Emotions are Choices

NLP Comprehensive is one of the world’s longest running NLP* training organisations. In this weeks edition of their newsletter** there are a variety of useful techniques by Kevin Creedon for shifting unhelpful emotional states. This one caught my eye.

Emotions are Choices. William Glasser, M.D. in his book Choice Theory makes a strong case for the idea that emotions are choices, even when they don’t feel like it. …Whether or not emotions are choices is true, it is a very useful assumption. Here’s an experiment. Pretend that you are grumpy and mentally label your experience each of these ways:

1. I am grumpy.

2. I am feeling grumpy.

3. I am choosing to feel grumpy.

What are the differences for you? Which gives you the greatest freedom (and responsibility)?

Some people try to suppress or hide their emotions. Others venerate them, with the idea that ALL emotions have to be fully expressed, preferably with an audience, before an emotion is complete. I don’t think emotions should be suppressed or avoided, but I’m surprised how often what I’m feeling seems to have been chosen blindly, without considering more than one possibility.

Many people belief that there emotions are just not under their control, coming and going according to their own agenda. However as this experiment suggests it is possible to choose your relationship to your emotion, to move from subservience to choice.

The experiment reminded me of the ‘Setup Statement’ used to clear Psychological Reversal before tapping on the meridian points in a round of EFT:

“Even though I have this [emotion] I accept who I am and how I feel.”

I think that part of the function of this statement is to take the person from being to having the emotion, e.g. “I am grumpy” to “I have this grumpy feeling”.

These are very different states. If I am grumpy then grumpy defines my being, it’s larger than me I’ve been swallowed up in the grumpy state. If I have a grumpy feeling then the grumpy feeling is smaller than me, which implies that I now have some choice in how I relate to this feeling instead of being dominated by it.

I think this switch of relationship to the problem in the Setup Statement enhanced by the tapping begins to loosen up the problem before the tapping starts in earnest.

*If you live in the North East of England and would like to try out NLP without paying out for a full NLP Practitioner training, IntegrityNLP (that’s me, Nigel Hetherington and Harry Knox) are running two one day introductory NLP workshops in August.

** You can sign up for NLP Co News and Tips on the front page of NLP Comprehensive’s Website

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