Can I Really Control the Way I Feel?

If you are like me, and I know many of you are, you have been told that nobody can “make” you feel anything. You have been told we are responsible for our own feelings. But what does that really mean? Perhaps, if I just concentrate hard enough I can get this self-control thing right.

Perhaps, if I just count to ten before responding to the ranting and raving of the idiot on the other side of the counter, or if I say a silent mantra when that jerk cuts me off on the expressway, I will feel just fine about the whole situation.
Perhaps with enough techniques, I can be happy in the midst of all the stupidity out there in the world. But, speaking from experience, none of that really works, does it? It might help you control your response to the situation, if you practice hard enough, but it will never help you feel different about the situation. So what are we suppose to do? We have to go to the root of the emotion.

I used to imagine what might be going on in the other individual’s life to make them behave in such a negative way. Perhaps the individual ranting on the other side of the counter just received some bad news, or the man who just cut me off in traffic is racing to the hospital where his wife is in labor. Concocting fictional scenarios may help you to maintain your composure, it may even lead you to a place of compassion for that individual, but it doesn’t stop that initial reaction. That initial reaction is still there, waiting for the next instigator.

No, a more productive use of your time would be to ask the following question: “Why did I react that way to that particular stimulus?” Ahhh, now there is the golden idea. Is the individual ranting on the other side of the counter “disrespecting you?” Is the man cutting you off in traffic “challenging your right of way?” Why does that bother you so much? When you can get to the bottom of that question you will be able to free yourself from the hair trigger of that initial response.