3 Step Process to Eliminate Negative Emotion (And Be Happy Without Thinking About It!)

by Brian

new beginningsWe cannot control the things that happen to us. The only thing which we have full control over is our reaction to any experience.

I’m incredibly happy I moved to Kelowna. I’ve learned about myself. All my fears, insecurities and worries seemed to amplify the more time I spent alone. I was able to discover the cause of my suffering, and by fixing the cause I’m coming into a life of vitality, health and abundance. I got smacked in the face by reality and I’ve never been more thankful. I’ve experienced a wide range of events and the contrast has brought into focus what I actually want to do with my life.

Three days after moving to Kelowna I pinched my C5 and C6 nerves in my shoulder. I made contact with my head and my shouder pads, and the tackle sent a stinging sensation down my left arm. I remember this feeling – I had the same feeling at my Team Alberta tryouts when I separated my shoulder. I could still move my shoulder after the tackle so I continued to play, but I could feel the weakness. It hurt to lift my arm up to catch a ball, or to wrap up and make a solid tackle.

Worst Case Scenario

I finished training camp without saying a word about my injury to anyone. I had done well in training camp and I didn’t want to ruin my chances of playing this year by being injured. I didn’t think anything about getting it checked out – I was frustrated and overwhelmed with thoughts of regret. “Did I make the wrong move coming out here?” I thought to myself. How could I get injured on the third day? Why did this happen to me? I was swimming in a sea of negativity.

On Tuesday of the following week I finally said something to my trainer. The pain was unbearable every time I made physical contact. I couldn’t pretend not to feel it anymore. The trainer recommended that I go and see Roy, the team’s physiotherapist. I had no idea how I was going to afford physiotherapy for my shoulder. “I don’t have the money to see a physiotherapist.” I thought to myself.

I went to see Roy and was delighted and frustrated to find out that he was the best physiotherapist in BC. There was no way I can afford this guy. He has been on trips down to Michagan to help with the Wolverine’s football team, he’s known around Kelowna as “the best” and everyone who goes to Roy swears by his excellence. Roy is a wonderful person, an incredible physiotherapist and he helps out members of the Okanagan Sun team for… free?

… Thanks man!

Running AwayI moved out to Kelowna because I thought I wanted to play Football at the next level. This is still true – I have a passion for Football and it’s something that I enjoy doing, but it wasn’t the real reason I moved out here. The real reason I moved out to Kelowna is that I was convinced Calgary was out to get me. Things weren’t going my way in the city I learned to call home and I figured by moving to Kelowna I’d simply fall into the life of my dreams.

In the first week I was smacked in the face by an experience over which I had no control. My problems didn’t stay in Calgary, because my problems weren’t with Calgary, or it’s people. My problems were with myself; my habits, emotions, perception of the experiences happening to me.

In Calgary I experienced the same phenomena as I experienced when I separated my shoulder. I’d have an experience happen to me at work and I’d start my pity-party. “Why me.” I’d play the “blame game” with every negative situation that I had and I never accepted full responsiblity for the direction of my life. Running away from Calgary didn’t solve this problem, because the problem wasn’t with the people or the events in Calgary, the problem was with me and my emotional reaction to situations which I had no control over.

There are billions of people on this planet. Each person has a unique mind created by their life experience and makes decisions that create experiences for our eyes to see. I have no control over any person or any of their decisions; meaning I have no control over a number experiences that happen to me/around me in my life. I do, however, have full control over my reaction to any and all experiences.

Emotion Drives Us

Human beings are driven by emotion. Tony Robbins states in his “Why we do what we do, and how to do it better” that emotion is the driving force of life. In Tony’s video he talks about the events of September 9, 2011. When a traumatic experience happens the “sad people get sad, the angry people get angry, and the guilty people get guilty.” He asks a question to strengthen his argument: “Do you know someone who, no matter what happens, they find a way to get pissed off?”

I moved out to Kelowna to play football, and the third day I pinched two nerves in my shoulder. This was a situation which I had no control over. My natural tendency is to react negatively to bad situations, and I could have reacted to this situation in a bunch of different ways; be angry at the person I tackled, be frustrated with myself for making a stupid play, regretting playing football.

I reacted to the situation by beginning to feel sorry for myself. “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” I thought. “Why me,” I questioned. “There’s no way I’ll have the money to pay for physiotherapy.” Every thought, every word and nearly every conversation I had I was making me feel more pity for myself, and I was creating a sob-story for anyone who would listen.

Emotions are the driving force of life, and my emotion for the first week of my arrival was pity and sorrow. I was frustrated that I was injured and I would tell anyone I had a conversation with. I was so focused on the negative situation I had created that I was neglecting experiences that would have made me feel better, like having a good conversation with a friend back home or going out with some of my new friends in Kelowna. I spent my time avoiding positive experiences because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.

There’s a lesson here…

When I went into Roy’s office and found out I was covered, I felt happy for the first time all week. In my positive state I began thinking about my emotions and thoughts over the past week and that’s when I realized that it’s not about being right, it’s about feeling good.

