As I reflect on 2023 and previous years, I've realized something crucial. My biggest challenge in achieving my dreams, goals, and resolutions wasn't external factors; it was how I managed my emotions. Every time my feelings spiraled out of control, it seemed like my life did too.
When things didn't go as planned or when someone did something upsetting, did your emotional equilibrium get thrown off. Suddenly, your focus on your goals would be lost in the whirlwind of these emotional reactions. It felt like you had to start from scratch, all because you couldn't handle these emotional setbacks quickly. That's what I want to delve into today - how mastering our emotions as skills to be learned can be the key to not just surviving but thriving in the new year."
SEGMENT 1: The Role of Emotion
Emotions are with us every step of the way, but have you noticed how they sometimes seem to have a mind of their own despite our best efforts to control them? Imagine getting a call from someone from your past, and instantly, all those old feelings you thought were gone suddenly rush back, shaking your emotional stability. Or think about work: you're doing well, feeling confident, but then you miss out on a promotion you were sure you'd get. In an instant, your whole perspective on your job changes. It's these unexpected emotional twists and turns that really show us how complex and elusive our feelings can be.
Emotions are the lens through which we experience life. They add color and depth to our experiences. The warmth of the sun, the brightness of the moon, the thrill of love – all these are felt and given meaning through our emotions. Everything we encounter is interpreted and expressed through our feelings.
SEGMENT 2: Managing Emotions
Now, controlling these emotions... it's an impossible challenge, isn't it? We often try to suppress our fears and pains, hoping they'll stay buried. But life has a way of bringing them back to the surface, usually when we least expect it. Here's an interesting perspective: what if our goal isn't to conquer or control our emotions? What if the real key is understanding and gently guiding them?
We can't prevent feelings from emerging in response to life's events. But I've also learned that the emergence of a feeling doesn't have to be the controlling factor of my life either.
Looking back, I see how sudden emotional interruptions throughout past years often commandeered my life's narrative. These unexpected emotional responses had a way of eclipsing my New Year's intentions and aspirations. I found myself drifting away from my initial goals, as transient feelings of frustration, sadness, or anger took precedence, clouding what was truly significant at the start of each year. And this reminds me of what
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wisely pointed out, “What matters most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
SEGMENT 3: The Subtle Art of the 'I Feel' List
The 'I Feel' list is a transformative tool that's reshaped my approach to emotions. Remember, we may not control when emotions arise, but we have the power to channel these feelings into beneficial skills. This method goes beyond merely listing emotions – it's about integrating them into our everyday life. Imagine choosing empowering feelings like 'I feel powerful' or 'I feel determined,' and making them part of your daily narrative. For example, when you assert 'I feel powerful doing work presentations,' it's an exercise in self-empowerment and introspection, not just a statement. On one hand you are acknowledging what you want to feel and on another hand you are exposing what may be keeping you from feeling this way and this opens the door for you to do or learn something to bridge the gap.
Often, emotions such as depression or anxiety are intricate, multifaceted feelings. Depression, for instance, might manifest as a deep-seated sadness or unaddressed fear, presenting as a persistent state of despondency. Anxiety, similarly, can arise from unacknowledged worries or uncertainties. By identifying and understanding these root causes, we can begin to navigate them more effectively. This is the true power of the 'I Feel' list. It serves not just to articulate desired feelings but also to unearth and address the concealed emotions behind our most challenging experiences. In doing so, we develop new skills and perspectives, transforming our emotional insights into potent tools for personal growth and self-identification.
My journey with the 'I Feel' list began as an attempt to confront my anticipatory anxiety, which frequently held me back. When I eventually faced the tasks I dreaded, they were nowhere near as terrifying as I'd imagined. This realization was pivotal. I had to question how much of my life had been limited by unfounded fears. What have I missed out on?
Initially, I believed that avoiding anxiety-inducing situations was the solution, but this avoidance only amplified my anxiety. It was a revelation to discover that what I perceived as part of my identity was actually a byproduct of unexplored emotions. This led to a critical self-inquiry: Do my emotions control my identity, or do I harness my emotions to shape my identity? The answer lies in embracing and directing our emotions, not in allowing them to dictate our paths. The 'I Feel' list became a cornerstone of this journey, guiding me towards a more confident and engaged approach to life.
SEGMENT 4: Ironic Process Theory
Daniel Wegner, a social psychologist, is renowned for a fascinating concept called the Ironic Process Theory. This theory illuminates why our attempts to suppress thoughts or emotions often backfire. It hinges on the brain's paradoxical tendency to seek for the very thoughts or emotions we're trying to avoid, inadvertently keeping them in our consciousness. This phenomenon underlies why efforts like quitting smoking or trying to forget a painful memory can be so challenging - our mind keeps circling back to what we're striving to ignore.
