How to Avoid Wrecking Your Life: Manage Unpredictable Feelings (for Logical People)?
Let’s say you can’t control your unpredictable feelings.
Those feelings are wrecking your life.
You end up doing things you would normally never do.
As a logical person, the natural response is to control your feelings even more tightly than before.
It’s totally logical, right?
Controlling things always worked before, but now, you just have to work twice as hard at controlling things.
Why wouldn’t it work like it always did in the past?
The danger is that controlling feelings often backfires.
This blog post will show how logical people can understand and manage unpredictable feelings that push them to do things that they normally wouldn’t do.
Let’s tackle the most obvious question first.
Why am I out of control?
For years, you may have driven yourself and pushed yourself to achieve success in many areas of your life.
As a consequence, in your career you may be competent and recognized for your efforts; in your personal life you may work hard to pay attention to others, to help them, and to support them; and for yourself, you may devote energy and effort to staying healthy.
You probably find that the more you work at these tasks and the harder you try, the more things go your way, so you feel as though you have some control over what’s happening in your life. Your life may seem predictable and related to the way you do things.
There comes a time when your efforts and ability to remain in control are compromised.
Things happen in the world randomly, and often you’ll be involved in situations that are outside your control; these might include:
- Your health
- Family relationships
- Relationships with friends and neighbors
When you are faced with problems in these situations, you will probably redouble your efforts at controlling the outcomes.
You may want to work harder, try harder, do extra tasks, or whatever it is that you do that normally makes things work.
It may come as a shock to find that what’s always worked for you in life is no longer working for you.
It becomes even harder to accept that when you redouble your efforts, things start to become worse rather than better.
Can I get back in control?
This is a great question, but it’s probably the wrong question.
Maybe the question is, “Can I get back to where I was when things were working for me?”
This question is better since the answer is yes.
That’s because cognitive-behavioral therapists know what to do to achieve this.
However, it’s hard to reassure you that you will get back in control.
In your fight to be better, to do more, to achieve more, to control what you’re thinking and feeling, and to battle with the behaviors that you don’t like, you are fighting only one thing, and that is yourself.
After all, YOU are the one who is doing all these things, but now some of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are pitted against each other.
Will you be able to control this difficult scenario?
In fact, the more you fight against yourself the more you are likely to struggle to keep control.
When you fight the feelings you don’t want, the thoughts you don’t want, the behaviors you don’t want, you’ll notice that you get more (not less) of what you don’t want. In psychology, we call this a “rebound effect.”
Perhaps the solution is to exert less (not more) control over what is happening to you.
But before we talk about how to do that, we need to ask one key question.
Do you know the difference between a thought and a feeling?
Since we’re talking about feelings that are running amok and messing up your life, it’s important for you to know just what a feeling is and to make sure that you are not mixing it up or confusing it with a thought.
These are two very different brain functions, and it’s helpful to be able to respond to them appropriately.
Here’s a clear and easy way to know the difference between a thought and a feeling.
If you ask a question in your head (about anything) and you can hear them talking and the chitter-chatter going on in your mind, you are noticing that you are having a thought.
It will be a series of words that your brain joins together to make a sentence.
In your brain, the thought is often joined to a feeling.
By contrast, if you want to know how you are feeling, you are going to have to look outside your head, since a thought is not a feeling.
Try searching your body for a sensation: a tightness, an ache, a sharpness, a heavy ball, a sinking or rising feeling, a discomfort, or something similar. This is your feeling.
How do you manage unpredictable feelings?
To manage unpredictable feelings and behaviors, think about “letting go” of any control you have over what you feel and what you think.
This is extremely difficult to do, but you may find it easier if you shift your attention to what is really happening for you in your life.
Consider this question . . .
What’s important to you in life?
When you feel you are on a rollercoaster of emotion and aren’t getting anywhere, it can be incredibly frustrating.
So, rather than focusing on controlling what you are thinking about and what you are feeling, let’s define how you want your life to be.
- What in your life is really important to you?
- What sorts of things are you prepared to stand up and fight for because you truly believe they are important to you?
- Where do you want your life to be headed?
- What is your path?
Consider some areas of your life, such as your family, personal relationships, children, friends, work colleagues, career, sporting dreams, and the recreational activities that you are passionate about. What sorts of things do you value in these areas?
For each of these areas, notice if there are any clashes or problems with what is happening in your feelings and what you are actually doing when these feelings drag you in.
Do you end up doing things that do not fit your values?
When unpredictable feelings or problem emotions mess up your decisions, come back to what you stand for. Remember what is really important to you, and hang on tight to those strongholds.
What you value, what you stand for in life are your strengths and are your anchor.
Rather than letting your emotions dictate what to do next, let these values determine how you will react to setbacks and challenges.
What do you do to manage your unpredictable feelings?
Choose to do, say, and implement activities and responses that fit with your values.
Remember that you are NOT your feelings.
Equally, you are not your thinking.
You can have unpredictable, powerful, and scary thoughts and feelings and still choose to do whatever fits with your values.
You can use your logical brain to do this – to stay on track.
When you do this, you will find strength and the beginnings of a life that reflects your deepest ambitions.
Free eBook: “Twelve Ways to Change Your Thinking“
Your brain loves to make sense of things.
It loves to figure out and understand the reasons behind things and to attach meaning to events.
However, when your thoughts become stuck in an overwhelmingly negative cycle, you struggle to get free.
In the free eBook “Twelve Ways to Change Your Thinking,” you’ll find a selection of strategies to help you interrupt these “stuck” thinking patterns and move out of that negative cycle.
For example, you’ll learn:
- How to notice your thoughts
- What different strategies exist—including which ones work best for you
- How to separate yourself from your thinking
- How to change your thinking so you can change your feelings
- What thinking really is (as opposed to feelings)
Choose one or two strategies and practice them often, so you’ll eventually have specific techniques that work well for you.
Download your free eBook here.