How To Lose Your Negative Emotions By Choosing Them

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
- Viktor Frankl

In a recent edition of the NLP Comprehensive newsletter I read an article about a variety of useful techniques for shifting unhelpful emotional states written by NLP Practitioner and Trainer Kevin Creedon.

This part of the article caught my eye.

“Emotions are Choices. William Glasser, M.D. in his book Choice Theory makes a strong case for the idea that emotions are choices, even when they don’t feel like it. …Whether or not emotions are choices is true, it is a very useful assumption. Here’s an experiment. Pretend that you are grumpy and mentally label your experience each of these ways:

1. I am grumpy.

2. I am feeling grumpy.

3. I am choosing to feel grumpy.

What are the differences for you? Which gives you the greatest freedom (and responsibility)?

Some people try to suppress or hide their emotions. Others venerate them, with the idea that ALL emotions have to be fully expressed, preferably with an audience, before an emotion is complete. I don’t think emotions should be suppressed or avoided, but I’m surprised how often what I’m feeling seems to have been chosen blindly, without considering more than one possibility.

Many people believe that their emotions are just not under their control, coming and going according to their own agenda. However as this experiment suggests it is possible to choose your relationship to your emotion, to move from subservience to choice.”

- Kevin Creedon

Changing Identities

Creedon’s thought experiment made me think of the EFT ‘Setup Statement’ used to clear Psychological Reversal before tapping on the meridian points:

“Even though I [problem] I accept who I am and how I feel.”

Part of the function of the setup statement is to take the person from being the problem to having the problem (in Creedon’s example moving from “I am grumpy” to “I am feeling grumpy”).

Although that might look like a small change in the words, that change makes quite a difference.

If I am grumpy then grumpy is my identity and defines my being. Somehow it is “larger” than me it’s as if I’ve been swallowed up in the grumpy state. An identity is with you 24/7, it is both constant and resistant to change.

If I feel grumpy then the grumpy feeling is “smaller” than me, which implies that I now have some choice in how I relate to this feeling instead of being dominated by it. Feelings come and go. We can feel one way in this moment and in a few moments time we can feel very differently.

Since feelings can change easily and change is what we are after, it can be very helpful to shift perspectives from an identity statement into a feeling statement.

That’s the beauty of this kind of setup statement. Just one simple sentence can help us step from rigidity to flexibility.

So far so good, but how about that last sentence: “I am choosing to feel grumpy”?

Choosing How To Feel

Is the idea that you are choosing a negative state a challenge for you?

You might think: “I’m not choosing to feel that way, that’s just how it is! What they are doing makes me feel bad”.

We probably like the idea of choosing positive emotions and responses. It is the basis of Pat Carrington’s excellent Choices Method, but we might not like the idea that we “choose” our negative emotions.

But if not one, why not the other?

Think of it this way.

  • If you have no choice in how you feel then your emotional life is a hostage to what other people say and do.
  • If you have some choice then you have some freedom from those triggers.
  • If you have a lot of choice then you have a lot of freedom from those triggers.

Since EFT is all about emotional freedom I think it is an idea worth considering. As Creedon says “Whether or not emotions are choices is true, it is a very useful assumption”.

I think his formulation: “I am – I feel – I choose” can be supercharged by adding tapping.

For example: If I am angry about something I could tap in the following way:

Setup

  • Even though I am angry I accept myself and how I feel
  • Even though I feel angry I accept myself and how I feel
  • Even though I am choosing to feel angry I accept myself and how I feel

Sequence
EB: I am angry
SE: I feel angry
UE: I am choosing to feel angry
UN: I am angry
CH: I feel angry
CB: I am choosing to feel angry
UA: I feel angry
TH: I am choosing to feel angry

Having used this approach for a while I think it has three benefits:

  1. It is effective. In general I have found it works more quickly than just tapping on “I am angry” or whatever the problem state is.
  2. It requires acceptance of my part in my experience. If I am choosing that emotional response then I am led to accept that it is part of my emotional repertoire that I have learnt over the years. Once I can accept those responses it is easier for them to change.
  3. I take back responsibility for my responses and that frees me to do something different. That response-ability, the ability to choose your response in any given situation, is an essential part of our personal freedom.

