By Sebhat Ayele MCCJ
Leadership Magazine is introducing a new Feature to its readership: “Manage Your Emotions”. Each month we shall present one emotion and articulate some insights on how to manage that particular emotion. Many of the insights are taken from the book with the title “HOW YOU FEEL IS UP TO YOU: The Power of Emotional Choice”, written by McKay, G. and Dinkmeyer, D. According to many psychologists, one is the owner of his/her own feelings. Whatever emotions one has they are fed by the respective thoughts. Thoughts are converted to emotions when the thoughts go deep to the subconscious mind. The emotions are automatically generated, often unconscious. As you learn to restructure your thoughts, you can change your feelings and mood. Your emotions are the results of how you see things. Perceptions and meanings occur before the feeling. Changing your perceptions and the beliefs that underline the meaning you give to events can change the feeling that follow.
Emotions, whether positive or negative are part of one’s daily life. There is no cause for alarm if sometimes negative emotions and feeling overwhelm our life. What is important is to be able to identify the thoughts that produce negative emotions. As stated above, one can change self-defeating feelings by changing the thinking which is focused on negative beliefs. (p133). Pessimistic and negative attitudes play a major role in the development and reinforcement of symptoms. These negative and destructive thoughts cause self-defeating emotions. When you feel overwhelmed by negative feelings, identify the negative thoughts you experienced prior to the depression, stress, anger, etc. Cognitive therapists, like call such thoughts “automatic” because they seem to come to mind automatically in response to life situations, without conscious effort on our part.
How the brain affects emotions
According to scientists Emotions enable us to react to situations – for example, anger or fear will set your heart racing, and feeling happy will make you smile. One of the key areas of your brain that deals with showing, recognizing and controlling the body’s reactions to emotions is known as the limbic system. The brain is the hub of your nervous system. It is made up of 100 billion nerve cells – about the same as the number of trees in the Amazon rainforest. Each cell is connected to around 10,000 others. Experts say that the total number of connections in the brain is the same as the number of leaves connected to the trees – about 1000 trillion. These are amazing figures that reflect nothing else than the wisdom of the Almighty Creator.
A further scientific discovery is that the nervous system is a network of cells called neurons which transmit information in the form of electrical signals. The brain has around 100 billion neurons, and each communicates with thousands of others – as many connections as in the world’s telephone system, the biggest machine on the planet. Neurons communicate with each other at special junctions where chemicals help to bridge the gap between one neuron and the next. Your spinal cord receives information from the skin, joints and muscles of your body. It also carries the nerves that control all your movements. Your brain is the most complicated part of your nervous system. It receives information directly from your ears, eyes, nose and mouth, as well as from the rest of your body via the spinal cord. It uses this information to help you react, remember, think and plan, and then sends out the appropriate instructions to your body.
These are scientific discoveries somehow demanding to understand into depth. What is important is to know that the brain is the most sophisticated part of the body: accordingly, it has a vital role to play in all aspects of our life, including our thoughts and emotions. The more the brain is fed with positive thoughts the more it processes them to positive emotions and feelings. “How you feel is up to you”: might sound like a slogan. It is more of an invitation and a challenge than propaganda jingle. It is a strong invitation to put the power of “emotional choice” to work for us in order to conduct a composed life with all its challenges and trails. We have to Learn to take responsibility for our emotions, enhance our awareness of feelings. We should be able to identify “what” we feel and “why”. This mental awareness is vital in the process of managing negative emotions: anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, stress, etc. Oftentimes many people live in traumatic conditions not knowing how to identify and manage their feelings. The column that Leadership Magazine is introducing to its readers will help to turn ones feelings from liabilities (“I’m a victim”) into assets (“I can manage!”). That is why the catchwords of this column are: “you can decide how you want to feel!” and “How You Feel Is Up To You”. The articles, which will feature in this column, are packed with self-assessment and self-discovery exercises, charts, and examples for real-life situations. However, it needs good will and determination from the person to engage in emotions healing. As in all aspects of life it needs patience, diligence and perseverance to enter into the process of how to learn feeding our brain with positive thoughts.
Many commentators wrote that this exercise greatly helps anyone looking for help in making emotional changes in their life. Some who followed the exercise say that it brought a difference in their lives. Another big advantage to start working on managing our emotions is that it helps us to understand better the feelings and emotions of other people around us: family members, colleagues, workmates, etc.
I conclude this script with an impressive story. In July 2010, I was in Asmara the capital of my country Eritrea. One morning around 10.00 am, I parked my car to receive a phone call. For some reason I had a heavy heart feeling tired and gloomy. As I finished the call I saw a 12 years old boy with a bicycle pulling a trolley with heavy weight. What caught my attention was that the teenager was singing loudly and looking very happy. I approached him and asked “why are you so happy?” The boy replied “and why should I be sad?” I then told him that he was too young for such a heavy duty. The reply was again more shocking: “my father died in the border war with Ethiopia and my mum is paralyzed and bed ridden. I do this job and I earn some money for our living. What I get is more than enough”. Then he started again singing while adjusting the load on his trolley. As he left singing, I also started smiling and singing!! It was one of the biggest lessons for my life. He convinced himself that he could live with little and support his mum.
Accumulation of riches does not make people happy; it is the way we perceive their value, which determines our feeling. Surely, “how you feel is up to you”!!!
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