In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss emotional responsibility – you are responsible for your emotions.
First a quick update:
- The Holidays and loneliness – The Holidays is a period to get together with family, friends and loved ones. However, it can also be time of loneliness for people without family. Here are some powerful tips to help you overcome loneliness: https://patrickwanis.com/blog/patching-relationships-holidays/
- Follow me on Twitter– You can now choose to follow me and receive a few words of wisdom on Twitter: @Behavior_Expert https://twitter.com/Behavior_Expert
- Women’s insecurities damage relationships? – A survey reveals women are more fearful of gaining weight than aging. Watch the video where female hosts become riled with me when I say that women’s insecurities over their body damage relationships with men. https://youtu.be/qBCFdzCFQ-0
Now, let’s talk about emotional responsibility – you are responsible for your emotions.
Why do you react emotionally to bad behavior?
Are you a prisoner to the behavior of other people?
Are you a slave to other people, allowing them to determine your feelings, emotions and responses?
Long before Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or any therapy techniques for that matter, philosophers were instructing and deliberating over the good life – how one can ultimately live a good life.
The philosophy of Stoicism (early 3rd century BC) taught that the most critical key to happiness is learning to master one’s emotions – to develop self-control to overcome destructive emotions – “to be free from anger, envy, and jealousy.”
Are you a completely autonomous individual or are you as Cleanthes the philosopher describes, “like a dog tied to a cart, and compelled to go wherever it goes”?
The goal of Stoicism is to develop oneself to be able to be free – to be as Stoic philosopher Epictetus describes, “sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy.”
The core principle here is the same as taught by many therapies (CBT, REBT, etc.): you are your own master; you have the ability to decide whether or not other people will determine your happiness – not by their bad behavior but rather, by your responses.
A skilled stoic has complete control over his response to negative stimuli – he chooses to emotionally disengage when someone picks a fight or attempts to create drama.
The ability to emotionally disengage also involves reasoning – building flexible and realistic beliefs about other people’s behavior (understanding their motivations, programming and triggers) and having compassion for their failings.
This is a key teaching that I use with all of my clients: beware of being sucked into the drama. Some people will attempt to create drama for various reasons such as they lack emotional intelligence and are transferring or misdirecting their anger at you, they only know how to connect and communicate with drama or they are hurting and lack the self-awareness needed to recognize the emotion and seek out a solution.
Thus, it is critical to realize that you cannot control other people’s thoughts, actions, responses or emotions; you can control your own thoughts, actions, responses or emotions.
The point is that too often, someone else behaves badly and we choose to become upset, distressed or reactionary.
“A stoic leader remains unflappable in the face of others’ irrational misdeeds. He does not overreact, and if it’s his job, any punitive action he takes against a perpetrator seeks to remedy dysfunction behind the misdeed rather than meting out blind punishment.” – Carrie Sheffield, https://www.forbes.com/sites/carriesheffield/2013/12/01/want-an-unconquerable-mind-try-stoic-philosophy/2/
Happiness and virtue arise from our personal choice and continuous attention to our thoughts which also determine our emotional responses.
We begin by understanding that we do have and will have automatic or initial impressions and emotions – irrational feelings or unhealthy desires. These are fine; we accept those impressions and emotions rather than repress or deny them. Next, we pause and use reason rather than reacting harshly or rashly. We recognize that we have control over our thoughts and responses.
The only way to have control over our thoughts and responses is to reevaluate our judgments (interpretations, conclusions) about the event, behavior or individual. Is this event good or bad? What can I control? What is out of my control?
When you change the judgments, you change the emotions.
Mistaken judgments lead to harmful, negative emotions and self-inflicted suffering; correct judgments lead to positive emotions, replacing anger with joy!
For example, instead of saying, “I get upset because of what she does” or “She is making me upset”, say to yourself, “I am choosing to make myself upset over what she does. I can choose now to think in another way that won’t make me miserable.”
Take emotional responsibility for your life; you have the ability and the power to create and live the good life!
Finally, please avoid making the conclusion that this article represents all of the teachings of Stoicism; there are many more valuable principles worth studying and learning about Stoic philosophy which lead to the good life.
If you need help to master your emotions and gain control over your own happiness, consider a private, one-on-one session with me. Click here to book your session. https://www.patrick-wanis.com/phone-consultations/
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist