Updated: Aug 10, 2022
“We can tell the quality and helpfulness of our thinking by the quality of our emotions and feelings.” ~Fawn Miller, L.F.P. Coaching
What does that mean? It means our thoughts directly impact our emotions - if we think or perceive an experience in our lives negatively, it shifts us into feeling negative emotions. If we think or perceive an experience as a positive one, it shifts us into feeling positive emotions. If we have neutral thoughts about an experience, we don’t have an emotional swing what-so-ever. It just is.
That makes sense so far - but the real question becomes why do we have positive or negative thoughts about situations in the first place? Where do they come from? What is the reason behind the way we feel? And why do we feel the need to place them in one category or another - Positive and Negative. Good and Bad. Right and Wrong.
We are raised to equate positive experiences, thoughts and perceptions as “good”, because those are typically the experiences that are validated by society and our family. We are taught, even as children, to seek out those “good” experiences, to think those good thoughts and feel good emotions. We equate "good" with success. And conversely - we are taught to avoid “bad” experiences, to purge bad thoughts, and to avoid feeling bad emotions. So over time it's only natural that we begin to value what we’ve come to define as the “good” experiences we have as being directly related to being emotionally healthy.
You may hear this and think, “Sure, that makes perfect sense.” But does it? There are a few flaws with this way of thinking that are actually making it HARDER for us to reach true emotional health and stability.
The Four Truths of Emotional Health
Truth #1: There is no such thing as GOOD or BAD - at least not as they have been previously defined. The first problem with defining your feelings into these buckets is that there is judgment associated with them; there is an assumed meaning associated with them. “I feel good” becomes I AM good and I am doing the “right” things in my life, and “I feel bad” becomes I AM bad and I am doing the “wrong” things in my life. Good vs Bad, Right vs Wrong puts us on an emotional teeter totter, a back and forth pendulum swing -chasing one and avoiding the other. This mentality is often the opposite of emotional health.
The second issue is that those "bad" feelings can be very valid, and are often
communication tools to help us identify what is in and what is out of alignment in our lives. Anger is a valid emotion. Frustration is a valid emotion. Sadness is a valid emotion. Its what we do with those emotions, how we use them as guidance rather than evidence, that impacts our emotional health. See #2 below.
Truth #2: Who's definition of Good or Bad are we using? if we haven’t done the work - we may not even be aware of who’s definition of good and bad we are using. Oftentimes, it's not our own. It’s generational layers of society, our family, our community defining for us what good or bad should look and feel like. And once we have adapted to those definitions, we cement them into our subconscious and allow the experiences we have in life to provide evidence that our definitions are accurate.
Think of these examples: Not having a lot of money is bad. Making a lot of money and having a prestigious title is good. Being single over 30 is bad. Being married with a family is good. Having a child who is popular and gets straight A’s is good. Having a child who struggles in school and doesn’t have a lot of friends is bad.
None of those statements HAVE to be true. None of those statements have to define your emotional health in any way. It's about what feels true to YOU. Not having a lot of money may be perfectly fine for someone who does what they love. Making a lot of money and having a prestigious title may represent someone trying to live up to their parent’s expectations and it may actually be incredibly stressful for them. Being single over 30 can be very hard and frustrating, but it can also be very liberating if you are someone who is getting out of a toxic relationship and is finally free
to be themselves. A child who struggles in school and doesn’t have a lot of friends can still be the absolute light of your life and can make you feel amazing.
Emotional Health isn’t striving for what society or even your family defines as “Good”, it's about finding your alignment, your true “Seat of Self”(1) and sitting comfortably in it regardless of what’s going on around you. It is about letting the thoughts you are having pass quietly by without jumping on board with them and letting them derail you from your emotional center. It's about not seeking evidence or meaning when circumstances in our life shift. It's about not worrying what other people think or perceive, not allowing them to define what keeps us in or throws us off balance.
Truth #3: Emotional Health should NOT be based on your external world and the experiences you are going through.
