Taking Charge of Feelings

By Joe Nelson | August 23, 2006 9:49 am

I was playing golf the other day and found myself getting really mad at one of my opponents. On one hole, he reported a six when he actually had an eight. I confronted him about his error and we had a small argument. For rest of the round I ruminated about this interaction, and I didn’t play well, either. I blamed him for my bad round of golf, but my partner reminded me that I was the one hitting my ball and I am responsible for my own reaction and feelings.

We often believe others make us feel what we feel. We may say “she made me so angry,” for example, or “you hurt my feelings.” We think that other people control our feelings or that circumstances control our feelings. If this is the case, then we are powerless over our feelings, and we cannot alter them. We remain powerless unless someone else changes or unless the situation changes. In other words, we are victims of circumstance and other people. If this were true and you felt angry about having diabetes, you would stay angry about it, or if you were sad about it, you would remain sad. But the truth is that we can work through our feelings. We can move toward developing a new outlook, and a new feeling will often follow.

Feelings are a normal part of having diabetes. In the years I’ve worked with people with diabetes I’ve heard almost every feeling expressed. These feelings are really a sign of what we are thinking about the circumstance—whether it’s a diagnosis of diabetes or someone cheating in golf. When we know what we are feeling, we can usually trace it back to some of our thoughts. We then need to determine if we want to keep feeling this way or if we want to change it.

To change our feelings, we first identify what we are thinking and begin to entertain new ways to look at the situation. Optimists do this naturally in their lives and have a positive view of the world. Some of us have to work a little more intentionally at optimism. For instance, you can decide that although diabetes is difficult at times, you can still lead a good life.

Others, like me, need to remember that golf is, after all, only a game.


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Joe Nelson: oe is a psychotherapist in private practice in Minnesota, where he specializes in the psychology of chronic disease and sexual problems and works with couples, families, children, and teens. He has been a Licensed Psychologist since 1985 and has earned a master’s degree from St. Mary’s College Winona, a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, and an associate’s degree in human services from the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Joe has worked with troubled youth in Chicago and Minnesota and on a special project on Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. He was the first social worker hired by an affiliate of the American Diabetes Association. He worked at the International Diabetes Center for 20 years, directing psychological services there for 12 years. A Certified Sex Therapist, Joe co-developed the Sexual Health Center at Park Nicollet Clinic.

Having practiced meditation for over 30 years, Joe offers instruction in mindfulness-based meditation to patients in groups and as individuals. Joe is married, has a 23-year-old daughter, and enjoys scuba diving, motorcycling, golf, and being outdoors doing almost anything.

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