You know what I realised the other day? Drumroll. I realised that literally nothing that happens in life can impact the way that I choose to feel and that the way I feel is exactly that, a choice. When I feel hurt, I have chosen to feel hurt, When I feel happy, I have chosen to feel happy. This probably sounds a little bit far fetched but the strange thing, is that however much I’ve tried to find ways to prove that situations can fundamentally make me feel bad, it’s actually never the situation. Like ever. It’s always, always our thoughts about it.
Confused? I see you. I was too. How can it be that you can choose to feel ok about losing my job or being dumped? Well, let’s break it down and first have a look at where feelings come from.
Despite a lot of us believing that they just appear, they are actually driven initially by a thought. The thought appears so quickly and is so conditioned in our minds that often we don’t hear it, it’s gone in a flash and all we are left with is the feeling that remains. Once the feeling is there, it’s really easy to stay in the cycle because, as I mentioned here, as adults, many of us have difficulty processing our emotional states and our lack of awareness of our thought patterns keep us stuck in ruts that we all know well: ‘it’s unfair, he hurt me, she hurt me, they don’t understand’.
As many of us probably know, we can stay stuck in these cycles for a while which end up leading to resentment and general low vibe states (yep. she did it. she said low vibe and she owned it). So what do we do then? How can we stop this vicious cycling and just decide to feel ok? Well, all we need to do is change how we THINK about the situation. That’s it. Change how you think, change how you feel. It’s that simple.
Let’s take an example that is close to all of our hearts at the moment — el lockdown. (shudder… I can almost hear it in you now). Ok, so take a step back for a moment, like a huuuuge step back, a big enough step that you can look at lockdown like it’s wrapped up in an Amazon box that the dpd (wo)man left on your doorstep. Ok, now just look at it. Lockdown is lockdown. It just is what it is. It’s a little parcel on your doorstep. It can’t hurt you. It can’t make you bored. It can’t make you depressed. It can’t do anything to you. It’s just a situation. A manmade situation that cannot hurt you. It is NEUTRAL. I hear you, I hear you… but… but… but….ok, so stick with me. I acknowledge that for a lot of us, even the mention of lockdown brings up some kind of intense feeling. Anger, sadness, fear, it’s all there. But lockdown is just a situation, and seeing as we all feel differently about it, how can it be that lockdown created the feeling?
I’ll tell you why, because we think about it in a certain way that then creates our feelings about it. We hear lockdown and we think ‘this is unfair’, ‘I’m alone’, ‘why are they doing this?’, ‘I’m scared of COVID’. All of these are entirely acceptable thoughts and I would never in a million years tell you not to allow yourself to feel the offshoots of those thoughts, because they are entirely valid and need to be seen and felt. All I would say is that once you’ve walked all the way through the emotion tunnel, rather than thinking the same thing again which takes you back to the start of the tunnel without passing go and without collecting £200, you could choose to think differently. You could consciously decide to think something which evokes a more neutral response. Something that makes you feel a bit better and in a better place to face another day of zoom and home schooling. How about, rather than thinking ‘this is unfair’, you thought ‘I’m ok’ — how would you feel then? What about instead of ‘I’m alone’, you thought ‘I can call people whenever I want to’? What about instead of thinking ‘why are they doing this?’, you thought ‘I’m doing the best I can’? What about instead of ‘I’m scared of COVID’, you thought ‘I’m safe right now’.
My guess is that in shifting your thoughts, your emotional experience shifts too. By all means, let yourself feel — let yourself dive full force into the grief, the loss, the fear — don’t hide from that stuff as it’s important and needs to be processed, but when you feel yourself stuck in a cycle of feeling rubbish, why not see if you can shift how you think about the situation and see if that helps. Always bearing in mind that the situation (COVID, the break-up, the boss, the job) is always, always neutral and that it’s how we think about it which controls how we feel.The new thoughts don’t need to be wildly positive, as that might feel inauthentic and unbelievable, but perhaps, just perhaps you could believe ‘I’m ok right now’. And perhaps, just perhaps that might make you feel better. Because that’s all we really want isn’t it? To feel better?
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I’m in the process of qualifying as an ICF accredited coach through Animas coaching and through training directly under Jacqueline Hurst. I’m currently looking for some volunteer clients who are interested in taking up an offer of some seriously (seriously) discounted coaching for the next few months. If you’re interested, pop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org or on Linkedin.