Our Emotions Don’t Have to Rule Our Minds

February 13, 2020 Updated: February 13, 2020

“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.” — Unknown

A few days ago, my wife said something that stirred an immediate flash of anger. Perhaps you can remember being at a similar crossroads? You can:

  1. Express your anger. How did that work out for you the last time you did?
  2. Stuff your anger and silently rehearse your grievance. Again, your relationship will suffer.
  3. Choose a better way.

That day, I chose a better way. In almost the same moment my anger arose, I noticed the story forming in my mind justifying the anger. I realized anger was pre-existing in my mind and the story I was constructing was a made-up narrative designed to help me drop responsibility. In that moment of realization, the anger was gone; not stuffed, gone.

This realization happened without intellectual processing. In other words, I didn’t do a number on myself.

An hour later, I couldn’t have told you what I thought I was angry about. Something can no longer be a cause (what my wife said) if it has no effects. If the false cause is removed, so are the effects.

I would like to tell you I always choose path 3. I don’t. Path 3 is unnatural to our ego and requires mental discipline and practice, but the rewards are immense.

The process I’m describing can apply to any upset: fear, anxiety, worry, etc.

This is an idea, among several, I will present in my workshop: “Has Your Life Become a Sitcom About Nothing? How to Exit Your Show” at FEEcon in June 2021.

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of “The Inner-Work of Leadership.” To receive Barry’s essays, subscribe at Mindset Shifts. This article is republished from FEE.org