Thursday, 30 September 2010

Choose what you feel

One of the biggest revelations in my life came about in a counselling session I had. It was pointed out to me that we can choose how we react to things. The idea that anyone 'makes' us feel good, bad, angry, content, happy or sad is a false one. The proof of this is simple. At this moment I am making you feel a certain way. Is it working? What emotion was it that I was projecting to you?

Knowing we have a choice helps us understand why others react to things in ways which can often surprise, delight, shock or worry us - they have the same choice, even if they are not aware of it. You cannot and do not have control of what they feel. Young children are good examples of this - they immediately display what they feel as they feel it. So what happens in our development for us to start believing others are responsible for what we should always take ownership for ourselves?

Next time you find someone does something annoying try stopping yourself reacting and say, "I have a choice in what I feel about this", and then weigh up if it's worth all the time and energy to get upset. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't but it then becomes a conscious decision you make.

It took me over a month to even entertain the concept of being in charge of my own feelings after that counselling session. Since then I have been practicing for many years, and the more I practice the calmer and happier I've become. My friends will tell you I still get angry, upset, excited, happy etc, but it's helped me to recognise that those are my reactions and that they are not dependent on others. It has also helped me set boundaries and coping strategies such as time-limits and suitable outlets for my negative emotions so they no longer consume my life. Don't think for a second I don't slip up and find myself still saying that that person "made me feel shit today", but more often than not I'm catching myself doing it and then choose to not let them. It's been very liberating for me, and I hope it will be for you.

Last week my cat died. I had a choice - do I dwell on her not being here anymore and feel miserable or celebrate the eighteen years of wonderful company she gave me? I chose the latter. I still feel sad but less so than I would be had I chosen the former. I won't deny that bereavement and other life-changing events are special cases but even then, being conscious of what we are feeling, that we have ownership of those feelings and can choose what we feel can help. It was after all in counselling for bereavement that I first learned I had this choice and it helped me move on; it helped improved the quality of my life by opting to concentrate on the positives more and more.

Next time...
I will write a little about 'Six Hats' by Edward de Bono. I have a feeling I've loaned my copy of the book out again, but will do my best to enlighten you as to why that too has been so helpful.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Doodling with Six Hats

I suppose my first realisation that our thoughts can greatly affect how we look upon life came in the form of a poem called which I called 'Thought'. I wrote it at the age of fifteen at the beginning of my parent’s divorce. Until my father died in 1996 (some sixteen years later) my thoughts, feelings, behaviours and reactions were pretty average. Little did I know then just how much the answers to my own depression lay in that poem. For now though I shall share some of the things that have always been there for me no matter what and why I believe they are so important for everyone.

As I get acquainted with all the features of this site, I hope to share some of the outside influences and gems I've come across that have worked for me. That's not to say they will for you as we all have our own unique tastes. To begin with, drawing has always been a safe haven for me to run to. It helps at those times when no amount of words are enough or they are just too difficult to express. This isn't just useful in the sad times in our lifes, but in our most exciting moments too - being in a stuffy officious workplace with people who have no time or interest in personal matters is not conducive to leaping about screaming with joy when you've just got your offer accepted on your first house, or a bank loan accepted.

A silly doodle saying 'YES, YES, YES!' elaborately embellished can do wonders in those situations and who of us hasn't doodled our boredom away in seemingly endless meetings - but have you tried doing it when it's tedious visitors that have come round and you are duty bound to attend to?

For many years I have dabbled in sketching and painting but it wasn't until I came across framed work of a collection of doodles on some bright yellow post-it notes that I started to value the true worth of what usually starts out as a purely subconscious activity. The picture to the side started out as a mere oval, which briefly turned into a head out of which trees and... well frankly I don't know what else came out of it. To this day I always end up being 'arty' because of being trained in art.

I have seen much more imaginative and exciting 'feelings' expressed from those who have not been trained in art, and am envious of many of them. In addition I find that the doodle acts as a visual reminder/notepad to what I was doing, thinking and feeling that day. In some meetings I've written my personal to do list (books I want to buy, friends I must phone etc) then covered it up with doodles, keeping another one going for work issues. Be warned though... remember those officious types, you can offend others if you're blatant about it.

So that's doodles. My first book of recommendation to tie in with the range of ways in which thought can affect our lives is 'Six Hats' by Edward de Bono, hence the title of this blog. I will be returning to this book later.