Can You Choose How You Feel?

Donald nodded. ”Let me ask you to do something. From now on, use the words ‘I chose’ so you really own your experience. You chose to feel hurt. You see?”

Hal shook his head. “I don’t see how I chose to feel hurt. It just happened.”

“It seems that way, doesn’t it? Our reactions during Key Moments are so ingrained and automatic it doesn’t seem like we choose them . . .”

Hal sighed. “Okay. I chose to feel hurt . . . and resentful . . . .I chose to punish her by brushing her off and not talking to her . . . I chose to be defensive and argue when I came home late last night . . .”

– from The Hero’s Choice by Roger K. AllenDo you choose your own feelings? This can be a tough concept for a lot of people, so let’s go back to the example in my last blog. You called your brother to wish him a happy birthday, but he hung up abruptly. You’ve had a rocky relationship in the past, so you’re not sure how to take it. Now, let’s take a look at how you choose what you feel:

• You interpret your brother’s dismissal as, “He doesn’t care about me.” You are angry and hurt.

• Then, because as part of our personal development we’re practicing reinterpreting our perception of reality, you think, “Maybe he’s angry at me for something.” Your feelings shift, maybe toward worry or defensiveness. After all, you haven’t spoken to him in six months. What could he possibly be angry about . . . unless, that? The fact that you haven’t been in touch? Stop. Now reinterpret again:

• “He must hate having birthdays. I sure do.” Your worry or defensiveness subsides as you chuckle, and maybe reach upward to touch your thinning hair. What do you feel now? Sympathy? Wry Amusement? Good. Now, again:

• “I guess I caught him at a bad time.” Feeling? Fairly neutral, right? Maybe a vague worry. “Maybe I shouldn’t have called him at work. I hope everything is going okay with his job.” Good. And again:

• . . . .

Right. You can reinterpret endlessly and go through every emotion, but, as we concluded in the previous blog, we just don’t have enough information. If you sit down and look at the facts, you have to admit that with what you know, any strong emotion you have can only come from meanings that you’ve injected into the situation. Knowing this, your emotion is diffused. Now you can make a reasoned decision about what, if any, action to take next. What is the best action you can take in terms of your personal development? Do you see how much control you have over your feelings?

In my book The Hero’s Choice, Hal’s friend Donald challenged his perceptions of reality and helped him to see how his perceptions lead to consequences:

“A Key Moment begins with a triggering situation or event, usually an upsetting event that presents a challenge and demands a response. When this even occurs, you make choices about how you’ll think, feel and act. Those choices, not the event itself, determine the consequences or results you get.”

Are you ready to make a leap forward in your personal development, improve your relationships and build your momentum toward success?



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