A Thanksgiving Present Is Yours for the Choosing

A. Fear

B. Anger

C. Joy

Choose one!

While some of you might have some sort of emotional attachment to fear or anger, I’ll bet you picked C. Why? Because the other choices are emotions that cause us pain, stress, suffering, and struggle. And we usually don’t want those things. What are our emotions, anyway, and how can you change them to get more of the emotions you do want?

Fear [feer]

noun

1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. Synonyms: foreboding, apprehension, consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm.

Who has never been paralyzed by fear? I’m a member of a local Toastmasters club, and the reason people seek out this organization is that they fear speaking in public more than death itself!

Fear is generated by the Knower/Judger comparison of what we know to be safe, comfortable, and survivable with what we think can happen in the future. We find the probabilities of a negative outcome too high for our personal risk model. We simply judge the impending outcome as negative. It’s an emotional connection to a future event.

An·ger [ang-ger]  

noun

1. a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong.

Cut off right at the exit ramp? One-finger salute! Boss cancels your vacation week? Pissed! Anger is the emotion we feel when something that has happened violates our K/J rules of life. “It ain’t fair!” It’s an emotional connection to a past event.

Paul Erkman is a prominent psychologist who outlined six emotions as the basis of all our emotions:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Surprise
  • Fear
  • Disgust

These are all based on our K/J rules of life and on how events—either past or future—are judged. Happiness is based on “I’ve experienced this before and found it entertaining or fulfilling, so I’m comfortable finding it so now.” Sadness is the opposite. Surprise occurs when we experience an unpredicted outcome to a familiar set of circumstances. If the unpredicted outcome is offensive because it violates one’s K/J rule set, it results in disgust.

The point I want to make here is that all these emotions have two things in common:

1. They are judgmental in nature, comparing an occurrence with what we think is “right.”

2. They are either based on the future (fear) or the past (happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, or disgust).

Eckhart Tolle is fond of explaining the past and the future as pure fantasy. The past has passed. And it only exists as we’ve perceived it through our K/J filters anyway. Most likely, others did not perceive it the same. Nothing can change the past. It is what it is.

And Tolle’s future is even more of a fantasy since it hasn’t even happened yet. To feel fear, we have to extrapolate some set of circumstances that we perceive will occur in the future. To Tolle, there is only now, no future and no past. That means neither fear nor anger can ever be based on reality. We don’t need either. (Read Tolle’s book The Power of Now to learn more about what he has to say.)

Many people say we do need fear and anger. Fear protects you from risk. Anger (typically in the form of frustration) motivates you to make change in your life. But do you choose to be afraid or angry so that you can use these emotions? Usually we have knee-jerk, K/J auto-responses that result in fear or anger.

And when asked to choose fear, anger, or joy, you chose joy.

Joy [joi]  

noun

1. the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.

While anger points to the past and fear points to the future, joy lives in the present. This moment. Now. And we can only experience it when fear and anger are set aside…or we’ll miss it.

So just as you chose joy at the beginning of this article, I urge you to set aside your anger and your fear and choose it now…and now…and now by being aware of all the things you have to be thankful for. ’Tis the season. Stop. Shut off history and future to eliminate anger and fear. Make the assertive choice to bask in joy this Thanksgiving season.

 

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