Emotions are not stories. Paul Ekman has said that “emotions evolved [in order to] solve problems without thinking.” Emotions are a form of primary experience. If someone kicks you on the shin, that is an external primary experience. An emotional response is an internal primary experience.
So first there is the emotion, then there is the story we tell about the emotion.
Emotion —> Story
Of course, just to complicate things, we also have emotional responses to our stories, which precipitate other stories …
Story —> Emotion —> Story
The key to dealing with emotions is awareness. When we are unaware of how we are feeling, we are more prone to act in ways we may later regret.
It may not be possible to change our emotions, but when we have enough awareness of what’s happening to change the stories we tell ourselves about those internal primary experiences, we increase the likelihood of making better choices about how we will respond.
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