Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 41, Useful Emotions.
Most of us go through life thinking emotions are things that happen to us. And sometimes in grief, it can feel like we’re a pinball in a machine, just kind of being battered around.
One minute, we’re grateful or optimistic and things are going fine. And seconds later, we’re angry or feeling completely alone or misunderstood. And we know what it’s like to feel sucker-punched by emotions that we didn’t ask for.
But what we often don’t know is how we can create emotions on purpose and how useful that can be in moving forward and creating a life that we love. And once you know the secrets I’m going to teach you in this episode, you’ll have yet another tool to help you create a life you love, even after loss.
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief to grow, evolve, and create a future you can actually look forward to. Here’s your host, certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.
Welcome to another episode of the podcast. I’m excited to teach you something that I think is going to be super useful to you today about emotions. It’s something I didn’t learn until after my husband died, and I want to make sure that you have this skill because it really is such a game-changer when you want to create different results in your life.
Before we do that though, I want to read a little listener review. And you all know – I kind of feel like this is The Little Podcast That Could, right? There’s 11 million widows, something like that, in the US right now. And I want to reach at least a million of them. And the way that we can do that is by more reviews and more ratings. So, if you have left a rating or a review, I am so, so grateful. And if you haven’t, and if you love the podcast, I would be so grateful.
But this review I want to call attention to is from Nicole B. So, Nicole, thank you for your review. I see you. I hear you. Nicole wrote, “This was very insightful and made me feel better. I’m approaching the two-year mark and unless you’ve lost a spouse, you don’t understand the grieving process. This podcast has made it so much clearer and erased the stigma and the myths.”
Good, Nicole, thank you for sharing that with me. Thank you for leaving the review. I appreciate it. And I read every review and every email that people send me too.
Okay, here’s what I want to talk to you about today. I’ve talked to you about emotions in varying degrees on episodes before. So, if this is your first episode, this might be a little bit confusing. You might want to start with some of the earlier episodes. How to Feel Better Now is probably a really good foundational episode before you listen to this one.
But what we know about emotion is, of course, different than what we learned about emotions growing up, primarily because most of us aren’t taught anything about emotions. And so, we really only know how to resist them or react to them or avoid them, try to get away from them. And we don’t really know where they come from.
We think they’re things that just happen to us. We think that how we feel is based on things that are external to us, so things other people say, things other people do, the weather. When we don’t feel motivated, we don’t understand that that isn’t caused by the number on the scale or that isn’t caused by the fact that our husband died and isn’t here to help us run the house anymore.
What’s really happening is that we’re having a thought in our mind. And thoughts, as science has now proven, are what cause emotions. We have a thought, and then that sets off a cascade of chemicals in our brain and we experience those chemicals in our body as emotions; vibrations essentially.
So, before we jump into understanding how to create useful emotions, we have to understand that emotions don’t happen to us. They are caused by thoughts. They are something that we actually create. We have the power to generate emotions on purpose.
Now, if this is new to you, you might find it a little bit annoying if what you’re hearing me say is that if you feel a negative emotion, you’ve done something wrong. That is not at all what I’m saying. Negative emotions are just as much a part of life as positive emotions.
We’re not supposed to have happy emotions all the time and I would argue that most of us don’t really want to be happy all the time. When we perceive that something in the world has happened that we don’t like, maybe if our child were to be abused or some horrible tragedy were to happen – and for any of us, you’re listening because it already has, right – you don’t want to be happy about that.
You want to be sad that your husband died. You want to feel that loss. You don’t want it to just be a blip on the scree that doesn’t matter to you and doesn’t cause an emotional response. You want to actually think the thoughts that create the experience of grief for you.
But they are unique to the individual. And we know that because we all have different responses to things outside of us. So, we have – I always like to use President Trump as the example. We all have a different response and different feelings about him. But he’s the same person.
And the reason we have different feelings about him is because we all have different thoughts about him. Now, we could get in an argument about right or wrong, but that doesn’t even matter, that’s not the point. It’s not a moral issue that I’m talking about here. I’m just showing you that when we have a thought, that’s what creates our emotional experience of whatever is happening in our lives.
So, what I want to teach you in this episode is not necessarily how to deal with the emotions of grief. I’ve done other episodes on that. What I want to teach you is how to generate useful emotions on purpose.
And the reason that matters is because, as humans, emotions are what fuel our actions. We do things because of how we feel. We don’t do things because of how we feel. And it’s our actions that create the results that we get in our lives.