The essence of the Ironic Process Theory is simple yet profound. If you tell yourself not to think of a red ladder, your brain inevitably brings up an image of a red ladder. It's similar to attempting not to think about a past love. The more you try to avoid these thoughts or feelings, the more they persist. Fighting against unwanted emotions by focusing on not experiencing them is counterproductive. Realizing this can be a breakthrough in emotional intelligence. It's about understanding your brain's mechanics and learning to transform it from a hindrance into a powerful ally in personal growth and fulfillment.
The key to managing these emotions isn't in suppression but in redirection. Shift your focus toward the emotions you want to cultivate. This approach essentially rewires your brain, steering it away from counterproductive thoughts and towards ones that uplift and support your well-being.
SEGMENT 5: Proactive Emotional Strategies
As we stand on the brink of 2024, let's shift our perspective on emotional strategies. The 'I Feel' list is much more than a collection of affirmations or statements – it's your personal emotional roadmap for the year ahead. It's about preparing for the emotional journey that each new experience will bring. This proactive mindset can profoundly transform your approach to life, ensuring that your daily emotions are in harmony with your long-term goals and dreams. It's a living, evolving constitution of your emotional world, adaptable as you gain new insights and awareness.
Earlier in the year, I came across a book that emphasized the importance of eliminating doubt to achieve your dreams. Inspired, I added 'I feel no doubt' to my 'I Feel' list and repeated it often, especially when I was grappling with doubts about my aspirations. However, as I continued to develop my list and learned more about the Ironic Process Theory, I realized that constantly reinforcing 'no doubt' wasn’t working for me. So, I adapted my list with new words. I replaced 'no doubt' with statements of 'confidence' and 'certainty.' Now, my list includes statements like 'I feel confident doing….' and 'I feel sure when I …..' These are the emotions I want to dominate my thoughts while experiencing life, the ones I want my subconscious to actively seek and amplify. And as you work on your list, you'll find yourself making similar adjustments. The 'I Feel' list serves not only as a record of your emotions but also as a tool for focus, centering, and realignment.
SEGMENT 6: Harnessing the Brain’s Power
The brain has incredible capabilities. It's far more than just a processor of experiences; it's a powerful entity capable of reshaping our perception of reality. The brain doesn't merely record what happens to us – it actively interprets and responds to our experiences, often in ways shaped by our past and anticipations of the future.
Consider this: our understanding of the world is not just a direct reflection of objective reality. It's a blend of what we sense and how our brain interprets these signals. This interpretation is deeply influenced by our past experiences and is predictive in nature. Our brain categorizes and anticipates, preparing us for future scenarios based on what it has learned.
This process of categorization isn't limited to physical attributes; it extends to abstract concepts as well. Our brains enable us to construct 'social reality' – we assign functions and meanings to objects and ideas that don't inherently possess them. Think of how we perceive the value of money, the significance of a pastor, or the concepts of borders and citizenship. These are not intrinsic qualities of these entities or labels, but rather meanings we've collectively agreed upon.
The thoughts you entertain play a pivotal role in shaping the brain's predictive model, which in turn casts a significant influence on the reality you perceive and experience.
Now, apply this understanding to how powerful your brain is in shaping your emotional reality. By consciously guiding your thoughts and emotions, you can effectively rewire your brain to enhance your perception of your experiences, leading to a more fulfilling and satisfying life. Just imagine the potential that lies in harnessing this power to shape your reality to fit your emotional aspirations.
SEGMENT 7: Practical Application
Putting the 'I Feel' list into action in your everyday life is surprisingly simple. Use your smartphone to jot down your emotional goals.
For example your ”I feel” list
could start as follows:
I feel disciplined in my food choices.
I feel I enjoy work with my boss.
I feel confident when I do presentations in front of others.
I feel powerful when I speak on topics about money.
I feel I write original content
I feel I am winning.
I feel love in my relationships.
I feel I love sincerely in my relationships.
Keep this list dynamic and specific to you – update it regularly as your experiences and feelings evolve.
This practice goes beyond just listing your emotions. It’s telling your brain how you will feel in your experiences. By actively acknowledging and directing your feelings, you're taking charge of how you react and interact with the world around you. It's a process that not only aids in emotional regulation but also significantly enhances the quality of your interactions with others.
As you become more attuned to your emotional state, your ability to navigate relationships and situations improves. You're not just reacting to life's events; you're responding with intention. This can lead to more positive interactions, deeper connections, and an overall enrichment of your daily experiences.
Committing to emotional agency is more than just a New Year’s resolution. It’s about living intentionally and directionally every single day. Remember your emotions permeate and give meaning to every experience of your life, so if you want to have better experiences, have better emotions. Let 2024 be the year you take control of your emotional world and let’s use the “I feel” list to turn our dreams into reality.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER
La Shon Y. Fleming Bruce a/k/a SHONSPEAKS is a blogger, thought leader, mental wealth coach for those ready to break the chains of a poverty mindset caused by religious, social and political ideologies, a certified brain health specialist, a speaker, and lead creator of https://shonspeaks.org I am also a lawyer and managing member of The Fleming-Bruce Law Firm, P.L.L.C. whose practice areas focus on divorce, custody, probate, car accidents, and bankruptcy.
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