If you are not choosing your emotions, then what is?
Free Will and the Personal Power to Choose
Is there such a thing as freewill? Do each of us have freewill? First, let’s clarify it. Free will: the ability to consciously choose. Just for fun, let’s conduct a quick inventory and see what happens. Did you choose to have breakfast? Did you choose to take a shower this morning? Or, did this stuff just kind of happen automatically, and later in the morning you found yourself at work? Ever done that, get to work and didn’t really remember driving there? Did you consciously choose the way to work or did you take the same route you always take? Do you remember consciously choosing every lane change?
If you exercised choice in even just some of these then you must have it. If you didn’t, maybe you have it, but just aren’t using it.
Now it gets a little tougher. How do you feel about your day? Has something got you upset or stressed? Are you joyful and grateful all the time? Take a quick inventory of the emotional states you have gone through today, or even this week. Did you consciously choose any of them? Did you choose all of them? Be ruthlessly honest with yourself here. If you were cut off on the freeway by one of those unconscious drivers, how did you react? Did you choose your reaction? Could you have chosen or was your reaction already there before there was a chance to choose? There are a lot of questions, but take your time.
Now lets try something different. Think about what you are most grateful for in your life. Think about it long and hard. Now, how does it make you feel? Allow yourself to focus on this and as you do let the gratitude grow in your body. Settle on this for a few minutes and you may find yourself in a place of great gratitude, a wonderful emotion.
If you did the exercise you found that you have conscious choice over your emotions. So you do have free will with your emotions. Now the really tough questions. How often do you consciously choose how you feel? Do remember to choose when someone is pushing your buttons? Do you choose while driving your car, at the grocery store, with your family? If you did the exercise you know an emotional state is just a choice.
One of my biggest heroes is Nelson Mandela. Why? After decades in prison, when he was released, he embraced his captors. He had compassion for them. His will was so strong that he won over any emotional reaction. When we exercise our freewill we make it strong, just like a muscle. If he can do it after a near life time in prison, for sure, we can do it in our relatively comfortable world.
There is much in the world that we can not change. But we can choose how we feel. If we have difficulty changing our emotional state, it may be we have let the muscles of our freewill grow weak through neglect.
One other question to ponder: If we aren’t choosing how we feel, then whom are we leaving that choice up to?