I need to talk about the Emotion Train now.
It’s a big deal for me. Learning this was… eye opening. Liberating.
I was always controlled by my emotions. If I was feeling sad, or blue, or angry, or frustrated, or listless, or restless, or just generally on edge, I would wonder, What’s wrong with me?
Surely, I thought, that I wouldn’t be feeling that way unless something was wrong. But I always assumed that the wrongness had to do with my circumstances, or the people around me, or the heaviness of life. And I would either try to fix the sense of listlessness by doing something new, like changing my hair colour or buying new clothes; or I would wallow in the emotion, listening to music that echoed my feelings, treating everyone badly, and justifying all my nastiness in the pursuit of making myself feel better.
I was led by my emotions. I sought them out, like prizes. If I was upset, I sought happiness. And when happiness eluded me, I got angry and impatient. And so I fed my anger, and the whole world reacted badly to me. So I felt hurt and tried controlling them, so they’d behave in a way that would make me happy again.
Then, one day, I learned the truth about emotions.
The truth is this: Emotions are not the truth.
Let that roll around in your mind for a minute. Emotions are not the truth.
Too esoteric? What does it mean?
Let’s imagine a train. The train has three parts: an engine, a passenger car, and a caboose.
The engine drives the train. The passengers are along for the ride, and the caboose brings up the rear, just following along and enjoying the trip.
There are three workers on the train, and they each get to sit in one of those train cars. They don’t share. They are Emotions, Thoughts, and Actions. Only one of them can drive the train.
If you let Emotions drive the train, then Actions follow in the second car, and your Actions are wholly emotion-driven. Thoughts are hanging on in the caboose for dear life, wondering where on earth we’re going here and hoping Happiness can take over because Anger is a terrible driver.
Let me fill you in on a secret: our trains were never meant to be Emotion driven. When we let Emotions drive our Actions and Thoughts, we have no control. We’re just along for the ride, and it’s bumpy. Really bumpy.
But when we put our Thoughts into the engine, Actions and Emotions fall into place neatly behind. And guess what? We can control our Thoughts. And our Thoughts, in turn, control our Actions. Then, our Emotions sit contentedly in their place, merely remarking on the scenery of life.
Try it. Next time you’re feeling down, ask yourself not “Why do I feel this way?” but “What am I thinking right now?”
If you’re repeating my personal litany of I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, It’s all too much, I can’t handle it, I need help, Why is no one helping me?, I give up, then guess what? I bet you’ll be feeling horrible. I know I do when I think like that.
Tomorrow, more on the amazing idea that we can control our thoughts.