The truth about our emotions is that sometimes those sneaky little buggers get the best of us by making us wholeheartedly believe that what we’re feeling in a moment of discontent is an accurate portrayal of reality. If I feel like an idiot or a reject then I must be an idiot or a reject. The truth is, though, our emotions lie to us. If you think about it, we know how we may be feeling in a given moment can’t possibly be the total and utter truth because we’ve all had times of feeling, thinking and believing a whole slew of nasty and negative things about ourselves, others, or the world around us, and then a few minutes, hours, or days later things don’t seem quite so bad. And sometimes all it takes to shift our thoughts, emotions and mood is a healthy meal, some exercise, or a good night’s sleep. Those little emotions of ours can sure be fickle! So why do we insist on wholeheartedly buying in to the really upsetting ones the moment they pop in to our minds?
When we draw reason from an emotion in the moment it’s something that’s been cleverly termed Emotional Reasoning. The dangerous part of it all is that often our fickle little emotions can’t be trusted and when we do choose to trust what we’re feeling in the moment as the undisputed truth we are left feeling sad, mad, frustrated and downright crummy.
Quite simply, our emotions are the by-products of our thoughts. What we think about or how we interpret or draw meaning from a situation, circumstance, or interaction will cause some kind of emotional reaction. In other words, an emotion is based on thought.
So here’s a little exercise for you to try next time you find yourself in a downward emotional spiral. Call those feelings out for what they are: instead of saying “I’m such a loser!” start the sentence by saying “I notice I’m having the thought that I’m loser right now.” So again, all it takes is to start by saying “I notice I’m having the thought that _____.” Try it right now. It works for all sorts of things. For instance, last night my one year old daughter, and by proxy, I also, had a really tough night and I remember thinking to myself is: “today is going to be a really challenging day, sigh.” I quickly managed to catch myself though and changed the internal dialogue to “I notice that I’m having the thought that it’s going to be a challenging day.” Immediately a large weight was lifted off my chest and things didn’t feel so fatal. Just by saying this sentence to myself I was able to get a little space from my feelings instead of getting all wrapped up and overwhelmed by them. And you know what? It actually turned out to be a half decent day after all.