Flee or Feel?

Self help books of any sort had not been part if my intended library for many a year.  But then, I would never have expected myself to visit a counsellor for months or Samaritans on New Years Day because I couldn’t find anyone else to talk to or be taking antidepressants until about a year ago.

The book I broke my rule for was The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters.  I’ve spoken about it a few times on this blog already.  The premise is being able to control your inner chimp or negative feelings.

One of the examples that Peters uses is a case of road rage.  Someone cuts you up and you go mad – waving, shouting, swearing and generally getting stressed for no reason whatsoever, other than being angry.

The technique is staggeringly simple, even obvious, and has received acclaim from many sporting teams where it has been credited for helping elite athletes manage a fear of failure.  If someone is not scared about what they can lose then they can concentrate on fully expressing themselves positively.

However, one of Britain’s sporting greats is not a fan of the approach.  Sir Bradley Wiggins actually likes his chimp and feels like he needs it to help him perform to the level at which he won 5 Olympic gold medals and the Tour de France.  He likes being angry and scared and that, in itself, motivates him to win.

It’s an interesting thought, where you put the “l” in dealing with emotions – do you flee or do you feel?

The part of Peters’ methodology that I think probably goes missing in the hype is the part about exercising the chimp.  Sometimes it’s good to let the emotions have free rein.  Dr. Leslie Greenberg, the primary developer of Emotion-Focused Therapy, says this:

Emotion is not opposed to reason. Emotions guide and manage thought in fundamental ways and complement the deficiencies of thinking.

When you can’t work something out on the basis of fact, listening the the voice in your head can help.  The key, I believe, is in the control, and not necessarily the control of feelings but the control of the situation.  Let me try to explain.

When I have been friend-zoned, I’ve been able to accept that I’m not the person someone else wants to be in that sort of relationship with.  That’s not saying I wouldn’t have wanted to be more, but the facts of the situation pointed to the fact that I was staying in that particular box.  Where it hurt me was listening to this friend tell me all about the abominable men she had given a chance to.

I’m not sure I can place an emotion on it.  That’s not me being coy, I just can’t find the word.  Thinking about the situation rationally though, the negative feelings couldn’t spur me on to achieve something greater because there was an area of influence that I simply could not control by being myself.  Therefore, I would go to the area I could control and I would manage the feelings that way.

Some people, I think, will venture that controlling emotions means to not feel at all.  In reality, I think it’s probably more to do with how much you can feel and still be your best.

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away
It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away
So many people have come and gone
Their faces fade as the years go by
Yet I still recall as I wander on
As clear as the sun in the summer sky
It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away
When I’m tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away
She slipped away
It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
More Than A Feeling by Boston

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