Your emotional thermostat

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Sometimes, the simplest, most self-evident truths are the hardest to live by. We read again and again about the fact that “life is what you make it” or “it’s how we look at life that determines how happy we will be.” So we practice our affirmations, breathe, keep trying to see the glass half full, but somehow, when we are not looking, niggling negatives creep in.

What usually happens is that our positive mindset works well until something goes awry. It could be anything from a flat tire to an argument with a teen, a bad hair day or the loss of a job. An unconscious ego reaction simply overrides our good intentions. It’s a little like walking along a balance beam and doing well, recovering from slight imbalances until someone comes along and pushes you off.

When ego does this, it is also acting like a saboteur. Life becomes a series of ups and downs and it seems we are at the mercy of things over which we have no control. Ego is like the little child that simply cannot ignore the teasing of a sibling. It has to react.

As long as ego plays a dominant role in our consciousness, we will be at the mercy of outside forces. Even if we have a good stretch and feel pretty good, there is often the thought it cannot last. Then we worry about what might interrupt the flow of life being good.

We can be so dominated by ego we actually believe the world out there is the problem and if it were different we would be happy. Imagine someone sitting at home freezing because it is very cold outside and they have neglected to turn on the heat. They bemoan the fact it is so cold and if only the sun would shine and the temperature would rise, they could feel warm again.

Is there any way out of this endless drama? Well, yes. Imagine you have an “emotional thermostat” and you are going to set it at “content.” Imagine that feeling of contentment, what it feels like in your body. You can do that, just sitting there reading this, without anything triggering that contentment.

When things happen and you feel ego rushing in to react, think of that feeling of contentment and bring it back to your body. It’s like sitting in that room, watching the blizzard outside, but remaining toasty warm inside. Granted, it is not quite that simple. However, the key is to remain centred, with the ability to respond rather than react.

We could also say that we are staying in touch with our inner observer. We can notice what is happening and if there is a problem we can keep our thermostat steady while we consider our options and make the best choice. Often, the best choice is to just let it go. If you get a flat tire, you get it fixed; if it’s a bad hair day, wear a hat; if a partner is cranky and snaps at you, give them a get-out-of-jail-free card because sometimes you do the same thing.

None of these things need to ruin your day. What about the bigger things? We know that things will not always go smoothly and problems are a part of life. Of course, we can feel sad or annoyed, but the goal is to quickly come back to our centre, regain our balance, do what needs to be done and regain our sense of peace.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit See display ad this issue.

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