You Think Before You Emote

Robert Terson

22673Most people believe that they emote instantaneously: a stimulus of some kind occurs and, without so much as a sliver of prior thought, they react emotionally. They believe it happens like so:

Stimulus (Say, a provocative statement of some kind) = Emotion (Anger)

They’re wrong!

There is always a thinking process that takes place before the emotion is felt; however, people don’t realize it because the thought process is on a subconscious level and it happens so fast—think faster than the speed of light. It looks like this:

Stimulus (The provocative statement) = Subconscious Thinking (“You shouldn’t have said that!”) = Emotion (Anger)

The thinking part of the equation, the “You shouldn’t have said that!” happens so quickly that you aren’t aware of it. The only way to pinpoint the thought that comes before the emotion is to work your way backwards by asking yourself “What is it that caused me to get so angry?” “Well, Joe said thus and thus and he shouldn’t have said that, he’s totally wrong, I don’t like what he said.”

The best analysis of the subject I ever read is in A New Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper. I highly recommend you pick up a copy and study it; it just might change your life.

The book will teach you that so many of the things you perceive as awful, catastrophic, horrible, terrible, unacceptable are nothing of the kind. It’ll help you understand that the shoulds, oughts, and musts you lay on yourself are self-defeating.

To give you a flavor of the book, here’s a list of the irrational ideas Ellis and Harper say, “…stand in the way of your leading an anxiety-free, unhostile life”:

Irrational Idea No. 1: comprises the idea that you must—yes, must—have love or approval from all the people you find significant.

Irrational Idea No. 2: The idea that you must prove thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving, or a saner but still foolish variation: The idea that you at least must have competence or talent in some important area.

Irrational Idea No. 3: The idea that when people act obnoxiously and unfairly, you should blame and damn them, and see them as bad, wicked, or rotten individuals.

Irrational Idea No. 4: The idea that you have to view things as awful, terrible, horrible, and catastrophic when you get seriously frustrated, treated unfairly, or rejected.

Irrational Idea No. 5: The idea that emotional misery comes from external pressures and that you have little ability to control or change your feelings.

Irrational Idea No. 6: The idea that if something seems dangerous or fearsome, you must preoccupy yourself with and make yourself anxious about it.

Irrational Idea No. 7: The idea that you can more easily avoid facing many life difficulties and self-responsibilities than undertake more rewarding forms of self-discipline.

Irrational Idea No. 8: The idea that your past remains all-important and that because something once strongly influenced your life, it has to keep determining your feelings and behavior today.

Irrational Idea No. 9: The idea that people and things should turn out better than they do and that you must view it as awful and horrible if you do not find good solutions to life’s grim realities.

Irrational Idea No. 10: The idea that you can achieve maximum human happiness by inertia and inaction or by passively and uncommittedly “enjoying yourself.”

I’d love to hear from you after you’ve read the book, get your feedback.


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