I had created all of these stories surrounding my experience. “I just moved out here to play football and I get injured, just my luck.” “I wanted to start but now I’m injured.” I was justified in my arguments. I did have no control over what happened, it was unfortunate, and it wasn’t what I expected. I used each one of these reasons to justify the way I felt. My negative state made it hard for people to have a conversation with me – human beings have state transfer, meaning I was making them feel what I was feeling. Any time something negative happens to me I have the same pattern; I find away to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or feel sorry for myself.

Time for A Change

Ben Martin recently wrote a fantastic article on the 4 Levels of Learning. The article talks about how to get good at anything, and this also applies to changing your emotional state. In order to make long-lasting change you must become aware of your problem, figure out the solution and then consciously apply the solution every time the problem arises until you no longer have to think about it, the solution becomes automatic.

One of the concepts I teach on Kingpin Social Programs is the “Antidote Effect”.

The “Antidote Effect” works off of the premise that your conscious mind uses language and logic to communicate, your subconscious mind uses images and feelings. When I say “don’t think of a tiger” I think of a tiger. When I say “I don’t want to feel sorry for myself” I feel sorry for myself. That means you must take what you do not want, and focus on the opposite, because that is the image and feeling you want to receive.

My default state is to feel sorry for myself; I had to figure out the opposite of that – which is to feel proud of myself. Every time an experience causes me to fall back into my habitual pity-party I repeat this to myself: “I want to feel proud of myself.” But I found this wasn’t enough. I’ve tried affirmations before and I never actually feel them. So I took this to another level by making a list of 10 reasons I can feel proud of myself. (You can keep these in your head, on a piece of paper in your pocket, or in your cellphone.) I can finally feel myself releasing all of the negative stories I held onto and stepping into a world of vitality, love and appreciation. I’m proud to say I’m finally proud of myself.

SmileEach time I feel a negative emotion I repeat this process, and over time I’m noticing my life experience is improving. I’m consciously looking for the brighter side of life in every area of my life. There’s no longer any reason for a pity party, and I have every reason to feel proud of myself. The level of learning I’m currently on is “Conscious Competence”, meaning when I consciously focus on feeling better when I feel bad, it works, every time. I make a list of 10 reasons why I’m proud of myself, 10 reasons why I’m happy to be alive, 10 reasons why I love my life, etc.

I think too many people look for “quick fixes” when, in reality, all long-lasting change happens with persistence and consistency over time. To take out a piece of paper and write out reasons I could be proud of myself seemed like a lot of effort, especially when I was too busy feeling sorry for myself, but the positive emotion I experience consistently as a result is worth any amount of small effort to make a list whenever necessary.

What Emotion Drives You?

What is your default emotional state?

How do you react to experiences you have no control over in your life? You may need to get a trusted friend to give you the honest answer. When bad things happen to you: Are you strong? Do you worry? Do you become overwhelmed? Frustrated? Pitiful? Angry? Emotions are the driving force of life, and my pity-party kept me from enjoying experiences that would have made me feel better. My emotion sucked the life out of the present moment because I was spending too much time thinking about how frustrated I was.

The good news is that once you know your default emotional state, you can change it for the better:

  1. Become consciously aware of your state. Are you a worry-wart? Do you get frustrated easily? Are you an angry person? Do you get overwhelmed easily?
  2. Use the “Antidote Effect” to figure out the solution to your state. The opposite of worrying is being care-free. The opposite of being frustrated is being happy. The opposite of being angry is being calm. The opposite of being overwhelmed is being relaxed.
  3. Every time you feel yourself in your default state, make a list of the reasons you can feel the opposite of that state. The best part about this idea is that these reasons can have nothing to do with the actual situation that made you feel your negative emotion. The idea is to get yourself in a better state so you can approach the situation that made you feel negative with more clarity and vitality.

In the end I injured my shoulder, but I chose to stay in Kelowna. Every part of me wanted to run away back to Calgary, where it’s comfortable and my friends and family could rescue me. I refused to listen to the internal dialogue though, and I let go of any stories I was holding onto that were making me feel negative emotions. I chose to stay in Kelowna, injured or not, first string or not, strengthening both my integrity and my character as I finish what I set out here to do: finish the Okanagan Sun football season.

All long lasting change happens with consistency over time. I’m not here to give you a solution that will take place over night, because there’s no such thing. Your emotional state drives you, and you do have a default emotional state (or a few). Become aware of the force that drives you and you can consciously change it for the better, over time, until you feel happy without thinking about it.

About Brian
Brian is a firm believer in living in the present. Brian lives his life by the philosophy “Act for the future, not because of the past.” He is a passionate writer, a sober socialite and aspires to be a positive influence to everyone he interacts with. Read more about Brian here.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Amsing August 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Love this post, it helped me a bit with a similar situation i’m in! thank you Brian for this =]

Cam August 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for commenting Andrew. Hope all is well with you 🙂

Colin August 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Great article bro. Glad to hear about you, so did you make the team?

Brian August 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Thanks for commenting Andrew! Colin, yesss sir I made the team. 🙂 How’ve you been my friend? Miss you <3 I'll be back in Calgary in November, when I get back we'll have to meet up!

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