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Issue 81

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In this issue ~~

* Emotional Habits

* Action Challenge

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf

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Emotional Habits

Have you found that whenever you're thrown off center by a bad experience or bad news, or when you're really tired or not feeling well, you automatically fall into a " default" emotion, such as fear, anxiety, despair, anger, sadness or depression? 

It can be debilitating to try to be creative and productive when your emotions are dragging you down.  After finding myself falling into despair over and over again for several years, often with no apparent cause, I finally questioned what was going on.  I began to think of this automatic response as an "emotional habit."

If you're like me, you look to your emotions to take the "temperature" of the day.  If you wake up feeling good, then it's a good day; if you're feeling anxious, then you tend to feel precarious all day. While it's great to be in touch with your feelings, emotional habits can lead you down the wrong path.  They're based on past experiences and conditioning and persist even when there's no logical reason to feel that way.

As children or adults, we go through an experience, or a series of experiences, that set our emotional meter. If something harmful happened to us, then fear may become our watchdog. Our mind rationalizes that if we're always afraid, we'll catch any potential offender before something happens. The problem is, 99.9% of the time, there's nothing to be afraid of, but our system is still on red alert. This can be a huge energy drain.

The good news is, we don't have to be at the mercy of our emotional habits for life.  We can change them, just as we do any other habit.  The film What the Bleep Do We Know!? talks about how we become biochemically addicted to our emotional patterns.  Neuronal paths are created, like ruts in a dirt road. In order to create new patterns, we have to make a conscious effort to redirect our emotions until a new habit is created.

I started to pull myself out of the pit of despair by looking back at my history. I saw that during my most challenging times, the many things that I had feared had never happened – none of them! I had gotten into an emotional habit of waiting for the boom to fall on me, and even though it never did, I had created an emotional rut of fear and despair that continued long past the potential danger.

In continuing to look back, I saw that whatever happened, I had been able to handle it, and, in fact, my life kept getting better!  As I began to trust that things would always somehow work out, I began to relax.  As the fear and despair lost their grip on me, my life kept getting even better, and I gathered greater evidence that things were fine and I could handle whatever challenged me.

Here are some suggestions for getting yourself out of your own emotional habits:

  • First, notice that you're in an emotional habit.
  • Take stock.  Is there any current reason to feel that fear or despair or sadness? 
  • If the answer is "yes," what can you do about it?  Start taking steps toward alleviating the cause of the feeling.
  • If the answer is "no," look to your thought patterns. Feelings are preceded by thoughts. Often, our feelings happen so quickly that we don't notice the thoughts that are generating them.  What are you saying to yourself to keep yourself frightened or sad or angry? How can you change that inner dialogue?
  • If you find yourself imagining disastrous futures, turn your imagination to better use and start visualizing positive futures, even if you have to force yourself to make them up at first.  Remember, we're breaking an ingrained habit, and it may take some effort.
  • Create affirmations that you can write down and use as antidotes to your negative thought patterns.  For example, if your recurring fear is losing your job and being homeless, try saying, "I have great skills, I bring a lot to any company, and I can always find a job."  "I can handle it" is a good all-around affirmation.
  • Use your power of choice to make choices that will lead you toward the positive thoughts and positive futures you're envisioning.

As you use these strategies, your emotional habit will begin to lift and show up less frequently.  It may still come up in times of stress, but when it does, it will generally be lighter, and you'll have the tools to deal with it.

While we can't always control the feelings that pop up, we can manage them and change the flow of the river.  By making conscious choices and using our thoughts to redirect our feelings, we can change our negative emotional habits into positive, uplifting ones.

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Action Challenge

Start to become aware of your emotions. Do you have a "default" emotion? Next time it occurs, stop and take a deep breath. What can you say to yourself at that moment to shift to a more uplifting emotion? Practice this every time you go into your emotional habit.

 

Wise Words

"You can't expect to prevent negative feelings altogether. And you can't expect to experience positive feelings all the time. . . The Law of Emotional Choice directs us to acknowledge our feelings but also to refuse to get stuck in the negative ones."

~ Greg Anderson, The 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness

"Our genetic heritage endows each of us with a series of emotional set-points that determines our temperament. But the brain circuitry involved is extraordinarily malleable; temperament is not destiny."

~ Daniel P. Goleman, Emotional Intelligence

"One day... the thought occurred to me that being unhappy was easy... and that it took no courage, effort, or greatness to be unhappy. . . True achievement... lay in struggling to be happy. To this day, when I am unhappy I tell myself that I am taking the easy way out, that happiness is a battle to be waged and not a feeling to be awaited."

~ Dennis Prager, Happiness is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual

"Life is a grindstone. But whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us."

~ L. Thomas Holdcroft

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Bookshelf

(click on the book or DVD graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

Raising Your Emotional Intelligence: A Practical Guide . . .  Jeanne S. Segal

7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence . . . Patrick E. Merlevede, Denis Bridoux, Rudy Vandamme

The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book: Everything You Need to Know to Put Your EQ to Work . . . Dr. Travis Bradberry, Dr. Jean Greaves

Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart . . . Tara Bennett-Goleman

You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought . . . Peter McWilliams

Affirmations for Artists . . . Eric Maisel

The Van Gogh Blues . . . Eric Maisel

What the Bleep Do We Know!? (DVD)

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© 2005 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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