You Get to Choose How You Feel, No Matter What

Sometimes I remember this. Sometimes I get this. Sometimes I can stop myself as I sink into worry or fear or frustration and pull myself out.

Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t. But I’m working on it more and more each day.

I don’t mean ignoring or glossing over the “bad” feelings, but I do mean not plunging into them and letting them ruin my day as if I have no other choice. Because I, at least usually, have another choice. If not immediately about how I feel, then at least about what I do with and about those feelings. Or what I choose to think about…which affects how I feel.

Yesterday was my nephew’s bar mitzvah. It was a wonderful, joyous occasion and also tough. There was so much family in the room, which was wonderful. My mom and Danny, my dad, were there, which was wonderful. It was also tough.

I think, in many ways, my relationships with both of my parents are shifting and evolving. I think, perhaps, the same is true for my brother. All I know is that I was overwhelmed, many times, at the weirdness and the joy of being there with my brother, mom, and dad. First, it’s not often that the four of us are together, and second, I was aware of where we’ve come from and what we’ve been through, and I was amazed at the love I felt for my parents.

Robbie and I took a picture with Danny as he sat in his wheelchair, and as I smiled for the camera, I thought of when we lived with him. Yeah, in many, many ways, it wasn’t easy. And it was scary. And I didn’t want to be there. He embodied, in many, many ways, Satan to me: living and exposing me to a life that was the antithesis of all that I knew was good and holy. But if I hadn’t lived with him then, I wouldn’t really know him now. And it must have been such a shock to his carefree hippie lifestyle to take us in. And in his own ways, he did try to put us first, and he did (and does) love us, even though it was and often is so difficult for him to show it and for us to feel it.

I could look at Danny—at both my parents—and have oodles of reasons to only stay in anger and hurt. I probably have too many situations in my life where I justifiably could, at least in my own mind, have too many reasons to stay in anger and hurt. Or worry or fear.

But I get to choose what I feel, no matter what. Besides, I learned many decades ago that feelings aren’t facts. Even when they feel like they are. Sometimes, my perceptions may be skewed. Sometimes, I’m hurt or angry about something, or because of something someone did, and it’s actually more about me than them, even though I can’t see that in the moment. And often I can, once again, choose what I think about—my hurt or something else—and that can affect the way I feel.

I’m learning more and more to acknowledge my feelings and to let them be. And then to ask myself how and if they’re helping me and how and if I’d rather distract myself with something else. Or soothe myself with something else.

There will probably always be people and situations that I feel hurt by. There will probably always be memories of the far and not-so-distant past that cause me pain. And I get to choose how I breathe through that hurt and pain—that anger and fear, that anguish and worry—or not. I get to choose if I can and will accept my feelings with loving self-compassion and then let them go. Or not.

I get to choose what I feel, no matter what.

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About the Author | Lisa Kohn

Lisa Kohn is the author of a memoir, To the Moon and Back, due out September 18, 2018, that chronicles her childhood – growing up in the East Village of New York City in the 1970s and in the Unification Church (the Moonies). Lisa writes of her recovery from the emotional abuse and abandonment she faced, and her now life of hope as a thriving and happy mom, wife, and leadership consultant and coach. You can read more at her website,, where you can also download the first chapter of her book.

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