You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.
Pearl S. Buck
That quote is one of my absolute favorites. It’s a useful idea — that we can feel our emotions and not be ruled by them. It’s like I often say — emotions usually are telling us that we should act, not how we should act. What we do with our feelings is up to us, provided we can resist that kneejerk reaction in the moment to lash out and/or say or do something that we regret.
Long ago and far away, this kind of impulse control was the goal for me. I had to work long and hard on not being hijacked by my emotions. Guided by them, informed by them. But not hijacked by them.
I’m happy to report that this quest has gone well. I find it easy these days to have an unpleasant emotion and to simply reflect on it. To take the time and space I need in order to figure out what to do with it.
This should be enough, shouldn’t it? After all, emotions aren’t always within our control.
But if I’m being honest, I need to confess: Sometimes I wish they were. And there are times when I’m in the throes of a terrible emotional pattern that I wish that I weren’t being confronted by those demons in the first place. At times like those, I’ll find myself wondering if I’m the only one who struggles that way. Who can control themselves and their emotional reactions — but would greatly prefer it if they didn’t have to. Who would greatly prefer that a placid unflappable disposition were natural to them.
But just as quickly it’s back to mindfulness — I’ll quickly thank my anxieties for presenting themselves, for doing their (potentially misguided) best to protect me. Struggling only makes it worse, after all.