Emotions literally power our lives.
An emotion actually points us in a direction. What we feel matters. As we combine that feeling with a thought, our brain automatically makes decisions about what is important (according to that combination of feeling and thought). When we understand our emotions, we learn how to “take them apart.” We learn that we can examine our feelings to tell us what we need, and then we can examine what we are thinking. As we do this, we can consciously choose the direction we go, and the decisions we make about how to get there.
Suppose I am mad because my neighbor plays his car stereo during the days - and the music is so loud that I can hear the bass sound booming inside my house with the windows closed. That is a problem.
To label my feeling: I am feeling “frustrated.” I have been over there twice now to ask him to turn the music down, but the very next day my neighbor forgets.
I know that what I’d like is for him to offer me consideration and respectfully lower the volume of his music.
So how does this solve the problem?
The answer: It does not solve the problem. All it does is help me see where I am in the situation. I know my feeling, my thought, and my need. Once I can see clearly, then I can look around me for solutions.
As I examine possible courses of action, I identify possible choices that look like this:
#1: I call the police, and tell them of the issue, and have them take care of it.
#2: I march over there and yell at my neighbor, and tell him that next time I will definitely be calling the police.
#3: I go over to my neighbor’s house, and say, “I’m feeling very frustrated, because I’d like you to turn your music down so that I don’t hear it in my house. Is there anything I can do that would encourage you to remember to use a much lower volume? I’d really like us to be able to be good neighbors, and I hope that we could cooperate with each other when we need things like this. I don’t really want to call the police because I’d rather resolve the issue peacefully.”
So - looking at those choices, I can choose the direction I want to go. Just like the arrows above, when I begin my course of action, my focus, aim and result will move towards some kind of target. Choosing our emotions makes sure that we are in control of where that arrow goes.
How did this help?
When I choose the option to take, I can choose it knowing that I am not reacting, I am acting. I am consciously choosing my response to a problem. I do not have to be uptight or upset or yell or scream. I do not need to tear down my neighbor’s reputation, nor become mean or violent. I am simply solving a problem in the best way that I can do so. Each one of those options will aim the problem in a different direction.
But I am choosing my response.
And that is powerful, believe it or not. Injustice happens all the time. Life is simply never going to be fair. As my husband says often, “Sometimes people are just annoying. Sometimes they are mean. And sometimes they are stupid. But I don’t have to be mean, annoying or stupid.”
Typically, someone would react in one of three ways:
We are not victims.
This whole thing may sound really trite. Shouldn’t we just do what needs to be done to get the neighbor to keep their music down? My answer to that is that it matters. By choosing our emotions, we can acknowledge our own responsibility for how we act, and what we spend our time thinking about. Being in control of our feelings is empowering, even if a situation seems difficult at times. The truth is, we are not victims unless we choose to be.
Our emotions give us direction to be able to choose the path we take in solving problems.