Saturday, February 2, 2008

To Choose, or Not to Choose

My husband and I often have the discussion about whether or not we choose how we feel. My husband, who I will now refer to as C because 'my husband' takes too long to type, feels that we choose how we feel and more specifically we choose when we are offended by someone or something. This discussion usually comes after I have had my feelings hurt or been offended in some way and I am simply expressing those feelings to C. His response, "you choose to feel that way" offers no comfort. I do agree there are some instances in which I can be a little more sensitive than necessary. However, I do not believe that in all cases and at all times - we choose how we feel.

For example, I don't necessarily think we choose who to fall in love with. We can choose who we are attracted to and choose to associate ourselves with people that we share things in common with or that we enjoy the company of, but how do you choose to feel a certain way about someone or something?

I am certainly not the expert on feelings as some of my friends would say I've been 'emotionally constipated' for years. But I do think how we feel is a response to what we know. I don't know why I am more sensitive than other people sometimes or why I get my feelings hurt. But why would I choose that? Being sad or hurt or angry aren't necessarily feelings that I enjoy. I will admit there are times when I say, "That really hurt my feelings" and C responds with sympathy and compassion that helps to numb the wound. But if it's true, that we really do choose how to feel, then how do I change?


Johnson-n-Johnson said...

How about instead of changing, you feel how you feel, get some validation for how you feel, allow yourself to feel it, and then work through it the best you know how. It makes the times you feel happy so much more enjoyable if you can work through the times you feel otherwise!

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you are talking about!!! Let's just say that your "emotional constipation" has landed on me and I have had enough for the both of us! :) I have always been too emotional and too sensitive and too everything. I get my feelings hurt all the time (for dumb stuff sometimes I will admit). However, even when it is a legitimate - my feelings are hurt for a real reason - I also occasionally get the response, of you choose to feel that way. :) gotta love them. They just don't understand but I listen to me :) Adam's dad told him before we got married - and it has been the best advice ever - "feelings aren't negotiable" - PERIOD! That is all that needs to be said. I think there are times when people...girls...can get their feelings hurt for dumb reasons and it is in these times we just need to have thicker skin. But I also believe that there are a lot of times when we may get our feelings hurt for a legitimate reason and it is these times when - feelings aren't negotiable. It doesn't matter why I am sad...I am. I didn't choose to be unhappy, but because of circumstance I am sad. I agree with the previous post that if you work through it then you will be happier. But basically what I have rambled on to say it...It isn't a choice all of the time and it is ok. Feelings aren't negotiable :)
PS- I know what was the cause of this post...ignore them. They are boys and a little heartless at times :) I apologize for his inconsiderate comments.

K. Elizabeth said...

Thanks anyonmyous Ady. I was a little hurt by their comments, so I appreciate what you said. But - I also understand more from their perspective why they said or thought that. Sometimes it's difficult to see a situation from someone else's eyes and for me to take it personally - well, that's my own problem. But in general, I need to do better about viewing things from other peoples perspectives and understanding why or how they felt that way. In turn, it may help me to better understand how and why I respond a certain way. Thanks for your comment!!

Thirdmango said...

Speaking from a purely psychological standpoint I can let you on some stuff. I know you know I've been going into the media arts, but on the side I've been doing psychology as well, I'm very interested in that stuff and even did a social experiment once, but I digress. The problem is that you are both right. Some people do choose their emotions. Most people however do not. When with someone who does choose their emotions it is often hard to realize that most people feel emotions instantly. Mainly due to the fact that they've never experienced emotion in that way. What you can do if you'd like to change it, is you can't change the way you feel when emotions spring up, but you can mold yourself to change the avenues in which it gets there. Much the same way people are desensitized to certain things. For instance if you wanted to take that route, to not be insulted by swearing, over listen to it. The other way would be to take the people saying those things as if they don't know what they're talking about, it gets easier to hear them babble after that. But no, we should feel offended by different things, it's like saying we should stop feeling physical pain, sure we can eventually become accustomed to touching a skillit by letting our fingers touch it until we're callused but should we touch a skillit in the first place?

vine street said...

I found your blog through my latest blog-jumping escapade and hope you don't mind me commenting. (This is Kristen R., by the way)

This is a topic I've thought a lot about---when I take that silly color code test, I'm alway 90% blue--i.e., relationships are the center of my world and I am super sensitive about each and every one of them. Perhaps a little too much so.

Anyway, in terms of falling in love, I think that we do choose to fall in love with someone. Granted, that doesn't mean we fall in love with the right person, but we do choose it nonetheless even if we do so by the small choices we make of spending time with that person, etc.

But your main question are about our internal reactions to things. Overall I would ditto the first comment made to this post by johnson-n-johnson. Get validation for your feelings and give yourself time. Answering this question is kind of like how it is if someone punches you in the face, it hurts, and then you wonder if you could have chosen to not feel that pain.

There is no denying that other people can have a profound influence on our feelings; we simply can't choose to not be affected unless we become heartless and dead to the world.

I think that the situations in which we can have a lot more control over how we feel ("choose our feelings") are those that aren't huge trigger areas for us. I know this sounds so obvious...but it's true at least for me. It's easy to get in the habit of reacting emotionally to things that really aren't trigger points for us. Those things, we truly can control.

But there are certain areas of each of us that are particularly vulnerable and that when attacked, we simply can't choose the feelings that surface. In those cases, it helps me to just let myself feel how I feel instead of fighting it because I feel silly, embarrassed, vulnerable, etc.

ANyway, those are my thoughts on the matter.

ProudMamaBlogga said...

I think he above are all good, but i have one more to add. It may or may not help in your particular situation.

Sometimes when my feelings are hurt I feel like hiding. Sometimes I feel like fighting. However, usually if I take a step back and look at the assumptions that are in place in order for me to get my feelings hurt, there are some irrational ideas.

For example, consider whether or not you are holding yourself responsible for too much, if you have an underlying agenda (yes, something to gain by feeling bad or angry), or if your expectations of the situation are reasonable.

Just some thoughts.
p.s. If I ask questions on your blog, I subscribe to the follow-up comments, so you can just post the answer here to preserve the thread.

LoriLoo310 said...

I like this subject. I think, as with all things, practice makes perfect. If we aren't used to choosing the way we feel, if we haven't "practiced" it, it would seem hard or impossible. If we use an appropriate amount of self-control, meditation, prayer research, etc., the art of choosing how you feel will come easier. Some people are better at it than others, but I don't think it's something that comes naturally to most of us. Brandon and I watched an episode of 20/20 the other day that reported monks were the happiest people on earth. This is because they spend a lot of their time meditating on being happy and focusing their thoughts on happy things. Being happy, choosing how we feel is something I hope to be better at.

Anonymous said...

This is a common conversation between my husband and myself as well. I feel the same way you do...that our feelings come as a result of years of learning and being, I guess, trained a certain way. I don't think it's a choice to feel a certain's a learned response. I think we can UNLEARN responses, but it takes a real awareness of ourselves, our feelings, and a lot of TIME to do so. Usually AFTER the event, I can take a step back, ask myself why I feel a certain way, and then can generally talk myself out of it if there wasn't a valid reason TO feel that way. Don't listen to those boys though...emotions ARE valid and they come from somewhere deep that others often don't understand because they haven't had the experiences or upbringing that you have. I always tell my husband, "You don't have to understand this feeling...I just need you to acknowledge it and give me time to work through it." :) --Erin Aamodt