Last week, in celebration of International Women’s day, I wrote how so many of us women are letting fear and anxiety rule our lives, by not pursuing our dreams, our passions, our life’s work, etc, out of fear and anxiety.
Frankly, so many of us are being held back in life by this imaginary forcefield of fear and we are stuck!
In last week’s post I alluded to being able to control our feelings and emotions, so I want to dive deeper into that today.
Scientific studies have shown that feelings are simply vibrations in our body. When we feel something, we can often feel it in every cell of our body. A good example is when we get a fright. When was the last time you had a near-miss in your car? Someone pulled out in front of you and you had to slam on the brakes and you got a huge fright. The adrenalin pumped through your veins and you felt the fright in every cell of your body. Yes, you have adrenalin pumping through your body, but the feeling you have is actually just a vibration in your body. It is not physically going to harm you.
Perhaps a better example might be public speaking, the biggest fear for most people, only second to death.
Let’s say, you’ve been asked to address a large room full of people about a topic that you’re actually familiar with (or maybe not so familiar, but we’ll go with familiar for now). This is presuming of course, that you don’t speak on stage very often and are not well-practised at public speaking.
Your heart races, you start breathing faster, you may perhaps feel a churning feeling in your stomach, a light-head or dizziness, perhaps sweating, hot flushes or the need to go to the toilet urgently.
All of these are signals of anxiety, but in and of themselves, are caused by the vibration of the feeling. So in the case of the stage-fright, the feeling was scared or apprehensive and the vibration from that brought about signals of anxiety.
Now, to be clear, I am not talking about Generalised Anxiety Disorders, because those are different. GAD’s effect people on an almost daily basis over a long period of time and need to be diagnosed by a doctor.
I am talking about moments of anxiety, which are different. Just because you experience a moment of anxiety, does not mean you suddenly suffer from anxiety. The two are very different and I just want to be clear as to which I am referring to.
So, in your moment of stage fright (aka a moment of anxiety), you are experiencing the feelings that are a result of the vibration running through your body.
The main thing you need to know and to remember is that all feelings are just vibrations and cannot actually harm you. Will going on stage actually harm you? Will feeling embarrassed actually harm you? You might say it would hurt your pride, but again, it’s just a feeling.
Our primitive brains are hard-wired to protect us from harm.
So, when you hear that you need to go up on stage to present to a large group of people, your primitive brain immediately alerts you to “Danger Will Robinson” with a very strong vibration through your body, to warn you not to do it.
But why would your subconscious brain think that? Well, for several reasons.
Firstly, because you have probably always thought of public speaking as scary, secondly because your very first, split second thought when told about the public speaking was “I can’t do that” (which your brain reads as “I might die”) and lastly, because it’s presumably not something you are practised at and therefore, your subconscious brain does not realise that speaking to a group of people is safe for you.
Your brain just went into that fight or flight mode – with big flighty wings!
So how do we overcome our negative feelings? Exactly what are negative feelings?
There is a very long list of negative feelings judging by a Google search, but here are a few to give you an example: fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, frustration, annoyance, embarrassment, bitter, lonely, inferior, shame, confused, humiliation, deprived, offended, useless, doubtful, worthless, despair, guilty, hopeless, livid, lost, overwhelmed, rejected, shy, worried, hateful, heart-broken, indifferent.
We can feel so many of these things throughout a normal day. Some of them last but just a moment and others, hours, days or weeks.
The key to overcoming them is to manage them and the key to managing them is to get to know them very well. To practice feeling them. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it really does work.
The reason you want to practice them, is to really feel them, to show your subconscious brain that feelings are just there to be felt and nothing more. They are not there to rule your life.
So next time you feel any negative emotion, just sit with it. Acknowledge that it’s there and feel it. Don’t cover it up, just feel it. Don’t resist or fight it, just feel it.
This is simply called “feeling the feels”. Just feel them for exactly what they are, without trying to get rid of them or disguise them.
This will help you and your conscious/higher brain to recognise that feeling a feeling will not hurt you. And once you/your conscious brain are aware of something, you have a much better chance of managing your subconscious/primitive brain.
So, now when you are faced with something that is going to bring up a negative emotion, there are two things you can do. The first one is to feel the feeling and not let it bother you, safe in the knowledge that it is simply a vibration in your body. Nothing more.
Secondly, we can manage our feelings before they even become feelings, through our thoughts.
You see, every single feeling we have is first created by a thought. Nobody else has the power to make us feel anything.
That’s right! Nothing anyone else does or says, can you make you feel anything.
You create your own feelings based on your thoughts. When someone else does or says something, you first have a thought about their words or actions and it is then your thoughts that create your perception and feelings.
You might say, “but my mother-in-law really upset me with her nasty comments”. Well, she might have said something, but deciding it was nasty is only your perception of what she said. Your feeling of upset, was actually created by your thoughts about her words. Whether her words were nasty or not, is subjective. Her words don’t actually become nasty, until you decide they are nasty.
She might say the very same words to someone else who might take them a totally different way, which again is thoughts and therefore perception, creating a reactionary emotion.
It's like taking the rose-coloured glasses off our brain and our feelings, to see and feel things from a different perspective.
