Do you find yourself feeling happy, content, comfortable or satisfied when things go the way you want? What do you think determines whether you feel good or bad?
A lot of people think that we just feel the way we feel and react depending upon the circumstances. We believe it’s natural to get upset what we don’t get what we want, or if people judge us. We might think that if we weren’t angry, people would walk all over us. Or that we can make others unhappy and they can make us unhappy.
Now – be totally honest: Do you really believe that there’s no way we can just choose to be comfortable or content whenever we want? The good news is: we have more control over our feelings and responses than we thought.
Most of us understand the Stimulus-Response Psychological Model. The dog barks, I feel scared. A friend compliments me, I feel happy. This model has helped us to see our emotions and experiences as being caused by people and events around us. As a result, we often try to change our circumstances and the people around us so that we can feel good, or at least not feel bad. That approach leaves most of us feeling like victims. We believe that if we could just get our loved ones to be more loving, or the roads to be more traffic free, or our income to increase, we would feel better.
I learned a different model in my training at the Option Institute. The Option Model modifies the stimulus-response model to include belief. Between the stimulus and our response is a space; and in that space lies our beliefs and our power and freedom to choose our response. In those spaces lie our happiness and our growth. We don’t have to be victims of our past for the rest of our lives. Of course our past and circumstances around us influence us. But between all that stimuli and our response is a space. Our beliefs lie in that space and our beliefs are changeable. Every time we change a belief, we change our response (our feelings and behaviors). Every response includes a feeling and a behavior just like in the example above. If the dog barks I might feel scared and run away. If someone says they love me I might feel happy and smile or hug them. So now, if I don’t like the way I am feeling, I have a set of tools to track back to my beliefs and decide if I want to keep the disempowering belief or change it to something more empowering.
An example of that, is from my real estate experience. Early one spring, I had a house for sale and Monday morning hurried over there to take photos of it to turn in to my office by ten a.m. The pictures came out with a series of jagged circles on them and were unusable. Of course I was upset, because I didn’t know if I had time to make a trip back to my office, borrow a camera, return to take more photos, and to get them in by ten. I flew into my office and told the secretaries my tale of woe. They rushed around and helped me get a camera that worked. Before I charged back out the door, my friend Phyllis came in and on hearing the story said, “Well, Jackie, what do you believe would happen if you weren’t upset about that?” I stopped, and realized I had a choice about the way I felt. I relaxed, laughed, and said, “I would have a better day.” And I did have a way better day. My upset-ness wasn’t getting the work done any faster or better, and it felt terrible! It wasn’t the stimulus, the event, that had me feeling upset, it was my belief that it was terrible.
We have been sold the belief that being upset is natural and useful. I have found that it isn’t. I am way more motivated to do things when I am peaceful than when I am upset. Peacefulness does not equal passivity. It equals present moment, clearheaded action. Many of us are living life by a set of beliefs put there by people who are miserable. Miserable people usually sell us negative, disempowering beliefs. These beliefs fuel our unhappy feelings and behaviors. We turn our beliefs into responses (feelings and actions) so quickly that they seem like instincts when, in fact, those deduced or acquired beliefs generate our quick actions.
Some disempowering, anxiety producing, unhappiness producing beliefs we have bought or deduced for ourselves might be:
—Something is wrong with me
– I’m not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, pretty enough.
—I make others unhappy. Others make me unhappy.
—If I didn’t feel guilty, I’d do it again.
— If you loved me you would do what I want you to do.
— If I didn’t get upset, it would mean I don’t care.
We all hold or have held at least some of these beliefs. What do you suppose would happen if we changed some of these beliefs to more positive, more self-empowering beliefs? We would change to more positive feelings and behaviors too. Some of my favorite self-empowering, happiness producing beliefs are:
— Nothing is wrong with me – nothing ever was.
— Anyone who judges or condemns me does so for herself and her own reasons.
— Happy people are more powerful than unhappy people in getting what they want.
— By products of happiness are lucidity and clear thinking.
— My unhappiness is a product of beliefs I hold and can change.
— I am loveable and more than enough
— I do not cause other people’s unhappiness, nor do they cause mine.
— The results of our actions are lessons, not indictments.
— I create my own limits.
There are no limits! Now, when I am upset, I ask myself “Why?” “Why am I upset?” “What do I believe the pay off is of being fearful, angry, etc?” Or maybe, “What do I think would happen if I weren’t upset about this?” When we change our beliefs, we change our lives!
Life Options Coach, Counselor, Teacher
Jackie helps individuals take control of their lives. She is the author of Kathy Said, You’re Not Lost to Me, a self-help book for people struggling with anxiety and depression. With a new powerful approach to our lifelong beliefs, plus a modality called Life Options Dialogues, she helps people uncover the beliefs that are keeping them stuck in unwanted feelings and behaviors, like stress, anxiety, and depression.