Really, Am I Responsible For My Emotions?

February, 2012

Are we responsible for all of our emotions?

In April of 2009, I presented a post entitled, “You Make Me Emote! In the posting, I declared that each person is responsible for her/his emotions. I have been thinking a lot about that declaration lately. It’s possibly much more complex than I originally thought. In other words, maybe the simplicity of declaring each person is responsible for her/his emotions needs to take into account the many reasons for emoting, along with the imperfection of humanity. Hmmm… Let’s explore this further.

Who’s responsible for your emotion of love – Cupid or you?

Having recently experienced the complex emotion called grief, I’m immediately confronted with the powerful statement made by H. L. Mencken: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” So, as I consider emotions that I find negative and then say, “I am responsible for them,” should I simply declare they all are my responsibility? Am I taking responsibility for something that I shouldn’t?

Perhaps, we should investigate the cause of our emotions before determining responsibility. So, what causes our emotions? What causes me to feel angry? Suppose someone hits me with his fist. The first thing I feel is the physical pain of being hit. The next feeling might be anger. If so, what caused the feeling of anger? Is it because I’m feeling physical pain? No, because the feeling of physical pain doesn’t necessarily produce the emotional feeling of anger. Take, for example, the pain resulting from accidentally bumping your head while getting into a car. Usually, there would be no direct emotional feeling of anger from the physical pain felt after the accident. The point is, that a certain emotional feeling doesn’t necessarily come from a particular physical feeling.

So, what causes these things you (and, I) call emotions? In the past, I’ve answered that question with a simple three-letter, one-word answer: “YOU!” Yes, you are the cause of your emotions. I know in my previously mentioned posting, I never specifically stated that each person causes her/his emotions. Instead, I talked about owning our emotions and not blaming anyone else for them. We not only own our emotions, but we’re also the cause of them.

Assuming each person causes her/his emotions, is s/he responsible for them. In other words, does cause imply responsibility when dealing with emotions? If I cause my anger, am I responsible for it? If I cause my happiness, am I responsible for it? I suppose the answer is yes to both questions, but somehow, it doesn’t seem to fit reality. Many people, including myself, will make sincere statements like: “Kathy makes me happy!” or “Ron made me mad!” In these types of cases, we are saying (and most likely mean) that Kathy and Ron caused and are responsible for the emotions.

Some say I cause negative emotions, especially when I’m full:-)

If we cause AND are responsible for our emotions, then I think it’s our thinking that’s at the root of our emoting. What I mean is we shouldn’t blame an external source for our emoting. If I am responsible for my own thinking, then I am the cause for my emoting.

Of course, circumstances can make it difficult to not emote in a particular way. For example, when I experienced a death of a close loved-one, my grieving was difficult and for me to say that it was caused by me is hard to accept. On the other hand, if I don’t take responsibility for my grieving and not accept that I caused it, then how will I ever be able to overcome it? Either I control it or it controls me! 

So, am I responsible for my emotions?  YES! But, what controls my emotions? MY THINKING!

Remember, we are not emoting due to what happens; we are emoting due to what we think about what happens.

What do you think?

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IMAGINE – Should We Teach Anger?

April, 2011

Imagine!

In September of 2009, here in the St. Louis area, we had an incident on a school bus involving anger and violence. Some reported that the incident was racially motivated. I, personally, do not condone excessive expressions of anger or any violence, period. Having stated that, I think, as many have already said, the incident was a teachable moment. The incident involved a white seventeen year-old student and a younger black student. The younger black student “beat-up” the older white student while being filmed by a remote video camera on the bus. Some have claimed it is a “bullying” incident. This may be true, but it does have some unusual circumstances for “bullying.”

In the video, a black student with many other black students cheering him on, is constantly hitting on a white student. The white student is older than the black student. The white student appears to be a racial minority on that particular bus. I mention all of this for context. Later, near the end of September of 2009, some students were expelled from school over the incident and it was debated locally and to a lesser degree, nationally.

Imagine!

My intent here is not to level blame or debate the issue. I am writing about whether or not we should teach children how to deal with anger. As a parent, grandparent and retired teacher, I have had to deal with many cases of inappropriate expressions of anger and violence. As a teacher, I remember many students justifying their violence by saying their victim(s) made them mad or angry. In other words, they did not feel responsible for their anger, but instead, felt the victim(s) of their violence caused them to be angry and therefore, they had a justifiable right to be violent. It’s this aspect, of the thinking behind anger, that I feel we should try to turn into a teachable moment.

It’s not a secret that there are a lot of angry people in today’s world. Many adults, personally and openly, express anger to children without any reservation. And the adults who openly express their anger to children via the media, make angry role models for all children observing that media. I think all of us, not just the teachers, parents and grandparents, should be concerned about teaching the children how to deal with anger in nonviolent ways.

Violence - any expression of extreme anger that hurts another!

Before I go any further, let’s establish what violence is. Besides directing your browser to the hyperlink in the previous sentence, please also consider my definition of violence, which is: any expression of extreme anger that hurts another. For any person who cares about another, violence is an outcome of anger that the person would not want those s/he cared about to experience.

