Saturday, January 02, 2016

My Heart Does Not Get to Choose

Rebecca Dutton
Home After a Stroke
February 24, 2013

I used to think emotions like joy and love are good while emotions like sadness and anger are bad.  Now I believe that how I react to my emotions is what is good or bad.  It is bad when I am so pre-occupied by mental chatter that I let moments of joy fly past me unnoticed.  It is good when I stop what I am doing and take a few seconds to appreciate when I am happy.  It is bad when I rerun upsetting episodes in my head.  It is good when I use anger to propel me towards a solution.

IF I could go back and tell my younger self  to stop rerunning memories that upset me, I doubt it would make any difference.  First, when I was young I had the tremendous energy it takes to sustain emotional drama.  Second, being snubbed recently reminded me of how intense emotions can be.  Emotions can feel so real that they seem unstoppable.

A stroke took away the energy I need to stay upset for a long time.  I was upset the day I was snubbed.  By the next day -- not so much.  By the third day I remembered that letting this person upset me gives her power.  By the fourth day I remembered I was upset for decades but can no longer remember most of what upset me.  Hence the irritating platitude -- this too shall pass.  My heart does not get to choose which emotions I experience, but I have learned that how I react to those emotions is a conscious choice.  My stroke has both taken away and given.

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