“Feelings are much like waves, you can’t stop them from coming but you can choose which one to surf.” - Jonatan Martensson
The idea of having choice over what you feel is incredibly attractive. Powerful. Captivating. Imagine all the restless moments of intense emotions you’ve ever experienced. Feelings of doubt, fear, sadness – now in control.
What's more there is so much ‘evidence’ nowadays from all kinds of successful people that confirms it is possible and critical to control as well as consciously chose our emotions. It is then inevitable to ask – if that's true, how can you make sure you actually chose the waves you surf? Find a step by step system to address your emotional patters below once and for all.
Before that, let's have a quick look at what feelings actually do to us, how we've survived to date and what types of feelings we usually need to deal with.
WHAT FEELINGS ARE AND HOW WE DEAL?
When you are overwhelmed by a specific feeling, be it love, affection, fear, lust, sadness, joy or any other and you’ve already realized that this feeling and the amounts of it are not necessarily beneficial for your life you also (in most cases) know exactly what do to. Isn’t that true… and paradoxical. People are clever.
If, however, you are not 100% sure as to what needs to be done then there are probably plenty of volunteers around ready to give you a “clear cut”, directive advice which seems to be coming from a place of complete and unshakable confidence. You OBVIOUSLY need to do this or that, take account of this and that, do it in the X or Y time. Awesome and Sorted!
In those cases, your eyes usually get a bit wider, you nod on the well intended suggestions, you nod at your own well intended thoughts and then…You absolutely know you are NOT going to take the action you need to be taking. No one really understands how it FEELS to let go and overcome such strong feeling. Does that sound familiar?
Managing emotions effectively is like developing a new skill or a habit. It is a way of doing something better, and as humans we struggle with change the most. This is normal.
There is also a distinction in types of feelings worth making. There are Small and Big feelings. As simple as that. The small ones are simple ‘daily fluctuations’. Imagine a calm sea with little and constant waves – frustration, hope, anxiety, hope again… We navigate around those as a skilled sailor most of the time. We know the waters, we aren't scared. We use reference points and maps carefully crafted through the years which give us an indication of how we want to react next.
I think we successfully chose which small waves to surf. We get a smoothie, we go for a walk, we change our environment, we travel, we drink, we find a solution… we surf it. We want to change our state and we know how to do it.
Yet in the case of the big emotions, the huge waves which literally sometimes drawn us … we might struggle. There is a scientific explanation for this. The part of the brain, dealing with emotions is 6 times more active than any other. It is only natural that emotions hijack our thoughts sometimes. The walk, the trip and the drink…they all can prove useless at times.
Yet, what is a feeling than just a thought linked to an emotion? What is a big feeling than just an intense repetitive thought producing an intense repetitive emotion? And if feelings are triggered by thoughts and any thought can be changed then we can change any feeling.
We often use the words feeling and emotion interchangeably.I did it in the paragraphs above too. Yet emotions and feelings are different and this is worth understanding.
Feelings are sense detecting what you feel. For example: Hearing, Taste, Sight, Smell, Heat, Cool, Pain, Pleasure, Sense of balance, Pressure, Motion. Emotions on the other hand are what those feelings MEAN to us. They are subjective. For example emotions are considered: happy, sad, mad, afraid, etc. There are many ways of defining them, but the science and literature agree they are intrinsically different.
My simplified explanation to you is in the form of a mathematical formula:
A Feeling = Thought(s) + Emotional Responses to thoughts [meanings]
A strong Feeling = Intense, repetitive Thought(s) + Intense, repetitive Emotional Responses to thoughts [meanings]
In that sense, the though is the first thing that has the ultimate impact on which waves you chose to surf. In fact 90% of your feelings are driven by the QUALITY of your thoughts.
STEP BY STEP: HOW TO CHOSE THE WAVES YOU SURF?
In addressing that mathematical formula and making sure that your thoughts are good for you the below 3 steps is all you need to do to produce Immediate results:
STEP1: Become Aware Of Your Thoughts Take the time to be fully aware as to why you are not feeling OK. What thoughts in your head make you feel the way you do. What triggered the emotional response you are observing now? It doesn’t need to be a complex, time consuming exercise. Just ask yourself “what thoughts make me feel that way” and give an honest answers to yourself. You will notice 2 things – the facts of a particular situation and the meaning that you give them.
STEP2: Remove The Bias From Your Thoughts Obviously we all give personalized meaning to everything (situations, words, activities, physical experiences). Once you’ve identified the thoughts that are causing a feeling that you want to change – remove the bias and the meaning by questioning it’s validity. For example – if your thought is “the audience didn’t react at all to my presentation and hence I suck at presenting and I embarrassed myself tremendously. I hate presenting, I am a failure” – question “how is this ridiculous?” and give an honest answer to yourself.
STEP3: Substitute Old thoughts With New Ones This is essential as there is no such thing as “empty space” in your brain really. Create a new thought, a new meaning to the same situation. For example “the audience didn’t react as I expected to my presentation and I am looking forward to have another go and learn more about presenting” could be a much more empowering pattern.
STEP4: Feel The New Feelings And Enjoy The Ride
The above system DOES PRODUCE IMMEDIATE RESULTS and it changes the way you feel.
However, it is KEY to acknowledge that SOMETIMES WE WANT TO CHOOSE THE BAD FEELINGS OVER THE GOOD ONES FOR A WHILE AND ... THAT'S OK!
We know it’s best to change to a more positive internal atmosphere, yet we may want to feel negative for a while. Today’s emphasis on being “the best you can be” and “be in control” puts pressure on a lot of people to not show that they sometimes truly hurt. Often if someone openly admits that they are hurting it is perceived as a weakness. But the fact is – it’s OK and probably healthier to allow yourself some time to feel the negative feelings that come to you. Especially so when they relate to big and important things in your life.
The important thing here is to not extend this into an endless period and create a pattern out of it!
WITH TWO ADDITIONAL STEPS THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SURF YOUR WAY:
STEP1: Become aware of your thoughts
STEP2: Give yourself the permission to feel the negative feelings and emotions and then set a specific period of time for that. I personally set a specific time to feel bad to which I stick. An hour, 2, 3 or a day. It may sound unnatural to some but it just sounds that way – in reality we are more than just capable of taking ownership of our states and having a clear time-period just helps to not go into a downward spiral. It is quite handy and it works better than I ever imagined.
STEP3: Remove the bias from your thoughts
STEP4: Focus on what can you learn from the difficult situation – about yourself and others. You don’t need to fight or ignore your negative state. Don’t exaggerate it or undermine it. Just allow time to reflect and be careful of your self-critisim. Elimitate it. It doesn't add value.
STEP5: Substitute your old thoughts with new Just like before, remember that there is no empty space in your brain. When you are ready to switch your feelings – create empowering new thoughts to substitute the old ones.
STEP6: Feel The New Feelings And Enjoy The Ride
Finally, face it - It is all a matter of choice and you are the boss. Enjoy your own power!
After the nigh there always comes a day unless we keep the blinds down forcefully. :) Suppressing your feelings is not sustainable or healthy. Understanding, facing and dealing with them is what counts and makes us stronger, happier individuals. Create a habit to feel good and practice from today!