Do You Own Your Emotions?


When I was in Year 10 at high school, in the thick of teenage angst (slamming doors, useless crushes on boys and angry journal entries about my mother), I attended a Leadership Program. It was a three day course which taught all of us pimply, hormone-fuelled, grumpy teens a few basic truths about ourselves, our relationships, our emotions and lives. I loved and soaked up the entire thing, but there was one incident that caused me complete defiance. It was when the guy who was running it talked about “choosing” our emotions. In my mind, if my mum did something that pissed me off, well, that was her fault, right? She “made” me angry! Well, apparently not, according to this guy. My mother had nothing to do with it. Her energy is neutral. It was ME who DECIDED to feel angry. “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” I remember arguing. “If I’m sitting alone in my bedroom nice and peacefully, and she sticks her head in and says something irritating, SHE changed the energy, not me!” That argument made 110% logical sense to me as a self-absorbed teenager. Fast-forward to 2012 and I am COMPLETELY on the side of the guy who was trying to teach us Self-Responsibility. What changed?

As I matured and deepened my spirituality, I gradually realized that no one can “make” you feel anything. You are not a powerless victim, pushed around helplessly in the world like seagrass under the ocean. You decide, consciously or subconsciously, how to respond to any given person, situation or event. Sure, you might have decades of super-rigid patterning and belief-systems underlying your behaviors, which make you respond almost automatically to most scenarios in life, but these can be changed. How? Firstly you need a bit of awareness because your brain, the monkey mind or ego, chatters ceaselessly all day. “Don’t eat that for lunch, you’ll get fat.” “Gosh I’m sick of waiting in this queue.” “Goodness that girl has large feet.” “I wish I could add up figures quicker.” “If that traffic light doesn’t turn green soon I’ll hit something.” “Oh look Simon is phoning again and he’s going to make me feel guilty about what happened on Sunday.”

Most of the time, we behave like robots under this sort of negative chatter. We don’t question, stop or change it because we’re as immune to it as someone who’s left the radio on low in the background. But if you start to have thoughts like, I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself about occasionally eating the wrong thing, or perhaps every time you’ve indulged in a gossip session, your gut feeling’s been gnawing at you well, that’s the first step of awareness. Your deeper self is identifying that you’re not comfortable with the direction your thoughts and actions are taking and you’d like to switch routes. What now? Well, you need to catch yourself whenever you lapse into negative self-talk “My bum looks big in that. Ah! Hang on, there’s that negative thought again! You might imagine a huge CANCEL or DELETE sign hovering in your brain. And replace the thought with a mantra, “I love and accept myself for who I am.” Doesn’t matter if you believe it or not, studies show with loads of repetition, they work regardless.

I’m highlighting this issue of Self-Responsibility because our society is absolutely rife with the victim mentality. When you live in a reality where other people “do stuff” to “make” you feel bad, guilty, angry or worse, then you’re existing in a constant state of blame and your body will respond toxically. You blame the government when stuff goes wrong in your life. You blame the economy. You blame the traffic. You blame your mother-in-law. You punish others or literally sue people and drag them through the courts to get them back for what they did to you. We have top-level politicians, media gatekeepers, teachers and other important figures in our society who operate this way 24/7, which personally I find quite disturbing. Sure, I’m not denying that individuals sometimes commit absolutely heinous, unforgivable acts. But if they’ve in some way directly affected you, do you really want to hang on to those emotions for the rest of your life, ruining your own journey and ultimately letting them win?

As for health, well, if you have a serious condition, how do you CHOOSE to feel about it? Is it someone or something’s fault? Is your doctor responsible for fixing it? Are you stuck on ”how could this happen to me and ruin my life, I just want to be like everybody else” bandwagon, or do you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and decide to tell yourself… THINK mindfully before you fill those blanks!


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About the Author | Rebeca Dettman

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