Do you think our feelings are created by things that happen to us in our life?
We often associate our emotions with events that have happened or sometimes we blame other people for making us sad, unhappy, angry or even happy. We pass over responsibility for our emotions to something or someone other than ourselves.
However, the reality is that it’s the opposite way around. Our lives are created by our thoughts and our thoughts determine how we feel and how we behave.
From childhood and throughout our lives, we develop automatic responses to situations. My response to the same circumstance, will be different to somebody else’s response. If you’ve got siblings, you probably recognise how differently you all feel and responded to certain situations that you experienced together. Maybe when you were at school, you may have experienced the same ‘event’ but how you felt about it was different to how some of your friends felt.
Certain situations will trigger us to feel fear, anger, happiness, courage, embarrassment and we don’t think about why we’re feeling that way, the emotions are automatic responses to an event and our response was learned from how we felt about a similar previous experience.
Let me give you an example:
Two people are waiting to give a presentation. One person may feel excited and confident and they can’t wait to get on stage to deliver their presentation, whilst the other person feels nervous, they’re dreading standing in front of all those people and they feel like running away.
The chances are, that the person who feels confident will go up on the stage and deliver a great presentation and feel a real sense of high at the end of it. They’ll feel like they’ve really rocked! The other person’s mouth will go dry, their voice will quiver, they may stumble over their words etc. and at the end of it they feel like they’ve delivered a terrible presentation.
- The situation was the same, the audience was the same and yet their response and their experience was very different.
This is because the first person perceived the event as something that was going to give them pleasure, whilst the second person perceived the event as something that would bring them pain.
The thoughts that ran through their minds were very different and therefore triggered a very different emotional response and outcome.
The first person probably told themselves things like: “Yes – I’m looking forward to this, I’m prepared, I love the response I get from the audience, It’s going to be a great experience” whereas the other person is probably building up to the event with thoughts like: “I’m terrified, I can’t do this, I feel awful, I’m rubbish at giving presentations, what if the audience hate it, what if I forget what I’m going to say!”
What we focus on is what we get.
If we focus on how great something is going to be, it’s much more likely that we’ll have a great experience.
When we focus on all the things that could go wrong, then the chances are that things will go wrong and we’ll end up reinforcing our belief that we couldn’t do something.
How Can We Change Our Experiences?
Have a think about some of the emotions your experiencing at the moment. Is there something you’re worrying about?
- Write that thing down on a piece of paper and then write down how you’re feeling about that situation.
- Now take a look at those feelings and become conscious of the thoughts you’re having.
- Your feelings are being created by your thoughts, therefore being aware of those thoughts and consciously changing your thoughts into something different, will, when practiced repeatedly, start to change how you feel about the situation
- What we tell ourselves repeatedly is what determines how we feel
- We all have the capacity to change what we tell ourselves and therefore the capability to change how we feel.
Now that’s not to say that we shouldn’t ever allow ourselves to feel sad or angry, because sometimes these are the right emotions.
Let me describe a fictitious example. If I found out my husband was having an affair, (hopefully I won’t), I’d probably feel a whole mix of emotions – anger, sadness, betrayal etc. and this would be natural. I’d certainly be pushed out of my comfort zone, as we’ve been together for 40+ years!
After the initial emotions of anger, betrayal etc. in order to move forward, I’d have to let some of these feelings go, by changing how I thought. How conscious or unconscious of my thoughts I am, will determine how successful I am, in moving forward positively or staying stuck in a very negative place.
I could choose to come out fighting, learn lessons about myself and become stronger as a result or I might start to create thoughts that hold me back and keep me stuck in the past.
Can you see that how I choose to think, will determine how I feel and how I feel will determine my actions and response, to future situations and therefore my ultimate outcome?