So, it’s an important cycle to understand. We have a thought, it creates a feeling, the feeling drives our action or our inaction, and the actions or inactions that we take produce the results that we have in our lives.
So, just to give you an example, let’s say you want to go back to school and further your education, or you want to switch careers. If you want to do that, there are certain emotions that are useful to you in pursuit of those actions, right?
Maybe you’re really scared of taking that new action. And so maybe what would be really useful to you, to send you back to school or to have you changing careers, or maybe you want to ask for a raise, what would be really useful to you might be courage or bravery. And wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to create courage or bravery on demand?
And that’s what I want to teach you how to do today. We can do that with our thoughts. We can actually think sentences that create feelings that help us take the actions that we want to take so that we can create the lives we want.
So, it’s really not anything difficult to understand. That’s not always easy to do. It requires a good deal of awareness. It requires, like anything, practice. But in terms of concept, it’s not complicated. Sentences in our brain, we can call them thoughts, ideas, statements, words strung together with punctuation at the end, that’s what creates our feelings.
And then our feelings – and when I say feelings, I also mean emotions, same word, interchangeable – that’s what drives our actions. If you want to feel brave – and let’s say right now you’re already feeling scared, because that’s really the only reason we ever need to feel brave anyway is because we’re already scared…
If you want to feel brave or you want to feel courageous, then you have to think a thought that would generate that emotion. So, a thought like, “I can feel scared and move forward anyway,” could make you feel brave. “I show up for myself even when I’m scared,” that might make you feel brave. “I’ve done scary things before, I can do them again,” That might make you feel brave. “Fear has nothing on me.”
So, we don’t even need to argue with whatever emotion you’re experiencing now as long as you know that you’re the one in charge of your emotional life and your brain is so powerful that you can use it to generate emotions on purpose in service of the life that you want. And brave and courageous I think are so useful as widows.
Another one I would offer is determined or committed. Maybe you want to feel determined because you want to figure out how to love your life again. You want to figure out what to do next. You want to feel determined so that you can show up as a better parent. You want to feel committed to a particular goal that you’ve got in mind.
Maybe you want to run a marathon or you want to lose weight or whatever it is you want, you want to payoff your house, it doesn’t even matter. But you want to then think, “Okay, if I can create any emotion with my brain based on how I think, then what would make me feel the emotion that I want to feel so I can do what I want to do?”
So, maybe if you’re going for determined or committed, your thought might be something like, “This is happening, no matter what. I will figure this out, no matter what. I am 100% committed to making this happen. I may not know how yet, but I always find a way. I am the kind of person who keeps her commitments.”
I want you to play around with it. I’m just offering you thoughts, thoughts that have worked for me in the past, but it doesn’t really matter what thoughts worked for me. It’s kind of like trying on clothes, right. I might have an idea of something looks good on the rack, but then I go to try it on in the dressing room and it’s like it’s not what I hoped for.
Thoughts are the same way. You’ve got to try them on. You’ve got to think them and see what happens in your body. Try a thought on, see how it feels. Does it create the emotion that I want here, that will fuel the action that I want to take?
Because if you think about everything you ever create in life, everything, it’s coming from the things that you do or don’t do in your life, all of it. And it’s so important to consider, if the things that we do or don’t do in service of our deepest dreams come from emotions, then we probably ought to pick those emotions on purpose, right?
We probably ought to give some consideration to that. We give a lot of consideration to everything else; what we’re eating, what we’re wearing, things we say to our children. We think a lot about how to live our lives, but are we giving any thought to the emotions that would serve us in creating the next chapter of life that we want? Or are we just settling for whatever emotions happen to show up based on whatever accidental thoughts we’re thinking?
If you need motivation to get you to the gym, which I know I always need motivation to get myself to the gym, I have to think thoughts that create that motivation for me. Motivation doesn’t just float down the river in front of me and I grab it. It’s caused by my brain, which means if I’m feeling unmotivated, it’s nothing I’ve done wrong. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. It just means that the sentence in my brain isn’t creating motivation for me. I’m thinking another thought that’s probably got me feeling unmotivated.
And it’s really just that simple. Thoughts cause feelings. Feelings drive us to do things. And the things that we do create the results that we have. Now, sometimes when I say this, people say, “So basically if the result I have is that my husband died, I crated that with my actions, is that what you’re telling me, Krista?”
No, that’s not what I’m telling you. Please don’t hear that. We can create results for ourselves. We can’t create results for other people whatever happened to your husband did not happen because of an action that you took, even if you’re blaming yourself for it.
