I just wept in front of a room of teenagers. It wasn’t part of the lesson plan but every once in a while, you just have to go with it. Whenever I talk about a particular former student, it is bound to happen. It has almost gotten to the point where the waterworks start before I even tell the story. That’s because I’ve let it happen. The memory does not have to be painful. It is a combination of factors that make it so and they’re all within my control.
It seems as though many of us have a very hands off relationship with emotions. They are things that happen to us rather than our creation. Emotions are the effect of some cause outside of ourselves and all we can do is point the finger at the guilty party. As we become more tethered to technology it seems to be getting worse. Rather than the local humans and situations that can impact how we feel, there is now a virtual world that can impact us day or night, instant by instant. So we deflect, deny or deliberate on why we feel this way regularly. But as is usually the case, the answer is all inside.
The chemicals coursing through our brains are there to make the feeling happen. So in a sense, you are in bio-chemical warfare at all times. Bringing out the big guns of oxytocin and serotonin to combat the overwhelming attack of cortisol. It’s not the stuff that they make movies about but it is the reason that we watch movies. Our brain and body are in a constant feedback loop with each other. The secretion of these chemicals are what makes feelings happen but we have our hands on the release valves and need to pay attention to these things in order to influence them: physiology, focus and inner dialogue.
Physiology is the way that you use your body. It includes movement, food, sleep and many other factors but movement is crucial. Exercise, facial expressions, posture and any other movement that you can think of influence your feelings through your physiology.
Focus is the things that you pay attention to. At any given moment, there are thousands or possibly millions of stimuli coming in through your senses. We can only pay attention to a finite number. So we either pay attention to the obvious things or we need to take control of our focus.
Inner dialogue is the things that we say to ourselves inside of our head. For good or ill the consistent things that we say to ourselves affect how we feel. Being mindful of habitual self-talk is extremely important.
These are the ways that we can turn the tide of the chemical warfare that we have going on inside. It is by no means an easy fix. Each of these component pieces takes diligence and practice but we are not by any means helpless.
You’re fighting for your life, literally!