‘I feel so angry at him’, ‘I am irresistibly drawn to her’. Do you feel helpless in the face of such overwhelming emotions? Most people mistakenly believe that they have no control over how they feel. ‘He just makes me wild,’ they usually say, blaming the other person for their feelings, thereby giving the power to factors outside of themselves to influence their lives. The reality however is nobody can hurt you if you don’t give them the right to. Our feelings are governed by our thought patterns. The way you cultivate your thoughts is the way you feel.
Once, we were a group of fifty monks going on a long bus ride and the tyres burst as we were driving through the middle of a forest. As the driver got out to seek help, there were mixed emotions bubbling inside. Some of us were excited at the prospect of the adventure we could potentially have. Others were fearful of wild animals in the forest; a few were cautious as they decided to explore the dense woodland. A few others were impatient and restless, while some suggested we park there for the night and enjoy the forest experience. The situation was the same for everyone, but each one felt different emotions due to different belief systems and thought patterns.
Dr. Albert Ellis, who created and developed Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, gave an interesting hypothetical example of an aeroplane that has got into trouble mid-air. The pilot announces that due to an emergency, each passenger would be given a parachute to jump off the plane. Ellis asks a provocative question: would each person in the plane respond and feel the same way? One who always ‘thought’ it’s dangerous to look down from heights, would likely feel nervous, whereas another passenger who considered life as an opportunity for adventure and fun, would get excited. Although the external situation would remain the same for both kinds of passengers, each would ‘feel’ differently because of the different thought processes. This also means if we consciously think positive, express gratitude and keep out negative thoughts, we’d always feel happy.
To be continued…