We all experience indulgent emotions. These are emotions that feel productive, but really don’t accomplish anything, and don’t move us closer to our goals. The following are three indulgent emotions that my brain likes to offer me:
Worry. Part of our brain’s job is to try to keep us safe. Worry is one thing our brain offers us in an attempt to keep us safe, or to keep someone we care about safe. This one is sneaky because when you tell someone, “I was so worried about you,” it seems like you’re being kind and caring. Actually, though, worry doesn’t change anything, and it doesn’t help anyone feel better. It just makes you feel miserable. I may worry when my 18-year-old son uses my car for his pizza delivery job. I may worry that he will wreck my car or get hurt in an accident, but my worrying isn’t going to change anything. He may or may not get into an accident but worrying won’t prevent that. It is just a waste of my energy. It would be much better if I thought something like, “Because of his age, he has fast reflexes and is actually less likely to get into an accident than I would be if I were driving.” This thought would lead to my feeling at ease instead of worried. Then I could use my brain energy on things that are more useful to me.
Overwhelm. Indulging in the emotion of overwhelm is our brain’s way of protecting us. We feel overwhelmed when we have a lot on our to-do list, or when we face new situations. Overwhelm is very un-helpful. It usually causes us to stop taking action. Our brains spin and we sit in a stupor thinking about all we have to do, but actually not doing anything. It, too, is a waste of brain power. Instead of indulging in overwhelm, it serves us much better if we realize that we don’t have to do anything. We could just walk away and not do any of the things on our list. Once we realize that we are choosing the things on our list, we can write down strategies for accomplishing them, and then get to work on our plan. I find it very helpful when I am faced with doing something new to give myself a deadline. Which brings me to the third indulgent emotion.
Indecision. When faced with a decision, especially when two choices are pretty much equally desirable, we may stall out in indecision. We weigh each side, we may write down pros and cons, but still not make a decision. As with the other indulgent emotions, indecision is our brain’s way of trying to protect us. It’s telling us that not only could one decision be “wrong,” or end up a disappointment, but there’s also the fear of missing out (FOMO) by not being able to make the other choice. Here’s how to avoid indecision: make decisions quickly. Just choose one. The only thing you want to make sure of is that you like your reason for making that decision. Then, it’s done and you can move on with your choice. It will be fine, because you like your reason for your choice.
There are other indulgent emotions, such as self-pity, confusion, and second-guessing. Indulgent emotions are like filling the gas tank with milk. The tank is full, but you’re not going anywhere. You can short-circuit your indulgent emotions by recognizing the thought that is creating it and replace that thought with a thought that makes you feel determined, clear-headed, at ease, or competent.