The idea that emotional misery comes from external pressures and that you have little ability to control your feelings or rid yourself of depression and hostility.
“A flat tire doesn’t upset your stomach.”
I learned that in my Psychology 102 class in college when we talked about cognitive psychology. The idea is that our feelings are not caused directly by an external event, but rather by the way our brains think about an external event.
I have seen this at the Olympics.
I remember watching a woman (I can’t remember her name) win a silver medal at the Olympics in skeleton. She had retired and came back at the urging of her husband following a miscarriage. When she won her elusive Olympic medal, they could not have been any happier.
Contrast that with Viktoria Komova, who won the all around silver medal in the 2012 Olympics. When she saw her score and that she had finished second, she was broken. She sat down in a chair and sobbed, and later declared her Olympics to be a 100% failure.
Both of these athletes won the same medal. And yet, they had very, very different reactions to winning the medal.
We need to practice metacognition, thinking about thinking. When we feel upset about something, we need to ask ourselves, “Why do we feel upset?”
For example, a few days ago I was thinking about the fact that I am still single. Like Bridget Jones, I imagined myself dying alone and my corpse being eaten by wild dogs. Then I remembered how I felt 5 years ago. I was unemployed, stranded in a strange city (Not Cleveland), and with mounting credit card debt and student loans. I could not have imagined that I would be where I am today.
At the same time, I also thought about how I would never imagined myself in this place now. I thought I was going to be a teacher; now I work in software. I work with technology that I didn’t even know existed at the time. My social life is also different than I would have anticipated at the time.
It reminded me that just because events don’t turn out the way I anticipate them isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
This made me feel less fearful about the future. My thought patterns actually changed my feelings.
We all have this ability. The more we learn to use it, the better.