Where is the source of your emotions? External sources are people, events, and circumstances. Internal emotions emanate from who you are and are grounded in an understanding of yourself.
We all experience external influences on our emotions in the same way a sail boat is exposed to wind, weather, waves, and currents. How you are affected by these external factors is dependant on the degree of your internal grounding.
If you have little or no internal grounding you are like a sailboat without a rudder. You will go in whatever direction the external forces push you. This experience is frustrating because it seems as if you have no control over your feelings.
Your emotions vary from very high to disappointingly low with no warning or predictability. Your experiences are a reaction to the circumstances around you. You feel happy as a result of positive situations and sad in response to negative ones.
However, when you have an internal source of happiness, your emotions have much smaller swings and recover much faster. An internal basis for your feelings provides emotional stability. An internal source of happiness gives you a solid emotional foundation. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Todd is very sensitive to how he is treated by his friends. Even interactions with strangers impact him. Ever since he was young, Todd wanted to be accepted. Todd doesn’t like to be alone. He loves to be invited to be part of group activities.
Whenever Todd isn’t asked to participate, he takes it personally. He feels rejected and wonders if he did something wrong to cause him to be overlooked. Being invited to an event doesn’t insure Todd’s feeling accepted. If the people he considers important don’t spend enough time with him, he becomes upset.
When strangers are rude, Todd feels put off. He can’t help but wonder if he did something to make them behave badly toward him. So a chance encounter can negatively affect Todd for an extended period of time, sometimes for the whole day.
Unexpected problems also drag Todd down. When he gets caught in traffic on his way to work, Todd becomes stressed. When his car got stuck during a snow storm, Todd became very upset. Even minor annoyances have a major impact. When he can’t find his favorite shirt, can’t mow the lawn because it is raining, or spills food on the floor, Todd becomes bummed out.
As you can see, Todd’s emotional state is directly linked to the behavior and attitude of other people as well as circumstances. When he is treated well, Todd experiences happiness. If he feels ignored or slighted, Todd feels hurt and rejected. When things go as planned, Todd is OK. When unexpected situations arise, he is stressed.
Irene is extremely grateful for all of the blessings in her life. She looks forward to each new day. Irene understands that the only thing she has control over are her thoughts and attitude. Irene encounters the same types of people and circumstance as Todd but she doesn’t link her emotions to them.
Although there are things that annoy her, she has a foundation of happiness that enables her to keep things in perspective. This approach allows her to experience much more emotional stability compared to Todd. The people, events, and circumstances that Irene encounters don’t create an emotional roller coaster.
Examine your emotional state. If your feelings are governed by external forces, begin to build an internal foundation of happiness. Start by developing an attitude of gratitude that gives you a centered appreciation for all the things you have to be thankful for. Then when you encounter adverse circumstances, you can connect to your internal feeling of happiness.
NOW AVAILABLE: "Dare to Live Without Limits," the book. Visit www.BryanGolden.com or your bookstore. Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or write him c/o this paper. 2012 Bryan Golden
Internal vs. External