Focusing Tip #735 – “I hear people say you can choose how you feel, but…”

Focusing Tip #735 – “I hear people say you can choose how you feel, but…”
January 6, 2021 Ann Weiser Cornell
Is it true that you can choose how you feel? Read on...

Focusing Tip #735 – “I hear people say you can choose how you feel, but…”

Is it true that you can choose how you feel? Read on…


Julia writes:

Often times, we hear people say things like, “You can choose how you feel. If you feel hurt/disappointed/angry (or anything negative), then it’s your choice.”

I don’t quite like how this approach/viewpoint sits with the whole Focusing modality. With Focusing, we simply allow whatever is to come as it is, and be present with it. So I don’t really get this “choice” idea, as it’s almost like manipulating your internal psychological processes in some kind of robotic way, like a computer programmer.

What are your thoughts about this whole “choice” thing, specifically as it relates to Focusing?

Hi Julia:

I don’t think we can choose how we feel.

In fact, if we try to make ourselves feel or not feel certain feelings, the result is often self-blame and frustration when we can’t.

But I do think we can choose how we react to how we feel.

And that is really important. Because most of the ways that we suffer around our feelings is in our response to them, rather than the feelings themselves.

I was hearing today from a woman, I’ll call her Pam, who told me, “My problem is my anxiety. It’s really at a height these day. I try to tell myself there’s not that much to worry about, but boy is that a failure! I’m so tense that I’m not sleeping well, even though I try everything, herbs, meditation, and so on, to get myself calm. It’s so hard.”

When I listened to Pam, I noticed something. I noticed that she was putting so much effort into trying to change how she felt… but she hadn’t actually turned toward the anxious part of her and simply acknowledged it.

She was anxious about being anxious… and I wondered if perhaps she could give some space to the anxious feeling, and form a relationship with it.

When she tried that, her whole body changed. It was OK to be anxious… for the first time!

She looked at me in astonishment and said: “This place in me is still anxious. But you know what? I am not!” And a big smile bloomed on her face.

On mine too!


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