It’s a whole other conversation that I’m happy to have with you, because I know a lot of you do blame yourselves for whatever it was that happened to your husband. But when I’m talking about the results that you create in your life, I’m talking about things that actually have to do with your, your person, with you, right?
I’m not suggesting that you have the ability to control other people or all the things that are happening in your world, just your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, and the results that come from those actions. So, I want you to hear that.
Other emotions you might find useful, especially as a widow and especially if you’re noticing that you have a lot of other intense emotions that you’re trying to work through is openness or willingness. If we want to feel open or willing, that can be so useful because what is necessary for us to process all of these emotions of grief is the ability to allow those emotions to be there and not argue with them.
And so, feeling open or feeling willing can help us do that. And since it’s our thoughts that cause our feelings, then thoughts like, “I’m willing to allow whatever feelings I notice,” or, “Other widows have walked this walk, I’m willing to do it too. If she can do it, I can do it. Loneliness is just a vibration in my body and I can handle it,” or, “I’m willing to let this anger be there as I process what’s happened.”
I just finished working with a client who I just absolutely adored, Amy, shoutout to you. And one of the things that we worked on for a long time was just her thoughts about her own anxiety. And before we started working together, anxiety was kind of a showstopper for her.
And because she had a lot of thoughts about her anxiety and she thought it was a problem and nobody had ever really taught her the skills of how to deal with it, it really prohibited her from living the kind of life that she wanted to live. And so, we didn’t even try to work on changing the anxiety so much as we worked on creating an openness, a willingness to let anxiety be there.
And when she decided that she could think about anxiety in a different way and it didn’t have to be something she experienced as a problem, then when anxiety came, which it still did and that’s okay, it wasn’t such a big deal because she was just kind of willing to bring it with her and willing to feel it and not let it get in the way of the life that she wanted.
It was really fun for me to watch her transform in that way. And emotions like open or willing can be so useful in helping us deal with other emotions that we currently don’t particularly love.
So, I want you to just think about all of the emotions that are out there. There’s so many more than most of us ever really give thought to. We have kind of our favorite emotional terms that we use, but most of us don’t have a very broad emotional vocabulary.
I have a book called The Dictionary of Emotions. And I love just looking through that book sometimes and noticing the names of emotions that I just don’t even ever really give thought to. And I like thinking that I could literally slip the page, I could pick any page, any emotion in that book, and my brain is powerful enough, and so is yours, that we can create that emotion on demand.
It’s like being able to go to Netflix and start the movie of our choice. Once we get good at this skill, we can figure out, what is the thought that generates this emotion for me, and think it on demand and generate that emotion on demand. And we can use that in service of the life that we want.
And we can stop waiting around for the emotions that we need to feel in order to take the actions that we want to take and we can start being more active, take charge of our brain, take charge of our emotional state so that we can take the actions that we want to take and live the life that we want to live, instead of just passively waiting because nobody taught us any better, for the right emotions to float down the river so we can grab them, because that’s not how it works.
So, in summary, emotions are caused by thoughts, not the things that happen to us. Therefore, we have the power, with our mind, with our brain, to generate emotions on purpose. And this matters because emotions are what fuel all of our actions and all of our inactions.
And all of our actions and inactions are what create lives that we love, or lives that we don’t. And your brain is so powerful that you can look at a list of feelings and you can pick the most useful one given whatever you’ve got going on that day, and you can create that with your brain.
You don’t have to just wait for emotions to show up or tolerate the ones that are already there. You can take charge and be the boss of your thoughts and create those emotions on purpose in a way that serves you and I a way that serves the life that you want to live. And when you’ve figured this out, you can teach your kids how to do it. and then we’re changing the world.
Alright, if you’re serious about doing this work, if it sounds like something you really just want to take to the next level, then I want you to go to coachingwithkrista.com and I want you to click on request a consultation and I want you to fill out the questionnaire there and let’s see if my group coaching program is what you need.
It is literally my favorite thing in the whole world to coach women and help them not settle for meh, blah new normals. There’s so much waiting for you and I hope you’ll join me. Alright, have an amazing week. I love you. You’ve got this. I’ll see you next week. Take care, bye-bye.
Ready to start building a future you can actually look forward to? Get a free copy of Krista’s Love Your Life Again Game Plan, and learn her three-step process so you can stop feeling stuck and start creating your next great chapter. No matter what you’ve been through, your past does not have to define what’s possible in your future.