to waste any more time or energy on thoughts that are not productive, in line with my purpose, or making me better.
Finally, and this one is the big one,“You are only a victim if you choose to be.”More specifically, I thought “NO MORE. HE’S DONE. HE NO LONGER GETS TO DICTATE MY EMOTIONAL STATE.”
I spent YEARS. Years and years and years being sad and miserable because of the choices of someone else. Although I could not and never will be able to choose what other people do, no matter how close to them I feel (or how close to them I wish I was), I CAN ALWAYS CHOOSE FOR MYSELF HOW THOSE THINGS AFFECT ME.
I will no longer allow the dumbass choice of someone else to “MAKE ME FEEL” anything. NO MORE.
The next time someone does something to you and you feel like crap, remember these things. Remember that you are not a victim to anyone’s choices unless you allow yourself to be, and no matter how important they are to you YOU are also important. YOUR FEELINGS are important.
Your heart is important.
FIGHT FOR IT.
Fight for it with the ferocity of a lion. Protect that heart of yours, because without it you cannot squeeze every ounce of joy from life.
Fight for YOU. Fight for what is right for you and your life and those you love, and never, ever, ever stop fighting. Never stop PUSHING against the things that hold you back. Never stop pushing for Depth and understanding.
The phrase “emotional wreck” is not really a thing. Although you may experience a traumatic emotional trigger that causes serious upset, you are not a wreck. Nothing about you is wrecked, because you are indestructible. You are an amazing, indestructible, powerful piece of bio-machinery, a miraculous spark of energy and life. You have the heart of a freaking lion, and with it you can change your world.
No matter the obstacle, you can continue on.
Just. Keep. Going.
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