Taking Ownership of your feelings
The first step in creating your own happiness (or sense of peace) starts with taking ownership of your thoughts, feelings and actions.. This is an easy concept but a HARD practice. At least I have a lot of trouble with it. Let’s start with our actions. That’s an easier one. I can pretty much always take responsibility for my actions. If I kick a ball across the yard, I can own up to that. I can even (usually) take responsibility for my thoughts. I thought about kicking a ball and I did. Sounds easy enough. Right? Wrong. How many times does something pop into your head and you shove it down. Just ignore it and push it down. This usually happens when we have a “bad” thought. Somebody walks by us and we have a negative thought about them pop into our head. Whether it’s that they’re fat or skinny or ugly or too perfect or stuck-up or ditzy or a different color or a different ethnicity or whatever. Lots of times we think negative things about people. We don’t say it out loud. We’re nice people for gosh sakes. We would never say that! But we think it. We think it. In the past, I would real quick-like shove those thoughts down. I’m not supposed to have those thoughts. Nice people don’t have those thoughts. I’m a nice person. So I shove it down and don’t think about it. Wrong. Waaaaay wrong. The thought doesn’t just go away. You can un-think a thought. It’s there. Just festering. Growing.
When we have any kind of thought that isn’t kind and loving, it’s because a fear got stirred up in us. So, when I have a judgmental thought, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with the person I’m judging. They’re absolutely fine just the way they are. It’s because, for whatever reason, they stirred up a fear in us. For instance, if I pass by someone and I think to myself “They’re dressed like a slob”. It actually has absolutely nothing to do with them and how they’re dressed. It is all about me and a fear that got stirred up. Here’s another good example. If I see an interracial couple, my first thought is “They’re an interracial couple”. Then I tell myself “Oh that’s ok. That’s good. I’m a good person, so I can’t see anything wrong with that”. Well I have one thing right there. It is ok. There isn’t anything wrong with them. But there is with me. If my first thought is “Oh they’re an interracial couple” and then I have to convince myself that it’s ok for them to be together I just had a big ol’ fear stirred up. In step 2 we’ll talk about how to uncover that fear. But, for now, just know that it’s never them. It’s always something in us. And we aren’t wrong for thinking those thoughts. What’s wrong is to ignore them and let them grow or to act on them and be mean to another person. What’s right is to admit them and then work to bring peace to our lives. So, we have to acknowledge EVERY thought we have whether we like them or not. We have to own them and admit we had them. We don’t have to like them. We don’t have to tell anyone. But we do have to admit to ourselves that we had them. If we don’t own up to them, we can’t get rid of them. If you ignore a bill, does it go away. Nope. It just makes things worse. This is getting harder. Might as well go all the way and tackle feelings next.
It’s easy to take responsibility for the good feelings that you have. It’s a whole lot harder to take responsibility for the bad. But we have to be accountable for our feelings if we want to change them. Why? Because if we aren’t in charge of our own feelings than that means someone or something else is in charge. Wouldn’t that be a horrible thought? I mean what if your happiness and peace were determined by somebody else? They could keep you miserable for ever. Now someone out there is saying “Yep. Earl has made me miserable for years. It’s all his fault. I would be happy if he would just disappear.” Maybe you would be happy if he disappeared and maybe you wouldn’t. Who knows? But, you can start to break up some of your sadness right now today with him sitting in the same room as you. You have the power in you to start creating some peace for yourself and you don’t have to change anything about your life other than the way you think.
I’m not telling anyone they should leave a bad relationship or that they should stay in one. What I am saying is this – you can break up some of that sadness, anger, loneliness, despair (insert any negative emotion) and fill it with a little peace. Now will you be a grinning idiot that skips blissfully through life? Probably not. You’ll probably still be sad, angry, lonely or whatever – but it won’t be as bad. You’ll have replaced some of the bad with good. And when you do that enough, you’ll find yourself feeling a greater sense of peace. Maybe then you’ll be ready and able to do something about your situation. But whatever you do, you have to take responsibility for your own feelings. You have to be able to say “I feel ___________ but I’m going to work on bringing peace to my life.”
On the flip side of this idea, everybody else is responsible for their feelings too. So if someone you know is mad, that’s their thing – not yours. It’s NOT your fault they’re mad. You may have stirred up a fear in them that’s making them act mad – but you aren’t responsible for their feelings. You can’t make them mad. That’s their thing. Let’s say you come home from work and your spouse is mad that you didn’t put the clothes in the dryer after you said you would. I’m saying it isn’t your fault that they’re mad. It’s their thing, not yours. You can apologize for not doing what you said you would do, but don’t take on their feelings. They have to own them. Boy is this hard for me to do. I’m a sensitive person and I tend to take on other peoples feelings all the time. And when I do that, I’m not happy. So, I’m working on this. But, jeez o’ peez it is haaaaard.
Here’s a nutty idea for you. I think that we only really have two emotions. Everything else is an offshoot of those two things. I think that we feel contentment or we feel scared. Nothing else. It might come out as ecstatic joy – that’s a really strong feeling of contentment. Or, we might feel mad or anxious or depressed or any other negative emotion – that’s all a response to a fear we have. When something happens to us that makes us feel bad, it’s because some deep, down fear that we have has been stirred up. While I can’t speak for everyone else in the world, I can say that 99% of my fears go back to my fear of not being loved. It’s probably actually 100%, but I’m not sure. So, for me, if I came home and found out that my husband didn’t put the clothes in the dryer like he said he would and I got mad – if I dig deep enough, I’ll discover that he stirred up my fear of not being loved. That’s what I’m upset at. Not the fact that he didn’t dry the clothes. I’m not mad at him, I’m afraid of not being loved. Deep stuff here! But, I’m jumping ahead to step 2. Consider it a little sneak peak. Can you tell that I’m a person who always peaks at the end of a book to see what happens? My daughter hates that. Shiny things……. Back to taking responsibility for our feelings.
Ok, so what about situations that happen to us that aren’t our choosing? Maybe you have someone you love who has cancer. Cancer sucks. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. It sucks. They didn’t ask for it. You didn’t ask for it. You can’t be happy about it. You will never be ok with them getting cancer. It’s not only ok to be mad or scared, or lost it’s natural. But you can break up some of that sadness, anger and frustration and replace it with peace. And it all starts with acknowledging your feelings. You have to start by saying “I’m scared….. I’m mad…..I’m anxious…. but I’m going to work to bring more peace to my life.”
Please understand that when I say you’re responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, and actions I don’t mean that you want to feel that way or that you choose to feel that way. A lot of times things happen where there is no way for you to feel anything but sad or mad or angry or whatever. That’s ok. Nothing wrong with that. You have every right in the world to feel that way and it’s ok. But you won’t be happy or at peace when you’re feeling that way. Everybody wants peace and happiness – not everybody has the courage to say “I’m taking responsibility for my thoughts and feelings and I am going to work to bring peace to my life”. You could. You could be the person who chooses to break up those negative feelings so they can be replaced with positive. The change may be small at first, but it will grow. I promise you! You can do this! You have the strength and now you are learning the steps to take. The first step is always acknowledging any feeling you have. If you’re feeling happy and peaceful say “I’m so grateful and proud of myself for the peace in my life” If it’s a negative emotion just say “I’m feeling ________________ but, I’m going to work to bring peace into my life.”
Now you’re ready for step 2!
If you have any questions or comments, just let me know. I would love to hear from you!
Wishing you much peace,