The key question to ask yourself is this:
‘What am I willing to feel in order to live the kind of life I want?’[KM1]
instead of this:
‘What can I do to stop feeling this way?’
You and I are not in total control of our emotions. We can influence them at times and avoid them for a bit, but the only thing we really can control is what we actually do when emotions show up.
Imagine that you have two dials on you. The first is an emotion distress dial. It fluctuates depending on what is happening in your life. Lose out on a promotion, your kid gets really ill, your dog dies – the dial will ramp itself up to 10/10 on the distress scale.
As long as there are people and things in life you care about, then there will be emotional distress in your life. Imagine that this dial is attached to you firmly between your shoulder blades. You can’t reach it so you can’t adjust the dial although you can contort yourself into all manner of peculiar positions whilst you try.
Now imagine you have another dial attached to your forearm. This is your willingness dial. This dial sets how willing you are to feel an emotion, whatever it is. You can reach it easily and fiddle with it. You are in total control of this dial. You now have a choice.
When something, inevitably, happens which triggers an emotion you don’t want, you can either turn yourself inside out trying to control the dial on your back (and even if you could reach it you wouldn’t be able to change your emotions in the long-term), or you can ramp up your openness dial and accept your emotions.