As a therapist, I have very strong opinions about feelings. One observation goes against many's core belief that we get to choose how we feel. From my personal and professional experience and observations, I've come to the conclusion that we don't get to choose how we feel. We can choose environments that cultivate certain feelings. We can choose to be around people that can cultivate certain feelings. Things happen and we feel. Your dog gets hit by a car. You don't choose to feel sad, you just do. The key is in choosing how to respond to whatever feeling is coming up. So with that said, I compare feelings to toddlers.
Some toddlers are adorable! They are fun and full of energy. They make us laugh, they do cute things…we want to be around them. Some toddlers are not fun to be around. They are loud and sticky and have to be everywhere you are. They are disagreeable, stubborn and have a mind of their own. Regardless, they need to constantly be acknowledged and validated.
Some feelings are awesome! They're fun and pleasant and enjoyable. They bring smiles to our faces and laughter to our days. Some feelings are not fun to have be around. They are loud and sticky and are everywhere you are. Regardless of how hard you try to ignore them or hide them or correct them, they have a mind of their own. Regardless of if the feeling is fun or not, they too need to be constantly acknowledged and validated.
The bad news is that you can't choose how you feel and when. The good news is you can control how you respond to feelings. You can cultivate relationships and situations that help cultivate particular feelings. The trick is to acknowledged whatever feeling is going on. Validate it and figure out what message the feeling is giving you. If you can do something about it, do. If you can't, acknowledge that you can't.
Once your feelings are have been acknowledged, they typically either simmer down (like the toddler who just wanted mommy to watch them jump "really high").
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