The quality of our psychology defines the quality of our life. When our spirits are down we are surrounded by negativity and filled with negative emotions. As a result, our lives suffer. The strange thing is that we can find ourselves in a negative psychological state even when our lives are otherwise great: when we have fulfilling jobs, we are strong and healthy, have the support of a loving family, and enjoy a fun and interesting social life. Similarly, we can maintain a positive outlook even when our lives are seemingly falling apart.
How emotions are created
Our emotions are created by our thoughts, and by the meaning we give to the events in our life. We can always choose to give a negative, positive, or even neutral meaning to things.
Here is an example: I ask a colleague to help me with a project and the colleague refuses. What are some thoughts that might arise from this? With a negative outlook, I might think: “My colleague doesn’t care about me, the project, or getting the work done.” When I start thinking of all the selfish reasons preventing my colleague from helping me, I might think: “He/she is trying to sabotage me, and wants to see me fail. Maybe they want me to lose my job.” “They only care about themselves. Can’t they see that I am drowning in all this work? How am I supposed to do this all by myself?”
If I want to apply a positive or neutral meaning to their refusal, I might have thoughts like: “They must be really busy to refuse.” “It’s OK, someone else might have the time to help me, and if not, I just have to put on some extra effort and see what I can achieve by myself.” “I will ask later, maybe now was a bad time.”
Clearly, the thoughts that are going to distress me more are the ones that bring negative meanings to the situation. The overwhelming emotional sensitivity that defines PMS, when combined with negative thoughts and meaning, can result in a huge emotional explosion that takes everyone by surprise and can harm relationships.
Thoughts and meaning
In order to feel something we have to first have a thought that will make us feel that emotion. I can’t feel anger or rage if I don’t have an angry thought. The great thing about thoughts is that they can be changed or stopped. All we have to do is to recognize the unhelpful thought – and try to find a positive or neutral equivalent to give meaning to the situation. This isn’t positive thinking or denial. It is a realistic approach, since we can’t really know what is happening in other people’s heads. I can’t know for a fact that my colleague is trying to get me fired or is being selfish. Since I can’t know with absolute certainty what is happening, why should I give it any meaning?
Here are some easy steps to go through the process:
Understand that choosing our emotions is more of a mental process than a psychological one.
Realize that thoughts are not inevitable; we can change them whenever we choose to.
When we start interpreting something in a negative way, change our thoughts into something neutral or positive right away.
When it comes to controlling our thoughts and emotions, PMS is like any other time. The principle of thought-generated emotions still applies even though sometimes we will find that it is more difficult to think in a positive way, because of the intensity of our emotions. Make this your mantra:
“I choose my thoughts to choose my emotions.”
Remind yourself of that regularly during the day, and practice changing your thoughts as often as you can. Soon you will find that it is possible to change your emotions – and your life will feel much easier and calmer because of it.