We’ve talked about it before: your thoughts determine your reality. They also determine your moods. It’s completely possible for you to control your thoughts and therefore your emotions, since your thoughts directly create them. So you don’t have to be a reluctant rider of your emotional roller coaster! I want to expand on this concept more and give you some keys to make it easier.
Our emotions are not strictly in our heads; what we are feeling is also directly linked to certain chemicals in our bodies. Sometimes, the chemical is secreted first and the emotional change follows. For example, when blood sugar levels drop too low, adrenalin is produced in order to release more sugar for the brain to use. This adrenalin also contributes to a feeling of fear or anxiety, and in this way, the chemical comes first, then the emotion. At other times, the emotion precedes the chemical change, like when we’re happy because of some good news and serotonin is released as a result. In all cases, what we think while we are experiencing these emotions and chemicals will change the effect the chemicals have. For example, paramedics have learned to act calmly despite adrenalin flowing. You can, by choice and by practicing, stop letting fear or anger — or any emotion — take hold of you. That being said, there are medical conditions that make emotional control through thoughts alone very difficult. One such condition is hypoglycemia (also called hyperinsulinism) which is very common and can cause blood sugar to fluctuate severely and interfere with other chemical messengers in the body. I suggest that anyone who experiences mood swings, depression, mild anxiety, or food cravings be checked for hypoglycemia and go on a special diet to fix the biochemical causes of your emotions. Even if you don’t think you’re hypoglycemic, the diet can help you stabilize your blood sugar and therefore your emotions (see Appendix 2). With your body looked after, you can then explore the mind and spirit causes of the emotional roller coaster.
We can actively choose to think a certain way about our past and therefore change the way we feel about it. For example, if we accept that good can come from what happened, whether to learn a life lesson or be able to help someone with more compassion, we’ll feel a lot less bitter about that skeleton. In this way, we can let go of the anger we feel, and in combination with other techniques, live with far more peace and acceptance of ourselves.
We can also choose to change our thoughts and emotions as events unfold in the present. If you are having a wonderful day and something happens that might sour it, you can talk to yourself and decide that you are not going to let this negative thing ruin your day. So what if someone cuts you off in traffic, it will probably only delay you 10 seconds in your trip! Or if the checkout lady at the grocery store is impossibly slow — if you think about all the time you are losing, you’ll feel frustrated that you’ve lost 20 whole minutes of your life standing in line. Or you can choose to be grateful for the extra “down time” you have — and use the time to meditate, appreciate the present, or plan your week. You may even make a friend in the line up (maybe that only happens in small towns)! The more emotionally charged the situation, involving a spouse, child or other family member, the harder this will be. But it can still be done, it just requires a bit of practice. Mentally bring yourself back to the present, so that you don’t blow a small thing out of proportion by bringing up past hurts. Each hurt must be dealt with as it happens, so they don’t build up and cause an avalanche. We’ll talk more about this in later chapters.
The God of the Universe lives beyond the moment, but we are meant to live in it. God’s existence spans every moment of every possible universe, but we can only live one moment at a time in our particular universe.
Back to the Present
Coming back to the present is key. Only when you are in the present, in the moment, can you fully feel Presence, Love, peace, and wisdom. Take that breath of fresh air for your soul; remind yourself that there is no distance between you and Spirit. You can bring yourself back to that knowledge in a moment, and you’ll need to do this if you want to change the direction of your thoughts and therefore your emotions. Practice soaking up the love of God, in meditation, so that when something unpleasant happens, you can recall that love at any time and let it help you. Love is like an equalizer, leveling out the emotional extremes that you can be prone to. Meditating on love is not hard, and it doesn’t require a mountain of faith, just a little practice. Don’t be discouraged, just practice soaking up Love and coming back to the moment whenever you can — in the morning, when you have a minute between tasks, when you’re waiting at red lights, whenever!
Another result of living in the moment is that you have the time you need to do the necessary thinking and to detach from the emotions of a situation. This helps you make good decisions. We’ve all been in spots where things are happening quickly — for example, in an argument, where words are flying fast and furious. When you come back to the moment and fully dwell in it, you are using every second to its maximum potential. You can think thousands of thoughts in a second, and that’s often all the time you have in an argument (or any conversation). By staying in the present, you have time to think about what to say and how to feel before responding to the other person, thereby preventing many misunderstandings or foot-in-mouth moments… basically, preventing more skeletons! As much as possible, practice deciding how you will respond, and what mood you will have when things happen to you, so that you aren’t simply along for the ride on that emotional roller coaster. You can even decide what kind of mood you want to have all day and make it happen. In fact, when you “get up on the wrong side of the bed” and you focus on that, perhaps by telling someone, you are deciding (without realizing it) to have a crummy day. Why not choose a better day? How good can it get? Don’t be hard on yourself if you mess up, just grin and start again.
When you stay in the moment, you can actually learn to detach from emotions you are feeling, observe them, and notice how they are affecting you physically (tension, nausea, etc). You might also analyze why they are happening, or simply let them go. When you do this, the intensity of the emotions decreases — like adding distance between you and the emotion — and that feeling of being emotionally out of control goes away. Use the ocean fence meditation in the morning, especially if you anticipate an emotionally-charged day.
A roller coaster that many people ride is the one of victimization. While you may have been a genuine victim at some time in your life, you can get stuck in victim thinking, with its hopeless, powerless, passive, and complaining patterns. If you find yourself thinking or saying “why did this happen to me,” this is an indication of victim-thinking, and it’s a pretty common response to skeletons. A much better way to think about your skeletons is “why did this happen for me.” That single word changes everything about your perspective. It says, “I know there’s a reason for this, and I’m open to what it is and how to change this scene and move on.” It also keeps the flow of communication open between you and God, whereas the whiny “why did this happen to me” phrase is one that encourages self-pity and complaining, and makes it much harder to connect to Spirit. When you’re thinking selfish, narrow thoughts, you aren’t able to listen, open to learn, or willing to change; you’ll be more emotionally sensitive and reactive, which makes for a very rough ride. Your internal ego-voice is generally louder than the soft whisper of Spirit, or any other voice, and is at its loudest when you are complaining.
Banishing victim thinking and using thankfulness and a new perspective are some keys to getting off the emotional roller coaster. Don’t forget to try the diet or see your doctor if you think you might have hypoglycemia, and stay in the moment as much as possible. You’re one step closer to accepting yourself and your skeletons.
Tell yourself this: I am in the present… I am grounded and learning to observe my emotions. I am thankful and positive and I won’t think like a victim. I wonder why things happen for me, not to me. I will do whatever I can to stabilize my emotions.
- Anxiety and the Systematic Nervous System. Jurriaan Plesman. WebCite Archive cached on March 2, 2008
- Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Thich Nhat Hanh. Bantam, New York. 1992. ISBN 0-553-35139-7. This book has more on meditation, and many modern parallels and examples of how to add it to your daily life.
- Overcoming Worry. Karen Bell.
- Present Moment Awareness. Shannon Duncan. New World Library, Novato, CA. 2001. ISBN 1-57731-485-9
- From a message by Rev. Patrick Cameron from the Centre for Spiritual Living, Edmonton.