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What Are You Telling Yourself?

Ever wonder why you feel a certain way? The internal dialogue can sound like “what the hell is wrong with me” or “why am I so upset?” or “why can’t I let this go?”. I’m guessing most of you can relate. When I was first introduced to the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings it was like I couldn’t compute the information. Frankly because at first it didn’t make sense. The way I felt came from the guy that cut me off in traffic in the morning or because my boss changed the project I’d spent weeks working on...without consulting me...again and it would spin out from there.

Photo credit David Kennedy

But what I slowly came to understand is that outside forces do not control how we think and subsequently feel-only we can do that. Circumstances are neutral facts, they only have a charge when we give them one. Here’s an example:

My daughter is a self-proclaimed Disnerd, meaning she loves the Disney parks. She studies them, knows the history and wants to visit each one and eventually work in Disney corporate. I enjoy the parks but not nearly to the degree of my kiddo. Recent changes in Disney have sent her off in a tailspin, she is mad that changes are being made to original themes/rides to bring in Star Wars and Marvel. She is so angry that you might think she was one of the original designers and this is a personal affront to her.

So why am I telling you this? Let’s break it down. The fact of this story is that Disney is making changes. Period. When you start bringing in qualifiers or opinions then it becomes a thought and not a fact. So while my girl might believe with all of her heart that Disney is going at this half-cocked, that is her opinion. And it is her thoughts, opinions and beliefs that are giving this an emotional charge for her. When I think about Disney I have more of a “shrug my shoulder” kind of response. They are making changes, oh well. I don’t have the same emotional charge. She really cares about this and I don’t. It is her belief that Disney is making a huge mistake and it will have long term consequences for those who love the park. She can ruminate on those beliefs and stay angry. You may agree with her, but hopefully you can see that it isn’t Disney that is making her feel anything, it is her thoughts about Disney.

I’ll give you a personal example. I sent a text to a friend asking to get together and she said she couldn’t. She didn’t offer a different date, she didn’t apologize and she didn’t say why. Mind you, she doesn’t have to do any of is a complete sentence. But, I started to spin stories in my head...she doesn’t like me, she blew me off because she is mad at me, I’ve done something to upset her. UGH. None of us are perfect and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that went on for a bit before I planted my feet on the floor and reminded myself to look at the facts. I’d asked her to do something and she’d said no. Period. I was making it mean so many other negative things about her and me. I could just as easily have made up a story that she was busy. Or I could have not made up any stories at all because the truth was that I had no idea what was going on for her. I chose to make it mean something painful for me...which by the way is the normal default for most of us.

So the next time you are feeling mad, off, funky, upset or anything else unpleasant. I want you to ask yourself to look at the facts. Facts are neutral, indisputable and provable in court. Disney made changes, I sent a text, the bank overcharged me, I got rear ended in a car accident or I lost my favorite earrings. That is different than thinking about the a-hole who rear ended me or how stupid I was to put the earrings on the sink...those are painful stories that lead us to feel lousy. Start experimenting with this and see if it makes a difference to pull yourself out of the story.

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