Are You An “Emotional Hostage?”

Waiting To LiveAre you waiting for something good to happen in your life so you can feel good?

Consciousness of positive emotion can direct the brain and establish how we want “to be” with our life. We can live in a negative range of emotion, in a yo-yo between negative or positive.

Or we can live mostly in a positive range of emotion, and feel good most all of the time.

It is a matter of having this information, deciding to use it, and practicing with frequency and consistency.

We can decide how much negative emotion we want to give anything that makes us sad. How much sadness we want to give this, what kind of range we want to draw into our choice, rather Emotional Controlthan just think we have to allow all emotions an unbridled range to just happen.

We don’t have absolute control over negative emotions, but we have a far greater range of control over both our negative experiencing, and especially our positive experiencing, than we ever really consider.

And it really is about attention. It’s about the attention we want to give the quality of how we experience our world. Positivity directly affects our health, our use of our strengths, how rapidly we learn and solve problems, and the overall, basic well-being of our life.

The research in positivity is profound.

Doidge Quote

The research tells us that positive emotion can increase by choice on several dimensions, and that this increase develops new neuropathways of being in the brain, and that the reality of neuroplasticity affects everything.

A whole body of significant research has established the truth that this is the way to “feeling good” and “feeling free,” which are at the top of our UpSpiral.

Brain Pit BullThe reality that we can make choices about the amount of negativity in our lives, and then go on to make choices about having positive emotion and increasing its range and force in our lives, is monumental.

This is all seems so simple that it escapes us. It does so because we have relegated emotion only the sphere of “effect.”

Emotions are what happen to us. We are the victim of emotions that are a result of something other than our will.

Certainly emotions happen within us, to give us clues about the direction in which we’re headed.

But negative emotions aren’t intended to last forever. They last until we have moved into an UpSpiral, where we are able to see the options and the possibilities more clearly.

The “cause and effect” of emotions has to be reversed. You need never be held hostage by any outside condition or experience.Cause Emotion

You can be the “cause” of most of the emotions you feel. 90% of our emotional state you can create. 10% or less of our emotions are “reactions” and “indications” that usually occur when we are headed toward the DownSpiral, not using our strengths.

In fact, you find that you are using the opposite of one or more of your strengths.

Who would ever knowingly make that choice?

© Dr. William K. Larkin

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Shelly

    This post encourages me to focus on what I want to grow. I experience more negative emotions when I focus on them; whereas when I focus on the positive, it grows. It’s so simple yet so effective. This practice keeps me in an UpSpiral.

  • Kathleen Burkhalter

    How I wish we were all taught these facts when we were children. It is so valuable! Imagine all the times of sadness and misery where we thought ourselves into that state. How simple it is to reverse it. And it works!! Focus, focus, focus on what we want. Feel the positive feelings and feel them some more until it becomes second nature. I want to live in the UpSpiral always.

  • kkhm

    The management of emotions can have an intensely positive impact on one’s life. It has been 15 weeks now that I have been practicing this with consistency, and I am noticing significant change in many areas of my life.

    I use the state of mind management and emotional gym all throughout my day. I take 5 -15 minutes to just pulse emotions for no reason other than I want to. I enjoy it. It feels great, and I know I am receiving so many benefits from this simple act. I also use my noxious cues as much as I can. It is especially helpful to pulse peace in difficult times such as when one of my children does something that upsets me. In times where reactivity would have taken over in the past, I am able to pulse peace, remain calm, and handle the situation so much better. When I’m not successful with this, I notice that I recover from my anger so much more quickly. I don’t hold onto it. I can let it go and move on. (This is definitely one of my favorite results of this work!)

    As the day goes on, when something nice is happening, I am more aware of the positive emotions I am feeling. I take the time to focus my attention on it, really basking in the feelings. I soooooooo enjoy feeling good. Something like a shower has become this amazing thing! I feel such gratitude for indoor plumbing and warm water and the smell of the soap and being able to be clean. That combined with how wonderful a shower feels, the warmth, the softness of the water has turned it into this almost blissful experience. A hug or snuggle from my children is this wonderful opportunity to really be aware of the love in my life. I focus my attention on the immense love I feel for them and I open my heart wider to the love I am receiving. I am all the more aware now how many things in life can become so automatic that it’s easy to undervalue them. I didn’t realize how much I sort of took for granted little things like a hug before. Of course, it’s not that I didn’t feel love before, but the feeling might have sometimes been fleeting and mild. Now that I savor my emotions, there is just so much more of all the good stuff and all the good feelings.

    Consciously choosing my emotions has given me so much power over my life! Power sounds like a strong word, but it best describes the ways in which I feel a new sense of “control” in my experiences. I am no longer hostage to my emotions and this has been so freeing. Just 15 weeks of practice has brought me to a new level of happiness–as well as success–in my life. I am so hopeful about my future and look forward to the results of years of practice.

