What are you choosing today, stress and anxiety, grief and guilt or love and acceptance, joy and peace? Most of us believe that there is no choice. Life brings us a variety of experiences every day and some of them are good and some of them are bad. They automatically elicit a particular reaction. Right? That is what we have been brought up to believe from the time that we could consciously interact. ‘Some of us seem to be pretty lucky and some of us get dealt a poor hand.’ That is simply a perspective and a belief that has been adopted by society. We can, with practice start to choose our emotional state in any given moment.
The only real power that we have in any situation is how we choose to respond to a situation. We can decide that the situation is unfair, sad, defeating or we can choose to see any experience as a learning opportunity and not get caught up in the drama of the story.
In our childhood years the perspectives we are offered by our family will play a major role in how we perceive life. As a child, if I pulled my sister’s hair and hit her, I found myself being smacked and reprimanded by my parents. “Ouch!” I’m not so quick to repeat that behaviour again (in view of my parents anyway….) because there are unpleasant consequences. If I was twirling and giggling in my favourite little girl skirt I may hear, “Oh you are soooo adorable. You are such a good twirler” That feedback feels good. Reckon I might do more of that and see if I can get some more of that feeling via the feedback again. This sets up a dynamic that becomes the platform for our life. We are constantly wanting to move towards the good feelings and moving away from the bad feelings, so we do what is required to get the emotional feedback we want. Seems to make perfect sense so far?
We begin to unconsciously categorise experiences into good and bad according to how we feel in relation to them. Our parents are our role models and templates for what we become later in life. If Mum or Dad come through the door at night and say, “Oh my God, what a crappy day. It started with horrible traffic jam, then there was a power outtage at work so no computers and I waited all day – I couldn’t get my project completed; the client was annoyed and the boss was angry. It was a nightmare.” In this example the reaction is one of negativity and stress. If we hear that particular situations are undesirable on a regular basis then this begins to stick in our mind as an unquestionable truth. The evidence is before us. Dad feels horrible if he has experienced a traffic jam etc. Society largely adopts these standards also. It is rare to be offered a different perspective on the scenario above.
What if we were to be offered the following perspective. “I had a great day. The traffic was banked up this morning so I put on some of that new music I down loaded from the net last night and just got in the groove. It was so good. I got to work and the power was out cause a tree fell on our lines, so I rang the client on my mobile and explained the situation. He wasn’t too pleased about the possible delay so I suggested I drive over in person tomorrow and explain the new project. He relaxed when I said I was willing to do that.”
You can still have preferences for the way things play out of course, but not get hooked into an idea of an absolute fixed outcome. That is setting yourself up for anxiety. Let’s look at a couple more common stressors:
I really hate this heat, I find it difficult to cope with… versus ….. (This heat is challenging me a bit, thank goodness for air conditioning.
Why is he always so nasty to me. I feel so small……. versus……. (Wow, he is being a bully again, I wonder what is going on for him? I get another opportunity to explore this with him. If he continues I will need to put in a stronger boundary.)
It’s all about what I do with the situation coming towards me. Is it an opportunity to empower myself, or place myself as the victim? Where will I put myself in the story? In the suffering or the thankfulness. In the learning or the pain?
One the first keys in moving towards this state is to pause a moment, before you decide on a course of action. What is unfolding in this situation? How do I want to respond here as opposed to how would I normally just react? There is always a choice. Review the day in bed at night. How would I do that differently next time so that I am not feeling negative about that scenario? How could I make it positive? Careful. You will be on your way to choosing your emotional state…….