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Taking Personal Responsibility for How We Feel

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“Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I hurt. You hurt. We all hurt. It’s a given. At one time or another, we all feel the anguish of some measure of emotional pain. As humans, we are too often emotionally driven, at the mercy of our ever-changing feelings, and far too dependent upon circumstances around us.

Clearly, some individuals “emote” more than others. But still, it is safe to say that every man, woman, and child experiences the full gamut of emotional responses and will continue to do so their entire lives. It is our reaction to these powerful feelings that counts. Simply stated, are we more reactive or proactive? Do we take some measure of responsibility for how we feel or not?

Most times, we respond to life’s stresses, the ups and downs of daily living (and any accompanying icky feelings), with an unconscious acceptance of both the good and bad. We realize that every day isn’t a fuzzy feeling one.

On those especially wondrous occasions when every aspect of our emotional being affirms that life is good, we bask in a warm glow of satisfaction. Fleeting though they may be, we mistakenly use these rare moments as the gauge and end goal for every other feeling we experience.

If it makes us feel good, it must be good. If something makes us feel bad, it must be bad. Not so, say Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D., authors of “Will Medicine Stop the Pain?” Feeling poorly is an innate warning signal alerting us that something is wrong. A signal we all should heed and address by taking action.

Likewise, we mistakenly believe that we are helpless victims of our volatile emotional state as well. Buying into this fatalistic mentality is never conducive to good health. Might it be more productive and more helpful if we start fighting against the blue moods with deliberate, vigorous attitude adjustments and lifestyle choices?

We can learn to think differently. We can develop methods to approach our circumstances and our responses with some active grit and determination. By doing so, we can begin “rewiring” our automatic negative reactions and replace them with a “change is possible” outlook.

Authors Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson also offer some reliable, practical thoughts on dealing with “on the run” emotions.

When feeling overwhelmed by feelings discouragement, depression, or a simple case of downheartedness, they suggest becoming a student of one’s own habits. This includes taking a look at lifestyle choices, medicines currently being taken, fluctuating hormones and their effects, and attitudes toward life in general.

Learn what triggers affect your moods. Train yourself to anticipate those events, situations, or people that historically bring emotional upset.

Then, take responsibility for making changes, either internally or externally. Perspectives matter. Choices matter. So instead of giving in to the “blues” counter them with constructive, decisive thinking.

You’ll be surprised how those bleak emotions can slowly be replaced by an “eyes to see” bright mentality. Do it for you, do it for others.

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