What follows is Step One: Recognize Cause and Effect (the equivalent of Chapter One) from the book, with a little bit of reflection added.
The Body Obeys the Mind
In psychology, it is taught that the human being has three aspects: ABC, or affect, behavior, and cognition. Affect (not effect) means emotions, and cognition means thinking. Simply stated, the brain’s three roles are to think, feel, and do. There are many different relationships among the three, but the one that concerns us is between thinking and feeling: which is in control? I’ll show you with the following very simple illustration.
You go to the mall, to a store across from the food court. While you’re waiting in line to pay for your items (it’s a very slow line), you see a couple across the way having lunch together. You can’t see their faces clearly, but you can tell by the body language that they’re very much in love. They hold hands, they kiss and touch, and they just can’t stop smiling. How do you feel, watching them? Does it make you long for your lover? Maybe you feel disgusted by the public display of affection. Or maybe you empathize, and you begin to feel happy, too.
The couple was just finishing their food, and now they share a lingering kiss before they part. One of them starts to look familiar. No, that’s just not possible … then that person walks out of the food court and into the hallway, right in front of the store where you’re standing. Yes, there’s just no mistaking it — that person is your lover, and you just caught him or her cheating on you. Now how do you feel? Do you feel jealous? Angry? Betrayed? Broken-hearted? Depressed? Probably all of that, and more.
The simple lesson to learn here is this: what you think determines how you feel. When you thought the two people were strangers, you were fine, or even happy. When you realized that one of those people was your lover cheating on you, your emotions changed. The two people did not make you feel jealous — they had absolutely no interaction with you whatsoever. Let me say that again: your lover did not make you feel jealous. You made you feel jealous, and you did this by thinking in a certain way. One more time: if you had not seen any of it — if you were completely unaware of it — you would still feel good about your lover, despite the fact that your lover cheated on you. Your lover’s actions do not determine how you feel. Your thinking does. Your thinking … alone.
Okay, calm yourself down! It was just an example! If you’re absolutely incredulous that I would blame YOU for feeling that way, relax. I’m not blaming you. This has nothing to do with blame. If you’re flabbergasted that I could suggest that there is any other option besides jealousy in that circumstance, well then, feel flabbergasted, because I am not just suggesting it; I’m asserting it: there are other emotional options. You’ll learn all about them later, after I’ve better prepared your mind to use them.
The important lesson here is twofold: First, your thinking, and your thinking alone, determines how you feel. Second, because your feelings are solely the consequence of your thoughts, you and only you are responsible for how you feel.
Don’t even try to tell me that someone made you think something. I would die of happiness if I could make people think!! Hah!
This alone is a tool with great power. The realization that your thoughts are the consequences of your thinking means that you are not ruled by your feelings, that they’re simply a reflection of your thoughts. The great power in this is that …
You are not the victim of your own emotions! You are in control, and always have been, whether you’ve learned to harness that control or not.
Yet, simply knowing that your thinking determines how you feel already puts you in the driver’s seat. No, you can’t change reality, but you can choose to view it in a manner that produces positive emotions. While this alone has the power to make for a much happier life, it’s only the first step toward slaying the jealousy beast.
So here’s the rest of the chapter …
You’ve seen that you are the only person responsible for how you feel, so now I want you to take ownership of all of your emotions. Are you in love with a fantastic person? Wonderful! He or she is not the source or cause of your love. You caused it, in yourself. How? You tell me. Are you enamored by her beauty? Entranced by his muscles? Yes, but deeper than that, right? You both hold the same values, or have the same interests. Or not. Maybe it’s her individualism and strength of character, or his towering intellect. Whatever the case, your appraisal of your lover — your judgment of his or her traits — is the source and cause of your emotional bond to him or her.
Do you hate your job? Why? The answer to the “why” is the cause and source of how you feel about your job. The job is simply a job. It has no ability to do anything, like make you feel something. What you think about it makes you feel what you feel.
Okay, okay. You get it already! Good. As I learned in calculus, though, understanding it and being able to do it are two different things.
Exercise: Recognize the Source
Spend an entire day watching for the thoughts behind your emotions. Anytime you notice yourself feeling something, stop to figure out what thoughts caused your emotional response.