Emotion! “Control your emotions,” they said, how are you supposed to do that? Is that really the answer to happiness? Most of us run around being led by our emotions because of a simple misunderstanding.
(Hint.. they are not “good” or “bad” and they are not the boss of you)
What We Understand About Emotion
We misunderstand what comes before emotion and how our brain works to help us. Somewhere we got the impression that emotions come from events and triggers that happen outside of us. We often avoid people or situations that make us feel a certain way. We don’t want to be around “toxic” people or things that “trigger” us.
Commonly, we believe or are taught, that things that happen to us create emotion inside our bodies. We spend a lot of energy trying to control our emotions, we even numb, avoid or deny them.
But here’s a thought…
What if those events or triggers are not what create your emotions?
Let’s talk about the path from event to emotion
An event happens, someone says something, or does something and you think the first thing that happens is a flash of emotion. Actually, before that, you create a story in your own mind and assign meaning about why or how that happened.
So for example, you are driving down the road and get cut off in traffic, in the split second immediately after that incident several things happen. You create a story, maybe about the driver, why they did it, why it was directed at you, that it was because of you, anything! You also have a flash of emotions, maybe anger, maybe mistrust, contempt, disgust, violation, or many others. Those emotions are created from the story you told yourself about why that other driver dared to do that “to” you!
And How Does Your Brain Do That?
There is a part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System(RAS). Basically it’s a heat seeking missile. The job of your RAS is to filter information from the world around you – but the catch is it filters with the stories you tell yourself.
So your RAS takes the stories you tell yourself about why things happen and what they mean and looks at things, events, and people in your life to find evidence of your stories. Can you see now that your stories are SO IMPORTANT? If your RAS is doing it’s job and finding evidence for you of your story and your story is wrong then what? You could be angry, sad, mad, anything, and making it up in your head.
Ultimately you believe your story and the perception you have about the event, it seems so real, so life-like, of course it does! You made it up! It came from your brain, and then your brain went out to prove it to you.
So if our perception and the stories we tell ourselves of events and people create our emotions then basically, we could be in the same room and witness the very same event with several people and each of you would have a different emotion and story about what happened.
Have you ever reminisced with your siblings about an event from your childhood and found out that you all experienced something different in that same moment? This happens because the way you feel is an inside job…inside your head that is.
SO…How Do You Control Emotion Then?
The point I’m trying to show you is that your emotions come from inside of your head and body. You can control the emotions that you feel by noticing and redirecting the stories you are telling yourself about why something happens and what that means.
I think deep down you might already have a sense of this; that is why you try to “think” positively in order to FEEL better. But positive thinking alone won’t always work.
The real key is realizing that because your emotions are based on story, that if you change your story, or even better get brave enough to be curious about them, you can create change that is lasting, and new feelings.
So next time you feel overwhelmed with feeling, don’t tell yourself it’s a “bad” feeling or “negative” emotion, instead get curious and ask yourself questions about what you are feeling and the meaning or story you have assigned to it.
Want some help to discover the stories you are telling yourself?
Enjoy your beautiful life!
Emotional Safety Mentor
P.S. Snag a private consultation with me to get clear on your next steps toward your emotionally safe, happy, healthy life!