If, like me, you want to be a response-able adult try it out and let me know what happens.

“Everyone is responsible and no one is to blame.”
- Will Schutz

Practical Wellbeing Newsletter

The Practical Wellbeing Newsletter is a twice monthly email newsletter about personal change, self-acceptance, self-sabotage and psychological EFT.

This newsletter is for you if you are suspicious of miracle cures and pat answers to difficult questions. If you are looking for a quick fix, this would be the wrong place to look.

My experience is that personal change happens over time and usually takes some effort. This newsletter is for you if you are willing to engage with your own experience and try things out.

10 Responses to “How To Lose Your Negative Emotions By Choosing Them”

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  1. Thank you Andy!

    “Choosing to feel” feels totally different to “being” something.

    And you don’t feel that helpless anymore because if you’ve chossen this you can choose something different, too.

    Blessings
    Michaela

  2. Lisa Burnage says:

    I’ve been using this myself, when I remember (!), and it does make a big difference. It seems to put some distance between you and the feeling; the “witnessing effect” and, as a result, I’ve notice the emotion comes down more quickly. I really like the concept of ‘choose your mood’ as a friend of mine calls it, taking responsibility for your own reactions.

    • Andy says:

      I think the “I choose” phrase helps you move from the feeling is something that happens to you, to something that you do. A small step from being the result end of something, to being the cause end of something.

      I imagine the experience of being at the different ends of a shotgun are quite profound even though it’s a short gap between them. (This is the kind of metaphor that comes to mind just after you’ve seen the latest Bond movie).

  3. Georgia says:

    Love it truly!!!
    Glad and relieved we can get outside the emotion so simply and effectively
    I have made so few “choices” really with emotions leading the parade.
    Or, as my ex-husband once told me – I do not want to know another woman
    with as many feelings again…..
    Thanks for this wonderful approach/technique in NLP/EFT

    Georgia Bettridge

  4. Andy says:

    Glad you found it useful. I agree that it is good to have a choice and not to be dragged around by our emotions.

  5. anne baker says:

    Do church going people use this method? It’s important to me to not go outside the Faith but to trust in God for my needs.

    • Andy says:

      Dear Anne,

      Thanks for the question, I’m not sure that I’m in any way qualified to answer it, but here are my thoughts on this subject.

      From my point of view we have at our disposal a inbuilt soothing methods. You can argue whether they evolved, or were given to us, but I don’t think many people would argue that we have the capacity to sooth ourselves and others. A mother stroking a sick child’s head is soothing that child, holding someone while they sob on your shoulder is soothing for them.

      In my opinion EFT is one of those soothing capacities that we have at our disposal. It can sooth emotional, physical and psychological distress and I think it can be used by people of any faith, or none, to give relief from suffering. I don’t think anyone of faith would deny the sick child or friend comfort and I can’t think of any reason why a person of faith couldn’t use EFT to help that child or friend in another way.

      Part of the problem here is that EFT looks strange and unfamiliar but I think of it as just another way to help someone heal. In 100 years when EFT is very familiar and used quite naturally, I doubt if this question will even arise.

      Those are my thoughts on the subject, I’m sure if you look around on the web there will be some more theologically based opinions to read.

      I hope that helps.

      Andy

  6. Judy says:

    Hi Andy, I am a Christian[ and feel like a Christian!!!!!!} a qualified Nurse and I am NLP , EFT, Emotranse and Reflexology trained too. I use all of these within my position as a complementary therapist in a Marie Curie Hospice.
    I have had some Christian patients refuse therapy claiming it isnt of God……Thats their belief, but mostly I have no problems once they know I am myself a believer, and am not calling on any unknown sources of energy.. other than God’s love for them.
    May I send you many blessings for your continued work on these news letters.
    xx

    • Andy says:

      Hi Judy,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I’m glad you like the newsletters.

      I think it can be a stretch for some people to accept EFT depending on their own beliefs and what they have heard or read about EFT. From my own point of view I think it is the skilful use of our inbuilt stress relief mechanisms, no calling of outside forces of any kind is required.

      All the best,

      Andy

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