The feeling doesn’t define me.
One of my beautiful, insightful clients came to this conclusion the other day. It really struck me. Sometimes we feel trapped by our feelings, buried under them. When I was in my early 20s my best friend and I would always reassure each other by saying that feelings aren’t logical. This was usually to excuse away some bad decision generally involving boys. But as I’ve moved through this journey of self discovery I’ve learned that our feelings are a direct result of what we are thinking. I had to hear that several times before it started to sink in. That was a “turn me on my head” kind of moment. You mean I’m not having a crappy day because that guy cut me off in traffic and flipped me the bird? Huh? It’s what I’m thinking about that guy? And continuing to think about that guy an hour later?
Don’t believe me?
Here’s an example: Two women have $20,000 of debt each. The first woman is devastated when she finally figures it out. Her thoughts swirl around fear: I will never be able to pay this off, the interest will compound and I’ll be paying this forever. What if I lose my job? With this much debt I won’t be able to pay my rent, I’ll be on the streets. That is a big spiral into negative thinking. Now, woman number 2 discovers that she is $20,000 in debt and she is ecstatic. Her thoughts sound something like: Yes! I did it! I was $50,000 in debt and I’ve cut that more than in half. At this rate, I’ll have this paid off in no time. This is the same circumstance, the two women are in debt for $20,000. So, what’s the difference? The way they are thinking about it. People may also call that perspective, which is how you look at or approach something...in other words how you are thinking about it. The guy who flipped me the bird? That was a circumstance, a fact; he cut me off and flipped me the bird. Neutral, factual circumstance. It was me getting all hot under the collar about how could he be so careless and rude that turned my perfectly fine day into a crappy one.
Once you recognize it is your thoughts about a circumstance that leads to a feeling, you have the ultimate control. You get to choose your thoughts and ultimately how you feel. Sound revolutionary? It is! Play with it, let it sink in. Anytime you are feeling stressed or have any negative feelings, work backward and ask yourself what you are thinking. Then try to look just for the facts of the situation; I was driving, the guy cut me off. Everything else was a story I was creating about who he was, how he was disrespectful etc. All that does is cause me stress. He just drove on his merry way, my seething was only impacting me. See if you can start separating out facts from your interpretation.
If you live the San Francisco Bay Area my in-person women’s group is going to be taking a deeper look at circumstances vs thoughts/feelings on Tuesday 4/25 from 7:00-9:00 pm. Come join us. Email me for the details: info(at)jennifersherwood(dot)com