You can’t control your reactions? Here is why. Part 2

You can’t control your reactions? Here is why. Part 2

I hope you understand more about the importance of moods and emotions in the way you react to things. In fact they are important in all decision making processes. They influence how you see interactions, situations and events in your life and how you see others. And it influences how you react to what people say to you.

And of course you know that. You know that when you are in a bad mood, or disappointed with yourself in some ways, no matter how nice people are (and no matter how hard your partner tries to make you feel loved), you just don’t feel it anyway. It feels that they must be lying or trying too hard, and even if they are completely genuine in their affection, you just don’t trust it.

The daily mood fluctuations are easier to notice and acknowledge. When you feel good for a few days and then you have a day when you feel frustrated or annoyed, or a bit sorry for yourself, you know it’s there. So you know that your reactions on that day are not going to be generous and loving, but would match this frustrated tone.

However, persistent, chronic moods are more difficult to acknowledge. It can be hard to see the connection between the underlying, chronic sense of disappointment or inadequacy and your super sensitive reactions to people. This is because the moods that persevere become a part of ‘furniture’ in your mind, they become the ‘way things are’, and you can’t notice them easily. It gives them extra power over you, the unsuspecting victim.

You may be feeling discouraged about your life, anxious about your future, worrying about finances or feeling lonely and pessimistic about meeting someone interesting. You may be feeling bored with your work, stressed about your boss, experiencing difficulties in your marriage, feeling angry with a family member that seem to be critical or even disappointed with yourself for not being the way you ‘should’ be.

All of this would add to your underlying mood and, if situations persist, the emotion of disappointment, anxiousness, discouragement or worry becomes a big part of who you are. You live with this emotional tone, it is a big part of how you feel every day, and it influences everything in your life, including how you react to things. It becomes a permanent discomfort within you which, soon enough, would start giving you real physiological symptoms, like tension, heaviness, tightness or even pain.

You may even reach for things like alcohol, or excessive food (emotional eating), or other things that you use to find relief. It can really be anything, from shopping to all forms of addictions. Everything that feels ‘out-of-control’ and excessive is a distraction from chronic emotional discomfort. No exceptions.

So lets look closer at how these chronic emotions come to be and why they bother us so much.

First of all, emotions do not come about once and then reside in the body for ever. Emotions arise as an immediate response to your thoughts. And while what you feel may have to do with the past, it is only because you still have an emotional relationship with what happened in the past, good or bad.

So for example, a client of mine, Sarah, went through a divorce a couple of years before I met her. Surprisingly, she had very few regrets or emotional hang ups about her ex husband and seemed to be at peace with what happened. Up to a point. Because there was a tender spot that still bothered her.

She knew her husband let her down many times and that their life together was not what she wanted; he was neither supportive nor loving, nor he was a good father or a caring husband. And so she felt at peace with the decision to separate. And yet, there was something still troubling her about it.

It didn’t take long to discover that she had a wall of sadness and blame towards herself for not choosing better. While she let her ex-husband off the hook of responsibility and felt no resentment towards him (she told me that it took her some conscious work to do so, and she succeeded), she was angry with herself for not choosing a better husband in the first place. Because, as I found out, the dream of ‘till death us apart’ was still very real to her. And even though she knew that she can’t go back and do it again and, this time around, choose better.

The dream of happy marriage was for Sarah a big part of what it meant to be happy and successful. As a result, she saw herself as someone who missed out and who could never be fully happy in life. She felt great sadness about it and the intensity of it surprised her.

And yet, she carried this sadness with her all day every day. Not because it was somehow permanently wedged in her body, but because the myriad of things triggered the emotions every day. Every film, commercial or anything to do with wedding, family, romantic love, children, even certain colours or symbols that she associated with her marriage or divorce acted as a reminder, triggering a sense of sadness and self-blame over and over and over again.

Sarah was not thinking consciously of any of this. It was happening outside of her sphere of awareness. What she was aware of was her urge to overeat, or her teary moments that would come out of the blue, or a sense of burden of being alone with no one to share her life. Many times a day, a snippets of memories or a gripping sense of sadness would overcome her, but she was not sure why she was reacting that way. She wasn’t even sure what she was reacting to in the first place.

The sadness and self-doubt influenced almost everything in her life relationships with others, her work and business, her relationship with children) and because there was a large dose of self-blame involved (‘I should have chosen a better man, I am to blame, I wasted my life, I could never be happy now’) the emotional discomfort was at times unbearable. She didn’t fully trust her decisions (because she made this mistake in the past) nor she was able to trust her choices of men, and so she avoided dating.

As we figured all this out, and as Sarah was able to understand and then change these chronic emotions, many things in her life improved dramatically, starting with her eating. But until then, the roller-coaster feeling and her intense binges were a clear sign that her reactions and decisions were influenced by some intense, chronic, negative emotions.

The mood is a powerful thing, the emotions we experience every day influence everything we do. How you feel will dictate what you do, how you react and the decisions you make every day. So now, you may ask, what can you do about it. Especially if you don’t seem to be able to see what is behind the negative emotions.

The positive narratives – like the one you may have about the beach or the ocean or the nature in general – will help. Because if you believe that the ocean is relaxing and fun to be near, it will be easier to tune into relaxed, happy feeling while you are there. And while chilling on the beach is not going to change your life overnight, you can use the positive ‘stories’ that you already have about people, things, events, places, situations to your advantage. And get involved with them (in your mind and in real life) as much as you can. Think of people you love and feel the goosebumps if you can. Walk on the beach and smell the ocean if you can. Every bit will help. And eventually you may find yourself getting clear glimpses into what has been bothering you all along. And then you will be able to resolve it by deciding on something different. After all, it is your life.

 

 

 

 

Dorota

 

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