Can You Solve Your Emotional Problems With Your Mind?
In my last article I helped you recognize your superpower: your powerful emotions. I showed you that everything we do is guided by emotions and feelings, even if we don’t fully realize it. I invited you to monitor your emotions throughout your day, to become aware of that fact.
In this article, we are going to look at where emotions really come from and what it takes to work with them effectively.
I’ll start with my experience that was pivotal in my search for solutions.
When I was younger and very emotional, I was always looking for solutions to tone down my intense reactions. I read every book I could find on that subject and attended innumerable workshops.
At one of the workshops I was a few minutes late and the monitor would not let me in. I was furious: “This is inconsiderate! I was only late a few minutes!” But I couldn’t get in, so I used the power of my mind to calm down. You know:
- I meditated,
- changed my perspective
- forgave myself an others
- and so on.
I eventually felt calm. But when I finally entered the room, I got feedback that I was angry. How could that be? I didn’t feel angry. But my anger was apparently visible to others.
I did everything I was supposed to do, and I felt that anger went away. But apparently, it didn’t.
Did that ever happen to you?
That experience totally changed the direction of my search for solutions.
And it took many years of research to understand what happened. Here is the result.
The message you consistently get in the field of self-help and psychology is that thinking creates emotions. The solution is simple: change your thoughts and you will change your feelings.
Well, if that were true, then everybody would have solved their emotional problems long ago.
But if you look at the state of the world, and the state of most relationships, it’s clear that is not the case.
That seemingly simple solution doesn’t work!
That’s what happened to me at that workshop: all the effort I put into changing my thought simply disconnected me from my feelings.
They didn’t go away!
Here is a different point of view that explains it: thoughts don’t create emotions!
Our good old friend Darwin maintained that emotions are based in the body, as a part of our evolutionary survival mechanism. There are only a few basic emotions and they are universally present in all human beings around the globe.
The current scientific research of Candace Pert, Antonio Damasio, Guy Claxton and others, confirms that emotions indeed have a biological basis, and they are generated in our bodies as an involuntary response to our circumstances.
Because that way they can help you survive more efficiently. For example, when you are crossing a street and suddenly there is a car out of control, most likely you will not stop to think about what to do but dart out of the car’s way to safety. That’s because the emotional centers of your brain are directly connected to the movement centers. These centers are in your body and mostly outside of your conscious control. Thinking is not always the best strategy for survival!
I regret that our culture has stubbornly refused to consider that emotional reactions are instinctual and biochemically determined. And I watch with dismay how year after year, thousands of people are getting the same ineffective message: just change your thoughts!
Let me repeat: when you use your mind to change your emotional state, you are just disconnecting your mind from your experience. Your emotional and physical states are still going on, but you turned off your alarm system, so you are no longer aware of it.
How is this supposed to help you solve an emotional trigger?
But there is an effective way to do it.
We will get to it in the next article.
In the meantime, I encourage you to continue to pay attention to your emotions as you go through your day. The more you are aware of them the easier it will be to implement the solution!