In my experience, I have not found many who really know what to do about the anger and violence. Many simply say, “Don’t treat people this way,” or “Don’t act that way.” But this has little effect unless they actually differentiate between what they feel and how they behave. You see, all of us will have violent feelings now and then, but there is never a time when we should act-out, condone and/or tolerate violent behavior.

It’s important that we, as a society, buy into a way of life that values setting good examples. Yes, that means, all of us, all of the time! Our goal, as a civilized society, is to not condone violence. This means our media must also set a good example, since it is an integral part of our society. In my opinion, there is entirely too much violence openly expressed in our society.

Imagine teaching this!

 

Many films, plays, games and life-styles are based on violent experiences. Anger is shown as preceding violence and violence is justified by anger. When our children see and experience this, they are naturally in the process of learning. But, what are they learning? They are learning what we are modeling; they are learning that anger leading to violence is normal and to be expected. Somehow, we have lost the “civil” in civilization!

Let’s give the young people good examples of adults who keep their own tempers under control. Let’s set fair, but firm limits on how they can express hostility and violence. Of course, we do need to provide some safe outlets for expressing their hostility. They should be encouraged to “talk it out.” Of course, adults should model that behavior through the media and/or real life.

When dealing with someone who is angry, we need to recognize that s/he might want to harm another person. That recognition doesn’t mean we would condone it; it only means that we are empathizing with her/him. We should be firm in that we can’t allow her/him to hurt someone. Violence is not a right thing to do, period! We need to constantly try to channel the negative energy of anger into something more positive, such as understanding and compassion. For more suggestions here’s a website that offers some constructive ways for dealing with anger.

You made you mad!

Finally, I think it’s important to emphasize that we are responsible for our own emotions. No one can make you mad or glad. You make you mad and glad. You have control over your emotions. No one but you can make you angry. I realize it is not always easy to feel this way, but how else can we ask someone to be responsible for their behavior. Are we going to expect people to be responsible for the results and not require them to be responsible for the thinking that caused the results?

Should all in a civilized society teach children how to deal with anger? YES! But, why teach only the children? By establishing and setting goals and expectations at the world, national, local and individual level for modeling and teaching non-violence AND non-anger we would be teaching all. Imagine if we stifled the manifestation of anger and violence world-wide. As John Lennon expressed in his song, Imagine: “Imagine all the people living life in peace…”

What can we do?

Each one start with “me” and end with “you!”

Each one teach one!

Imagine!



Who Or What Controls Your Emotions?

November, 2009
February 15, 1942Actor John Barrymore w. his daughter Diana demonstrating "happiness" emotion for story on his coaching her acting for her first movie role in "Eagle Squadron," on John's 60th birthday.

Actor John Barrymore with his daughter Diana demonstrating “happiness” emotion on Feb. 15, 1942

Last Spring, I did a posting entitled, “You Make Me Emote! In the posting, I declared that each person is responsible for her/his emotions. In other words, for example, it is incorrect for a person to say someone else made her/him angry. In this posting, I would like to explore the cause of our emotions.

So, what causes our emotions? What causes me to feel angry? Suppose someone hits me with his fist. The first thing I feel is the physical pain of being hit. The next feeling that I might feel is one of being angry. What caused the feeling of anger? Is it because I’m feeling physical pain? No, because the feeling of physical pain doesn’t always produce the emotional feeling of anger. Take, for example, the pain resulting from accidentally bumping your head while getting into a car. Usually, there would be no emotional feeling of anger. The point is, that a certain emotional feeling doesn’t necessarily come from a particular physical feeling. So what causes these things we call emotions?

Boxing in face

Should a boxer get angry because of getting hit in the head?

I have a simple three letter answer. YOU! Yes, you are the cause of your own emotions. I know in my previously mentioned posting, that I never specifically stated that each person causes her/his emotions. Instead, I talked about owning our emotions and not blaming anyone else for them. We not only own our emotions, but we also cause them.

So, if I cause my emotions, then how can I control them? I think we cause our emotions through our thoughts. Let’s consider the previous example of being hit by someone’s fist. I mentioned feeling the physical pain that was followed with the feeling of anger. The feeling of anger may have been immediately replaced with a feeling of warmth, if, for example, I was hit by a two year-old child. In other words, after thinking about who and why I was hit, the emotional feeling changed from anger to warmth. It would be natural to assume that the two year-old child meant no harm.

August 1964`Beatle' fan overcome by emotion as long-haired quartet arrive.

August 1964,`Beatle’ fan overcome by emotion as long-haired quartet arrive.

Let’s follow this line of thinking a little further. We not only own our emotions, but we cause them. We cause them through our thinking. If it’s our thinking that causes emotions, then it seems natural to use our thinking to control our emotions. Let’s return again to the example of getting hit by someone’s fist. What kind of thinking causes me to emotionally respond with anger? Perhaps, I think the person who hit me, did so as an expression of anger. My response may have resulted from some  “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” thinking. In other words, that person is angry so I will be angry at her/him. Another way of thinking, in this situation, is to use the Christian philosophy of, “turn the other cheek.”  This could cause the person who did the hitting to feel embarrassed, due to not getting the response s/he expected. Though my examples may not be that good, I hope you can see how the cause of our emotions could be, and most likely is, our own thinking.

