How to Choose How You Feel, No Matter What

Published on October 24, 2015 by

What would life be like if you had control over how you feel regardless of what’s going on in your life at the moment?

Most people don’t think that’s possible. Let me explain:

About twenty years ago I was in a post graduate psychology class with twelve other psychotherapists. We were discussing “depression” and one psychologist shared about working with an inmate in a Chicago area prison.

What he said was disturbing—because he shared that he told his “clinically depressed” client (the inmate) that the best he could hope for was to manage his depression.

You don’t know what went through my mind when I heard that.

Fortunately, I calmed myself down and asked the therapist, “Do you really believe that?” It turned out he really did beleive that. I felt sorry for his client.

This therapist believed that his client’s circumstances (being in prison) meant it was normal for him to be depressed and there wasn’t any better hope than to “manage” his depression.

That's not good.

When I was in private practice I worked with clients that were fired from their jobs (One was the president of his company and his board forced him out), clients that had been sexually abused as children, women who had been raped, clients who were told by their doctor they had a terminal illness—I could go on but that’s enough for you to get the idea.

These are things that some, maybe most, people never recover from and go on to love their life.

I'm not trivializing what my client's had to deal with in their life. I understood the enormity of what they were going through.

I also understood they could learn to find their courage, their power and their ability to take higher levels of control in their lives. To do that we need to understand what gets in our way of tapping into our inner strength and our ability to choose how we feel no matter what.

The fact is we’ve been taught and conditioned to believe when something bad happens, we’re going to feel bad until that bad situation changes.

We’ve been taught and conditioned to believe if something good happens to us it’s natural to feel good about it.

The problem with all this is it means what we feel depends upon our circumstances and that belief takes our power away from us. Not literally, but in the sense that whatever we believe is true for us—if we believe we don’t have power, from a practical standpoint, we don’t.

We’ve all fallen into the trap of believing how we feel is due to the circumstance we’re in at the time. That’s because none of us are perfect when it comes to knowing we create our emotional states.

However, it's interesting that some people are hopeful and motivated under the worst of circumstances and some people feel trapped, frustrated and powerless (to some extent) in the best of circumstances.

The bottom line is we create how we feel at any moment based upon the meaning we give the circumstance we’re in and the beliefs we have about it.

I’m not saying that our circumstances don’t matter. I’m saying our beliefs and the story we tell ourselves about our circumstances matter more.

Yes, you can have the emotional wind knocked out of you if someone you love leaves you or if your doctor gives you challenging news about your health.

However, how you deal with that depends upon how you respond emotionally after the fact. And how you respond emotionally to any circumstance, how you feel about it, depends upon what you believe about your circumstance, specifically what you believe on the subconscious level.

Mastering this isn’t something you learn in school and it’s not something most people learn growing up from their parents, siblings and friends.

What most people learn is “When you get bad news, you’re going to feel bad until things get better.”

We don’t learn, “You can learn to feel better, feel stronger, more powerful and more in control before your circumstances get better.”

The late Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish things were easier; wish you were better.”

In other words, don’t wait for things to get easier, work on yourself, develop your ability to be resilient now and take charge of your life now.”

Taking charge of your life requires taking charge of your beliefs.

Taking charge of your beliefs means you'll take charge of your emotions and your life.

The thing is, all our beliefs are simply what we learned somewhere in the timeline of our life.

If what we learned isn’t creating the life we want, we can begin to learn the beliefs that will create extraordinary things for us.

We can learn to believe anything and that means we can learn to choose how to feel hopeful, resourceful, creative and powerful whatever we’re facing in life.

If you don’t believe that, at least recognize that’s just a belief.

Is there a better belief or set of beliefs you’d rather have?

Take a moment and leave a comment, share your thoughts or ask a quesiton, I would love to hear from you.

5 Comments

  1. Randall Walters

    Alan,

    I couldn't agree more strongly with you on your premise in this article. If some people can find strength, joy, happiness, and courage even in the face of the most devastating news, then it is possible. And most of us know people who have achieved this in their lives. Or at least we have read the news stories about such people. The question then becomes, "what is the difference in what these people have done and what is more common?"

    I think you are right. It comes down to beliefs. If one believes there is a path to strength, joy, happiness, and courage, then they seek it out. But if someone believes there is no path, then there is no search.

    I read this week of a 16 year old boy who is on hospice losing a battle that has ravaged his body since August 2014 with bone cancer. He is in his final days with friends gathered all around him--something for which he is ever so grateful. He led a prayer with friends gathered all around asking God to give them all a long, prosperous, and happy life. How could a young man who's life is ebbing out of him way too soon be so outwardly focused on those around him?

    Look at how long it took for the 4 minute mile to be breached. And after one person proved it could be done, how many others have done it as well?

    Yes, I think you are on to something big in this article.

    Well done.

    Randall

    • Alan Allard

      Randall, thanks for your comments and insights and especially the story of the 16 year old. That is an incredible story, just amazing. And I love what you wrote here: "If one believes there is a path to strength, joy, happiness, and courage, then they seek it out. But if someone believes there is no path, then there is no search." If you write more to build on that I would definitely want to read it.

  2. Sarah

    Alan,

    Brilliantly said. I totally agree with you and find your telling of the principles to be so easy to understand. I'll be passing this article onto my Facebook page and clients! Thank you for writing it down.

    All the Best,
    Sarah

  3. Rob

    In many ways this sums up key aspects of managing one's emotions in welcome, 'of course!' fashion. I really hope the message stirs and challenges conditioning illustrated by the therapist's beliefs above. Thanks for eloquently bringing this together.

    • Alan Allard

      Thanks for your comments Rob, always appreciated!

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