Getting Closer to the Moment

Posted by Doc
Jan 24 2009

Given what I’ve written thus far, perhaps you will understand that I believe that we not only own, but have choices about, our feelings as well as our behavior.

Yes, I believe that I can choose to feel angry or happy or patient or hurt. Getting to that point is a process.

Let’s start in what I think of as the worst case: “You made me angry and I’m still angry!”

Whether it’s angry or hurt or happy or sad or serene or whatever doesn’t matter. What matters is the point that (a) I put the responsibility for my feelings on you and (b) I hold onto both the feeling and the blaming/assigning.

The first change point is way out there where I am holding onto all of this: I begin by acknowledging that my feelings are my own, and that they come from within me. “You didn’t make me angry – I felt angry because your words/actions were the trigger for me to feel angry. Maybe I can choose not to feel angry now. Maybe I can see that my feelings are about me, and your words/behavior are about you, and I can let go of the anger.”

[event]..[anger]...................[still angry]...[change]

The first timeI do this, it’s just hard. I’ve been conditioned by my experience, by the people around me, and even by society to assign responsibility for my feelings – and sometimes my behavior – on others. “You made me…”

The second time I do this, just like with any learned behavior, it’s a bit easier. The next time, even easier, and earlier.

[event]..[anger]........[still angry]...[change]

As I progress, I get closer and closer to the moment when I actually feel angry.

[event]..[anger]..[change]

And as I get closer, I begin to change myself. Not just my behavior, but my feelings.

“That behavior used to make me angry, now I know that I was becoming angry, that my feelings are about me, and I don’t need to feel angry.”

Over time, I find that the anger is a short blip, as I change and realize that I don’t have to feel angry at all.

[event]..[ang..change]

My goal for myself is to evolve to the point that the anger never manifests within me. My goal is that I reach the point where I accept that your behavior is about you, my feelings and behavior are about me, and you don’t have any control over my feelings and behavior.

[event]

What happens then? You do something that I used to get angry about, and I just smile (maybe only on the inside, just in case you’re some kind of violent maniac ;)) because your behavior really only says something about you, not me.

My good friend Scott Bellware (blog) once asked me “Don’t you ever get flustered, Doc?” That was one of the moments when I realized that this stuff was working for me. I said “I don’t know – I guess you’ll just have to keep trying.”

How about you?

3 Responses

  1. Echos some of my philosophies. Yes, we can choose to be angry at a lot of things (and that’s what we’re doing; no one is making us angry/sad/etc., we choose to feel that way); but we don’t have to.

    I think once you choose to not only be responsible for your feelings but to choose how you want to feel, then you are better able to have a dialogue with people you’re interacting with.

    I think it works the other way too. We’re not responsible for how other people feel.

  2. Chris Matts says:

    This sounds very similar to the cognitive behavioural therapy model. Action -> Emotion/Model -> Behaviour. CBT trys to help people change the Emotional/Model to change the behaviour.

    When starting out with Real Options we realised that people understood the model, bought into the model, but did not change their behaviour. Gary Sage told me that decisions are a kinesthetic (sub-conscious) process. “2 + 2 = 4, now how do I feel about that?”. So we introduced the game at the start of our Real Option session. All of sudden, a few people started to “get” it.

    In order to help people change their behaviour for Real Options, we had to get them moving and emotionally engaged.

    Perhaps the lesson is that CBT would be more effective if people were walking / rock climbing / angry during their session rather than sitting placidly and calmly talking to the therapist. That said, the therapist would be unhappy that they get cured and no longer pay for sessions.

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