Now, let’s address the question in the title. Who or what controls your emotions?

First, who controls them? YOU!

Secondly, what controls your emotions? YOUR THINKING!

Happy Guy

Did he choose to be happy?

Sometimes, I find my emotions are controlling me. In a way, that makes perfect sense. You see, my thinking causes my emotions and I control my thinking. It is possible for me to think of harming someone and then become angry. The anger then leads to me looking and acting angry. But, if I change my thinking and instead of thinking in a harmful way, I think of not harming, then my mind will most likely not become angry. The anger comes from how and what is being thought by the person who is angry. Don’t let anger control you, but let you control the anger.

We are not emoting due to what happens; we are emoting due to what we think about what happens.

You have control over your comment(s). I’m looking forward to reading yours.

grab-small-r21


Should We Teach Children How To Deal With Anger?

September, 2009
Anger And Violence!

Anger And Violence!

Recently, here in the St. Louis Area, we had an incident on a school bus involving anger and violence. Some reported that the incident was racially motivated. I, personally, do not condone excessive expressions of anger or any violence, period. Having stated that, I think, as many have already said, this is a teachable moment. The “incident” involved a white seventeen year-old and a younger black student. The younger black student “beat-up” the older white student while being filmed by a remote  video camera on the bus. Some have claimed it is a “bullying” incident. This may be true, but it does have some unusual circumstances for “bullying.” In the video, a black student with many other black students cheering him on, is constantly hitting on a white student. The white student is older than the black student. The white student appears to be a racial minority on that particular bus. I mention all of this for context. At this time (9/22/09) some students have been expelled over the incident and it has been debated locally and to a lesser degree, nationally.

I'm just angry, but not violent.

I’m just angry, but not violent.

My intent here is not to level blame or debate the issue. I am writing about whether or not we should teach children how to deal with anger. As a parent, grandparent and retired teacher, I have had to deal with many cases of inappropriate expressions of anger and violence. As a teacher, I remember many students justifying their violence by saying their victim(s) made them mad or angry. In other words, they did not feel responsible for their anger, but instead, felt the victim(s) of their violence caused them to be angry and therefore, they had a justifiable right to be violent. It’s this aspect of the thinking behind anger that I feel we should try to turn into a teachable moment.

It’s not a secret that there are a lot of angry people in today’s world. Many adults personally and openly expressed anger to children without any reservation. And the adults who openly express their anger to children via the media, make angry role models for all children observing that media. I think all of us, not just the teachers, parents and grandparents, should be concerned about teaching the children how to deal with anger in nonviolent ways.

Before I go any further, let’s establish what violence is. Besides directing your browser to the hyperlink in the previous sentence, please also consider my definition of violence, which is: any expression of extreme anger that hurts another. For any person who cares about another, violence is an outcome of anger that the person would not want those s/he cared about to experience.

My programming doesn't allow me to be violent.

My programming doesn’t allow me to be violent.

In my experience, I have not found many who really know what to do about the anger and violence. Many simply say, “Don’t treat people this way,” or “Don’t act that way.” But this has little effect unless they actually differentiate between what they feel and how they behave. You see, all of us will have violent feelings now and then, but there is never a time when we should act out, condone or tolerate violent behavior.

It’s important that we, as a society, “buy into” setting a good example. Yes, that means, all of us, all of the time. Our goal, as a civilized society, is to not condone violence. This means our media must also set a good example, since it is part of our society. In my opinion, there is entirely too much violence openly expressed in our society. Many films, plays, games and life-styles are based on violent experiences. Anger is shown as preceding violence and violence is justified by anger. When our children see and experience this, they are naturally in the process of learning. But, what are they learning? They are learning what we are modeling; they are learning that anger leading to violence is normal and to be expected. Somehow, we have lost the “civil” in civilization!

Let’s give the young people good examples of adults who keep their own tempers under control. Let’s set fair, but firm limits on how they can express hostility and violence. Of course, we do need to provide some safe outlets for expressing their hostility. They should be encouraged to “talk it out.” When dealing with someone who is angry, we need to recognize that s/he might want to harm another person. That doesn’t mean we would condone it; it only means that we are empathizing with her/him. We should be firm in that we can’t allow them to hurt someone. Violence is not a “right” thing to do, period! We need to constantly try to channel the negative energy of anger into something more positive such as understanding and compassion.

Don't worry, I'm only a mad scientist :-)

Don’t worry, I’m only a mad scientist :-)

Finally, I think it’s important to emphasize that we are responsible for our own emotions. No one can make you mad or glad. You make you mad or glad. You have control over your emotions. No one but you can make you angry. I realize it is not always easy to feel this way, but how else can we ask someone to be responsible for their behavior. Are we going to expect people to be responsible for the results and not require them to be responsible for the thinking that caused the results?

Should all in a civilized society teach children how to deal with anger? YES!

grab-small-r21


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