“How was your day?” is the first question that my husband asks me when he gets home.
Most of the time I say it was good and offer a few details, but other times the day can seem less than good and I explain why.
The problem is that those details or circumstances seem to dictate whether my day was good or bad and that is just a formula for trouble.
Do ever feel like you are being held captive on a roller coaster of emotions? One minute you could be sad because you hear that a beloved author has died, the next you could be frustrated because your favorite lipstick has been discontinued and the moment after that you are excited to read an email from an old friend telling you that she will be in town in a week and wants to meet up.
All of these ups and downs can be exhausting.
I recently watched a TEDx talk by Gen Kelsang Nyema and she puts this into beautiful perspective (I’ll embed the video below.) To sum up her lesson, we have to stop outsourcing our happiness to other people and things.
And that makes so much sense, but for most of us, that is not what we’ve been taught and how we’ve been acting on default for most of our lives.
How do you turn that around? How do you stop having external forces dictate your emotions?
We can notice these emotional swings, recognize what is happening and get curious about it.
How we respond to these people and events, the stories we make up about these things is what drives the emotion, not the people or events themselves. One way to test this is to bring to mind the person or event that you think is driving your emotion right now. If that same circumstance was happening to 100 different people, would they all instantly have the same emotion that you are feeling?
An example would be that friend coming into town for a visit. Some people might feel excitement. Others may feel dread or anxious or nothing at all. It isn’t the fact that the friend is visiting, it is the story that you attach to the visit that causes the emotion.
Another great question to ask is what are you making it mean?
What do you make it mean when someone cuts you off in traffic or you get a rejection email for a job that you applied for?
What do you make it mean when your husband leaves behind a sink filled with dirty dishes or your dog tears up your favorite shoe?
What do you make it mean when a friend sends you a card for no reason or someone holds the door for you at a restaurant?
What do you make it mean when you hear that your favorite band is coming to your town or when you get your inbox down to 0?
Answering “what am I making this mean?” is the key to realizing what is truly driving your emotions.
We have to accept that we cannot control other people and events.
Byron Katie says it best, “There three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s.” And when you are in someone else’s business, you are going to suffer and be incredibly frustrated. We can change how we think and feel about things. We can change our own actions, but the rest of the world has a mind of its own and isn’t that how you really want it to be? Controlling everything would be exhausting.
We have to stop blaming or crediting people and events for our feelings.
How many times have you said, “you’re making me sad/angry/happy?” I think it goes back to our childhoods when we are told that our actions are making someone else feel a certain way. Wow, the pressure of that! “Don’t make mommy angry!” “You’re making your sister sad.”
Or when we look for a romantic relationship and think we want someone that will make us happy or we want to make our person happy.
This is just garbage.
You do have control over your feelings. It’s one of the beautiful parts of being human. The idea that someone else can force you to feel a certain way is a fantasy that we’ve been told our whole lives and our belief that is true is what makes it “feel” true, not that it is a fact.
We can set an intention that we want to be happy or at peace.
How do you want to feel?
What kind of day do you want to have?
Asking yourself those questions can help set you up for actually achieving those feelings. Identifying what you want to feel and then asking what do I need to think or believe in order to feel that way?
Once you’ve got those answers, you are on your way to getting off that roller coaster and stop being at the whim of every person and circumstance that comes your way.
And that’s just a better way to live, right?