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Are You Feeling Trapped Emotionally?

Apr 27, 2023

Judy was new to my practice not too long ago. I remember seeing her from 20 steps away while she was walking into the examination room. She was walking in a relatively slow pace, with shoulders somewhat turned in, head slightly tilted downward, and avoided eye contact with the medical assistant who was talking to her. Without Judy uttering a word, I knew she was anxious.

Moments later, after the medical assistant and the nurse completed their intake, I knocked on the door and walked in. There I saw a woman in her 70s, sitting with her gripping hands on her thighs, back hunched over, eyes looking out, not focusing on anything in particular. I introduced myself and asked how she was doing.

“Not good.”

“Could you tell me more about it?” I inquired.

Judy went on to share with me that it was her cancer diagnosis she was feeling depressed about.

“What are you thinking that is causing you to feel depressed?”

After some discussion about facts versus thoughts about the facts, Judy understood what I was asking. She revealed the main thoughts were: She did not want to have cancer but it happened to her. Cancer is a deadly diagnosis.

We chatted about how she got to decide what to think of her situation. The fact that she was diagnosed with cancer could not be reversed. She could continue to hold on to her thoughts and feel depressed, or, if she wanted to, she could decide to take another perspective to look at the situation.

Have you been thinking that your circumstances determine how you feel? In other words, are you giving your power away to any external situation?

Are you feeling trapped emotionally because it is as if you do not have any control of how you feel at a given time?

If that is the case, then your emotions are fairly simple but unpredictable, as many things in this world are unpredictable. This thought itself may cause feelings of frustration, anger, sadness or hopelessness. It is as if you do not have control of you.

You actually have more control than you realize. Many people are not aware of it because we are not taught to. It is true that, in most situations, you cannot reverse what has happened. However, you get to decide how to look at it.

Judy cannot undo her cancer diagnosis. She has early stage breast cancer that is resected with clear margins. Rather than focusing on thinking that she did not want to have cancer and feeling depressed, she gets to decide to focus on another opinion. If she is thinking that, even though she has breast cancer, it is in the earliest stage, and it is unlikely that she will die from it. This perspective will likely generate a more positive emotion, such as hope and relief.

Whenever you are experiencing an unpleasant emotion, take a step back and ask yourself what the main thought that is causing you that emotion. You get to decide if you want to stay in the unpleasant emotion for a bit, or if you are ready to move on toward a more pleasant feeling. Feeling neutral about a situation is still an “upgrade” from the negative platter of emotions.

If you realize and practice to choose your thoughts, then you will feel more in control. You have the power to decide what emotion to experience based on how you want to see the situation.

Are you ready to stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you ready to have more time to do what you want?


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