How are you making yourself feel?

by Dr. Barnes Boffey

Although it seems incredible and almost incomprehensible, the reality is that “we create both the emotions we love and those we hate.” Our emotions do not happen to us, they are the result of an experience coupled with the story we tell ourselves about that experience.

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Suppose, for example, you are writing a greeting card, and your child runs by, hits your arm, and you end up scribbling on the card. How would that make you feel? The answer is that it wouldn’t make you feel anything. What would create your emotion is the story you begin to tell yourself about what happened. If you say “How can he be so clumsy,” you would feel frustrated and maybe angry. If you tell yourself “Oh, man, I just spent 10 minutes on this card. Not cool,” you might feel disappointed and frustrated. If you told yourself, “No big deal, he’s a kid and he didn’t mean to do it,” you might feel forgiving and calm. The emotion you “have” is a result of the story you create.

This is both good news and bad news. Good news because we now have a great deal of control over the story we tell ourselves and bad news because we can no longer blame everyone else in our lives for “making us” feel bad (or good). We have to give up the victim role, even knowing the power of being a victim and its many attendant assets. But in the long run, as emotional victims we are at the mercy of the world in which they live, a terrible place from which to try to meet our basic needs.

Helping each other tell different stories about our lives is the purview of a good friend, a parent, a counselor and a spouse/partner. Same story. . . same emotion. But knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. Some stories are very, very hard to change, especially once they become part of the fabric of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.

Victimhood is a sad and ineffective perspective from which to our lives. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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