Grabbing Ahold of Your Emotional Steering Wheel

You wake up to a new day. You get in your car and find yourself yelling at the loser in front of you. The one you don’t believe should even have a driver’s license. You get to work and all those stupid people who didn’t do their job are making your day a living hell. You go get some lunch only to find the deli crowded. Why don’t they hire enough people so you don’t have to wait? They clearly have no idea how to operate efficient food service. Eventually you get home and find your dip-stick of a dog didn’t bother to wait for you to get home and, intent on getting your night off to a horrible start, has unloaded her bowels on your prized Persian rug. Do you hear a theme? This hypothetical “you” sees the events of the day as “out to get her”. Each circumstance dictates whether she is content, annoyed or outright angry.

In each of the scenarios above, the person has given the steering wheel of her emotions to the things and beings around her. We would do well to recognize when we have handed over our steering wheel. What I am not proposing is we stuff all our emotions. I am totally against that. It isn’t healthy. Being good to ourselves involves identifying our emotions, understanding the thoughts behind the emotion, validating emotions that are based on facts and reality (not created stories), letting go of the parts we don’t have control over (the speed of the car in front of us, the long line at the deli, the dog poop…) and taking control where we do have it (the time we leave the house knowing that traffic does not typically work in our favor, bringing lunch from home, crating our dog, arranging doggy day care or a dog walker).

Life will actually be more enjoyable when we decide to take responsibility for our emotions. No circumstance or person can make us feel a certain way. We choose how we are going to feel. We tend to be more comfortable blaming circumstances and people rather than owning our emotions and our responses. Take a bit of time each day and notice your emotions. Why are you feeling what you are feeling? What just happened that you are responding the way you are? What healthy and legal choices do you have right now with how you respond?  Notice what it feels like to have control over your response to life rather than allowing life to control you.

Categories: Boundaries, Depression, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Grabbing Ahold of Your Emotional Steering Wheel

  1. Hello,
    I very much appreciate your blog. However, saying that people “choose how they are going to feel,” makes an assumption. The assumption is that many people who look at emotional health as a conscious choice for all people, forget to make the proviso that should you not be able to do this, that there are ways to help you. 12 step programs, peer groups and church people can help.

    Having had the experience of many different therapists, and having listened to many of my friends who have experienced similar experiences with therapists, I would warn people that many of the “helping,” professions have issues that they have not worked on themselves and should someone need helping having “control over your response to life,” they do their due diligence in the choice of who they work with.

    Thanks for putting these issues out there.

    • I’m not exactly certain what your comment means. I get the part about not all people being able to “choose how they feel.” Yes, I agree with that wholeheartedly regarding outside support for those who are dealing with a physiological issue that affects their emotions or those who don’t know how to own their emotions. And yes, I could have put a bit in there about seeking help for those who find it challenging to own their emotions. Thank you for highlighting that.

      About the therapist issue…are you saying I haven’t worked out my issues? Or are you just throwing that out there as a general statement? I agree that not all therapists are good for all people. I know I am not the end-all in the helping world. I have been through my own “to hell and back”, have paid for my share of personal therapy and placed myself in growth environments. I don’t believe I could sit in my office and offer anything truly substantial if I hadn’t.

      So, I am having my own emotional reaction to your comment. Seems appropriate for me to address that here. I feel a tightening in my chest as I read it. I need helpful insights and comments to improve my writing and my communication. I appreciate them. I did not just take your comment though with a totally lighthearted “no big deal” feeling. I have a part in me that wants to be perfect. When my less-than-perfect side is revealed, I want to hide. I know I am not perfect, I know I will not please everyone, I know I can be OK with that. Sometimes, the “I need to be perfect” part in me shows up…like today. I feel that reaction. It’s not you making me feel that, it’s my way of responding. I am responsible for how I feel right now. I am responsible for working through this, being thankful for the opportunity to recognize my ownership and to ask myself where I have control right now. I can let this take me under and choose never to post again or get on with the post I was planning on writing for my other blog. I am taking a deep breath and as I exhale, releasing the tension in my chest. Need to do that again because it isn’t gone yet. Ah, now I feel it…heart rate is easing, tension is dissipating, I’m returning to a peaceful state again.

      If I was not able to find balance again, I could go for a walk or change my environment a bit to see if that helps. I might read an encouraging quote that reminds me I am OK, I can learn from the wisdom of others, I do not need to be perfect. I could call a friend who helps me find my balance. If that didn’t work, I could go back to my counselor and spend some time processing through what’s going on inside of me that I am not working through this on my own. If I was attending a recovery group (which I have done for co-dependency), I would reach out to the group members and/or leader of that group. Sometimes we need extra help working through our emotions and owning our response.

      I do appreciate your comment, shoe1000. You pointed out insightful and valuable information that I did not mention. What I love about this is that we are working together to create a whole 🙂

      Now, off to write a post!

  2. kkennard

    So true. One of my therapists “taught” or rather, showed me, that no-one can make us feel happy/sad/angry etc. We do that to ourselves. We can control how we react to situations/people. Once you have grasped this you are empowered. It takes practice and constant self-awareness, but the reward is freedom from the vicissitudes of Life.

  3. kkennard

    Reblogged this on kenkennardblog.

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