    “It is a matter of having this information, deciding to use it, and practicing with frequency and consistency.” My adult life has been a journey to find my happiness and do whatever it takes to achieve a life that I love living. I have been so blessed to have found information, people, and experiences that have contributed to changing my life from one of extreme anxiety, OCD, depression, skewed thinking, and victimhood to this beautiful life I am living now. I am a real life example that this stuff works, and I am sharing this good news with anybody who will listen. I firmly believe that the most “problemed people” can benefit and see their life turn around in ways they never would have imagined! I am excited to be working towards a career where I can deliberately share and teach this information to the ones who desire and need it most.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I found this in one of my “Stress Management” program outlines: “Stress won’t kill you, but your reaction to it may. There are many factors which influence your present stress behaviors and/or reactions. Epictetus surmised that people are disturbed not by things, but by the view (‘reaction’) they take of them.” Another of his quotes is, “Man is troubled not by events, but by the meaning he gives them.”

    It’s really about managing our reactions! When a situation occurs, we immediately have an emotional reaction. We instantly form a perspective. Quickly we form a belief about how the situation affects us. Unmonitored, we can become slaves to our “automatic” reactions. Automatic is the key word here. I think automatic is the key to viewing life as a victim.

    What if we become intentional about our reactions? What if we purposefully wait a few seconds before we let our thoughts, feelings and beliefs form around a situation? A colleague once gave me a valuable tip: “Replace judgement and criticism with curiosity.” Wow. What a difference that made in my automatic stress reactions. Curiosity is much more neutral than judgement and/or criticism.

    I concur with Dr. Doidge’s quote: “The idea that the brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity is, I believe, the most important alteration in our view of the brain since we first sketched out its basic anatomy and the workings of its basic component, the neuron.” Guess the buck stops with us, huh? We choose and are ultimately responsible for what we think, how we feel and what we believe….

  • A Pyatt

    Karissa said this below, but it was over the course of last week that she said it via a text, “we choose our emotions”. It had never been said in that specific of a way to me before. And it really made me stop dead in my tracks. What a simple, but loaded statement. You choose your emotions. I had been working and accomplishing so much in regards to my reactions, that I failed to realize that while I had achieved so much in regards to my reactions, I was also choosing how I was responding via my emotions as well. It was definitely a ‘D’OH!’ moment, that it just had not dawned on. Additionally, using the ‘just this’ focus has stopped my previous ‘conversations with myself’. I haven’t heard that OCD loop in so long, that I had almost forgotten I had it. Remaining positive has just so easily fallen in place, in a lot of aspects of my life, that I have felt so fortunate, and grateful. That has become my new loop, the more fortunate, and grateful I feel the more positivity I have. I do still have these moments (especially when dealing with the tweener alien that has invaded my sweet ten year old son’s body), where it takes all my might to really rein my reactions and emotions in, but these are happening less and less. I feel as if this is the last major piece I really have to focus on: the emotional and reactive choices I make when that alien tweener shows up and pushes every button I have. But I think, it will all work out. Everything happens when it should, as long as I keep following my flow and let it happen, it will! Almost there… 🙂

  • alberts3

    The most enlightening aspect from my own experience was when I realized that I was not a victim of my own emotions. It is both freeing and a bit scary to think that I really am able to manage my own emotions. So very freeing to not have something controlling me, yet scary because I am the only one responsible for the way I feel. There’s nothing and no one outside of myself to blame.

    The next step for those who have made the leap from victimhood is to learn some strategies for dealing with all of the experiences that Life has to offer. That is such a transitional time for most because it’s not how we’re taught. We end up asking ourselves, “What are my options, where can I go with this?” Even though it is convenient, and it feels really good to rely on a scapegoat, it doesn’t move us forward. When you are able to see things in a different light, allowing that growth to occur, it’s really not an option to return to a behavior that no longer fits.

    In my case, I had amazing role models that I worked with. They were older, bright, intuitive women that had no qualms about describing themselves in positive terms and showing their strengths. They seemed to know instinctively, what we’re now learning about with regards to playing to our strengths. I was in awe of how they were not ever driven by guilt or shame. They helped me understand that as a parent, that wasn’t healthy for children. It was like a breath of fresh air because that’s not how I was raised. Talk about novelty! It was life changing for me. Those women are still some of my dearest friends and I will always be grateful for that kind of intervention.

    I think one strategy that everyone can understand and benefit from is being aware of the 3-1 positivity ratio. I’ve talked to others about it and they are actually excited to try it out for themselves. When you couple that concept with the idea that we shouldn’t “put the keys to our happiness in someone else’s pocket”, it’s a formula for emotional growth. Growth and expansion, though rocky at times, lead us to the UpSpiral life that awaits every one of us.

