Have you ever noticed that people can walk through the same circumstances with completely different attitudes? We’re all wired to think so differently! We may not be able to control all aspects of our lives, but I’ve found that being able to critically analyze the root of my attitudes and the truthfulness of my emotions can unpack for me a better, more sound perspective.
Dreams and reality
The other day I was dreaming about emptying someone’s garage. The garage was piled high with all kinds of junk, the car was already loaded with as much as we could carry. We were waiting around for instructions because there was some confusion about the sorting of things. Time was ticking away and there was an unrealistic expectation about how soon we needed to get everything moved. We finally got to talk to the person we were waiting for, but rather than relieving the burden of the task, it somehow ended up heavier. We drove away with our carload, overwhelmed, knowing we would need to return again and again, and despairing of how to finish moving everything in time.
And then I woke up. Guess how I felt? Overwhelmed and burdened. I wanted to stay in my warm bed. The tasks of the day loomed dark and dreary.
But as I laid there, I realized that my day wasn’t any more taxing than the day before. What made it feel gloomy and depressing was not the actual events of my day, but the residual feelings that had carried over from my dream. The dream had colored my outlook on the actual reality of my day.
Now I don’t have many frightening dreams; sometimes I have frustrating dreams. But I actually have a lot of hilarious dreams. Some mornings I wake up laughing, and other mornings, although I feel like I’d rather stay in bed, I have an inkling I will regret that decision if I actually do. So yesterday I began to wonder how much of this morning experience is based on the real prospects of the day and how much is a lingering malaise founded merely on the false reality of my dreamworld?
What I’m talking about is the conscious choice I have to make about what place emotions have in my life. Will I let them guide me, control me or do I ignore them completely?
Thinking about thoughts
Once I witnessed an unconsolable meltdown one young girl was having because she didn’t have enough cash at the drive through. Out of her mouth came all sorts of untruth that her feelings were telling her about the situation. She had no self restraint, so in the moment of anger, all those ludicrous thoughts that most of us would think only in our heads came out unhindered.
I sat with her and talked about the things she had yelled about her mom being an idiot, her mom not giving her enough money on purpose, about her mom never giving her enough money, etc. We talked about how the way she had felt, had not actually been the truth. Her feelings were not actually telling her things that were true even though they seemed true at the time. Her mom usually gave her enough money, her mom loved her and wasn’t an idiot, and the seemingly insurmountable problem was actually something easy to fix.
I know I’ve done the same thing. I’ve let a feeling of anger, fear or frustration interpret my situation for me. The ridiculous statements that seem truthful to myself are easily recognised as flawed thinking when I hear them out loud. Maybe that’s just part of being a verbal processor. Or maybe that’s why writing in my journal gives me better perspective. But sometimes foolish ideas just stay in my head and I’m sadly misguided by them.
My morning experience reminded me of what I told my young friend that day. Our emotions are always speaking to us, and we need to hear them. Sometimes they are telling the truth. Sometimes they give us hunches that need to be explored. And sometimes our feelings are not speaking the truth at all. Sometimes they straight up lie, and we can’t let them sway our perception of reality.
The choice is yours
When my oldest daughter was a baby, someone sang her a song they wrote while she was crying. The words say, “You don’t want to be sad. You want to be happy.” And although there is a whole gamut of emotion to experience and acknowledge and feeling feelings is important, sometimes it just comes down to choosing what emotions you want. Sometimes it is right to be sad. But don’t let sadness dictate your ability to also choose happiness.
I like this quote by Elisabeth Elliot. “If you dwell on your own feelings about things rather than dwelling on the faithfulness, the love, and the mercy of God, then you’re likely to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Our feelings are fleeting and ephemeral, aren’t they? We can’t depend on them for five minutes at a time. But dwelling on the love, faithfulness, and mercy of God is always safe.”
I think next time I wake up overwhelmed, I may just chock it up to a bad dream, choose happiness and hop out of bed with a better attitude. Here’s hoping I remember that!