Most people’s lives are driven by their feelings. You feel hungry and you eat. You feel that you want a little more and you eat a little more. You feel that some ice cream or cookies would be the best dessert… so you ‘indulge’ (even though you have to follow it up with 1000 mg of Metformin, or worse – some insulin – because of your diabetes).
And I know and you know that the stomach is not the only place where our feelings dictate what we do. You are a married, internationally powerful leader and you feel that you should ‘indulge’ yourself with an intern. And, you do! You are rich, but you feel that you are not rich enough so you ‘indulge’ in some illegal investment activities. You a White policeman and you ‘feel’ differently (negatively) about Black people than you feel about White people, so when push comes to shove, you let all your ‘hidden’ feelings drive your actions.
So what should you do if you find that your feelings are controlling your life (and you don’t want them to)?
Stop living by your feelings. Stop letting your feelings drive what you do daily. Stop letting your feelings dictate your interactions with others.
Stop following your feelings until those feelings are insync with your decisions, your values and your life’s mission. But here is the problem with that statement… your decisions are probably driven by your feelings. Yes, your feelings are probably the hidden (and not so hidden) drivers behind your thoughts, beliefs, decisions – and definitely your actions.
Some writers have called this the “think, feel, do” cycle. I call it the “feel, think, do” cycle… and the “feel, do, think about it after the fact” cycle.
Most things that we do don’t go in the order of: “Let me see… what should I do? OK, I will do this and that… and then after that I will do so and so… etc.) Nope. Most people feel a particular way about something, this then drives their thoughts… and their actions follow quickly thereafter.
For example, you are driving on a neighborhood street and someone cuts in front of you just barely missing hitting your car. Do you say to yourself, “How should I respond to this person?” Nope. Instead, you probably think – “That idiot, what the hell is he doing? He could have killed me!” And, that’s the tame version of what you might say, not only to yourself but out loud. You might not even say anything! Instead, you might speed up right under his bumper, wait until you both get to the next red light… pull up by his side, roll down your window and blast him – verbally of course (although your preference at that moment would be to use some other instrument other than your mouth to do the blasting)!
At that point, what is in control of your actions? Is it your cognitive self (rationally thinking and deciding on how to act)? Or is it your emotional self… driven by your out of control feelings? Of course, through all of this, there is no part of your rational, cognitive self, saying to itself… “I shouldn’t…” You might even hesitate because your 8 year old is in the car, or because there are four burly, ‘hooded’ and ‘tattooed’ guys in the car glaring back at you.
So even if you hesitate, your ‘rational’ brain tells you, “I have a right to be pissed! That so and so…” In other words… there is no part of you that questions your feelings… or your right to feel the way you do. And even worse, there is no part of you that challenges your follow-up actions (because you have a right to be angry). So, your feelings have carte blanche control of all other aspects of your ‘self’ (thoughts, other feelings, behaviors and actions). And to add to this misery, each time you think about this even (even five years later), those same thoughts, feelings and the drive to act in a certain way, resurface in full blown mode all over again!
It doesn’t matter if you are a nun, priest, monk, police, lawyer, teacher, addict, retired judge, or octogenarian. Your feelings probably have almost total control of you.
So… what do you do?
Keep reading this blog!
How to disable, diminish, neutralize the power of your feelings/emotions to totally control your life in ways that put you at risk is the subject of a forthcoming book and several forthcoming articles on this site.