Think about the last time someone did something that truly annoyed you and made you angry. The fact that their words or actions annoyed you was something that you decided in your own brain. Their words and actions are merely that, words and actions, which until you have a thought about them, don’t affect you. It is the thoughts in your own brain that then bring on the feelings of annoyance and then anger at the annoyance.
Everyone perceives things differently, so any particular action or situation isn’t just good or bad. Saying something is good or bad is an opinion, which stems from your thoughts.
For example, you might say that someone dying is bad thing. Period. But other people don’t always see it that way. Some may see it as a relief, after years of suffering. It is the thought that you have about it, that places an opinion on the situation.
So much of what we believe in the world is purely opinion or perception, based on a thought you had about something. Yes, that thought might have been influenced by someone else also having the same opinion or perception as you, but the fact remains, it is just a thought. Your thought.
So, how do we manage our feelings?
Imagine that you weren’t afraid of feeling embarrassed, because you know it’s just a feeling, just a vibration in your body and it couldn’t actually harm you. Would you bite the bullet and do ‘the thing’ anyway?
If you weren’t fearful, because you knew fear was just a four-letter ‘F’ word that couldn’t actually hurt you. Would you do the things you’ve not done in the past?
Would you stop procrastinating over starting your business? Would you ask that guy you’ve been eyeing off for months out on a date? Would you finally go Live to your social media audience? Would you buy that bikini and wear it with pride? Would you get into doing public speaking? Would you stop eating and drinking too much to cover up all the negative emotions? Would you actually lose the 20 kilograms that you’ve dreaming of? Would you accept that gig playing your music?
What would you do if fear was no longer a factor.
Some say that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real and I tend to agree with that.
Most of the time, fear is created by a bunch of excuses inside our heads, which were initially created by our subconscious brain, because it was trying to protect you us the big, bad world.
Controlling our thoughts and therefore our emotions, means that we can then in turn control our actions and our outcomes.
Every action we take is the result of an emotion. We have a thought, which creates an emotion, which leads to an action and ultimately a result.
So if you want to start creating results in your life, you need to take the actions appropriate to those results. In order to take those actions we need to have the right emotions attached to them, which starts with a thought.
You might be wondering why we need an emotion to take an action. Remember our brains are hard-wired for three main things 1) to avoid pain, 2) to seek pleasure, and 3) to be efficient (and not exert energy). So in order to do any action, we need an emotion or a motivation.
Our modern-day human brains have obviously evolved a little more than that now, but essentially everything we do can be traced back to one of these three motivations.
Remember the last time you were feeling angry or annoyed. What actions did you take? Did you eat or drink something to make you feel better? You were seeking pleasure and trying to avoid pain in the one action. What was the result? You probably regretted eating the whole bar of chocolate or the whole bottle of shiraz.
But why were you angry or annoyed to begin with? What thought was in your head that made you feel that way? Was it because the woman who served you at the shop was rude to you and even managed to insult you? Remembering that other people can’t make you feel anything, all of your feelings come from your own thoughts.
Let’s explore this example. So, let’s say you go to the shops on your way home from work. You’ve had a long day and you’re tired, but you were in a good mood. The shops were busy, which is never good for anyone, other than the shop owner. The checkout operator was also at the end of her very long day. About 20 minutes before she served you, she was verbally abused by an irrational customer who had also been having a bad day. The checkout operator was not her usual, pleasant self. She was upset, hurt and a little bit angry and made an off-hand remark to you about rude and angry customers.
You can take what she has said to you and create a thought, which will in turn create a feeling. This is where you have two choices …
Your default thought could be that she’s a bitch and she’s referring to you being the angry customer, which in turn does actually make you angry and you then go home and proceed to drink the whole bottle of shiraz, plus the chocolate and ice cream that you just bought at the shop, which then makes you feel physically ill and only masks your anger, it doesn’t remove it. It leaves you feeling rather resentful, especially as you now spend your evening drafting up letters of complaint to the store manager and chatting to your friend on the phone about what a bitch she was and what you’re going to say to them.
Essentially, you became so obsessed with this, that this scenario has wasted your evening that you had planned on doing some reading and giving yourself that long overdue pedicure.
So, in hindsight how do you change it all? How do you stop yourself from eating all the chocolate and ice cream and drinking all the wine and feeling like crap? Not to mention you ruined your diet.
It is really simple to change this behaviour and it starts with your thoughts.
So, instead of choosing to think that the checkout operator was in fact referring to you when she said something about rude and angry customers, which in the first scenario you made all about yourself, you could choose a different thought. A simple example would be that ‘she has had a bad day, I hope it gets better for her’. You can treat her with extra kindness and offer her an empathetic smile to tell her you understand.
In that instant of choosing a positive thought over a negative thought, you have essentially created a feeling of empathy and perhaps a little smug pride in yourself for recognising that it wasn’t about you. You’ve also changed the trajectory of your evening, because you then go home and cook yourself that healthy meal of vegies and chicken, you don’t even have a glass of wine, let alone a whole bottle and you even get more reading done than you planned and your new pedicure looks great.
So we can change our life, simply by changing our thoughts, and in turn our feelings and emotions, all throughout our day.
Remember: All feelings, be they negative or positive feelings, are just vibrations in our body, caused by our thoughts. When we can learn to recognise and accept them for exactly what they are and learn to either control them or just feel them without reacting to them (or letting them rule our lives!), then we can be, do and have anything we want in life.
Until next time,