Can We Choose How We Feel?
I woke up this morning angry. I've noticed over the years that this is my typical emotional state when my alarm goes off. Developing a keen sense of emotional awareness is part of my life's work, so I am no longer alarmed noticing that I feel full-blown anger as soon as I open my eyes. I've gotten curious about the origins and looked back on my early days as a little being waking up to a bit of chaos in my childhood home. There was enough anxiety to warrant a feeling of angst that quickly turned to anger. I've done some healing around it and still the feeling for the first 10 minutes of waking persists. So, after deciding to surrender to the almost daily experience of "morning-rage" as I call it, I've realized one major upside. A huge lesson learned from over 30 years of exploring this phenomenon is that I decide how long it lasts.
I wake up, my partner starts telling me how her morning is or asking if I want coffee, and my first instinct is to release my anger towards her (undeserved, of course). In that moment, I'm at a crossroads. I can lash out to hopefully dispel the feeling, which, come to find out, works. But then, I pay the price of upsetting her and having to explain how I handed my anger to her to hold because she happened to be the one standing there. Or, I simply decide to not. Not say it, not do it, not engage with my own anger. I decide to smile instead, force myself to say, "Thank you for making coffee." Pet my dogs head, talk about something interesting, or just look at the trees outside and conciously tell myself to notice their beauty. And then, the anger is gone. Completely. No residue. It's like changing a shirt or cleaning a dish. What once was there taking over is completely gone and I'm left with a fresh newness and a whole lot of choice.
Call it being non-reactive, call it redirecting. It's literally a choice, and a damn good one. I've done the work of trying to figure out why I feel this way every morning. I've done some healing exercises, talked about it, cried about it. I'm no longer focused on getting rid of it or even thinking it odd. Years of work allowed for such a surrender. So, this choice is not one of repression or avoidance. This is literally rerouting a deeply grooved pathway of energy that seems set. Like rain coming down a mountain, the water finds the path of least resistance and that reinforces the stream over and over again. So this choice is a new path. It's a slow digging of a new river bed. That old pathway will likely always be there, and my emotions, like the water coming down the mountain, will often go to that path first out of habit. Maybe, maybe not. And, each morning, I'll have a choice to make. Can we choose how we feel? Not in the first moments. But then, we have all the choice there is to be had.