Putting on the Brakes

Have ever driven a car when the brake fluid was running low? You push on the pedal and it goes way down to the floor and there’s not much stopping going on? It is a scary feeling to realize that your brakes are not working properly. You can have all the horsepower in the world, but instead of it being a blessing it can feel more like a curse when the brakes are not working. In fact, you could end up in a disastrous situation.

Our thoughts and emotions are like the horsepower in our lives. They can create a lot of momentum and accomplish many positive things and likewise they can cause many destructive things. Having some type of braking device in our emotional and mental life is essential to keep from ending up in a heap beside the road of life.

What we do when we find ourselves in a negative thought pattern or in the midst of negative feelings is crucial to what comes next in our life. I was talking with a friend the other day about this. We were discussing some of the difficulties that are sitting in her path right now—obstacles that are frustrating and discouraging. It is tempting to say, “You poor thing. Your life is so hard.” Instead we talked about finding our emotional brakes in life.

When we are headed down in our thinking or feeling it is easy to concentrate on those feelings and create momentum in the very direction that we don’t want to go. By focusing on everything that is going wrong, we fuel our emotions and head full blast towards the very thing we are afraid of. It doesn’t take long to spiral down into a full-blown depression.

An emotional brake can be applied by asking the question of what you would like to experience instead. It is saying to one's self “Wait a minute. I think I would like to handle this challenge in my life in a different way.” You consciously set an intention for what you would like to experience. If I am currently experiencing fear and scarcity, I remind myself that I would like to experience peace and abundance. I stop and ask for those things and picture myself letting go of the other emotions.

Rather than hurdling down the road full speed towards something I don’t want, I stop and remember what I do want. We always attract what we are focusing on. We become a self-fulfilling prophet. By setting a conscious intention about what emotions or thoughts I want to have, I am applying a brake that will stop the direction I am going and turn it around.

Life gives us opportunities over and over to practice doing this. It is not easy to stop in the middle of strong emotions. In fact, some people think that it is impossible. Anger is a good example of this. You have only a short fraction of time to decide how you want to react to something before the emotion itself will take you for a wild ride. We can, however, make choices about what we want to experience in life including how and what we are going to do with our emotions.

It is so empowering to understand that we can stop in the middle of feeling something and choose something different. Sometimes in the course of the day I find myself sliding into a blue funk or negative thinking. When it finally dawns on me—when I wake up to what I’m feeling—then I can choose a different experience for the day. It helps me to get back on track.

We all wander around emotionally. Whether we stay derailed or get back on course depends on how aware or conscious we become of our own emotional climate. Realizing that I don’t have to be a victim to my own emotions is such a relief. It is empowering to be at the driver’s wheel with fully functioning brakes rather than to feel that I am in the back seat and the car has no brakes!

Being at the mercy of your emotions is no fun. Emotions come and go. When they are in charge of my life, my choices will go up and down. My confidence and effectiveness will go up and down along with them. This doesn’t mean that we don’t experience the full range of human emotions, or that we become cold and uncaring. The most emotionally available people are those who are in tune with their emotions but don’t let their emotions call all the shots in their life. Real emotional freedom comes when our brakes, our ability to set positive emotional intentions are functioning and in good repair.