Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz (2003), A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (2009), and many other books, recently tweeted –
I think the love we build is much more reliable than the love we feel. Feelings are weather.
The tweet immediately got me to thinking, especially that concise little sentence: “Feelings are weather.” To what extent, I wondered, is the tweet choice theory friendly or choice theory accurate. My mind tends to go there when I read a tweet or a blog or a story or an article or even when I watch a movie. Feelings are weather. Hmm . . .
Let’s see how far we can take the weather metaphor.
+ Weather can be mild or it can be extremely powerful. Choice theorists would agree that feelings are sometimes mild and sometimes overwhelmingly – at least it feels overwhelming – powerful.
+ Weather can quickly change, while at other times we can anticipate changes days in advance. Our feelings can be the same way.
+ Weather can’t be controlled, although I can choose my response to it. I can’t stop the rain, but I can grab an umbrella. I can’t cool the sun, but I can wear a hat. Choice theory teaches us that we cannot directly control our feelings, but that we can control our thinking and our acting. Because the four parts of our behavior – thinking, acting, feeling, and body physiology – always come into alignment, our feelings and our physiology will ultimately come into alignment with the part of our behavior we can control, that being our thinking and our acting.
(As I write this on Sabbath morning, October 3, 2015, at 9:00 am, the weather in Angwin is warm and calm, a beautiful morning actually, yet reports are indicating a fire advisory this evening into tomorrow morning with high winds and gusts up to 50 mph. As you can tell, I am interested in the weather.)
+ We are aware of and monitor the weather constantly. If you are having an outdoor wedding and it’s taking place next week you will be especially interested in weather forecasts. Similarly, we monitor our feelings constantly.
There is no question that feelings, our emotions, play a big role in our moment-to-moment, day-to-day lives. The real question has to do with the level of importance we assign to our feelings and the extent to which we let them hold sway over our picture of our reality. Given the number of people caught up in self-medicating behaviors, including the pursuit of drugs to artificially modify emotions, it appears that a lot of us are believing whatever our feelings are telling us. Some of us, it appears, place so much importance on our feelings that we let them have far too much influence on our sense of wellbeing.
One of Glasser’s most important contributions, and one of his unique contributions, is the concept of total behavior. As much as any of his ideas, the concept of total behavior describes the role of feelings in our lives and helps us understand the ways in which we can influence them or on the other hand be a victim of them.
Total behavior proposes the following key ideas –
+ All we (human beings) do is behave.
+ All behavior is purposeful.
+ All (or each) behavior is made of four parts – Thinking, Acting, Feeling, and Physiology.
+ We have direct control over our thinking and our acting.
+ We have indirect control over our feelings and our physiology.
Every behavior is made up of these four parts, and more importantly, the four parts, based on our focus, will come into alignment with each other. We all experience this alignment process throughout every day –
+ I THINK a bike ride will be good for me; I ACT by getting on the bike and heading down the hill; I begin to FEEL freer and empowered; and my PHYSIOLOGY (heart rate, perspiration, breathing, etc.) matches the demands placed on my body in the process.
+ I FEEL tense and anxious; my PHYSIOLOGY includes a clenched stomach and a tight chest (two of a number of body responses); my THINKING focuses on reasons to be afraid or angry; and I ACT by going home, grabbing high fat/high sugar foods, and distracting myself in front of the TV.
+ I FEEL frustrated and resentful; I acknowledge the feeling, but THINK it is time for me to talk with the person with whom I am frustrated; I ACT by using the caring habits of Accepting and Negotiating Differences; and my PHYSIOLOGY, momentarily heading toward high blood pressure and muscular tightness, remains at reasonable levels.
Keep in mind that we don’t have direct control over our feelings (or the weather). We can intensify our feelings by (through our thinking) affirming them and even nurturing them, but why not head in a better direction. Since we can directly control our thinking and our actions, why not focus on the best versions of ourselves we can be.
I think Donald Miller was right – feelings are weather.
For insights into how to navigate life, including the continual debate over gun control, check out Glasser’s biography.