BS File #19: I can’t help it if I just feel that way.

The BS Files are kinda like the X-files – full of myths and urban legends and mysterious things. I feel that it is my duty to tackle them (occasionally). Because, you know, the truth is out there – if we look for it.

Case #19. I can’t help that I feel that way. Bullsh*t!

We really don’t understand emotions or how they work very well, so we can tend to give away a bunch of our power to them. We say we can’t help how we feel, as if that is a valid excuse for our subsequent action or inaction. I call bullshit!

Emotions are feelings in our body. Sometimes I like to think of emotions as our body’s reaction to thoughts we think. We can use our feelings to gauge  the rightness, appropriateness, alignment, helpfulness (or not!) of our thoughts.

But not all feelings are the result of a thought (though many are). Some emotions are empathetic – they aren’t really OUR feelings. Some are the result of brain chemistry or hormones. Or drugs.

In our teens and twenties, we experience a bunch of new emotions. We don’t necessarily have the thoughts or the life experience to accompany them yet. We use our thoughts to try to make sense of the emotions, and of the strange new feelings going on in our bodies (and I don’t just mean sex!) It’s all new and mysterious and we teach ourselves the right thought/feeling combinations.

We’re setting up our internal reference library. We build our lexicon. I feel guilt as a sinking feeling in my gut accompanied by a flush in my face. I feel some kinds of love as an expansion in my chest. I feel protectiveness as a tightening of my chest and of my hand muscles.

And some emotions come directly from physical senses. For example, my stomach lurches when I look out the window of a 12 story building. I have the reaction way before the thought where I recognize that I am high up.

So we can look at our feelings, our emotions, as indicators. Emotions give us information that we can use to help us understand context and choose our reaction.

As we get more practiced, we have the ability to call up an emotion on it’s own. If I want to generate peacefulness, for example, I know the things to do, the thoughts to think, the way to breathe to generate that emotion. And as we get older, we have memories that allow us to invoke emotions. We can relive experiences to call up the emotions.

We can argue with our emotions – and we do. No one else should ever tell you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way. But you absolutely have the right to tell yourself that an emotion no longer fits, isn’t accurate or isn’t helpful. You have the right to recognize an emotion that you don’t want to feel and to do something about it. You have the right to retrain your choices and your response to an emotion. You have the right to update your lexicon. And all of us are capable of choosing how we react to the information that the emotion is giving us. We are in charge, not the emotion.

Truth: We have the power to generate as well as react to feelings. If we don’t like what we are feeling, many times we have the power to change it. Not always, but often.

Truth: Emotions are powerful things that help us to navigate the world in the way that we choose.

Truth: We are more powerful than we think.

Truth: We do not have to be victims of our emotions. We don’t have to use them as excuses for our actions.

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love and light,



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