Why Choose to be Upset?

By Anthony Gold

I don’t recall the the first time I heard the concept that we choose to be upset, but suffice it to say I found the thought ridiculous.

Of course I don’t choose to be upset. I’m upset because of something that happened. A person did something very unkind, and I was perfectly justified in my reaction.

Not only was I right, but many of my friends agreed with me. The other person was obnoxiously mean, and I was the innocent victim.

Only, I wasn’t.

Sure, the facts show that so-and-so did such-and-such a thing. It happened.

But nothing can make me be upset unless I choose to be upset. My emotions are not caused by what other people say or do. Rather, my emotions are the effects of my thoughts.

Perhaps it will be helpful to remember that no one can be angry at a fact. It is always an interpretation that gives rise to negative emotions. (M-17.4)

This is a very challenging concept to accept – both intellectually and especially experientially. It is much easier to blame others for our lack of peace. But if we look at it honestly and objectively, that’s akin to blaming our misery on the cold weather.

Our thoughts tell us a story – often one in which we are the blameless sufferer – and that the source of our pain is something from the outside.

Perhaps even more poignant is the idea that anything we strongly react to in another is often something that is subconsciously buried within us. And it doesn’t take much psychoanalytic insight to recognize the purpose behind such behavior.

Whenever you look without and react unfavorably to what you see, you have judged yourself unworthy and have condemned yourself. (T-12.VII.13)

If you point out the errors of your brother’s ego you must be seeing through yours. (T-9.III.3)

There is a payoff we get from choosing to be upset. Besides allowing us to point an accusing finger, we believe we can project our guilt onto another person – in the magical belief that we’re getting rid of it. Of course, it doesn’t really work and the payoff is short lived.

Beware of the temptation to perceive yourself unfairly treated. In this view, you seek to find an innocence that is yours alone. (T-26.X.4)

Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of choosing to be upset and how we can choose a different thought system that results in far more peace and an infinitely greater payoff. I look forward to seeing you then.

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