2) Could Someone Else Be Happy With Your “Bad” Situation?

An exercise:

Here is the 2nd of 6 ways to discover for yourself that your unwanted emotions are really created by thoughts, and not by circumstances. To start out, I would like you to pick an unwanted emotion and identify whatever circumstance you think is causing it.

For example, if you want to stop feeling anxiety, you might look and see that you think your anxiety is caused by your upcoming performance review at work. If you want to stop feeling shame, you might see that you think your shame is caused by your current living situation. Or if you wanted to stop feeling anger towards someone, you might recognize that you believe your anger was caused by someone’s insult towards you.

Please pick an unwanted emotion

So please take a moment right now to pick an emotion you want to stop experiencing, and identify whatever circumstance you believe is causing it. This exercise will only help you to experience more peace in your life if you take the time to engage with it.

If a specific circumstances creates a specific emotion, it must always create that emotion

Certain circumstances seem to create specific emotional responses. It seems obvious that some circumstances are responsible for creating sadness or anger, and other circumstances create happiness.

However, in order to claim that a specific circumstance creates a specific experience, it must always create that same experience, for every person, every time. For example, a turned on light bulb creates light. Everyone who sees a turned on light bulb will experience light, every time, for as long as they are around the light bulb. A flame creates heat. When anyone comes into contact with a flame, they will experience heat every time, for as long as they are near the flame. Beating a drum creates sound. If any person moves near a beating drum, they will experience sound, every time, for as long as they are near the beating drum.

If specific circumstances created specific emotional reactions, each circumstance would always create the same emotional reaction, for everyone, every time. For example, if a specific living situation directly created shame, then everyone who had that same living situation would always have no choice but to feel ashamed. If a performance review at work created anxiety, then everyone would always experience anxiety before their reviews. If a specific insult created anger, then everyone would always react with anger to that insult.

Clearly, this isn’t the way life works. The same circumstance often corresponds with vastly different emotions for different people, and different emotions for the same person at different points in time.

People often experience drastically different emotions in response to the same circumstance

If two people each live in the same sized one-bedroom apartment, one person could be proud about their living situation and the other could be ashamed about it. If two people are called “ugly”, one person could get very upset, while the other could laugh it off. If two people have a performance review coming up at work, one person could feel anxiety about it, while the other might feel confident and excited about it. In addition, the same person might sometimes feel happy about their living situation and sometimes ashamed. The same person might sometimes be anger by an insult and sometimes completely unaffected by it. The same person might sometimes feel anxiety before a performance review and sometimes confident.

If two people are mugged at gunpoint, one person could be outraged at the violation, and the other could just be relieved he wasn’t hurt. A “bad” hair day may make us upset some days and not at all on other days. Sometimes it may drive us crazy when our roommates leave their dishes in the sink, and other times it may not bother us at all. If the same circumstance can correspond with vastly different emotions at different points in time, then our emotions must not be created by the circumstances we encounter.

People often experience the opposite emotion from what you might expect

To take it even further, people can be happy in the midst of seemingly tragic events, and they can suffer amid seemingly great circumstances. If a family member dies, we can still be happy if we are excited to get the inheritance or are glad to see their suffering end. If we get fired from our job, we can be happy about it if we were looking for an excuse to leave or if we are excited about the possibility of finding a job that we love more. If our husband files for divorce, we can still be happy if we had stopped loving him but were scared to file for divorce ourselves or if we’re looking forward to being single again.

Similarly, we can worry about our financial security no matter how wealthy we are. We can feel unloved and sad even when our spouse and family truly love us. We can feel depressed about being overweight even if everyone else thinks we are thin. We can get angry at someone even if they treat us with love and kindness. We can feel ungrateful and incomplete even if we have almost everything we ever wanted.

Circumstances don’ create emotions, our thoughts about them do

If the “worst” of circumstances can leave us happy, and the “best” of circumstances can result in suffering, then it is clear that circumstances don’t create our emotions. Circumstances themselves are neutral. The same circumstance often corresponds with different emotions for different people because we can all have different thoughts about the circumstance. Even if our emotional reaction happens immediately after an event and seems completely logical and connected to that event, it is still our thoughts that create our emotional reactions. There are always thoughts that arise between a circumstance and our emotional reaction to it. We rarely notice these thoughts only because we haven’t been directed to pay attention to them.

Regardless of what the circumstance is, and regardless of whether the circumstance is happening now or in the past, it can only be our thoughts about the circumstance that create our emotions.

Discover for yourself that yourself that the unwanted emotion you picked was actually created by thoughts, and not by circumstances

Please take a minute now to answer the following questions.

The Questions: Could someone else be happy despite having the same circumstance? Have I ever been happy, or experienced a different emotion, under the same conditions? If the circumstance itself created a specific emotional response, wouldn’t it always produce the same emotional response for me and everyone else? Could I be happy in this situation if I had different thoughts about it? If someone else could be happy despite having the same seemingly “bad” circumstance, if I could be happy if I had different thoughts about the circumstance, or if I have been happy at one point with the same circumstance, can I admit that the circumstance itself is not creating my emotion?

If you would like to disbelieve the thought that is creating your unwanted emotion… you can click the following link to try The 5 Steps to The Present Moment … or you can contact me for help.

Thank you for reading this post! Please let me know what you discovered in the comments area! I would love to hear from you!

Noah

2 Comments

  • Marilyn says:

    I was just playing around at work and I did your 5 steps. I picked a random emotion that I didn’t think was really a big deal, but by the time I was done I discovered something about myself. A destructive thought that has been around for so long I almost missed it. Thanks for your 5 steps.

  • noahe says:

    You’re welcome Marilyn! I’m happy to hear that you found it helpful! Thanks for sharing.