Have you ever had those moments when everything seems to be working out for you and you’re riding high in the moment thinking - “I’ve got this figured out. I’m doing everything right.” Then circumstances change and suddenly nothing seems to be going your way. You become confused. “But I thought I was doing everything right? What did I do wrong? How do I make it right again?” So you spend your time trying to make sense of it, to make meaning of it, or even worse, to go backwards, back to when we thought everything was going well. You may view this sudden change in circumstances as evidence that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough because if you were, you would be able to stay in the good experiences longer. But that simply isn’t realistic - life by its very nature serves us changes and opportunities for growth. It doesn’t have to mean anything other than a time to learn, adapt and grow.
Truth #4 - The goal is to be in alignment. Everything else is just feedback on the quality of the thoughts you are thinking, the energy you are matching to. Being emotionally healthy doesn’t mean you have lots of “good” days, or “good” thoughts or “good” emotions, it means you stay true to who you are regardless of the circumstance. It means you can’t be pushed to one side of the teeter totter or the other - you are the fulcrum in the middle. You’re the emotionally centered person who restores balance regardless of what life serves up. It becomes easier to stay centered, even when you’re met with adversity. And if you’re thinking negative thoughts that make you feel negative emotions - you can step back and look at those thoughts and not let them throw you off balance. It's about you giving yourself permission to be YOU and it's about giving other people permission to be THEMSELVES, including your children.
So now you may be asking, “How do you even get started becoming emotionally healthy?”
That’s one of the core modules of what we do at Whole Family ADHD. Here is one the simple formulas we use to get started untangling yourself from your thoughts. This is for those of us out there that enjoy a step-by-step process here’s an example that I use that works for me.
Thoughts and Emotions Exercise:
Question #1 - How am I feeling about a certain experience in my life right now? Am I feeling in alignment or out of alignment? (Ie - are things working out for me or are things in conflict)
Question #2 - What thoughts am I jumping onto that may or may not be true/real that are causing those feelings?
Question #3 - Am I more focused on what others may be thinking or about my own thoughts?
Question #4 - How can I change the nature of my thinking to change the nature of my feelings? How can I shift my energy to shift my emotions? (Remember, what we pay attention to, we manifest.)
For example: My son is struggling in school.
#1 - I have the following feelings:
I am worried about his future. I wish he had more friends. I am jealous of my friends who have kids that are thriving in school. This is hard on me. It’s hard on him. I am tired. I am scared. I am embarrassed. I am heartbroken.
#2 - I have the following thoughts:
I am failing as a parent. My son is failing. I should be doing more. He should be trying harder. My friends and family are judging me. My son may not have a successful future. Things are always going to be harder for him and for me.
#3 - What am I basing these thoughts on?
I am basing most of my thoughts and emotions on what my family and society have defined as a successful, “good” child. None of these have to be true. I really love my child and I don’t have to measure him against anyone else to know he’s amazing.
#4 - What else is true for me that can shift my thinking?
My son has a vivid imagination and a beautiful heart. He is working hard and doing his best. I am doing my best and my heart is full of love. I will focus on my son’s strengths and make sure he feels loved and nurtured. I will have compassion for my son. I will have compassion for myself. I will make sure he has the help where he needs it. I will be proud of what we accomplish.
Do you see the difference between number 1, number 2 and number 4.
Now in a real world scenario - imagine if my son’s teacher sends home a negative behavioral report. If my thoughts and feelings are closer to #1 and #2 above, then this will serve as evidence that my son is failing, that I am failing. I will be harder on myself and harder on my child. HOWEVER, if I my thoughts and feelings are more aligned with #4 - then a negative report won’t be “evidence” of anything; it will not throw me off my center - it will just be feedback. I may still feel frustrated, but it won't throw my life or his life out of balance. I will simply reach into my bag of Super Parenting tools, and take actions accordingly but it won’t make me feel “bad” about myself or my child.
Do you feel the difference? You can apply this to every aspect of your life - not just your children.
This is what we offer at Whole Family ADHD. The ability to love yourself and to show compassion for yourself, regardless of the experiences and circumstances life throws our way. THAT is what it means to be emotionally healthy. And that is what we want for our children, to grow up being the fulcrum in their own lives - not stuck on one end of the teeter totter just waiting to be thrown off by what life offers up.
If you read this and thought - YES, this is what I have been waiting for - then Reach Out! We look forward to beginning your journey to emotional health.
If you read this and thought - NO, this is too simple, or this doesn’t make sense - then Reach Out! We can apply these to specific examples in your own life and show you how quickly you can find your emotional center.