If I choose to think: “he’s done me a favour, I’m better off without him and now I can do all the things I didn’t do when we were together, onward and upward – he didn’t deserve me, there’s somebody much better out there for me” or “I don’t need anybody else to make me happy – I’m in control and I can build a great new life for myself”, the chances are that my future will be good.
On the other hand, if I sink into despair and start to beat myself up, thinking “ I’ll never trust any man again, all men are the same, I hate myself and my life, maybe if I’d been different, I’ll never meet anybody else, nobody else will love me, my life is over, it’ll never be the same again” I’m likely to stay stuck and even if I did meet somebody new, I may become overly needy or lack trust in them and possibly drive them away, which would reinforce my belief that ‘all men are the same’.
With the first set of thoughts I’d be accepting responsibility for my own actions, taking back control and looking forward and opening my mind up to new and better possibilities for my life. Whereas, the second set of thoughts is more closed to the possibility of life getting better. I’d be much more likely to keep myself stuck in a rut or to sink into despair.
If I believe that ‘ALL’ men are the same, the chances are, that if I meet someone in the future, my belief will trigger off patterns of behaviour, that determine my outcome. My emotional response would determine how I behave and therefore the type of person I’m likely to meet in the future. I may repeat the same actions over and over again and thus repeat similar experiences over and over again.
When this works for us positively, that’s a good thing but when we are simply stuck in a pattern of behaviour, that is producing negative results, it’s time to STOP, become conscious of our thoughts, recognise the emotions these thoughts are triggering and come up with a plan of action, which includes changing our thoughts consciously (whether we believe them initially or not) and this will at some point, change how we feel and behave and thus result in a different outcome.
When any situation arises, we have the capacity to take conscious control of our thoughts and when we do, we can change how we feel.
- Become conscious of our thoughts about the situation
- Recognise that these thoughts are going to determine how we feel
- Be aware, that how we feel is going to determine how we behave and what the outcome will be
- Visualising what we want the end result to be and working backwards from that goal, in a conscious way, really helps
- Make conscious choices about how we need to feel and behave to achieve our outcome
- Notice what our emotions are, it really helps to ask ourselves: “Is there another way I could feel about this?”
We often perceive a situation based on our emotions, which are based on previous experience. We see something that we believe is the real picture, when infact the picture may be very different, when we look at it from a different angle.
We aren’t supposed to feel happy all the time.
We have to have opposite emotions in our life. If we never experience sadness, it would be impossible to feel happy.
There are always negative forces at play – just like a magnet, there are the negative and positive ends to our lives.
Whether we stay stuck in the negative aspects of life or we move in a positive direction, is determined by how conscious we are about our thoughts. When we decide consciously, to move out of the negative end of the magnet, we may initially experience the power of the magnet holding us back and if we keep making a conscious effort to push away, we will break through the magnetic field and with continual conscious action and determination to change our thoughts and therefore our emotions and actions, we will succeed!
Alternatively, when we start to make a change and then we feel the ‘force’ holding us back, we can simply choose to give in and stop trying – we stay firmly stuck in our rut!
When Thomas Edison was asked about why he hadn’t given up after failing to invent the lightbulb over a thousand times, he replied that he hadn’t failed, he’d learned how not to do something, which eventually led to him discovering how to do it.
In other words, “failure leads to success” but only if we change how we think about failure!
How we perceive a failure is what determines how successful we will be in future. Why?
Our thoughts determine our perception and therefore our behaviour!
If we tell ourselves that we’ve learned important lessons and we recognise what those lessons are and then change our actions in future based on what we’ve learned, we’re much more likely to start experiencing more success in our lives.
If you notice yourself blaming other people for how you feel, you’re passing on responsibility for how you think, to somebody else.
Nobody can control how we think – that is always our choice! The circumstances that we encounter through our lives, are not what determines our experience. Our experiences are determined by how we perceive our circumstances and our perception is influenced by our thoughts.
How we THINK will determine our outcome, not the circumstances. Have a read of my previous blog post on: The Negative Committee In Your Head