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How do we develop our feelings?

If I asked you how a person came to feelings, you would probably believe that the following steps are the process for how we go from an event to a feeling is something like this:

  1. Something happens
  2. I have a belief about what happened.
  3. I have an emotional reaction (a feeling or emotion) to what happened.

But there is an inherent problem in this idea. If this is actually the way that we get to an emotion, the only way we can change our emotions is to change what happened. This is problematic because often the things that happen in our life are often on our square and not on our circle. 

The process actually goes something more like this:

  1. Something happens.
  2. I have a belief about what happened.
  3. I have an emotional reaction to what I believe about what happened.   Foal-Bucolic-Horse-Prairie-Eat-Field-Flowers-3644868

In order to change our emotions, we have to change what we believe about what happened. The beauty of this is that we 100% control our beliefs because beliefs are a result of our thinking. For more on that, see my post regarding the circle and the square here.

So often we under value the impact our beliefs about a situation have on our feelings and emotions.  Albert Ellis is, of course, famous for his thoughts and writings on these types of issues.

Think of the young mother who is yelling at her children. If asked almost immediately after the event, she will tell you that she didn't mean to yell or that she feels terrible for yelling.
So why did she yell?

The answer is not because her children were being disrespectful.

The answer is actually (typically) what she believes their disrespect means about her life. When interviewed, most parents state things about what they think their child's behavior means about them. 

They're a bad parent, or at least other people will think that they are a bad parent is the most common thought.

They can't control their children (or other people...).

They're just frustrated because it shouldn't be this hard. But who determines how hard something should be?

So what does this mean for us? 

Well, the next time you're frustrated or angry about something, ask yourself what you believe about what is happening. Then ask yourself what you could change about what you believe. 

How might you help the parent in the above example change what they believe about what is happening?                                                                

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