Can You Control How You Feel?
What are emotions and feelings?
Emotions come down to our brains biochemical reactions to external stimuli enacted on our bodies. A person who has a fear of snakes is going to experience Fear when she sees a snake in her garden. It doesn’t matter if the snake is just a black snake sunbathing in the morning air. It’s still terrifying to someone with a phobia.
A man who jumps out of an airplane is going to feel a rush of exhilaration and excitement. His rational mind may know that there’s a parachute strapped to his back, but his primal survival instincts will kick in and express their opinions on the matter of the fact that the air is thin, and it knows the body is falling at an alarming rate for some reason.
Even animals experience emotions and feelings.
A dog whose gun shy is going to experience anxiety during a mid-July rainstorm, or a September hurricane in North Carolina. Every time it thunders she may even bolt across the house barking at every clap.
Feelings are how we react to or explain our emotions. In some cases, feelings and emotions may overlap. It depends on which theory you follow. Feeling content may be a consequence of emotional happiness.
If you go and jump out a plane, it doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before; if you’re jumping with other experienced jumpers; or if it’s your first time. Your body is going to react in a given way. You absolutely cannot suppress that feeling of exhilaration and excitement.
It’s not physically possible.
The reason it’s not possible is because feelings and emotions aren’t just thought patterns that we can dismiss if we’re psychologically strong enough. We create those to explain our emotions and feelings.
That rush a skydiver feels, the fear that courses through the gardener’s legs, or the chills that run up and down your dog’s spine when the thunder claps all come from a biochemical physiological response. In all of these situations, the brains of the individuals involved know that some external stimuli is acting upon its body. Therefore, the brain is responding the only way it can.
It comes down to our evolved survival instincts.
In the case of the gardener, she may not be able to control the paralyzing fear she felt this morning when she walked out to her garden to see the biggest black snake, she’d ever seen in her life sunbathing in the garden path.
She may not even be able to control the fact that her legs locked up for a moment. But she does have the ability to control how she responds.
She can use her snake slayer and do away with the snake. Then she would have a mess to clean up.
She can simply run back inside her house and pretend that the garden no longer exists. In which case, the garden would go untended, and the snake probably wouldn’t ever go back into the garden anyway.
She can take a moment to regain her senses, let the adrenaline finish its course, and continue on with her task of weeding the garden as she’d originally intended.
Regardless of how you feel about any situation, the question shouldn’t be if you can control your emotions or feelings. Instead, the focus should be on understanding your feelings, how you can use them, what purpose they serve, and how you can respond to them.
You may not be able to control feelings of jealousy, fear, excitement, or hope but you do have complete control over how you choose to react and respond to any situation that elicits these (or any other) feelings.