It is clear that no one wants to control their emotions in such a way that it would make them all disappear—including the enjoyable emotions. After all, what fun would there be to live a life without joy, without enthusiasm?
The good news is this control can be selective, as these products that kill stubborn weeds in your kitchen garden while leaving the carrots intact. As a matter of fact, not only do carrots grow best when they are not cluttered by weeds, but so it is with human emotions.
Now, you will most probably admit that it is difficult—if not impossible—to feel joyful while being anxious or depressed at the same time. The control of your unenjoyable emotions is usually sufficient in itself to allow enjoyable emotions to blossom.
However, to control a phenomenon, it is usually essential to know the cause. For most human beings, the cause of their emotions is found in some event of their recent or distant past, present, or future. And so we can often hear them say:
- “This good news made me happy.”
- “My son’s failures depress me.”
- “The death of my mother saddens me.”
- “My daughter’s rudeness makes me angry.”
- “Heights scare me.”
Every time, the person identifies the event (good news, failure, death, rudeness, heights) as the cause of a particular emotion (joy, depression, sadness, anger, anxiety). Almost everyone will find that this theory is fully satisfactory and realistic. This is probably what you believe as well.
And yet not only is this theory one of the most pernicious errors we can imagine, but a moment of reflection will suffice to prove that no event—whether past, present, or future—never causes the shadow of an emotion to anyone.
Here are two arguments demonstrating the fallacy of this theory.
Argument no. 1
Let’s face it: Once an event has happened, it never disappears. For example, the deceased mother never returns to life. In this sense, every event is eternal. If the permanent death of the mother caused the sadness of her daughter, then it would logically follow that the daughter would be automatically condemned to feeling sad on a permanent basis—that is, after the death of her mother until her own death. Now, everyone knows that the sadness of the daughter would undergo some fluctuations: Intense at first, then gradually more moderate, again more intense (for example, on the anniversary of the mother’s death). From this point, the most important question to ask yourself is: How can a stable and unique event cause variable, sporadic, or even disappearing effects?
Argument no. 2
You will most probably agree with me that several people do not necessarily feel the same emotion about the same event. For example, let’s imagine that 100 people not only meet the same interviewer but are also turned down for the same job. Some of the hundred rejectees would feel disappointed, some angry, some depressed, and some would have other kinds of emotions. Very likely, they would not all feel exactly the same way. They would have a variety of emotions, most of them unenjoyable to be sure, but different kinds of unenjoyable emotions. Not all would feel depressed, and a few might even feel happy about being turned down for the job by the interviewer. This last group would have concluded that they really didn’t want the job or that they wanted it but it had more disadvantages than advantages for them.
The conclusion is then inescapable. The real cause of human emotions can be found in the thoughts, beliefs, ideas, personal reflections, interpretations, opinions… in short, in the way we talk to ourselves about an event—whether past, present, or future. In other words, our emotions—enjoyable or unenjoyable—are never caused by an event.
If you’re not yet convinced—which is a possibility quite acceptable in my point of view—rest assured that I will continue to introduce you to other arguments. I insist heavily on this point because it is the cornerstone of the entire system by which you can learn to modify your own emotions and thus raise your level of happiness and improve the quality of your life.
© Chantal Beaupre 2010