Who’s Controls Your Happiness?
By Dr. David L. Thomas, LMHC
Who’s in control of your happiness? Are you in someone’s spell or do you have complete command of your feelings?
The key to a life filled with happiness is to first identify where your emotions are coming from.
Before you can take on the task of changing how you feel—and maintaining true happiness in your everyday life-- it’s important to understand some basics about your thinking—your self-talk. It’s astounding how what you say to yourself affects how you feel!
By understanding, and utilizing rational thinking, it becomes easy to muscle the stress right out of your life. What’s rational thinking? The best answer is: The opposite of irrational thinking.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
It's actually something that is not new. Much of its origin can be traced back to Greek and Roman philosophers, such as Zeno of Citium, Epicurus, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.
More familiar names include ancient Asian philosophers, such as Confucius, Guatama Buddha, and Lao-Tsu. Others too had a hand in the teachings, but more importantly: Are the basic ideas valid?
The assumption that we as humans are mainly responsible for how we think, feel, and behave is one of the cornerstones to change.
>>IT IS NOT the events in our lives, which “cause” us to feel certain ways, such as depressed, anxious, guilty, or angry, but much more importantly it is how we think about these events which drive human emotions.<<
Subsequently, the behavior that follows is an extension of these emotions and both are directly related to how you think. Therefore, if you want to change how you feel, and adopt new behaviors, it’s important for you to know what kind of thinking is driving the feelings you wish to rid. Dispute it, challenge it, and replace it with new ideas, which promote health and happiness.
Some people resist the idea that others are not the cause of their emotions. It’s common, yet quite irrational, to say: “He made me mad;” “this upcoming interview is making me a nervous wreck;” “I feel so bad that I hurt his feelings,” etc.
Why are these self-statements irrational? Because he can't make you mad--it is your reaction to what he said/did that creates the anger. If he had the ability to make you mad he would also have the ability to make you happy, sad, anxious, etc. It is you who creates the anger. Same with the interview. An interview does not have the ability to create emotions. It is an interview, a thing, it is intangible, it has no brain, no way to communicate, no mode of transportation. But your thoughts about the interview are at the heart of the anxiety.
The idea that you are mainly responsible for how you think, feel, and behave can be validated with a simple example:
Let’s say we are at a social event interacting with old and new friends. I decide to tell a joke. This joke has sexual overtones and it is a mixed crowd.
One joke: we’ll call it the event. Is it reasonable to suggest that we’re going to get multiple reactions, feelings from the group? Probably so! One joke, many reactions.
If it were true that events are responsible for how we feel then it would follow that each person would feel the same. But they don’t! How come? The reason is each person thinks differently about the joke.
Thoughts are based upon 1) genetics, what some people call hard wiring, 2) your learning history both your direct teaching as well as the experiential learning or life experiences, and 3) how you feel at that time.
You may be tired, hungry, had a long day, which will also affect how you think. All this is the basis of your thinking and largely responsible for how you react to the joke. One joke, multiple reactions.
The joke does not have the power to create human emotions. Words cannot come out of my mouth, float through the air, bounce off the walls, jump into you body, and create an emotional reaction.
We say that thoughts are mainly responsible because we as humans have four basic life processes: Perception, Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior. These interrelate and therefore we cannot think without feeling, feel without behaving, behave without perceiving, nor engage in any life process in isolation.
Our focus is on thinking because it is the most responsible for sustained emotions and behavior, which are the ones which most concern us. Learn to identify your thinking, so you can maintain steady in light of difficult moments. This is how you’ll achieve a life filled with much more happiness.
Dr. David L. Thomas, LMHC