Human emotions are products of interpretations you insert into events.
Not a day goes by that we don’t say something to ourselves about our emotions. Comments like "That guy is driving me crazy!" or “You’re really starting to irritate me” are examples.
When we talk this way, we make it sound as if someone else is at fault for the way we feel. That’s an understanding of human emotions many of us share. There we were, minding our own business, when somebody came along and started messing with our emotions. You hate it when they do that, don’t you?
Especially when they drop negative emotions on you. It hardly seems fair.
Human emotions don't work that way. Others aren’t responsible for how you feel or how you behave.
They don’t drive you crazy or make you angry. They don't make you happy either. If they did, everyone in the world would feel the same way when something happens.
But not everyone does. After a soccer game, some fans start dancing on tables. Others weep. A few feel angry and plot revenge.
The fact is you are the one who drives yourself crazy, makes yourself upset, irritable, ticked off, or happy. You drive yourself into moods of resentment or resignation. No one does it for you or to you. How you deal with your emotions is strictly your project.
Letting emotions take over
Human emotions are part of a straight-forward process. Something happens; you decide what it means to you; then you feel an emotion. It all happens in less than the blink of an eye.
What you see or hear could be an actual event, such as an office colleague spilling coffee all over your desk, or an imagined event, like anticipating how the boss will blow her top if you dare mention something about cost overruns.
What gets you feeling irritated or anxious – take you pick from the set of basic emotions - is not the spilled coffee or your boss’s temper. It’s what you decide these events “mean” to you.
It’s that interpretation that triggers your emotional reaction. And if you are not aware of what you’re feeling, your behavior is soon out of your control.
Human Emotions and Meaning
If the spilled coffee “means” the person who spilled it doesn't think highly enough of you to be more conscientious of his or her behavior around your desk, you may feel angry. You believe you are worthy of more respect and the spiller didn't show it to you.
But if it “means” it was a simple accident, you may not feel annoyed at all. You don’t interpret the spilled coffee as a sign of disrespect. You interpret it as a simple mistake, so you remain calm. You may even offer to help clean up the mess.
This process explains why different people respond in different ways to the same event. Because each interprets the event differently, each experiences a different human emotion, and each behaves differently.
Admittedly, it is much easier to stick others with being responsible for our feelings. But when you do that, you hand over the way you feel to other people or to circumstances.
A better decision is to learn how to manage emotions. That way you take back more of your life.
How? By interrupting that straight forward process. First, become aware of what you are feeling. Next, check out this list of emotions and name that feeling. Then, identify your assumptions about the situation or about the other person’s intentions. Finally, challenge what you assume is true.
When you change what events mean to you, you change how you feel and how you are!