A common myth is that we have no control over our feelings. We get caught up in our feelings of depression, anger, guilt, worry and anxiety and believe that this is the way it must be. What we tell ourselves can affect our feelings. Blaming others for our internal states of negativity is a coping mechanism which we use to protect ourselves from personal responsibility. Blaming others when we feel bad is a habit which can be unlearned.
As Albert Ellis’ Rational-Emotive Therapy has pointed out – no one can make you “feel” a certain way. Events happen to you without your being able to control them. What you can control is how you react to the events. As the old saying goes, “You can’t keep misery from coming around, but you don’t have to give it a chair to sit on.”
The first step to unlearning a habit is to bring it to a conscious level where it can be examined. Monitor your thoughts concerning the negative emotions of doubt, worry, anger, depression and guilt. Catch yourself in the act when you “hear” yourself thinking:
- My friend depresses me when . . .
- My dad makes me feel bad when . . .
- She makes me feel guilty when . . .
- My mom makes me mad when . . .
- He makes me nervous when . . .
We can learn to take responsibility for choosing our own way to feel in any given situation. To choose is to realize one’s own role in prolonging the negative emotions the mind states. The choice lies with accepting one’s own personal responsibility in assigning the state of mind to be negative. Ask yourself “What am I telling myself to make me so upset?” Analyse when the negative thoughts occur. Try to determine when you do not allow the negative thoughts to creep into your mind.
Make the choice of taking responsibility for your own thinking. Instead of saying, “He/she/they make me feel . . . . .” type statements, change the beginning of the sentence to one of personal responsibility. Say:
- I make myself feel . . .
- I make myself angry when my mom . . .
- I make myself depressed when my spouse . . .
- I make myself sick to my stomach when my friend . . .
- I make myself nervous when he . . .
- I make myself feel guilt when she . . .
The next step is to recognize the role of personal choice in the internal statement you are making. Analyze the choices that you are making:
- I choose to . . .
- I choose to be angry when my sister says . . .
- I choose to be depressed when my friend . . .
- I choose to be nervous when . . .
- I choose to be upset over this event . . .
- In this instant, I choose to be . . .
The final step is to stress to yourself that you have a choice in the matter. Viktor Frankel described this choice as the ultimate of human freedom – the choice of attitude in any situation, no matter how adverse the circumstances. Say to yourself, “In the past, I have chosen to feel …. about this situation. Today, I choose to feel . . .”
Sometimes the decision to feel good must be made again and again. This affirmative decision can be a daily choice or even a moment-to-moment choice. When the negative thoughts occur, they must be released with the statement, “I can feel good about this.”
The choice is yours. Why not choose to be at peace with yourself and feel good? Confront what you are doing to yourself. You have only so much time and energy. Choose to use that energy productively. Why choose to spend your life angry, depressed, guilty and anxious? Modify those internal statements that allow grief and misery to occupy your mind. Ask yourself, “Am I doing the best to take care of myself today?”
If a worm is in your apple, it gives you no excuse to eat worms!
Written By Lynne Namka