Make Your Feelings Your Focus

June 2014 Newsletter

Dr. gloria wright

For years I have worked from the premise that our thoughts create our feelings. I have a colleague, Grant Renier, who has done extensive research on decision making. One of his aims was to reproduce the process in a software program. Alas, one of his discoveries was that all decisions are made from our emotions. Aha, so our feelings drive our thoughts.

So many times I have tried to “change my mind.” Now I work toward changing my feelings, then my mind. This means that I need to be deeply and fully aware of what and how I am feeling. It’s much easier for me to know my thoughts than my feelings. To know and control how I feel is a form of Zeno focus (In quantum physics, the essence of the Zeno factor is that whatever is held in focus emerges from that focus. It is the use of focus and attention and concentration that holds the “value” in place.) I have realized that I am much more fluent in my thoughts and that it is more challenging to identify and articulate my emotions. I see that a lot of people are not at ease in noticing and talking about feelings. It’s counter to our culture.

Some of this may come from the fact that there are prejudices about certain feelings and even the environment where those feelings are displayed. A guy who expresses anger in a staff meeting is seen very differently from a woman expressing the same emotions. And women have more permission for the softer, more sensitive emotions. But we all have (if we are aware) the full range of emotions, do we not? What would happen if we expanded the range that we attempt to understand? Most men who show up in my office with a lot of anger are often clueless to the feelings under the anger of fear and hurt. By the same token, a woman who shows up hurt and sad, may have trouble identifying and expressing her anger. Now the challenge is to teach us all to discover those feelings and choose to direct our focus onto positive emotions.

It can be a constant reframing to stay in a positive state of mind and experience and focus on positive emotions. With time and practice, I’m hoping the more positive focus will become automatic. In the meantime, I will continue to reframe and refocus on the positive.

We have to get off of automatic pilot. I notice how quickly I have an emotional reaction (usually negative) when I am driving. Who in their right mind would cut me off or tailgate me – and endanger us all? I think it is much more likely that they are on automatic pilot and there thoughts are elsewhere. Staying intentional is a full-time job!

Sometimes I think “wellness” is a second language for most of us. If we are not mindful, when someone asks us how we are, we can “automatically” fall into our “ain’t it awful” and “poor me” stories. How refreshing, for us and others, if we respond to “how are you?” with a positive answer. “Oh, grateful, thanks. And how about you?” A response of fine is way too generic and doesn’t reveal anything very personal. So, the next time someone asks about how you are “feeling,” break the pattern. We can start a new trend…. Grateful can replace fine. One person and one response at a time, we can change the world. Right now I’m focusing on changing me – to hold a positive state of mind and positive emotions. And you?