  • Beth Montgomery

    I am learning that if we can apply the same compassion, kindness and acceptance of ourselves that we do to others we can live in the Upspiral a little more easily. I just completed the Strength Finder 2.0 test and was faced with looking at my strengths on paper. I found myself nodding and saying aloud “ah ha” many times. Nothing that came through surprised me that much but what did really strike me is how I need to use those strengths more actively, consciously and frequently. I have been feeling miss alignment in some areas of my life and the realization of that upstream vs downstream is because I am not always able to use my strengths. Makes me realize some of the changes I need to make to live a more authentic and happy life. The action plans provide valuable ideas and questions to consider. This is really exciting and liberating.

  • MissTowner

    I am very grateful for these blogs, they are so timely with what’s going on inside my head. Recently i had a situation come up where I completely over reacted, (adding hormones to the mix didn’t help), and I not only played to many of my weaknesses but I completely lost sight of my life’s vision. I reverted back to doom and gloom mentality, feeding those neuropathways, and felt so frustrated and confused. Eventually I was able to call upon and speak from my strengths, started pulsing hope and gratitude, then was able to feel like I was standing on firm positive ground again. I’ve been studying this work for almost 35 weeks now, almost completed the licensure course, and I still have to maintain the habit of speaking from my strengths, and pulsing the fab 5 positive emotions. Negative emotions are like a sneaky thief of joy. Take it from me and don’t leave that window of opportunity open for them, master the mundane of strengthening those positive neuropathways.

  • Joanne E Harrington

    The tools that are identified in this blog once practised, are reassuring and bring me much ease. I am currently serving as a caregiver to a very ill sister. I quickly realized it was vital that I pay attention to myself and the state of my mind before rushing in to help. Making a heart to heart connection when a loved one is struggling physically and emotionall is not an automatic thing.. As this blog notes, believing and knowing that even when your emotions are upside down, this situation need not be one of despair. I called upon my Strengths of kindness and generosity and curiosity and found that simply sitting within those dimensions and being quietly present for her communicated more than I imagined.

    • Shelly

      Thanks for sharing this Joanne! It’s a great reminder to me to call on my strengths so I can respond instead of react.

  • Beverly Harvey

    What attracted me to the ANI Course was an ANI licensed coach who explained that we have a lot of control over our emotions, that we can build new neuro pathways and change our brains. I was elated and became determined to learn as much as possible. Since practicing the emotional gym exercises and turning to pulsing positive emotions whenever I sense some negativity, I have dramatically improved in so many areas – I’m attracting more of what I want into my life; I’ve been more creative; I’m able to work a little faster; I feel younger; and I’ve definitely been much happier and pleasant to be around.

  • Beverly Harvey

    Taking the two strengths tests have been extremely helpful. I now feel like I have a foundation that I can refer to when trying to plan, advance in a new area, and solve problems. As soon as I sense overwhelm, I’ve been opening up a Strengths document I’m keeping and looking at what strength I can use to accomplish tasks, activities, and difficult communications. I also have them written on two 3×5 cards taped to my monitor so I remember to leverage them continuously.

  • Beverly Harvey

    As I was walking on to the beach today I looked down at all the beautiful white sugar sand beneath my feet and there in front of me was a beautiful stone which immediately made me think of Dr. Larkin’s reference to the “touchstone” he gives his clients. I picked it up, brought it home, and put it on my desk to help me remember to make notes about doors that closed and doors that opened – I already have a list of five.

    • Shelly

      Way to go Beverly! I love the beach and am inspired to find a touchstone of my very own.

  • Jo-Anne

    Consciousness of positive emotion can direct our brain and guide us as to how we want to “be” in our Life… WOW! I love that line. Simply the awareness that we don’t have to be “victims” to our emotions is liberating. But somehow I kind of inherently knew that. What I am fascinated with, and love working with, is being in conscious control, as much as possible, of my emotional state. I am finding more and more that I am using those times when I feel something negative as a cue, as we have been taught, to go to the positive. As my classmate Beverly suggested, I chose a touchstone (thank you, Beverly). Mine, however is a shell from the beach on the Pacific Ocean, which is quite significant in my life right now. I keep it nearby to remind me of the leaps I have taken, and the power of positivity that will allow abundance to manifest itself in my life when I stay in the UpSpiral.

  • kathy poehnert

    Many of my clients see themselves at “the effect” of rather than at the “cause” of their lives and emotions. This article speaks to this, and to the fact that we have choice in how we feel. Once a client realizes this, it opens up a whole new world of possibility and potential, because it allows them to take responsibility for their own feelings, and subsequent behaviors. Nothing outside of them is “causing” those feelings. I have tended to look at this concept in terms of the idea that happiness, joy, optimism, hope, etc is always available to me- they not have to be attached to an event or an achievement, and , if I have experienced these feelings in the past, they are in my repetoire to experience again and again.

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