“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.”
– Viktor Frankl
In a recent edition of the NLP Comprehensive newsletter I read an article about a variety of useful techniques for shifting unhelpful emotional states written by NLP Practitioner and Trainer Kevin Creedon (who sadly died a year after this article was written).
This part of the article 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 believe that their 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.”
– Kevin Creedon
Creedon’s thought experiment made me think of the EFT ‘Setup Statement’ used to clear Psychological Reversal before tapping on the meridian points:
“Even though I [problem] I accept who I am and how I feel.”
Part of the function of the setup statement is to take the person from being the problem to having the problem (in Creedon’s example moving from “I am grumpy” to “I am feeling grumpy”).
Although that might look like a small change in the words, that change makes quite a difference.
If I am grumpy then grumpy is my identity and defines my being. Somehow it is “larger” than me it’s as if I’ve been swallowed up in the grumpy state. An identity is with you 24/7, it is both constant and resistant to change.
If I feel grumpy 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. Feelings come and go. We can feel one way in this moment and in a few moments time we can feel very differently.
Since feelings can change easily and change is what we are after, it can be very helpful to shift perspectives from an identity statement into a feeling statement.
That’s the beauty of this kind of setup statement. Just one simple sentence can help us step from rigidity to flexibility.
So far so good, but how about that last sentence: “I am choosing to feel grumpy”?
Choosing How To Feel
Is the idea that you are choosing a negative state a challenge for you?
You might think: “I’m not choosing to feel that way, that’s just how it is! What they are doing makes me feel bad”.
We probably like the idea of choosing positive emotions and responses. It is the basis of Pat Carrington’s excellent Choices Method, but we might not like the idea that we “choose” our negative emotions.
But if not one, why not the other?
Think of it this way.
- If you have no choice in how you feel then your emotional life is a hostage to what other people say and do.
- If you have some choice then you have some freedom from those triggers.
- If you have a lot of choice then you have a lot of freedom from those triggers.
Since EFT is all about emotional freedom I think it is an idea worth considering. As Creedon says “Whether or not emotions are choices is true, it is a very useful assumption”.
I think his formulation: “I am – I feel – I choose” can be supercharged by adding tapping.
For example: If I am angry about something I could tap in the following way:
- Even though I am angry I accept myself and how I feel
- Even though I feel angry I accept myself and how I feel
- Even though I am choosing to feel angry I accept myself and how I feel
EB: I am angry
SE: I feel angry
UE: I am choosing to feel angry
UN: I am angry
CH: I feel angry
CB: I am choosing to feel angry
UA: I feel angry
TH: I am choosing to feel angry
Having used this approach for a while I think it has three benefits:
- It is effective. In general I have found it works more quickly than just tapping on “I am angry” or whatever the problem state is.
- It requires acceptance of my part in my experience. If I am choosing that emotional response then I am led to accept that it is part of my emotional repertoire that I have learnt over the years. Once I can accept those responses it is easier for them to change.
- I take back responsibility for my responses and that frees me to do something different. That response-ability, the ability to choose your response in any given situation, is an essential part of our personal freedom.
If, like me, you want to be a response-able adult try it out and let me know what happens.
“Everyone is responsible and no one is to blame.”
– Will Schutz
You can read Kevin Creedon’s original article here